Scandals heat up for Scott Walker and Chris Christie

Investigators put Walker at the center of a "criminal scheme," and prosecutors close in on Christie

Topics: Politics, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Unions, Teachers Unions, Scandal, Bridgegate, Chris Christie Bridgegate, Wisconsin Recall,

Scandals heat up for Scott Walker and Chris ChristieScott Walker, Chris Christie (Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin/Carlo Allegri/photo collage by Salon)

Today was a bad day for Republican governors. Out in Wisconsin, the long-simmering investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign boiled over as prosecutors unsealed documents laying out what they say was Walker’s central role in a “criminal scheme” to illegally coordinate with outside groups. And in New Jersey, reports are that investigators picking apart the almost comedic corruption of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration have several of the governor’s top aides dead-to-rights and are closing in on Christie himself.

In Walker’s case, prosecutors say that have emails from Walker – including one to Karl Rove – explaining how the coordination between the campaign and conservative interest groups would work.

The governor and his close confidants helped raise money and control spending through 12 conservative groups during the recall elections, according to the prosecutors’ filings.

The documents include an email in which Walker tells Karl Rove, former top adviser to President George W. Bush, that Johnson would lead the coordination campaign. Johnson is also chief adviser to Wisconsin Club for Growth, a conservative group active in the recall elections.

“Bottom-line: R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin. We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like 9 congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin Cities),” Walker wrote to Rove on May 4, 2011.

The Christie news comes courtesy of Esquire’s Scott Raab and Lisa Brennan. It’s based largely on anonymous sources “with intimate knowledge of the case,” so caveats and grains of salt apply, but they write that several of Christie’s top aides are all looking at indictments and investigators are pressuring them to give up the governor:

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Whatever Christie says or does — and whatever potential donors or Jimmy Fallon and his viewers think — the question that truly matters is whether Fishman’s pursuit leads to the governor himself. Christie’s Port appointees — not only Samson, but former PA Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni and his oddball sidekick David Wildstein — all face near-certain indictment and are being pressed to hand up Christie, as is the governor’s former chief counsel, Charlie McKenna.

Wildstein, portrayed as the mastermind behind Ft. Lee’s traffic problems, has made proffers to Fishman’s investigators — hoping to trade information to the prosecutor in exchange for gentler legal treatment — but Fishman has cut no deals with anyone so far, and the looming indictments have encouraged Christie’s PA appointees to sing. “Don’t underestimate what Wildstein has on Christie,” says one source. “And Wildstein and Baroni have both turned on Samson. If Samson doesn’t give Fishman Christie, Samson is toast.”

For pro-union forces out there, seeing Walker and Christie in the hot seat has to engender more than a little Schadenfreude. Walker’s successful push to strip state government workers of their collective bargaining rights was what led to the recall election in the first place. Christie’s national profile was first built on his public shouting matches with members of the New Jersey teachers union.

Simon Maloy
Simon Maloy is Salon's political writer. Email him at smaloy@salon.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SimonMaloy.

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