Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker kept his distance Thursday from an investigation into one of his top agency officials, staying silent despite calls from his opponents to say what he knows about why FBI agents raided her home a day earlier.
Agents raided the home of Cynthia Archer, who held a top spot in Walker's office when he served as Milwaukee County executive and followed Walker to work in state government after last November's election.
The raid comes amid an ongoing secret Milwaukee County investigation that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, citing unnamed people familiar with the case, said focuses on whether county staffers in Walker's office did political work on the taxpayer dime.
This week's action is a reminder of long-simmering questions surrounding work by Walker's county staffers, one of whom admitted last year to anonymously posting pro-Walker comments on websites while on county time. It also raises questions about how deep the investigation will go and what implications it could have for the rising first-term Republican star.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm declined Thursday to comment on the case. The Journal Sentinel reported that the secret proceeding allows witnesses to be subpoenaed and compelled to testify under oath, while forbidding them from talking publicly about the case.
Archer told The Associated Press on Thursday she never has done anything inappropriate and that Walker never asked her to do anything inappropriate. She also said she never was subpoenaed and nor told she was involved in the investigation.
Archer, 52, who is on paid sick leave from a her job as a legislative liaison with the Department of Children and Family Services, said she was woken early Wednesday by FBI agents knocking on the door of her Madison home. She said she didn't remember seeing a warrant and didn't ask them to produce one.
"They wouldn't need a warrant. If they need anything I'll give it to them," said Archer, adding she had no plans to hire an attorney because she had done nothing wrong.
Walker was out of state Thursday campaigning for Republicans in Kentucky and spokesman Cullen Werwie said his office would have no comment on the raid or investigation. Former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic, who Walker's campaign hired after receiving a subpoena for campaign emails shortly after last year's election, did not return a message seeking comment.
Democratic legislative leaders reacted to the raid Thursday by introducing a bill to repeal changes that allowed the governor to replace civil service positions in state agencies with political appointees. The changes were just one of many Walker-backed initiatives the Republican-led Legislature passed at breakneck speed after Walker took office in January.
Archer's current job is one of those formerly civil service positions.
Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said the bill introduced Thursday would ensure political cronies aren't working for Walker and future governors.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate called news of the raid disturbing, and urged Walker to explain any role he may have in the investigation.
Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson, who served 2 1/2 years on the Milwaukee County Board when Walker was county executive, said he's not surprised the governor is trying to distance himself.
"Knowing Walker, having worked with him at the county, he's never been one to admit when he does something wrong," Larson said. "It would be pretty earth-shattering if he did it this time."
The Journal Sentinel reported that people familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity said the investigation focuses on the activities of Archer and Tom Nardelli, Walker's former county chief of staff. Both worked three years in Walker's county executive office and both followed him to Madison after the November election.
Nardelli quit his state job in July and did not return messages seeking comment Thursday. Archer served as deputy Department of Administration Secretary until she quit on Aug. 19 and started the Children and Family Services job on Aug. 20 before going on leave.
Walker previously has said he has not been contacted in person by prosecutors but that his campaign had been asked for emails and information related to a staffer in his county office, Darlene Wink, who posted pro-Walker messages on websites on work time. Wink resigned in May 2010 after admitting to posting the anonymous comments on websites and blogs.
Her attorney, Chris Wiesmueller, acknowledged Wink posted the comments, but said Thursday he had no idea whether she was connected to the raid on Archer's house.
"I'm really in the dark in how we get from Darlene to Cynthia Archer," Wiesmueller said.
Authorities several months ago seized work computers used by both Wink and Tim Russell, a former Walker campaign staffer who was working as Milwaukee County housing director. Unlike Archer, neither Wink nor Russell went to work for the state after Walker was elected governor.
Scrutiny of Walker's campaign operations have resulted in one conviction.
William Gardner, president and chief executive officer of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co., was sentenced to two years' probation in July after being found guilty of two felonies related to exceeding state campaign donation limits and laundering campaign donations to Walker and other Wisconsin politicians.
Walker's campaign returned the $43,800 in donations Gardner had given him.
Ramde reported from Milwaukee. Associated Press writer Todd Richmond also contributed to this report.