When a Wisconsin court released 27,000 pages of emails from a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker, it shone an embarrassing light on the 2016 hopeful.
The investigation – resulting in six convictions – involved embezzlement, money laundering and staffers mixing state business with a campaign effort to get Walker, then a Milwaukee county executive, to the governor’s mansion.
But getting the most attention from this document dump? The derogatory and inappropriate language used in some of the unsealed notes.
Among them were emails sent to aide Kelly Rindfleisch joking that dogs qualified for welfare because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddys are.”
Rindfleisch responded: “That is hilarious. And so true.”
Walker was never implicated in the investigation, and doesn’t appear to have been involved in these exchanges about race.
But here’s who was involved, and what they were charged with:
Kelly Rindfleisch was convicted of illegal campaign activity for working on the 2010 lieutenant governor’s campaign of then-Rep. Brett Davis while serving as Walker’s deputy chief of staff during his time as Milwaukee county executive. In Wisconsin, it is illegal for public employees to work on campaigns while on the clock and being paid to administer state services.
Prosecutors found that Rindfleisch traded more than 3,000 emails with Walker campaign staffers, most of which were sent on county time from a secret email system in Walker’s office. Davis, who was Walker’s favored candidate, lost the race but was later appointed by the governor as head of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program.
Rindfleisch was sentenced in 2012 to six months in jail, but her sentence has been stayed as she appeals. She unsuccessfully requested to keep her emails secret while attempting to have her conviction overturned. In addition to the welfare email, the newly released documents show Rindfleisch was also sent an email from Walker’s then chief of staff in Milwaukee County about a “nightmare” of waking up as unemployed, black, Jewish homosexual.
"Oh God, please don't tell me I'm a Democrat," the email ends.
Tim Russell was convicted to two years in prison for stealing more than $20,000 from a nonprofit group Walker put him in charge of. A deputy chief of staff, Russell was the third most powerful person in Milwaukee County during Walker’s time as executive. Prosecutors argued that Russell used his influence in Walker’s office to gain access to the funds of a veterans organization and used the money to go on two vacations and an out-of-state trip to meet with Republican Herman Cain as he weighed a presidential bid.
Darlene Wink was found guilty of engaging in campaign work for Walker’s 2010 gubernatorial race while on county time. The former constituent services director, however, sent far fewer emails than Rindfleisch and received only a year of probation.
Kevin Kavanaugh was found guilty of embezzling more than $51,000 in donations intended for military veterans and their families. The former Walker appointee served on the Milwaukee County Veteran Service Commission, which helped run a military appreciation event at the Milwaukee County Zoo that was the primary source Kavanaugh was accused of stealing from. In 2012 Kavanaugh was sentenced to two years in prison.
Bill Gardner was sentenced to two years of probation in 2011 after admitting he violated campaign finance laws by laundering tens of thousands of dollars for Walker’s first gubernatorial campaign. After he reached campaign contribution limits, the former president of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad had employees and associates donate and reimbursed his workers with personal and company funds.
Brian Pierick – The investigation into Russell found that his domestic partner, Pierick, had sent lewd text messages to a 17-year-old boy. Pierick told authorities he believed the boy was 18 and pleaded struck a deal with prosecutors that resulted in community service and a $2,100 fine. Pierick was, for a time, listed as the registrant for Walker’s gubernatorial website , the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal reported.
First published February 21 2014, 2:07 PM