Dems seek to tie Walker to Christie

The release Wednesday of 27,000 emails from a convicted former aide and hundreds of other legal documents related to that criminal probe are raising new questions for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Democrats are seeking to use the documents to tarnish Walker’s reputation, pointing to evidence they say shows Walker encouraged coordination between campaign and official staff, which could violate campaign finance laws.

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The goal is to damage Walker's reputation and ability to help the national party, and to tie Walker to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Like Walker, Christie is battling a political scandal involving staff members — and his poll numbers have taken a major hit from his scandal. Both are viewed as potential presidential candidates.

“The actions of Governor Walker and Chris Christie’s offices have both violated the public’s trust. The way to restore that trust is to answer questions and explain what happened, not attack opponents and play the victim," Democratic National Committee spokesman Michael Czin said in one of many emails from the DNC and other Democratic groups about the Walker documents.

Walker's campaign downplayed the document release, with a campaign spokesman saying the documents had already been vetted.

“The recently released communications of a county staffer from several years ago are part of a legal process that was completed early last year,” Walker campaign spokesman Jonathan Wetzel said in an email to The Hill. “Governor Walker is confident that during that legal process, these communications were thoroughly reviewed by the authorities.

“The focus of Governor Walker remains on moving Wisconsin forward by helping employers create more jobs and reducing the tax burden on Wisconsin families,” Wetzel said.

The release of the documents threatens to complicate Walker’s reelection efforts this year, though the probe itself concluded in 2012 and found no wrongdoing by Walker.

Researchers and journalists are delving through the more than 10,000 pages of documents looking for evidence Walker did anything wrong, especially in regards to illegal use of official staff resources to help the campaign. Democrats quickly pointed to an email from a top Walker aide which says the then-candidate encouraged coordination between the sides.

Thomas Nardelli, who was Walker's chief of staff while Walker was Milwaukee County Executive and a gubernatorial candidate, emailed both campaign and official staff from his personal email account to set up a daily conference call with both in April 2010.

“The County Executive has asked that we conduct a conference call daily at 8:00 a.m. to review events of the day or of a previous or future day, so we can better coordinate sound, timely responses, so we all know what the others are doing,” reads the email from Nardelli.

Walker campaign staffer Keith Gilkes then helped secure a dial-in number for the call, according to the documents.

The emails come from Walker's first campaign, when he defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) for the first time. He later defeated Barrett again in a recall election that made him a hero on the right and badly divided the state. 

He's now up for reelection to a full second term, and is facing former Trek Bicycle CEO Mary Burke (D). A recent Marquette University poll found him leading Burke by 47 percent to 41 percent.

Despite those numbers, Democrats are hopeful they can defeat Walker — or at least injure him ahead of a possible White House bid in 2016.

The Democratic super-PAC American Bridge posted the full contents of the Walker emails on its website johndoewalker.com Wednesday morning.

Walker himself was never the target of the investigation — and was never charged in the case. But one of his staffers in Milwaukee, Kelly Rindfleisch, pleaded guilty to a felony for doing campaign work for Walker's choice for lieutenant governor while on official government time.

There is also a second ongoing “John Doe” probe into whether Walker's 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with outside groups that could reopen questions about campaign improprieties.