Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More John Doe silliness

The latest Barrett campaign ads on the John Doe continue to be a bit challenged when it comes to things like accuracy. Let's look at a few of the allegations.

First, the ads complain that a private e-mail system that was set up by some Walker employees was "illegal." That isn't true. It could be used illegally but its mere existence violates no law. A commenter to my last post on the subject asks whether it violates the open records law. It doesn't, although it would be a violation if it were used to create documents that qualify as "records" under the law that were then withheld when requested. They may also be subject to certain retention requirements. But not every document created by someone who works for the government is a "record."

If the system were to be used to raise funds from county offices (as the complaints against Wink and Rindfleisch alleged), that would be illegal. Whether other political work would be criminal conduct (as opposed to a violation of internal policy) is a a question deserving it own post. The answer isn't as simple as it might seem.

Second, the ads argue that Walker ditched the "real numbers" on employment. As has now been explained exhaustively, that is also false. All of the job numbers that Walker used are "real numbers" frequently relied on by economists. You can argue that Walker should have sat on the QCEW numbers (which, if anything, are the "real" or best numbers) so that the voters would have gone to the polls ignorant of them. But you can't say that they are not "real."

Third, the ads maintain that there are thousands of e-mails that show taxpayer funds used for Walker's campaign. I suppose there could be but we haven't seen any. The criminal complaints allege that two people raised money for a candidate other than Walker from their county offices. That's not legal but it doesn't amount to taxpayer dollars being used for Walker's campaign.

I could go on but here's the fundamental problem. In response to my last post on the issue which pointed out that the DA's office has had these e-mails for a long time and has not accused the Governor of anything, some commenters argue that sometimes investigations go on for a long time and he might someday issue charges that might involve or reflect on the Governor.

I can't prove a negative. But I am pretty sure that it's a bad idea to recall a sitting Governor because someone has conducted an investigation and has not accused him of anything but, who knows, might do so someday.

As I explained in my last post calls on the Governor to "release" these e-mails are disingenuous. Even if he has them, he does not appear to be free to release them or even to explain them.

But here's a thought experiment.

What would Tom Barrett say if he was called to release all personal e-mails from his staff - those sent on private accounts and from private devices - which mention him, Walker, the campaign, etc.? What would they show?

I don't know. But since we are being called upon to speculate, here's a reasonable surmise. Given the nature of political appointees, I suspect that they would show some political activity by city employees during normal business hours that was undertaken from city offices. That would not scandalize me and, depending on the details, I wouldn't think it would amount to a crime.

But I don't know. I also don't know that the John Doe investigation has or will come anywhere close to an allegation against the Governor.  If I were running for political office, I would hope that I wouldn't engage in speculation, innuendo and distortion about things I don't know.

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