It is no secret that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker would like very much to have his name added to the long shortlist of 2016 Republican presidential contenders. But the nation’s most militant anti-labor politician has suddenly been thrust into the center of a scandal that is likely to dim his national prospects, and that could yet cost him his state post.
Even after major setbacks for Walker’s Republicans in Wisconsin—where Barack Obama easily beat Mitt Romney and progressive Democrat secured the state’s open US Senate seat—the governor was jetting off to California last week to make high-profile appearances at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. And Walker—who came to national prominence in Febreuary 2011 after turning conservative talking pointrs into an anti-labor agenda so militant that it sparked mass protests and a recall campaign—was again performing conservative due diligence last week: refusing to develop a state-run health insurance exchange as part of an ongoing protest against the Affordable Care Act.
But while Walker was piling up presidential points for 2016, a scandal that has plagued him since his election to the governorship in 2010 was taking a dramatic and destructive turn.
At the sentencing hearing for a top Walker aide convicted of felony misconduct in office, the chief prosecutor revealed that when Walker was seeking the governorship in 2010 he was part of an ongoing scheme to use county employees and resources to aid his campaign.
Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf used the sentencing hearing to detail how Walker and his county and campaign aides “routinely commingled political and official county business”—as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described the way in which “campaign, county work intertwined under Walker.”
Wisconsin media exploded late Monday with reports from inside the courtroom, where Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch was sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation. The sentence did not come as a surprise after a long John Doe inquiry that has seen numerous Walker aides and associates charged with felonies and misdemeanors. But the direct linking of Walker to potentially illegal activities in the county executive office was news.