A trove of the Wisconsin governor’s aides’ emails released this week so far appear to contain few of the elements of a career-damaging digital scandal. Instead, the most serious accusations involve campaign laws more likely to elicit yawns than outrage.Moreover, the story is old, involves aides instead of the governor, and focuses on activities that may have been technical violations but did not (unlike Bridgegate) directly hurt anybody.
Even ordering a public employee axed over shots of her in a thong got more eye-rolls than anything else. It’s as if, to borrow from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the controversies of recent years are defining digital deviancy down.
Whereas once an embarrassing email could do some major damage, the Republican governor is following in the footsteps of pols who have raised the bar on what is truly shocking.
Here’s how the Walker email controversy is different.
“The scandal that hurts most is a titillating one that can run on 24-hour cable news over and over and over,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “But a complicated campaign finance story never resonates with voters in the same way.”
The e-trail could still lead to more damaging revelations, but so far it's a fizzle.
In California, one state senator faces a perjury conviction for lying about his residence and another is under indictment for fraud, bribery, and money laundering. The impact? Meh! True, two members of the latter's family are running for office this year, and they may face some problems. Chris Megerian and Melanie Mason write at the Los Angeles Times:
But Bill Carrick, a Democratic strategist, said that in legislative races, incumbents won't be tarred unless they're directly involved in wrongdoing, and he doubted ethics controversies would become a defining election issue.
"Races are decided one by one — by the quality of the candidates and the quality of the campaigns," he said.Most Californians just don't pay attention to state politics. Unless they live in the districts of the politicians in trouble, they probably don't know about these cases. "Vote against senator X because he belongs to the same party as senator Y, a crook you've never heard of." That's a tough case to make.