MILWAUKEE (AP) — Thousands of emails prosecutors collected during the first secret investigation into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's former aides and associates when he was a county executive were released Tuesday, prompting allegations from Walker and other Republicans that the timing two weeks before the election was politically motivated.
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele's office made public the nearly 16,000 emails and attachments that prosecutors seized from county and personal computers during the investigation that ended in 2013. Walker was never charged but six of his aides and associates were convicted on charges ranging from theft to misconduct in office.
The documents' release comes in the midst of Walker's fierce re-election contest against Democrat Mary Burke. A Marquette University Law School poll released last week showed the race is tied.
Burke released a new campaign ad two hours before the emails were released that mentions the convictions and says the state can't afford four more years of Walker. Burke told reporters before she voted early in Madison on Tuesday morning that the timing of the ad wasn't based on the emails' release.
"The timing is about that people when they go to the polls need to consider his entire record over the last four years when looking at the next four years," Burke said. "Part of that, not only a lagging economy and historic cuts to education, but certainly the scandal around his administration."
Burke said she never discussed the release of the records with Abele. But the ad, which was to begin airing statewide on Wednesday, fueled Republican questions about the timing of the document dump.
Walker, in a prepared statement, noted that Abele, his wife and campaign committee had donated $63,000 to Burke. Walker said releasing the emails now so close to the election was designed to "distract voters from my opponent's failed record."
"This case was closed nearly two years ago," Walker said. "Voters see through the political motives of my opponents to stop our successful reforms which are moving Wisconsin forward."
Abele's spokesman referred questions to county attorney Paul Bargren, who did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Abele promised in June to be nonpartisan in his handling of the records, pledging to get the information out as quickly as possible.
The emails released Tuesday were collected during the first secret investigation, known as a John Doe, involving Walker.
A judge in May turned over the 500 gigabytes of records to Abele's office and ordered that they be released. County attorneys have been reviewing them to remove any personal information ever since.
Two previous batches of documents were released by Abele's office in August and September and 27,000 pages of emails collected during the investigation were previously released as part of an appeal made by one of Walker's aides convicted of misconduct in office.
A second John Doe investigation was launched in 2012 focusing on alleged illegal coordination between Walker's recall campaign and more than two dozen conservative groups. That investigation is on hold after the judge overseeing it in January blocked subpoenas prosecutors requested.
That case is pending before the state Supreme Court.
Associated Press writer Todd Richmond contributed to this report in Madison.
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