While he was Milwaukee County Executive, Gov. Scott Walker held regular meetings with county staffers and those running his 2010 governor’s campaign to review press releases and his schedule, according to emails released Tuesday.
Emails obtained from WisPolitics.com show Walker, County Chief of Staff Tom Nardelli, Deputy Chief of Staff Kelly Rindfleisch and County Communications Director Fran McLaughlin working with Walker’s campaign manager Keith Gilkes, consultant R.J. Johnson and publicist Jill Bader as part of a media group reviewing and editing messages sent from the Milwaukee County office.
The emails were released as part of Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf’s PowerPoint presentation at Rindfleisch’s trial, who was sentenced to six months in jail for working on Medicaid Director Brett Davis’ 2010 campaign for Lieutenant Governor during county hours.
According to the emails included in the PowerPoint, county workers had daily conference calls with campaign workers about Walker’s campaign.
“The County Executive has asked that we conduct a conference call daily at 8 a.m.,” Nardelli said, referring to Walker, in an email exchange with Rindfleisch, McLaughlin and other staffers. “Good coordination will help … these calls will be conducted for staff in the County Executive’s office.”
The presentation also showed Rindfleisch sent and received 3,486 emails from the Walker campaign staff from Jan. 15, 2010, to Oct. 21, 2010, and 64 percent were sent and received during county business hours.
Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, said the PowerPoint raises questions of how involved Walker was in the campaigning that went on in his office while he was county executive.
“There is a clear line separating campaigning from state and county work,” Heck said. “Walker and county staff stepped over the line many times by mixing it all together. There was no wall of separation between the two.”
Heck said Walker should have erred on the side of caution and had all discussion, including scheduling, outside of the county office.
However, Walker campaign spokesman Tom Evenson said in a statement that balancing the daily calendars, meetings and media coverage for any elected official requires routine communication by both campaign and public staff.
“It is not unusual for campaign staff and an elected official’s staff to routinely discuss the appropriate way to schedule meetings, determine a point of contact for emergencies or how to address media inquiries directed at both the official office and the campaign office,” Evenson said in the statement.
Mike Browne, One Wisconsin Now deputy director, said the emails go far beyond scheduling, such as discussing whether press releases are not being political enough and slowing down open records requests for political reasons.
“A campaign manager should not be telling a county staffer what to do,” Browne said.