Former ABC News Political Director Insists Innocent or Guilty, ‘Gov. Walker Equals...Scandal’

The fact that “no criminal charges” have been filed against Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin on illegal fundraising did not stop MSNBC’s Chuck Todd and guest Amy Walter, former political director of ABC News and national editor of The Cook Political Report, from writing his political obituary on the June 20 edition of The Daily Rundown With Chuck Todd.

“Regardless of where this ends up,” Walter commented, now “Governor Walker equals scandal.” As NewsBuster executive editor Tim Graham noted, this political “scandal” involves Democratic district attorneys purposefully targeting Walker on his campaign fundraising despite repeated court rulings that there was not enough evidence to validate the investigation. But according to Walter, no matter his innocence or guilt, his name is forever tainted with political scandal, a take the Democrat-friendly network is most happy to accept as they Lean Forward into the early stages of the 2016 campaign season. [See video below. Click here for MP3 audio]

Todd, who is also NBC’s chief White House correspondent, did not bother to challenge Walter’s claim. Instead, the former staffer for Democrat Tom Harkin’s 1992 presidential bid agreed and stated that Walker’s shot at reelection this November is no longer “clear anymore.” And, of course, if he loses the governorship, Todd’s guests conceded, the formerly formidable Republican candidate for the 2016 presidency will be “done.”

Perhaps MSNBC’s correspondents should stop reporting on left-wing wishful thinking and report on actual news. Nowhere in the discussion did Todd mention that the prosecutors are Democrats, or emphasize that the investigation has been rejected by both state and federal courts.

See transcript below:

MSNBC
The Daily Rundown With Chuck Todd
June 20, 2014
9:16 a.m. Eastern

1 minute and 47 seconds

CHUCK TODD: Prosecutors in Wisconsin are alleging that Governor Scott Walker, who is up for re-election this year and of course is mentioned as a major 2016 candidate, they allege that he was part of a criminal scheme to illegally coordinate fundraising and spending between his campaign and conservative groups, like the Wisconsin Club for Growth, during recall elections two years ago. The documents were unsealed by a federal appeals court judge on Thursday, who is reviewing a lawsuit which is attempting to actually end a multi-county investigation into Walker's campaign. The probe was blocked last month by a federal judge and is currently being appealed. But the prosecutors cite one e-mail walker they say Walker sent to Karl Rove on May 4th, 2011, during the state senate recall elections highlighting this, Walker advisor R.J. Johnson’s importance in leading the effort. Now here’s the email that Walker himself sent.

Bottom-line: R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin. We are running nine recall elections and it will be like running nine congressional markets in every state -- in every market in the state (and twin cities.)

In another state with another set of laws, this might be a much smaller deal. In Wisconsin, with its tough campaign finance laws and this sort of tradition of high ethics, it's a big deal. And it's also unusual for any candidate himself or herself to put themselves in the center of coordination that's alleged here. Now, there are no criminal charges that have been brought against Walker. And on Thursday he simply wanted to call the probe a “partisan investigation with no basis in state law.”

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: I ask people to look at the facts. The facts are pretty clear. A judge at the state and federal level made it clear that they didn't buy into this argument. They said to move on.

TODD: But Walker, whose race for governor was tied in a recent poll and who is eyeing a White House bid, has a big perception problem here. Politico reports that Walker reserved $250,000 worth of TV air time on Thursday, though a Walker source says the buy was long planned. Not something that's responding to this. This morning, though, he offered another explanation while on Fox.

STEVE DOOCEY: Are they trying to do to you what they did to Chris Christie in New Jersey?

WALKER: Oh, again, I think there's no doubt this is one of those where the media jumps on this, some on the left spin this. You get our detractors out there trying to claim there's something more than there is. If you're just reading this for the first time you might think there's something there without knowing that the courts already looked at this.

TODD: Well, he clearly admits that there's potentially a perception problem here. Now this isn't the first time a document release has caused problems for Walker. In February emails suggested his 2010 campaign was coordinating with his county executive office. And Walker is just the latest Republican governor with a ballooning ethics problem, you heard the mention there of Chris Christie.

9:22 a.m. Eastern
2 minutes and 10 seconds


TODD: Amy, let's take everything, let’s take him at face value there is no, that he didn't commit any crime. There's a carelessness, to me, aspect to this. It’s the same thing that gets at Christie. If you're a donor on Wall Street and you're thinking Scott Walker and you’re thinking to yourself, really? You're your own political operative? You're sending e-mails to Karl Rove talking about coordination? That's just -- that's just stupid, okay? To be like totally cynical. We all know campaigns are always looking a way to skirt these laws. So let's set that aside for a minute. This was just stupid.

AMY WALTER: Well, the best thing about being a governor is I'm not part of Washington that has an approval rating of, you know, zero. Um, I can prove I'm an executive on how to get things done, I can rise above all this silliness. Now you're right smack dab in the middle of all of it. And regardless of where this ends up, there are front page stories now that say Governor Walker, focus of probe. Governor Walker equals, right, scandal. And if you noticed in the Wisconsin State Journal today, below the fold, is a more important story which is, the economic situation in Wisconsin, the employment situation not as good as it is nationally, right? And that's a bigger problem for him.

TODD: And that’s what’s been amazing about it, that’s another one, it's like a 1-2 punch. You know, you felt as if, boy, Scott Walker has survived so much politically in Wisconsin. You know, he's destined to win yet another race 53-47.

MANU RAJU: Right but I don’t think that’s clear at all.

TODD: I don’t think that’s clear anymore.

RAJU: Because, I mean, the poll, you guys show the poll that’s tied.

TODD: A good one, a Marquette, one that we think is a good one.

RAJU: So, you know, if this continues to drip, drip through November, of course Democrats will use this as a rallying cry. Even if Scott Walker does have support from conservatives, groups on the outside who will spend a lot of money to support him, Democrats despise him in that state. And he's enough to bring voters out to the polls in a year when they're going to have turnout problems nationally.

TODD: But I do wonder how this really hurts him with the national donors. They'll help him win re-election, that's one thing.

WALTER: Well, remember who's coming in big-time. It will be AFP and the Koch brothers which can be linked back to this story.

RAJU: And if he loses, if he loses re-election, what does that mean for 2016?

WALTER: Well then it’s done.

Laura Flint
Laura Flint is a 2014 summer intern for the MRC's News Analysis Division.