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View from around the state: An odd show in open court

By: Associated Press//November 27, 2012//

View from around the state: An odd show in open court

By: Associated Press//November 27, 2012//

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— From the Beloit Daily News. Nov. 21, 2012.

Statements made in court by the prosecution at the sentencing last week of a former aide to Scott Walker certainly raised more questions than they answered.

Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf told the court that Walker — when he was county executive and running for governor — met nearly every day with top county and campaign staffers to make sure they were in “good coordination.”

Meanwhile, an underling — former aide Kelly Rindfleisch — was standing before the judge to receive a sentence of six months in jail and three years’ probation for her role in that coordination. Landgraf said the meetings routinely included Walker, campaign manager Keith Gilkes, campaign communications officer Jill Bader and, from the Milwaukee County office, Rindfleisch, chief of staff Tom Nardelli and administration director Cindy Archer.

The key question in the Milwaukee County case, from the outset, echoed the well-worn phrase from the Watergate era: What did the governor know, and when did he know it?

That’s why Landgraf’s open court PowerPoint presentation is such an eyebrow-raiser.

Rindfleisch already had entered a guilty plea to one felony count of misconduct in public office, so there was no overriding need to detail her place in the pecking order of any illegal mixing of campaign and county business. In that context, all the presentation does is raise the question why a lower-ranking individual is going to jail while higher-ups active in the process have not been accused.

Rindfleisch’s attorney said as much, observing that “what jumped off the page” from the presentation was that only his client faced punishment. “Scott Walker has not been accused of any wrongdoing,” the lawyer said.

If the DA’s summary of how things worked in the county executive’s office is the curtain call for the long-running John Doe investigation, it is certainly an odd conclusion to a messy and controversial situation.

A final word: Like many of the Washington-based investigations by special prosecutors — think the interminable Ken Starr pursuit of the Clintons, and Patrick Fitzgerald’s doggedness in the Valerie Plame case — the Milwaukee County John Doe probe poorly serves the public and its targets by dragging on and on and on. The political pot boils, often for years, without resolution — and then, in the end, the cases frequently fizzle. Seriously, is this the best prosecutors can do? The fastest they can go? Reform-minded legislators might want to talk about that.


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