Walker official questioned investigators’ motives

Gov. Scott Walker
Gov. Scott Walker

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The motives of prosecutors who conducted a secret investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s aides while he was Milwaukee County’s top official were questioned privately, even though Walker has said he cooperated fully with the probe, documents released Friday show.

The documents also include a list of people interested in serving in Walker’s gubernatorial administration and a memo titled “War Room” with internal directions for driving home policies, making key contacts and influencing the media.

The documents were in the latest batch of data released by the county in response to a judge’s order after the investigation concluded last year. But they amount to only a sliver of the data collected from county employees’ computers as part of an between May 2010 and 2013 that resulted in six of Walker’s aides and associates being convicted on various charges.

Walker was never accused of wrongdoing, but the probe and a second now-halted investigation have hounded the governor, who is up for re-election in November and considering a 2016 presidential run.

A document from Walker’s then-chief of staff Tom Nardelli’s computer is titled “Chisholm,” a reference to John Chisholm, the Milwaukee County district attorney who launched both of the secret investigations known as John Does. The unsigned document directly questions Chisholm’s reasons for using the procedure.

“Again John, why is this a secret John Doe? Why are you going this route?” it says. “What is the motive?”

Republican backers of Walker, who served as county executive from 2002 to 2010, have accused prosecutors of using the investigations as a partisan witch hunt.

According to a memo from Nardelli’s computer dated less than three months before the 2010 election where Walker became governor, Chisholm was questioned in a meeting about his motives, including why the investigation was taking so long.

“He assured me that he would not allow his role as a prosecutor to be influenced by outside ‘political’ agendas regardless of the partisan nature we are currently living in,” the unsigned memo from Aug. 17, 2010, said.

Walker had repeatedly said in public that his office cooperated with the investigation, which began after Nardelli told prosecutors of his concerns about missing money from a county-hosted event.

“This internal memo shows the confrontational attitude of Walker’s top official, which completely contradicts Walker’s public statements they were ‘cooperating’ fully with law enforcement,” said Scot Ross, director of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now.

A governor’s spokeswoman referred questions to Walker’s campaign. His campaign spokeswoman didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.

Another document from Nardelli’s computer, called “Interest in Walker Administration,” lists several people and possible jobs under Walker as governor, most of which did not come to pass.

Two of the people, Kelly Rindfleisch and Tim Russell, were charged as part of the investigation and didn’t get administration jobs. Others on the list did: Reggie Newson, secretary of the Department of Workforce Development, and Dorothy Moore, the governor’s administrative assistant.

The 14 gigabytes of files released Friday contain memos, speeches, correspondence about county business and documents outlining possible Walker initiatives, along with random items such as a recipe for chicken noodle soup from a Milwaukee restaurant. Walker had a copy of the Gettysburg Address on his computer and county staff member Cheryl Berdan maintained a list of 110 questions, trivia and quotes about the film “Elf.”

The files amount to just 2 percent of the material collected as part of the first investigation that ended in 2013. A judge ordered Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to release the data, though there is no timeline. A subsequent investigation into conservative groups and Walker’s 2012 recall campaign was halted by a federal judge.

The “War Room” file from Walker’s computer is dated in 2006 and plots out issues to highlight, places to visit, and groups and media on his radar. It’s unclear who wrote the documents.

The file lists what would need to be addressed before Walker would respond to questions, such as “Does it fit the message for the day, week and/or month?” and whether one of his aides could discuss an issue. Under the “major events” category are notes about preparing for press conferences and “leak on vetoes.” A 2009 document included a list of budget-related leaks he planned to make to local media.

Numerous files on Walker’s computer listed “big ideas.” One, under the category “Long-term” from 2008, was to “eliminate county government – consolidate into other areas.”

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Associated Press writers M.L. Johnson, in Milwaukee, and Todd Richmond, in Madison, contributed to this report.

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