Did Scott Walker Just Tank his Career?

Nearly three years after Wisconsin, it's the unions that may have the last laugh.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/AAraujo

Scott Walker's 2016 presidential bid is under threat -- before it even gets started.

According to the Washington Post, Walker's facing serious scrutiny over his time as governor of Wisconsin, and the combination of a trove of released emails and allegations of illegal activities in his 2012 anti-union campaign have the potential to turn Walker into the next Chris Christie.

The released emails emerged after an investigation into whether people close to Walker worked on political campaigns for his allies while they were ostensibly doing work for the county. Although the case was closed without any charges being brought against Walker, over 27,000 emails were released as part of an appeal for a former Walker chief of staff who was found guilty for "performing political work for Walker-backed lieutenant governor candidate during hours she was paid by taxpayers to do county business." 

Walker's political enemies are hoping to uncover some dirt in the thousands of emails, with some analysts drawing comparisons to the bridge scandal that blew up in New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's face in January.  

"Will there be indication that Scott Walker knew about the illegal behavior that took place? I don't know," said Mike Tate, chairman of the state Democratic Party. But, he added, "all we need is something bad to be in these 27,000 e-mails, and all attention will turn to Wisconsin." 

The second source of ire for Walker may well have roots in the first: possibly as a result of the first investigation, a second, ongoing probe into "possible illegal political coordination during the 2012 recall elections and has spread to five Wisconsin counties, two of them with Republican district attorneys who have joined three Democratic prosecutors in turning the case over to a special prosecutor," reports the Washington Post. 

The political coordiation is alleged to have been illegal because Wisconsin state law makes it unlawful for candidates to coordinate political activities with independent organizations that have no limits on the donations they give. 

Conservatives allied with Walker have claimed political bias in the filing of subpoenas by prosecutors, and some groups, including the Wisconsin Club for Growth, have filed a lawsuit in the matter against the Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm. (A Walker political adviser also served as a spokesperson to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which spent heavily on the governor's 2012 bid).

The Republican governor hasn't been one to kowtow to the terms of laws and legal rulings that inconvenience his brashly anti-union agenda. In September 2012, a state judge ruled that his signature piece of union-busting legislation that stripped public-sector unions of their collective bargaining rights was unconstitutional, and the same judge held the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission in contempt for continuing to enforce it over a year later. 

Republicans elsewhere have also employed dubiously legal means to weaken the power of unions. Just yesterday, workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, rejected membership in the United Auto Workers after a fierce public relations campaign by outside conservative groups to smear the meaning of union membership for workers. New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse commented on the matter, saying he's "never seen such aggressive outside intervention in any union campaign." 

Aaron Cantú is an investigator for the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and an independent journalist based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @aaronmiguel_
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