The Republican Party of Wisconsin took legal action related to alleged illegal communication that occurred between a union lobbyist and the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett.
RPW filed a request for an investigation of Barrett’s relationship with the Services Employee Union.The allegations came after an employee for Republican nominee Scott Walker allegedly gained information a union lobbyist was working closely with the Barrett campaign.
The Walker employee gave a false name and secretly recorded a lobbyist for the Service Employee International Local 1 as he allegedly discussed plans to link a fatal accident at a Milwaukee facility to Walker in order to disrupt the Walker campaign, according to the state GOP.
The state GOP requested an investigation because the amount of communication between Barrett’s campaign and the union is illegal, said Andrew Welhouse, spokesperson for the Republican Party of Wisconsin.
In the request, the Republican Party alleged SEIU Local 1 and Barrett’s campaign breached state laws by “coordinating funds and colluding in election activity.”
Separate from the investigation, the recording itself showed Barrett’s campaign was communicating to an illegal degree with the lobbyist, said Jill Bader, a spokesperson for Walker.
However, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin said the Walker campaign is creating a scandal to distract from Walker’s record during the campaign.
“The Republicans will do anything they can to not be talking about Walker’s record, even if it means they have to use all sorts of tricks to distract from it,” said Graeme Zielinski, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
The Barrett campaign could not be reached for comment.
According to Welhouse, the state GOP believes the investigation will show the depth of the lobbyist’s knowledge of the Walker campaign and will prove Barrett was colluding illegally with the SEIU Local 1 to create a plot against Walker.
The party is also requesting certain records under the Open Records Act and asking the Ethics Board of Milwaukee to investigate aspects of the situation, Welhouse said.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin is exploring other legal options in addition to the requested investigation, according to a statement.
Although the Walker employee gave a false name and secretly recorded the conversation, the Walker campaign said no ethical questions come into play on their behalf, and it is Barrett’s campaign that may have some questions to answer now, according to Welhouse.
Welhouse said the Walker campaign did not fire the employee because he did nothing wrong.
The situation could have a larger impact on the campaign than simply legal implications.
Both the Democratic and Republican parties said the tension created by the escalating situation will create problems for the opposing party throughout the final weeks of the campaigns.
However, the episode could reflect poorly on both campaigns, said Jay Heck, executive director for Common Cause in Wisconsin.
Such a public battle has the potential to demonstrate the dirtiness and sneakiness of partisan politics in Wisconsin, Heck added.
Heck said this outbreak is merely another example where politicians resort to lies and deception in order to win at all costs, creating a distraction from the core issues of an election.