By Matt Pommer
Gov. Scott Walker showed his media skills recently when he announced he had hired two criminal-defense lawyers for the ongoing John Doe investigation in Milwaukee, where he had been county executive.
Four of Walker‘s former aides have been charged as part of the ongoing, closed-door investigation. Some of the charges stem from alleged misuse of money. Others are linked to political activities prohibited while the defendants worked for the county.
Walker repeatedly has said he has done nothing wrong. He said he is not a target of the investigation.
Veteran courthouse reporters note that John Doe investigations often snag the small fish before a bigger catch is sought.
Walker said the lawyers were hired “to assemble additional background information.” They were hired “to ensure that I am in the best position possible to continue aiding the inquiry,” the governor added.
The spin was good enough to keep the lawyering-up from the front pages of many of the state’s newspapers. Democrats are trying to interest the media and voters in the John Doe developments, but it has been a hard sell.
The governor is facing a potential recall vote in late spring or summer, and his campaign office declined to say whether the prosecutor’s office had made a formal request for a meeting or had issued a subpoena. The prosecutor’s office declined any comment.
Recent polls indicate the governor has narrow leads as both parties prepare for the recall elections. Recall petitions also are challenging the lieutenant governor and four Republican state senators.
Everything would seem to be in favor of the six Republican officeholders. There are no limits on contributions to the incumbents, and Walker already had reported getting $4.6 million for his political efforts.
The likely Republican answer to the recall campaign will be attacking the Democratic candidates and attempting to drive up their negatives, according to state Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, who had considered offering his candidacy.
But Republicans have more than money going for them. They have changed voting laws requiring that those seeking to cast a ballot have a valid photo ID. The approach is being used in every state in which Republicans control both the Legislature and the governor’s office.
Republicans like to contend that changing the law is necessary to prevent fraud. Editorials have generally denounced that argument as being untrue.
It would also benefit Walker and his fellow GOP recall targets if the elections were held after colleges and technical schools complete their spring semesters. It’s tougher to round up young voters if they are home.
The ongoing investigation might have some effect, but they are slow moving.
Matt Pommer worked as reporter in Madison for 35 years. He comments on state political and policy issues.