In the wake of news that Gov. Scott Walker transferred $60,000 from his campaign account to his criminal defense fund, Tom Barrett today called on Walker to explain how and why he even has or needs this fund in the first place.
"It's time for Walker to come clean about whether he is a target of this investigation or not," said Barrett. "Character matters, and I've always tried to hold myself to the highest level of integrity. I will bring this same commitment to the governor's office, and that's why Walker needs to answer these questions for the people of Wisconsin."
Though Walker has claimed publicly he does not believe he is a target of the John Doe investigation, the state statutes suggest strongly that he is. State law allows the formation of a criminal defense fund for officials who are being investigated for or charged with a violation of campaign finance laws or prohibited election practices (See GAB citation below).
Six of Scott Walker's former aides and associates have been charged with 15 felonies and 3 misdemeanors as part of an ongoing criminal corruption probe into Walker's past administration. The charges are stunning and wide-ranging: theft from a veterans' charity; installing a secret internet network 30-feet from Walkers' County Executive desk to campaign illegally; illegal use of taxpayer money for political purposes.
Barrett also called on Walker to identify the contributors who authorized use of their donations to go toward the criminal defense fund. State law requires that the campaign secure prior approval from donors before shifting their funds to a legal defense fund.
While the revelation that Walker transferred $60,000 from his campaign account to his criminal defense fund is just the latest, it is not the first. According to past news reports (MJS, 5/1/12):
Walker's fund also paid about $52,000 in unspecified expenses to a Milwaukee law firm that is representing the campaign in the John Doe probe.
Walker said earlier that he owed $55,000 in legal expenses associated with the law firms involved in his criminal defense fund as of Dec. 31.
The campaign has previously paid two law firms slightly more than $115,000 for the same type of similarly described expenses as the $52,000 amount.
Walker submitted finance reports earlier this week showing he raised a staggering $13 million in the last finance period-- the vast majority in unlimited contributions from wealthy right-wing ideologues from other states, like the Swift Boat funder and other superrich partisans in places like in Oklahoma, Florida and Missouri.
"Scott Walker's criminal defense fund is called the "Scott Walker Trust,' but this isn't the trust that the people of Wisconsin are looking for," said Barrett. "Walker is steering some of the enormous sums of money he has raised from out-of-state special interests to build the coffers of his criminal defense fund. It's time for Walker to explain to Wisconsin voters why he needs and has this fund."
According to the Government Accountability Board:
LIMITED EXCEPTION: LEGAL DEFENSE FUND LIMITED TO DEFENSE OF VIOLATIONS ALLEGED UNDER CHAPTERS 11 AND 12,WISCONSIN STATUTES
Wisconsin Statutes permit a state government official who is being investigated for or charged with a violation of campaign finance laws [chapter 11, Wisconsin Statutes] or prohibited election practices [chapter 12, Wisconsin Statutes] to establish a "legal defense fund" for expenditures supporting or defending the candidate while that person is being investigated for, or charged with, or convicted of a violation of those chapters.