Gov. Scott Walker and his press aides are refusing to answer questions about a John Doe investigation that has already resulted in the conviction of one of his top donors on felony campaign finance and money laundering charges and that on Wednesday saw FBI agents raid the home of one of the governor’s longest-serving aides.
The agents seized records from the home of Cynthia Archer, who was one of Walker’s top aides when he was Milwaukee County executive and then became one of the highest-level political appointees as the deputy secretary of the Department of Administration. That agency developed Walker’s controversial “budget repair bill,” with its attacks on labor rights and local democracy, and led the effort to close the Capitol to the thousands of Wisconsin citizens who came to Madison to protest.
The FBI agents and other law enforcement officers have also obtained a computer hard drive that belonged to Archer, and they have seized the computers of two other aides who worked with Walker when he was seeking the governorship in 2010.
Archer abruptly quit her $125,000-a-year Department of Administration post in August, with no explanation. Days later it was revealed that she had been hired into a $100,000-a-year job by Eloise Anderson, secretary of the Department of Children and Families. Archer, now on paid sick leave, is being paid substantially more than her predecessor.
The rapidly expanding John Doe investigation — reportedly sought by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm — has already led to the conviction of one of the governor’s confidants. William Gardner, the president of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co., was sentenced to two years’ probation after he admitted to felony violations of state campaign finance and money laundering rules.
News reports of the FBI raid are the talk of the state. But Walker is not talking. He and his press secretary are instructing reporters not to bring the issue up at public events.
The governor’s reticence is understandable. After all, the core question is the one that investigators wanted to ask of Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal: “What did you know and when did you know it?”
Walker can stonewall for a while more.
But with the FBI raid, with a Walker donor admitting to felonies, and with evidence mounting that the governor and his appointees have been busy finding no-show jobs for the targets of John Doe investigations, this is not the sort of scandal that can be swept under the rug.
It is, as well, precisely the sort of scandal that scares investors away from a state — especially when concerns about money laundering and pay-to-play politics have been raised.
Walker may not want to answer questions now, but he is going to have to answer eventually.
This scandal cannot be separated from the broader issue of the governor’s assaults on collective bargaining rights, local democracy and open government. Those assaults have led thousands of Wisconsinites to express support for recalling Walker. The John Doe investigation into his aides, the FBI raid and the governor’s stonewalling will only increase the sense — even among swing voters — that Walker must be held to account.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. email@example.com