One of the great progressive reforms of the last century was the passage of open public records laws, both on the state level and the federal Freedom of Information Act. Unfortunately it seems that some state officials aren’t willing to follow the rules. First it was the Christie Administration using private email accounts to avoid public oversight on Bridgegate and now we have learned that Governor Scott Walker himself was tied into a secret email system created to bypass open public records scrutiny.
When Walker was the Milwaukee County executive he participated in an off the books email system that included both his government and campaign staff, raising the possibility that Walker may have been involved in illegal activity.
The Republican governor spoke to the press only before the records were released, saying he was confident there wouldn’t be anything damaging in them beyond what had already led to criminal charges against several former aides and appointees…
The trove of documents unsealed by the courts Wednesday shows just how intertwined Walker’s campaign operation was with his taxpayer-paid county staff in the months leading to the November 2010 general election.
Like other states, it is illegal in Wisconsin to be working for and taking money from a campaign while also having a government job you are supposed to be doing on behalf of the public. Yet that illegal behavior seems to be exactly what Walker’s staff were engaging in.
And now Walker himself may be in legal jeopardy.
Walker used his campaign email to communicate with his county aides, who frequently used their own private email accounts when interacting with Walker or his campaign — all of which would shield their discussions from the public…
Court documents have previously shown Walker’s aides set up a secret wireless router in the county executive’s office and traded emails that mixed county and campaign business on Gmail and Yahoo accounts.
Though not all the emails were professional in nature, some were racist jokes.
Regardless of the content, the entire point of open public records laws is to have government communications recorded and archived so the public can learn how its laws and policies are made and implemented – a secret email system subverts that goal. And if Scott Walker was using and directing his government staff for campaign work his troubles might just be beginning.
Photo by Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons license.