When I first read about Tim Russell and (Kevin Kavanaugh) in January 2012 being charged with stealing money from veterans and their families after being appointed by Scott Walker, I thought Walker was political history within months.
These two Milwaukee County officials had no veterans' advocacy experience, no non-profit experience, and their political experience was composed of kissing up to GOP politicos like Walker.
Finally, the best-held political secret that Republicans use veterans as props, oppose veterans' benefits, and could not care less about veterans would come out on Scott Walker's watch, so I believed.
This was not to be.
Local broadcast Wisconsin media, and GOP-leaning dailies (mostly Gannett Co dailies devastating local coverage) throughout the state rarely mentioned the ongoing scandal and when they did they usually left out mention these two slime stole from veterans, instead merely stating that the two were accused of embezzling from unnamed non-profit(s).
Up-north and central Wisconsin voters whom I contacted had no idea what the story was, just some political thing out of Milwaukee.
So, arguably the most shameful episode of Scott Walker's cronyism, a spectacular political story that should have blown up anyone near it and one of the lowest forms of crime: Stealing from veterans, mostly blew over.
Republicans were more than happy to look past the charging and sentencing of these two Walker appointees.
No Walker denunciations. No Republican denunciations. No statement from Scott Walker to come clean with prosecutors and cooperate fully, perhaps because the two were so tight.
A new piece out sheds some light on Walker and one of the slime he appointed, Tim Russell.
Tim Russell Claims in Prison Documents He Had "Authority" to Dip Into Funds (Jud Lounsbury. Uppity Wisconsin) Please check it out.
This seems plausible.
As Steve Schultze (known in Scott Walker's inner circle as "asshole," emails reveal), Dave Umhoefer and Daniel Bice reported in 2012:
Various employees who worked with Russell at the county said he was perceived as part of Walker's close circle, along with John Hiller, a property developer who has been at Walker's side since Walker's first try for office; Bob Dennik, a political consultant and fundraiser for Walker; Jim Villa, who served as a chief of staff to Walker at the county and also worked on Walker campaigns; and others.Scott Walker has been walking through a minefield that he self-laid for years.
Walker returned the loyalty, promoting Russell and bringing him back onto the county payroll twice after Walker re-election campaigns as county executive. Russell held eight different jobs during Walker's eight years as county executive, including executive assistant, several economic development positions, deputy chief of staff and housing director. The development jobs paid more than $80,000 a year.
Several of his close associates and others who had dealings with Russell dating to Walker's first county executive run in '02 expressed shock over the allegations.
"He was one of Walker's most trusted confidants," said Orville Seymer, a property manager active in recall politics through Citizens for Responsible Government. "That's what makes this so shocking. Walker trusted him implicitly. He's not guilty yet but the evidence looks pretty strong." CRG jump-started the recall drive against then-County Executive F. Thomas Ament in 2002, leading to Walker's victory in a special election later the same year.
This is why national Democrats want Scott Walker out front of the GOP field for president, a gift that will never happen, no matter what Larry Saboto thinks.
With big help from the Wisconsin press, $10s of millions from out-of-state billionaires and maladroit political communications from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Walker survived Tim Russell and Kevin Kavanaugh.
Eight months out from the general election for governor, one hopes at least one of these characteristics has changed.