An unpopular governor, facing a near-certain recall election in the spring, gets caught up in an ongoing political corruption scandal. How do you think that scenario might turn out?
We may get a chance to find out, as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stands at the edge of an FBI probe. What the feds are investigating is unclear at this point, but it's almost certainly more serious than the original complaint.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Last year, a John Doe investigation began in Milwaukee County involving a staffer to then-Milwaukee County executive Walker. The staffer, Darlene Wink, was accused of using county resources to leave anonymous pro-Walker comments on political websites. Illegal, yes -- but not the biggest deal ever. Wink resigned. But the feds seized Wink's computer as evidence to build the case.
And it was at that point that the investigation seems to have widened.
Whatever was on Wink's hard drive seems to have led investigators to Walker's old Milwaukee County exec chief of staff Tim Russell. Authorities seized his computer and cell phone.
And now this:
[Talking Points Memo:]
The FBI on Wednesday raided the Madison home of a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker, as part of an ongoing investigation.
The home of Cynthia A. Archer was raided Wednesday morning, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Archer had previously been a top aide to Walker when he was Milwaukee County Executive. She has owned her Madison home since 1988, rented it out during her years working for Walker in Milwaukee County, and then moved back when he became governor.
There is currently an ongoing investigation into whether county employees engaged in political activity for Walker when he was the executive.
Walker himself has lawyered-up, which -- to be fair -- isn't a sign of anything, really. At least, nothing other than a recognition of the seriousness of the situation. But in politics, appearances mean a lot. Worse, the investigation is clearly growing.
"It's worth emphasizing that the allegations, according to local media accounts, are focused on potential misdeeds committed before Walker became governor," writes Steve Benen, "the accusations focus on whether county staffers did political work for Walker when they were supposed to be doing official work for the public -- but the controversy can still do some real damage."
Polling shows that most Wisconsinites oppose a recall election -- by the slimmest of margins -- but that, were a recall to be held, the race would be a toss-up. Throw in a big corruption case and I think we can all see which way things would lean. And, of course, Wisconsin Democrats are more aggressive than their Washington counterparts, so they're not letting the opportunity to ding Walker slide.
"The news of a criminal investigation involving aides to Scott Walker is disturbing," Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said in a statement. "During his time as Milwaukee County Executive, Walker played fast and loose with ethics and created a pay-to-play culture of secrecy and deceit. The people of Wisconsin need assurance that this has not carried over to his term as governor. We look forward to the day when Walker himself gives a full explanation of his role in today's raids."
Even if he manages to stay only within the orbit of this investigation in a legal sens, the gravity of the situation could pull Scott Walker down in a political sense.