Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
The three arrests this week in the ongoing John Doe investigation in Wisconsin bring the stench of scandal ever closer to Scott Walker.
One of those arrested, Timothy Russell, was Walker’s deputy chief of staff in Milwaukee County. Russell is charged with embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from a fund for wounded soldiers, vets, and the families of fallen soldiers.
If the allegation is true, Walker is guilty of, at the very least, being a terrible judge of character and engaging in cronyism.
Russell was an aide to Walker for a decade. According to the complaint, Walker decided to take the running of the fund drive called Operation Freedom, which Walker sponsored as county executive, away from the American Legion, which had done nothing wrong, and hand it over to an organization Russell had just set up, the Heritage Guard Preservation Society.
According to the complaint, Russell then embezzled money to go on vacations to Hawaii and the Caribbean. Another Walker aide Kevin Kavanaugh, was also charged with embezzling.
The third person charged, Brian Pierick, is Russell’s partner, and he was charged with felony child enticement and causing a child to expose his genitals.
The charges against Pierick are unwarranted, I believe, because they had nothing to do with the purpose of the initial investigation. In searching Russell’s and Pierick’s computers for evidence about the alleged embezzlement, law enforcement stumbled upon salacious internet chatting between Pierick and an eager young man who assured him he was eighteen, but according to the complaint, was only seventeen. This is the worst kind of prurience and sexual witch-hunting, which prosecutors should not be allowed to engage in.
But leaving that aside, the arrests certainly don’t make Walker look any better, even though one of his staffers originally alerted authorities that there might be a problem with the Operation Freedom funds.
Plus, other shoes may still drop in the John Doe investigation.
--Cynthia Archer, one of the chief architects of Walker’s assault on labor union rights, had her home raided by the FBI last fall.
--Walker’s press secretary has already received immunity.
--A big Walker fundraiser has received immunity.
--And William Gardner, CEO of Wisconsin and Southern Railroad and a huge Walker contributor, pled guilty to violating the campaign finance laws by blatantly giving employees money that they were then supposed to donate to Walker.
On top of that, as my colleague Ruth Conniff has noted, Walker and his Republican cronies, including State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gabelman, are up to their eyeballs in cronyism with a Republican law firm in Wisconsin.
It would be ironic if the stench of scandal – and not Walker’s crushing of labor unions -- persuades enough Wisconsin voters to send him packing.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story After Iowa, “Game On” or “Game Over”? And Will Ron Paul Bolt?
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