Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Friday he will meet with a district attorney leading a secret investigation that has already led to charges being filed against five former close aides and associates.
The development brings Walker closer to the investigation than ever before, a potential vulnerability for him as he faces an effort to recall him from office.
Walker said in a statement released through his campaign that he has been cooperating with the Milwaukee County district attorney's office on the probe that began 20 months ago.
"My cooperation in this matter extends beyond a willingness to supply any and all requested documents," Walker said in the statement. "I have already said that I would be happy to sit down with the people looking into these issues and answer any additional questions they may have."
The criminal charges so far have come against people who worked for or were associated with Walker's county executive office in Milwaukee before he was elected governor in 2010.
Kelly Rindfleisch, Walker's deputy chief of staff before he became governor in 2011, has been charged with four felony counts of misconduct in office. Darlene Wink, who was Walker's county constituent services coordinator, faces two misdemeanor counts of political solicitation by a public employee.
It is illegal for public workers, while engaged in their official duties, to raise funds or otherwise work on political campaigns or use their public workspaces to do so.
Two other former Walker associates, Tim Russell and Kevin Kavanaugh, were charged Jan. 5 with embezzling more than $60,000 from veterans and their families. Another man is charged with child enticement charges, evidence of which was allegedly discovered while investigating one of the others.
Walker said Friday he hired two attorneys, Mike Steinle and John Gallo, to "assemble additional background information." Walker said no public money will be used to pay for that work.
"While all of us need to let this matter run its course, I will continue to cooperate and provide any appropriate information that is requested," he said.
Steinle is a criminal defense attorney in Milwaukee. Gallo is a former federal prosecutor in Chicago. His online biography says his practice includes representing criminal defendants and grand-jury targets.
Barry Solomon, a spokesman for Gallo's law firm Sidley Austin, said the firm does not comment on ongoing cases. Steinle did not immediately return a message.
Walker said he was voluntarily meeting with District Attorney John Chisholm, but he did not indicate who instigated the meeting. Walker's campaign spokesman did not immediately return a message.
A spokeswoman for Chisholm said he had no comment.
Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski said Walker needs to talk with the people of Wisconsin, not just with prosecutors, about what was going on in his county office.
State elections officials are in the process of verifying that at least 540,208 signatures were submitted last month to force an election. Recall organizers said they turned in 1 million.
If an election is ordered, it's not likely to take place until spring or summer. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is the only Democrat to have announced she will challenge Walker, but many others are considering it.