The release of 27,000 emails by a state court in Wisconsin has sent Democrats into ecstasy. Finally, they hope, they will embarrass Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker. The “scandal” doesn’t quite stand up on its own, so they’ve taken to linking Walker to Chris Christie and Bridgegate, as if both cases involve abuses of power and retaliation against political opponents. The media are playing their part, with headlines stressing the political damage to Walker’s national ambitions. The truth, of course, is being obscured. Here are five things to know.
1. The scandal has nothing to do with Walker’s term as governor. The emails concern Walker’s term as Milwaukee County Executive. There have been several convictions of former Walker aides at the country level who were charged with coordinating with Walker’s gubernatorial campaign in the course of their official duties. Walker has not been accused of wrongdoing–though Democrats have long insisted that he must have known what his aides were up to, and hope that the emails prove it. Regardless, it all predates his term as governor.
2. Prosecutors have abused their power to silence conservative groups. The “John Doe” probe into Walker has not only targeted the governor but has also hit conservative, Tea Party-aligned groups, with the effect of silencing them. Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and its director sued the prosecutors for civil rights violations. Notably, the county district attorney is a Democrat who backed Walker’s opponent in the recall election. The conservative groups want the probe’s secret proceedings unveiled to the public.
3. This is not the first time the media have been excited about a GOP governor’s emails. In 2011, the New York Times and the Washington Post were so eager to damage former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin that they asked their readers for help in reading through 25,000 pages of emails from her term as governor. The investigation began with great anticipation, but quickly fizzled out as journalists and volunteers could not find anything scandalous. (Democrats’ archives–notably, the recent “Hillary papers“–are dismissed as old news.)
4. The media have been spinning every fact or inference against Walker. The joyful reporting that has greeted the release of the emails is far out of proportion to their content, at least as reported thus far. The revelation that some county aides used a separate wireless network for campaign-related emails is described as an attempt to keep those emails secret–which it may have been, though another plausible explanation is that the separate network may have been a legitimate effort to avoid using county resources for political purposes.
5. Walker is the most harassed, targeted public official in modern American history. Almost from the day he took office, Walker has had to endure protests, defamation, lawsuits, recall elections, and near-daily harassment from Democrats, unions and the media, who collectively refused to accept the democratic judgment of the voters. The labor reforms Walker introduced have turned the state’s economy and finances around, while preserving public sector jobs. This year, he is cutting taxes. Walker remains a profile in political courage.