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Politics & Government

Parties Sift Through Emails and Documents from Former Walker Aide

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Democrats and news outlets did a lot of reading Wednesday. They scanned thousands of emails and documents that a John Doe investigation uncovered and a court released.

The emails show extensive interaction between county staffers and political operatives and indicate they communicated via a private account.

Former Walker aide Kelly Rindfleish frequently engaged with the campaign of Republican Brett Davis. He was said to be Walker’s preferred choice for lieutenant governor, while Walker was running for governor.

Mike Tate is chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. He says the correspondence he’s seen thus far, depicts a massive political fundraising machine.

“What we’ve seen is that Scott Walker’s campaign completely directed the county executive’s office, operating on a secret email network just feet from Walker’s desk, his campaign and county office operated in daily coordination that Scott Walker himself described as routine,” Tate says.

Tate says Walker needs to explain to Wisconsin citizens why illegal activity occurred on his watch for the better part of 2010. We caught up with the governor at an event in Milwaukee. He does not seem concerned about people reading what had been confidential emails and court documents.

“I haven’t looked through, I haven’t been privy to all of them but to me, the process was completed, a process that started some time ago and that initial phase is completely done as of last year,” Walker says.

While Walker says he’s satisfied that the John Doe investigation into former associates exonerated him, the Republican Governors Association picked this week to bolster his campaign for re-election. It launched a six-figure advertising blitz in Wisconsin. The 30-second spot attacks Walker’s likely Democratic opponent, Mary Burke.

The governor insists the ad is not designed to distract people from the newly-released emails, but Larry Sabato says that’s exactly the RGA’s intent – counteracting negative publicity. Sabato is director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

“It looks across the country and tries to survey where potential problems may crop up, and it tries to take care of those problems as early as it possibly can,” Sabato says.

Sabato says the RGA’s goal is to retain and even expand the number of Republicans serving as governors. But voters outside of Wisconsin are also keeping an eye on Walker and the investigations surrounding him, according to Charles Franklin. He’s director of the Marquette Law School Poll.

“He’s frequently talked about as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, and that brings an added level of interest and an added level of scrutiny to him. Gov. Christie’s recent problems have raised further speculation that Walker might be the beneficiary of that,” Franklin says.

Franklin says Walker would have no chance of winning the White House, if he loses his re-election bid this fall. But the political scientist does not think potentially embarrassing emails will cause a large number of Wisconsin voters to change their opinion about Walker.

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