Saturday, June 21, 2014

All or Nothing for Scott Walker

Scott Walker's Achilles heel may be his star-struck need to be loved and noticed by national Republican heavyweights.

During the furor caused by the radical governor's decimation of Wisconsin government in the dark winter and spring of 2011, Walker was comically recorded giving warm platonic phone sex to a brilliant prankster pretending to be democracy-killer David Koch.  Walker, usually a publicly dreary on-message robot, became an effusive chatterbox with fake-Koch, even accepting an invitation to one of fake-Koch's imaginary Xanadu mansions in California after the smoke had cleared on Wisconsin democracy.

Walker apparently did the same thing in August of that year in a revealing and potentially incriminating email to the real Karl Rove.  Earlier this year, when emails were released from the Kelly Rindfleisch investigation from the time Walker was pretending to be Milwaukee County Executive, Walker's contributions were short and terse.  It was as if he could barely be bothered with his puny office drones and the details of the campaign that was being run out of his office in the Courthouse, much less (and I mean much less) his duties as county exec.

But in the email to Rove (the details of which are only hinted at in the too-brief excerpt quoted in the documents released this week), Walker is as giddy as a school-boy, bragging to the putrid Rove about how nicely everybody with dark money in the state was coordinating with his and other official campaign committees; "a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin".

There is more, of course -- much more.  Just the fact that RJ Johnson was (and still is) wearing (at least) two hats -- one with the campaign and the other as a conduit for the Koch brothers and other dark money as the main check-writer for the Club for Growth (which is a sham "organization"; neither a "club" nor are they much interested in anyone's "growth") is an outrageous F-you to anyone's previously universal understanding of the need for at least pretending that the "outside groups" (which are neither "outside" nor "groups" -- just different names and PO boxes laundering the same dark money) are not coordinating with the official campaigns.

[What would be even more interesting is the complete list of who the campaign was coordinating with in the free media.  Any complete list would have to include the wingnut talk radio circuit -- run in Milwaukee by Clear Channel and Journal Communication Inc. -- which seems to exist, especially in a panicked time like this, as a 24/7 Walker defense and promotion operation.  Every day, WISN and WTMJ provide hours upon hours of free advertising for Walker, always in sync with the campaign's message-or-the-day.  And Walker sometimes spends much of his day gabbing on the phone with his friends Jay, Vicki, Mark, Charlie and Jeff.  Also on the list would have to be the most prominently distributed Walker shill in the universe, Christian Schneider, a long-time Republican operative who, for reasons known only to the Journal Sentinel's clueless editorial board, has carte blanche to print Walker campaign talking points whenever he (and Walker) wants in the biggest (and most disappointing) newspaper in the state. But I digress.]

In his filing, the John Doe prosecutor laid out a very persuasive case for what the campaign coordination statute means, how it has been historically interpreted and why he has to investigate further.  But Walker and his handlers obviously took off on a radical path to completely ignore Wisconsin campaign law.  They didn't bother to rewrite it -- they just flaunted the law.  With the radical Republicans running amok in Madison, they certainly could have changed the law; or they could have gone to court for a declaratory judgement that the state's law was unconstitutional.  Instead, they just went ahead and coordinated and plotted and schemed in a manner nobody had dared to do, ever.

Walker's bevy of lawyers may have had some legal advice in their back pocket, in case they got caught (which they now have been).  But they didn't bother to tell anyone about it.  They developed their schemes in secret, hiding in broad daylight as the state was flooded with campaign-coordinated dark money.  The fact that they were coordinating messages and strategy was fairly obvious -- especially in retrospect -- but if you asked them back then, of course they would have denied it.

In fact, if Walker ever exits the cocoon of Fox News and talk radio where he has lived since Thursday and talks to a legitimate news reporter again, someone should ask him about the details of what exactly he was doing back then that he is now so proud of, now that the case is "over", as Walker falsely declared to his friendly interviewers in his desperate last couple of days..  "Was your campaign coordinating with the outside groups, governor?  When did it start?", etc.  I'll bet he doesn't answer the question -- he'd be crazy to do so.

The reason is because Walker and his lawyers know very well that the case is far from "over".   The lawyers for the dark money operators managed to convince one friendly federal judge and one state judge of their novel theory that the part of the state statutes prohibiting coordination between campaigns and outside groups, as written and as always interpreted, was unconstitutional.   But it is by no means guaranteed that the conclusion that dark money groups and campaigns can coordinate with dark money all they want as long as the dark money ads don't say "vote for Walker" will stand in the Courts of Appeals or even the post-Citizens United Supreme Court.

It is not Federalist Society activist Judge Rudy Randa who is going to have the last word on this -- it will be Justice Anthony Kennedy. As an excellent New York Times editorial noted this morning: "Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy promised in 2010 that there was nothing to fear from independent spending groups that raised unlimited dollars. Because they could not coordinate with political candidates, he wrote in the Citizens United decision, they 'do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.'" Having written that, how could Kennedy now follow the right-wing of the Court off the cliff by saying that anything goes for anyone with a checkbook and a candidate in their pocket? Hopefully, the bright line of campaign coordination with dark money is one the Fifth Justice will not cross.

Scott Walker better hope he does.  And the panic of Walker and everyone around him in the last few days makes clear he knows it. There is no middle ground for Walker.  There are only two ways this turns out.  It may be, sadly, that Walker and the forces of Dark Money will win, eliminating all hope for democracy in the United States and Walker can be Governor For Life.  The only other alternative? Scott Walker is going to jail.

1 comment:

Bill Kurtz said...

Welcome back! This was a terrific analysis.