MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Just two months after law enforcement officials raided the home of one of his aides, Gov. Scott Walker began requiring his top agency officials and staff members to sign a pledge that they wouldn’t do illegal campaign work while on state time.
The launch of the “Ethics Policy and Professional Code of Conduct” pledge in November 2011 had nothing to do with the Sept. 14, 2011, raid, Walker said Wednesday. Instead, it was just a formalization of an unwritten policy that had been in effect since he took office 11 months earlier, Walker said.
FBI agents and other law enforcement officials raided the Madison home of Walker aide Cindy Archer as part of the investigation into illegal campaign work by employees of Walker’s office when he was Milwaukee County executive.
At the time, Archer was on paid sick leave from a state job in Walker’s administration. Prior to taking that job, she had worked three years as one of Walker’s top aides in his county executive office. Archer currently works in the state public defender’s office.
Neither Walker nor Archer was charged as a part of the investigation that concluded last year. Six other Walker aides and associates were convicted on a variety of charges, including two for doing illegal campaign work while working in Walker’s county executive office in 2010.
Interest in the case has been renewed with the release last week of 28,000 pages of emails and other documents collected during the investigation. Walker, who is running for re-election and considering a 2016 presidential run, has denied knowing about any illegal activity and refused to address how much he knew about county workers doing illegal campaign work.
In one email released last week, sent March 22, 2010, Archer told Walker’s deputy chief of staff Kelly Rindfleisch that she could consider herself part of the “inner circle,” adding that she frequently uses her private email account to communicate with Walker.
Walker said Tuesday that when he became governor he created a “clear distinction between things that are political and official.”
Since the beginning of his administration Walker has had a policy prohibiting campaign work while on state time, which included training and information provided by the state ethics board, said Walker’s spokesman Tom Evenson.
The written policy spells out that no campaign work is allowed in state buildings or using state resources during normal working hours. It also lists 14 specific campaign activities that are not permitted, including fundraising, preparing campaign advertising and working with campaign volunteers.
According to the policy, failure to adhere to the terms can result in the employee being fired. No one has been disciplined for campaign-related violations, Evenson said.
Wisconsin Democratic Party spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff questioned the need to have a written ethics policy.
“Why did it take Scott Walker 300 days to ask his staffers to sign a pledge stating they wouldn’t break the law?” Baldauff said. “Why did he feel like he needed to ask his staff to sign such a pledge? Is it because he knew the same kind of secret email network was set up in the Capitol by some of the very same aides who participated on the secret email network in Milwaukee County?”
The criminal investigation revealed there was a secret wireless network set up in Walker’s county executive office that staff members used to exchange campaign-related messages. Walker has not said whether he knew about the existence of that system.
Evenson said there has never been a secret email network in the governor’s office.
Walker said the written code of conduct was developed by his chief of staff, Eric Schutt, who started in the position three weeks after the raid.
“It was just something that Eric had brought up,” Walker said of the written policy.
Schutt replaced Keith Gilkes as chief of staff 10 months into Walker’s term. Gilkes resigned to work for Walker’s campaign as efforts to recall him from office began to take shape. Gilkes was Walker’s campaign manager in both the 2010 election and recall campaign, and he was looped in on many of the emails collected during the investigation.