Political players in Wisconsin are eagerly awaiting the release of 27,000 emails from a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker as he eyes re-election and beyond.
The emails, gathered as part of a wide-reaching criminal investigation, resulted in a guilty plea from former Walker deputy chief of staff Kelly Rindfleisch for performing campaign duties while working on public business in Walker's then-Milwaukee County executive administration.
Republicans have defended the controversial governor whose harsh stance against organized labor resulted in a closely contested recall election in 2012, saying the widespread and secretive "John Doe" criminal investigation into the 2012 campaign is politically motivated.
Under Wisconsin law a John Doe investigation allows prosecutors to subpoena documents and witnesses to testify before a judge rather than a grand jury. Tough secrecy laws routinely result in the judge issuing gag orders on witnesses and targets of the investigation alike.
The secretive nature of the investigation, conservatives argue, has hampered Walker's ability to defend himself publicly and has lent the impression he's guilty of misconduct though he's never been charged with a crime.
The John Doe investigation into Walker's 2012 campaign grew out of a prior inquiry that saw Rindfleisch and five other former Walker staff members charged for various forms of misconduct while Walker was still county executive.
The email release later this week comes as Walker gears up for what's expected to be his third hotly contested gubernatorial campaign -- and as he eyes a potential bid for the GOP's presidential nomination in 2016, the Washington Post said.
Whether or not Walker is implicated in any wrongdoing, the potential for what were once thought to be private conversations now becoming public could prove embarrassing at a difficult time for Walker, the Post said.
"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."