Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Democrats have a problem. It looks like the former Secretary of State worries more about complying with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests than about spying by foreign governments and intrusion by hackers. Instead of being focused on our national interests, Hillary, it appears, was busy putting the Clinton family businesses first—the Clinton Foundation, Teneo, and Huma Abedin, as the State Department came up with zero emails responsive to FOIA requests concerning Clinton Inc. Not exactly the kind of thing you want from someone running for president or a senior cabinet officer, but then again we are talking about the Clintons.
Yes, the GOP has plenty of reason to rejoice, now that Hillary 3.0 is looking a whole lot like Hillary 2.0, old wine in a 67-year-old wineskin. Already, House Republicans are rightfully calling for an investigation into this latest chapter of Clintonian shenanigans.
But Hillary is not the only one with an email problem. Can you say Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor and Republican 2016 frontrunner?
Before Walker was elected governor, when he was Milwaukee County executive, Walker’s staff kept a secret email system and set up a secret wireless router in Walker’s government office that commingled government and campaign business on private Gmail and Yahoo email accounts.
On top of that, county employees were doing campaign work on government time and, by extension, on the taxpayers’ dime—in violation of state law. As the story goes, one of Walker’s aides, Darlene Wink, copped to a misdemeanor guilty plea, and got off with probation for doing campaign work during office hours. Kelly Rindfleisch, Walker’s deputy chief of staff when Walker was county executive, pleaded guilty to a single felony count for spending “significant time” working as a fundraiser on government time for Brett Davis, Walker’s running mate.
But it didn’t end there. Brian Pierick, one of the secret website’s webmasters, was convicted of enticing a minor. Another Walker webmaster, Timothy Russell, was sentenced to two years in prison and five years’ probation for stealing from a veterans group, using the money for trips to Hawaii and the Caribbean, and for meeting with Herman Cain’s presidential campaign on the veterans’ tab.
On top of signaling criminality, the emails were windows into just how Team Walker operated, namely that being inside the private email group was a badge of honor. One email from a senior Walker aide, Cynthia Archer, to Rindfleisch read, “Consider yourself now in the ‘inner circle’ ... I use this private account quite a bit to communicate with SKW [Scott Kevin Walker] and Nardelli,” Nardelli, being Tom Nardelli, Walker’s chief of staff. Archer added, “You should be sure you check it throughout the day.”
As for Walker himself, it’s not clear where the tale will end, as Walker remains the subject of a stalled criminal investigation into his campaign coordination—or lack thereof—with outside interest groups. Indeed, it has been suggested that all this has the feel of Whitewater, the early Clinton land deal saga where Bill’s friends went to jail, but for which the Clintons themselves were never criminally charged—criminality being in the eye of the beholder.
Regardless, both Clinton and Walker should have known better. Politicians and operatives getting snagged over email accounts is by now old news. In 2007, the Bush White House was ensnared in a political firestorm over White House aides using a private email account routed through the Republican National Committee, the firing of career federal prosecutors, and their replacement with Bush political loyalists.
The Bush 43 White House, like today’s State Department, had a hard time locating emails responsive to congressional inquiries into the firings—because the emails were maintained on an outside router. At first blush, it appeared that only 5 million emails had been destroyed and, to her credit, Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman, publicly acknowledged, “We screwed up, and we’re trying to fix it.” In the end, the total tally of lost email was closer to 22 million. Right now we’re not hearing that kind of forthrightness, and at this juncture, it is unclear how many Clinton emails were lost, and what other Walker emails will see the light of day on top of the thousands that have been released.
Despite a public that demands transparency, more often than not politicians crave keeping us in the dark. Still, if both Clinton and Walker want to sit atop America’s spying enterprise, we are entitled to full disclosure. Fair’s fair. If they want to know our secrets, then we should know Clinton’s and Walker’s. At least as they pertain to their public duties.
To be sure, the whole “homebrew” computer server idea is, at a minimum, hellaciously stupid for the simple reason that a system just might get hacked. But to Clinton, evading FOIA and her disclosure obligations was a higher priority than keeping out the prying eyes of the Russians and Chinese.
So how do we know the Chinese and Russians and North Koreans weren’t reading her emails before she walked into meetings? And the answer is that we don’t.
It would behoove both Clinton and Walker to take a page out of Jeb Bush’s playbook, like yesterday, and start disclosing stuff right now. Otherwise, rest assured, Clinton and Walker will be subjected to an endless drip of stories, and a cloud of suspicion. As the lone Democrat who is up and running, and Clinton being Clinton, she can delude herself into thinking that she has time. As for Walker, tomorrow is already here.