A probe that led to convictions of six former aides and allies of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was back in the spotlight Wednesday. So was Walker.
The release of thousands of pages of documents related to the investigation offered some new information about the governor and prompted a fresh round of criticism from Democrats. To be clear, Walker was never charged in the case nor was he a target of the investigation, which centered on his time as county executive of Milwaukee. But the new details thrust an unflattering period in Walker's tenure back in the spotlight.
We've started going through the e-mails, affidavits and testimony and so have other media outlets. But with thousands of pages to scour, our review has by no means been exhaustive. With that caveat, below are the six most notable new things we've learned.
1. Walker requested a daily conference call between campaign aides and official staff
As county executive in 2010, Walker asked his chief of staff to set up a daily conference call with both campaign and official aides. The existence of daily call isn't new, but this is the first time we learned Walker himself asked for it. This is relevant because the now-settled probe involved another former Walker aide -- then-deputy chief of staff Kelly Rindfleisch -- who pleaded guilty to doing political work for a Walker-backed lieutenant governor candidate on official time. That's a no-no. The fact that Walker facilitated close interaction between his office and his campaign prompted some Democratic eyebrow-raising. Democrats will use the information to continue to claim that the close ties between the official and the political under Walker's watch reflected a pattern of behavior that started at the top. But again, prosecutors had access to these documents and never charged Walker with anything. The document release is much more about perception than legal questions.
2. Communication between Walker's campaign and his office was "very common," according to a top investigator
David Budde, the chief investigator in the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office, testified that communication between county employees and members of Walker's campaign was "very common." This is fodder for Democrats who hope to raise questions about whether the aides and allies who were convicted were isolated incidents or reflected a broader pattern of behavior. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) faces a similar predicament in the wake of the traffic scandal that rocked his administration.
3. Did Walker know about the use of private laptops? Budde thought so.
After a staffer in Walker's office quit following revelations she posted political comments about news stories while at work, Walker exchanged an e-mail with then-deputy chief of staff Tim Russell in which he said the office could not afford another similar story and that meant no more laptops, Web sites and time spent away from work during the day. Budde testified the exchange showed Walker appeared "to be aware that laptops were being used in the County Executive's office for accessing things on non-county networks."
4. Walker tied to an off-the-books e-mail system
As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found in its look at the e-mails, Walker's administration director, Cynthia Archer e-mailed Rindfleisch about a private e-mail account, saying, "I use this private account quite a bit to communicate with SKW and Nardelli." SKW is an apparent reference to Walker and Nardelli is his then-chief of staff Thomas Nardelli. Why does it matter? Because previous court documents showed Walker's aides set up a secret wireless router in his office that was used to exchange private e-mails on both campaign and official matters.
Budde testified that e-mails showed it appeared that Walker's 2010 campaign communications director Jill Bader asked Rindfleisch and Walker county spokesperson Fran McLaughlin to proofread a campaign-related document.
6. Walker instructed staff to get rid of doctor who had apparently modeled thongs
Nardelli once informed Walker in an e-mail about a doctor hired at the county's Behavioral Health Division who had apparently modeled thongs. "It isn't pornographic, but is quite suggestive," Nardelli wrote. To which Walker replied: "Get rid of the MD asap."