A primer on the Milwaukee County "John Doe" investigation
Post by Emily Mills on 9/23/2011 11:10am
Blogger and social worker Chris Liebenthal (aka "capper") recently posted an overview of the unfolding John Doe investigation in Milwaukee County that recently resulted in an FBI raid on the home of a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker. That post, slightly edited for dane101, is reprinted below with permission of the author:
With the big news of the week, the FBI serving a search warrant of Cynthia Archer's house, there has been an increase in speculation regarding the ongoing John Doe investigation--which is quickly becoming known as Walkergate. The investigation has to do with possible illegal campaigning and other misdeeds by Scott Walker's campaign and the actions of his staffers who served under him as county executive and now governor.
But it has come to my attention that there is a lot of disinformation and confusion, from both sides of the political aisle, regarding what is happening, what things could mean and even what is relevant.
To clarify things I will present a history of events and an introduction to the players, as well as the inclusion of some things that seem to have gotten lost in the coverage of the story.
It started in May of 2010 when Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's coordinator of constituent services, Darlene Wink, was caught leaving comments on JSOnline during work hours and using county computers. Wink was posting under the handle of "RPMCVP," which stood for her other position - Republican Party of Milwaukee Co-Vice-President. Within hours of Bice filing an open records request Wink quit her job.
Milwaukee County Supervisor John Weishan filed an open records request of his own to find out if any of Walker's other aides were also doing something similar. Several months and thousands of dollars later Walker gave Weishan an unsatisfactory few sheets of paper indicating that Walker and a few other aides had gone to various sites like WisPolitics.com. Apparently this information, besides costing more than it should have, was not accurate.
Because of Weishan's tenacity some of Walker's allies, the misnamed group Citizens for Responsible Government, filed a criminal complaint in retaliation against yours truly, using, shall we say, very irresponsible "documentation" to support their allegations.
Also in May of last year the Democratic Party of Wisconsin followed Walker on his annual bike ride allegedly to promote Milwaukee County. This bike ride has long been a source of contention, with many people pointing out that it was a thinly veiled, publicly-funded campaign exploit. Sure enough, they got lots of evidence, including footage, of long-time aide, campaign worker and close friend Tim Russell doing non-county work, even though he was traveling as a county employee. In August 2010 the Sheriff's office did a search of Russell's office, confiscating his computer, his Blackberry and boxes of papers.
Interestingly, at the same time interest in Wink and Russell was growing, there was a website called ScottforGov.com which was a strongly pro-Walker blog and was staffed with people who had obvious political connections. There had been speculation that the writers were members of Walker's county staff or his campaign staff (or both, since Walker has a long history of blurring that line).
Around the time of Wink's outing the website stopped publishing new posts. A week later they killed their Twitter account. Before 2010 came to a close they had removed all comments and then took the entire site down.
At the beginning of 2011 it was learned that everyone that could possibly be involved was lawyering up but good. Walker's campaign hired Steve Biskupic and his favorite law firm for a mere $60,000 to make sure all their I's were dotted and all their T's were crossed. Other big names, including Frank Gimbel and Paul Bucher, were being floated around (Gimbel was believed by some to be hired by Tom Nardelli).
And speaking of Nardelli, long considered a possible subject of the investigation, he had recently and abruptly left public service because, he said, he "decided it would be unfair to keep the job knowing he planned to resign soon anyway."
Which leads us back to how we got into this - the raid on Archer's home. Archer has said that she's done nothing wrong and doesn't need legal representation. Archer also said she had nothing to do with the John Doe investigation just days before they did the search of her house, confiscating a lot of things, including computer hard drives.
There are some, including radio host Jeff Wagner, who appear to be attempting to minimize the ramifications of the Archer incident by questioning if it is an appropriate use of resources for just some political comments left on the paper's website.
This is misleading in the sense that this is so much more than just Wink's misdeeds. It's already led to one conviction, that of William Gardner, who was found to have made illegal donations to Walker's campaign. It may also involve possible illegal campaigning by Russell and several other individuals connected to Walker.
There is also the possibility that the fact that Walker and his outfit left the county executive suite with most of the files and computers missing is tied into the investigation as well.
The most recent developments in this ongoing case are Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's apparent refusal to offer assistance with the investigation when asked several months ago. In addition, state attorneys on Tuesday filed a motion to have an affidavit filed by Cynthia Archer in a federal challenge to Walker's collective bargaining law withdrawn. State officials aren't commenting on whether or not the motion was filed in response to the raid.
As for Walker himself, the governor maintains that he has not yet been questioned in relation to the investigation, but, as mentioned already, has retained U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic.
Emily Mills is Editor-At-Large for Dane101, as well as Editor of Our Lives Magazine. She is also a freelance writer, photographer, actor, and musician (drummer and singer in local band Little Red Wolf). Originally from several states up and down the Midwest Emily has called Madison home since 2000. Contact her at