Walker's secretive, cheap, Nixonian habits may do him in | WisCommunity

Walker's secretive, cheap, Nixonian habits may do him in

[img_assist|nid=129639|title=Winking Walker|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=169|height=115]Why in one key respect do the criminal complaints in the charges against top aides to Scott Walker sound so familiar? For two reasons:

For one thing, Walker's aides and by extension his campaign are -- among other transgressions --accused of performing political work on county government time. Whatever motives the campaign had for doing this, one substantive outcome was that public resources were used to benefit Walker's political operation -- public salaries paying for campaign work by key county appointees, electricity for their computers, the imputed cost of office space and so forth.

When else has the Walker operation engaged in such private-to-public cost-shifting? We know of one: Just the other week, his campaign managed to get a friendly judge in Waukesha County to force the Government Accountability Board to do work that the state constitution says is supposed to be handled by the elected official who's the subject of a recall.

Walker's campaign may have had other motives for that shift, but a substantive outcome was that even though Walker had collected millions of dollars in unlimited campaign donations, the decision from Circuit Judge Mac Davis meant Walker's campaign wouldn't have to spend as much money combing petition signatures, even though the recall law contemplates that some of his recall campaign donations will be used precisely for that purpose.

In short, aside from other motives -- possibly including elitest notions that they're in political power and can do what they like -- the takeaway here is that Walker and his disciples are cheap. So cheap that some of those aides were willing to risk felony charges to save campaign funds by using government resources, instead. Same with Walker's new government-funded web site that's all about  claiming his own successes -- a patently political instrument.

This is hugely significant, given the context of Walker's overriding political animus: His agenda has been very focused on de-funding his political adversaries. Redistribution of political wealth is not too strong a phrase to describe all this. Another way of putting it: With politicians like Walker, it's all about the money.

What's the second way in which this affair rings familiar? Well, as others have noted, Walkergate increasingly looks like Watergate. Richard Nixon's campaign and some of his official White House aides were guilty of political dirty tricks and other trangressions, but chief among them was using public resources for political campaign purposes. Remember how Nixon campaign finance director Maurice Stans was found to have stashed huge amounts of unrecorded campaign cash in a White House safe, money later used to finance the Watergate burglaries and other political dirty tricks?

For Walker, too, this isn't likely to end well. Partly because of the money, but also because of the cover-up.

A key reason Nixon was forced to resign the presidency in disgrace was his office's attempt to hide Watergate crimes. Obstruction of justice is a very serious matter, whatever the nature of the original crimes. There are now legitimate questions concerning Walker's tepid and totally private email response to the revelation that campaigning had occurred in his official county offices.

Nixon's secret Oval Office audio recording system serves as a startling analogy to the Walker administration's secret email system in Milwaukee County. It isn't just that the email system itself is illegal, it's also that the nature of the communications recorded by that system are likely to be damning.

To re-purpose a line from the Watergate investigation decades ago: What did Scott Walker know, and when did he know it? Or, perhaps more pertinent: What did Walker know, and when did he stop knowing it?


January 28, 2012 - 12:19pm