After a 20-month investigation into former campaign staff that has resulted in multiple arrests, Gov. Scott Walker has announced plans to voluntarily meet with a district attorney investigating the case.
In a statement released Friday, Walker said his campaign and office has cooperated with information requests from Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm. Chisholm has been conducting a John Doe probe of Milwaukee County employees who worked under Walker when he served as Milwaukee County executive.
“My cooperation in this matter extends beyond a willingness to supply any and all requested documents,” Walker said in a statement. “I have already said that I would be happy to sit down with the people looking into these issues and answer any additional questions they may have. To make that point clear, last year, my representatives voluntarily contacted Mr. Chisholm’s office to arrange a time to discuss any outstanding issues. I will be voluntarily meeting with Mr. Chisholm.”
Walker also said in the statement he has hired two attorneys, Mike Steinle and John Gallo, to help assemble background information and to continue aiding the inquiry. He said in the statement no public money has been used or will be used to review material for the meeting.
The announcement drew doubt and suspicion over Walker’s motives from a liberal advocacy group and Democrats.
Erik Kirkstein, a spokesperson for the United Wisconsin PAC, one of the main organizers behind the recall petition signature gathering, expressed skepticism over whether Walker really is voluntarily meeting with Chisholm.
“At this time, we’re taking him on his word,” Kirkstein said. “But with the hiring of so many attorneys and his press release [announcing his decision] on a Friday evening when the press did not have much time to contact him casts in doubt the nature of this voluntary meeting.”
Kirkstein also said the two attorneys Walker has hired are prominent criminal defense attorneys. Steinle works out of Milwaukee, while Gallo is from Chicago.
Spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Graeme Zielinski said in an email to the Badger Herald that no sitting governor has ever been this close to an ongoing criminal investigation.
“There exists strong evidence of corruption in Scott Walker’s office as Milwaukee County executive and, given that he has brought the same cast of characters with him to Madison, people are right to fear that he has brought this criminal culture with him as governor,” Zielinksi said.
The announcement comes in the wake of recent arrests in the John Doe probe. On Jan. 26, authorities arrested former Walker Deputy Chief of Staff Kelly Rindfleisch and former employee Darlene Wink.
The Milwaukee D.A. charged Rindfleisch with four felony counts of misconduct in public office and claimed she allegedly spent time in office working on campaign fundraising for lieutenant governor candidate Brett Davis.
Wink was charged with two counts of intentional political solicitation for working on fundraising activity while in a county building.
Earlier in January, the DA’s office also charged three other former Walker associates with crimes: two for embezzlement and one for child enticement.