Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How Walker's criminal aide stole from widows and veterans

Would you trust this man with
a charity for veterans?
Tim Russell, a former aide to then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, was recently sentenced to two years in prison for systematically embezzling money from a charity for the families of military veterans. Perhaps it isn't surprising that an apparatchik who worked for a protege of the Koch brothers (Scott Walker) would plunder funds meant for the public good.

Perhaps Russell's real crime was that he didn't steal on a large enough scale. We're reminded that a Koch brothers company, Koch Oil, systematically stole oil from federal and Native American lands. In 1999, a jury recommended the company to pay a half-million dollar fine for the theft. Ultimately Koch Oil settled for $25 million. 

What is striking about Russell's crime is how he maneuvered to gain control of a state-supported organization that operated for the public good. Once he had it in his power, he looted it -- for luxury vacations and to advance political goals. He showed no interest in supporting the goals of the veterans' charity. 

Does that sound like the Koch brothers to you? Or any number of extremist anti-worker billionaires who want to cut Social Security and Medicare, eradicate public education and privatize government services?

They are all products of what economist James K. Galbraith calls "The Predator State."
". . .a coalition of relentless opponents of the regulatory framework on which public purpose depends, with enterprises whose major lines of business compete with or encroach on the principle public functions of the enduring New Deal... 
They assuredly do not adopt any of society's goals as their own ... the very concept of public purpose is alien to, and denied by the leaders and the operatives of this coalition ... In the predator state, the organization exists principally to master the state structure itself...their reason for being is to make money off the state -- so long as they control it."
In Russell's case, the state's sentencing memorandum describes a sociopath who brazenly stole more than $20,000 from the charity called Heritage Guard Preservation Society. It was set up to help veterans families -- and to make County Executive Scott Walker look good:
...the County Executive's Office had sponsored "Operation Freedom," an event to honor active military personnel and veterans. Held at the Milwaukee County Zoo, the event was made possible by the work of Milwaukee County employees and the donations of private individuals. The County Executive's Office ... produced and coordinated the event. Always closely identified with Scott Walker... the event was aggressively marketed throughout the State ... 
The sentencing memorandum then explains that an American Legion post managed the money from the event. But in 2009, Walker directed the Legion post to turn over the money to the Heritage Guard Preservation Society, which Tim Russell -- then Walker's deputy chief of staff -- now controlled.

The Center for Media and Democracy reports,
Prosecutors noted that Russell held "exclusive control" of the Heritage Guard, and the fraud arose because Operation Freedom funds were not subject to outside audit or accounting. (Similar criticisms have been lodged against the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a quasi-public economic development corporation created under Walker which lost track of $12 million in 2012).
And then, this:
Tim Russell quickly set about stealing from HGPS once he gained control of the profits from the 2009 Operation Freedom event. 
Russell wasted no time. Within four months, he used HGPS money to fund two tropical vacations. And then it gets even better: He stole more money so he could fly to Atlanta to discuss Herman Cain's campaign for president.

The Center for Media and Democracy tells us:
"You have no true regret, remorse, or repentance," Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Hansher told Tim Russell in announcing the sentence today. "You don't even have any shame."
That sounds familiar, as well...