Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning
A recall from his position as Wisconsin's governor could ultimately be the least of Gov. Scott Walker's worry, if a criminal complaint quietly moving forward in the Badger State court system continues on its current trajectory. At the moment, Walker seems to be at the bottom of a mountain where an avalanche is just beginning to roll.
A 51-page criminal complaint [PDF] (the "Rindfleisch complaint"), which formally charges Kelly M. Rindfleisch with four felony counts of misconduct in public office, contains factual allegations which implicate a number of individuals, listed as "interested parties," including WI's controversial Republican Governor, in a wide-reaching criminal conspiracy to misuse public employees and resources for partisan political gain.
The Rindfleish complaint was filed in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court on Jan. 26, 2012 by Milwaukee County District Attorney John T. Chisholm. It's the product of an ongoing criminal investigation (the "John Doe" investigation) of the Milwaukee County Executive Office during Walker's tenure as County Executive there. The complaint specifically involves the period during which Tim Russell and then Rindfleish served as Walker's Deputy Chiefs of Staff.
The recent news in the Milwaukee County case coincides with a separate set of court rulings in the battle over the attempt by opponents of Walker to see him recalled via the ballot box. In that matter, an appellate court recently reversed Republican Waukesha Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis' decision to deny the Recall proponent's motion to intervene in a case brought by "Friends of Scott Walker" designed to obstruct the scheduling of Walker's Recall. The appellate ruling directed Davis to vacate his controversial decision which had shifted the statutory burden for challenging the validity of the Walker Recall petition signatures from Walker himself --- as had been the process for years --- to the state's Government Accountability Board.
While that appellate ruling may serve to help expedite Walker's potential removal from office via the ballot box, a recall could ultimate prove to be less of a concern to the embattled, right-wing governor than the criminal case steadily moving forward in Milwaukee.
The factual body of the Rindfleisch complaint suggests that prosecutors are painstakingly examining evidence that may well place Walker at the center of a criminal conspiracy to illegally utilize employees within the Milwaukee County Executive Office to engage in fundraising and campaign activities on behalf of the Friends of Scott Walker and others during office hours at the expense of Milwaukee taxpayers.
Each violation of the relevant WI criminal statutes at issue in the matter carries with it a potential imprisonment of up to 3.5 years. As that case moves forward apace, Walker could lose a great deal more than simply his hold on the governor's office. His very freedom may prove to be at stake as well...