Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) instructed a top aide to organize a daily conference call that involved both official and campaign staffers when he was executive of Milwaukee County in 2010, according to documents released publicly for the first time Wednesday that could complicate Walker's future as he eyes another term and a possible run for president.
The newly released e-mails, testimony and affidavits offered new clarity and prompted fresh questions about the extent to which Walker encouraged interaction between his 2010 campaign for governor and his aides on the official side. Such interaction was the subject of a criminal probe that was settled in 2012 and found no wrongdoing by Walker.
In April of 2010, Walker's then-chief of staff Thomas Nardelli sent an e-mail from his personal account to both county staff and campaign operatives indicating Walker wanted to begin a morning conference call to review the day's events and improve coordination.
"This is an e-mail where Nardelli informs this group of people that the County Executive has asked that we conduct a daily conference call," according to 2010 testimony from David Budde, the chief investigator in the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office.
Walker is running for reelection this year. He's viewed widely as a potential candidate for president in 2016. In a statement responding to the documents, a Walker campaign spokesman said he was confident authorities had already reviewed them thoroughly before concluding Walker was not involved in any wrongdoing.
"The recently released communications of a county staffer from several years ago are part of a legal process that was completed early last year," said the spokesman, Jonathan Wetzel. "Governor Walker is confident that during that legal process, these communications were thoroughly reviewed by the authorities."
The documents include thousands pages of e-mails that Democrats and the media will be scrutinizing closely in the coming days and weeks.
While the meetings were previously made public, it wasn't clear until now that they apparently came at Walker's direction.
Nardelli sent the e-mails to five official staffers and copied three campaign aides or consultants on his note. Among the recipients was Kelly Rindfleisch, who was at the center of the criminal probe that was settled. Walker's former deputy chief of staff, Rindfleisch pleaded guilty to a felony for doing political work for a Walker-backed lieutenant governor candidate during hours she was being paid for official business.Walker was never charged in the case, nor was he a target, according to prosecutors.
Communication via private e-mail address between county employees like Nardelli and members of Walker's campaign was "very common," Budde testified. He also said that e-mails showed it appeared that Walker's campaign communications director Jill Bader asked Rindfleisch and Fran McLaughlin, Walker's spokeswoman at the county office, to proofread a campaign-related document.
The documents released Wednesday were unsealed as part of Rindfleisch's appeal. Democrats seized on them in an effort to tie Walker to the case.
"Today’s documents raise serious questions about the level of illegal coordination between Scott Walker’s office and his campaign," said Democratic National Committee spokesman Michael Czin. "This wasn’t the work of a few rogue staffers – this was a coordinated effort that goes right to the top."
There is also believed to be an ongoing investigation into whether Walker's 2012 recall campaign improperly coordinated with outside groups. Rindfleisch is also apparently ensnared in that probe.