Walker's Friends Should Watch Their Backs

Scott Walker’s swift punt this week of a staffer who published racist rants on a social media account over two years ago should send chills right up the spines of all the folks who have dedicated significant time working for his reelection campaign.

Walker naturally claims he knew nothing about racist remarks published by former deputy campaign finance manager Taylor Palmisano until they were reported in the media, but the timing of Palmisano’s firing is still troublesome.

Palmisano’s job was terminated days after she sent out a fundraising email on Black Friday urging Wisconsin parents to help out the campaign instead of buying presents for their children. But the campaign insists that was not the impetus for her firing.

“The reason for that person not being there is much bigger than that particular email,” Walker said during a media briefing on Thursday.

On that point, he’s quite right.

Palmisano’s Twitter account featured a series of racist screeds in March 2011, threatening to assault a Latino man and complaining about languages other than English being spoken on a bus -- and yet, these ugly remarks somehow went under the radar until the end of 2013.

That kind of chain reaction is the stuff of classic political intrigue. Journalists don’t typically sit in front of their computers digging through years and years of backlogged tweets in search of political red meat. No, stories of this nature come from tips, anonymous or otherwise, and I suspect that’s exactly what happened to Palmisano.

She embarrassed Walker, so someone returned the favor.

It’s not the first time one of Walker’s top people landed in hot water for their online activities, either. Steven Krieser, the former assistant deputy secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, was kicked off the island in August for writing on his Facebook account that undocumented immigrants are kind of like “Satan,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.

In Krieser’s case, the reaction was almost immediate. Still, that incident should have been lesson enough for Team Walker. And yet, Walker told reporters on Thursday, “we don’t spend time going back trying to find out years and years ago what people may or may not have said on social media.”

Thousands of companies, universities and political pros around the country rely on the services of social media reputation management firms to vet member histories and enforce basic standards on affiliated accounts. There is no reason why Walker’s people could not have done the same.

If Walker’s people were really caught unaware by yet another avowed racist among their ranks, it demonstrates a profound level of irresponsibility at best. At worst, it shows Walker does not have the managerial know-how to play politics on the national stage, which he’s clearly angling to do.

But my gut tells me it did not go down that way. What’s more likely is that somebody knew and kept it quiet, for whatever reason, until after Palmisano embarrassed the governor. Either that or someone with Team Walker went looking for an excuse to punish Palmisano after the Black Friday mailer, and found several.

In other words: Be warned, friends of Walker. This could happen to you too.
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Photo: Flickr user Ky, creative commons licensed.