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Posted at 12:40 PM ET, 03/21/2011

Walker admin got GOP senator’s girlfriend a state job — with a raise

Labor and Dem strategists think that this newsbreak from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is going to give them major ammo for the recall wars:

Even though the state is supposedly broke, top officials in Gov. Scott Walker’s team were able to scrape together enough money to give a state job to the woman identified as Sen. Randy Hopper’s girlfriend.

Anything for a political ally.

Valerie Cass, a former Republican legislative staffer, was hired Feb. 7 as a communications specialist with the state Department of Regulation and Licensing. She is being paid $20.35 per hour. The job is considered a temporary post.

Cass previously had worked in the state Senate and for the GOP campaign consulting firm Persuasion Partners in Madison. She also was paid for campaign work for the state Republican Party and U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner before that.

“Ms. Cass’ name was among many forwarded to DRL by the Governor’s Transition Team as potential candidates for positions with the department,” said David Carlson, the agency’s spokesman.

But who exactly recommended her for the post?

Cullen Werwie, spokesman for the governor, confirmed that it was Keith Gilkes, Walker’s chief of staff. She was then interviewed by the Department of Regulations and Licensing’s executive assistant and deputy and hired by Secretary Dave Ross, a Walker cabinet member.

The Journal Sentinel also reports that the woman was hired at a “substantial pay raise” over her predecessor. To recap: Two officials in the Walker administration secured a state job for the woman identified as the girlfriend of the GOP state senator who is perhaps the top target of the Dems’ recall drive — this, even though Walker spent weeks telling Wisconsinites that the state is “broke” and threatenening state employees with layoffs in an apparent effort to pressure fugitive Dems into coming back to Wisconsin to enable his budget repair bill to pass.

How bad is this?

Unclear. First, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Hopper, the GOP state senator in question, had anything to do with getting his girlfriend a job. Hopper has denied any involvement, and a spokesman for governor Walker says the move wasn’t a favor to Hopper. The Journal Sentinel doesn’t present any evidence to contradict either of these claims. Second, there’s no evidence that Walker aides even knew that she was Hopper’s girlfriend when they got her the job. She was hired on February 7th — weeks before Hopper’s wife put out a statement alleging the affair.

Indeed, this seems like a standard-issue patronage hire, though we still need to know more about the hike in her salary. Still, against a political backdrop where Walker has repeatedly and falsely claimed that Wisconsin is ”broke,” even as he demanded that public employees give up fiscal concessions and bargaining rights in the spirit of shared sacrifice for the state, unions and Dems will jump on this tale as proof that Walker’s priorities are deeply out of whack. Expect this to appear in an ad.

By  |  12:40 PM ET, 03/21/2011

 
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