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Reality Check: Ad raises questions about Walker's involvement in probe

Published On: May 23 2012 08:45:10 PM CDT
Updated On: May 31 2012 05:36:36 PM CDT

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is continuing to raise questions about Gov. Scott Walker's involvement in a John Doe investigation in Milwaukee County, and a new ad puts the issue front and center.

The Barrett ad features news coverage but still manages to mangle facts about the John Doe investigation.

The ad starts with job numbers, which WISC-TV has clarified before, and then quickly jumps to the John Doe investigation.

"Felonies, guilty pleas and over 1,000 emails showing taxpayer dollars used for Walker's campaign," the ad says. "If Walker received or sent any of these emails, he's in deep trouble."

WISC-TV found this is misleading. The investigation so far has so far led to charges against former aides and associates of Walker, but the ad gets a few facts wrong.

Tim Russell, who is shown in the ad when the phrase "guilty pleas" is said, has actually pleaded not guilty to charges of embezzlement. Russell is accused of stealing $20,000 from a veteran's program run through Walker's county executive office, the outcome of an investigation that was asked for by Walker's chief of staff.

As for the campaigning issue, Darlene Wink, who worked in Walker's county executive office, did plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of fundraising while in office as part of a plea deal. She was allegedly working on events to raise money for the governor's campaign.

The emails referenced, on the other hand, were allegedly sent by Kelly Rindfleisch, deputy chief of staff to Walker in the county executive's office. Rindfleisch is accused of sending more than 1,000 emails for fundraising, but on behalf of Republican Brett Davis, who was then running for lieutenant governor and now works in the Walker administration.

So did Walker know about this as the ad suggests? Court documents contain one email sent by Walker, warning Russell that "We cannot afford another story like this one. That means no laptops. No websites, no time away during the work day."

In interviews, Walker said he wasn't aware of Rindfleisch's conduct and asked for Wink's resignation.

Of those charged, only Wink has been found guilty and recently had her sentencing postponed until July. The rest are awaiting trial.

"He's hired criminal attorneys and Walker refuses to tell us what he's said to the prosecutors," the ad says.

WISC-TV found this is misleading. Yes, Walker has hired two criminal attorneys from the Chicago area and he has set up a legal defense fund, as a newspaper clip in the ad shows.

But there's an important part to a John Doe investigation: a secrecy order. The governor has not said whether he has testified to prosecutors, but if he had, he wouldn't be allowed to talk about it. All that he has said is that his office is cooperating with the investigation.  

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