Scott Walker giving his State of the State address in the State Capitol building, Madison, WI, on January 25, 2012. Lukas Keapproth / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
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About this Series

The Walker Calendar Files

A three-part series produced by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.
Project overview page

Interactive graphic

Explore every entry in Walker’s calendars.

How we did the analysis

Through the state’s open records law, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism received Gov. Scott Walker’s official calendars. Center reporters then created a database of all 4,414 entries. Read more in a new page

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On Jan. 28, 2011, two weeks before Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker unveiled his plan to slash public employee unions’ powers, he dined at the Washington, D.C., area home of Fred Malek, a wealthy Republican power broker.

It was a taste of what would become routine for Walker.

As protesters swarmed the state Capitol and a historic effort to recall him took shape, Walker crisscrossed the nation, breaking fundraising records and netting about half his donations from out of state. He logged more time with Fox News, a national, conservative-leaning cable channel, than any other news outlet.

But his calendars show the consequences of fame and fundraising.

By January 2012, Walker scheduled about 30 hours a week for state business — half as much work time as six months earlier. On some weekdays, eight- to 12-hour time blocks were simply marked “Personal.”

“Gov. Walker would be the first person to tell you that if it wasn’t for big outside special interests and union bosses trying to recall him, he wouldn’t need to be spending any time campaigning,” spokesman Cullen Werwie said in an interview last week.

Walker, much like former Gov. Jim Doyle, keeps his official calendar open to the public but reveals few details in advance. Other appointments — personal and political — generally aren’t disclosed.

As the recall against him took shape, Gov. Walker crisscrossed the nation to raise money, meeting with people like Fred Malek, a wealthy Republican power broker. Photo courtesy of American Action Network

To analyze how Walker has used his time as the state’s chief executive, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reporters created a database of the more than 4,400 entries in Walker’s calendars from his first 13 months in office, through Jan. 31, 2012.

The team labeled events with categories like travel time, public relations, and time with legislators or companies.

LINK: Explore every entry in Walker’s calendars.

The calendars chronicle the life of a seemingly tireless governor. Some days list more than two dozen entries — phone calls, meetings, photo ops, speeches, travel and other work.

Walker visited at least 50 of the state’s 72 counties and numerous states. He spent a third to half his time each month traveling, often while speaking on the phone to reporters or company CEOs.

Selling policies a high priority

In August, one of Walker’s busiest months, the governor averaged 60-hour work weeks and – excluding travel time – spent a total of 42 hours on public relations.

He announced tax credits for Weldall Manufacturing in Waukesha, presided over the Governor’s Red White and Blue livestock auction at the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis and held a “meet and greet” in his office with an Iraq veteran.

Political experts said Walker’s PR-heavy schedule wasn’t surprising, given the reaction to the collective bargaining bill.

Dennis Dresang, founding director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Credit: UW-Madison.

“People were explicitly talking about recall as a measure right away,” said Dennis Dresang, founding director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who signed a recall petition. “So right from the start he felt beleaguered and as if he had to maintain high positive visibility in order to retain his job.”

But Werwie had a different explanation: “It’s fair and responsible, and really (Walker’s) job to do his part to show what we’ve been doing for Wisconsin and the impact it’s had on our schools and on all taxpayers and citizens.”

Uptick in personal time

Walker’s official work schedule shrank in the fall and winter, when his calendars note less time spent meeting business leaders and staff, interviewing candidates for appointments and working on open records requests.

Meanwhile, far more time was labeled “PERSONAL 1.” Such entries lacked other details, but news reports from those days describe Walker jet-setting around the country for fundraising and other political events, such as the Republican Governors Association conference in late November, neoconservative Grover Norquist’s Christmas party in Washington, D.C., and Walker’s $2,500-a-person January fundraiser in New York hosted by Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, founder of the insurance giant American International Group.

Dean Pagani, who covers gubernatorial issues at Photo courtesy of Chion Wolf/WNPR

“The governor is a public servant,” said Dean Pagani, who covers gubernatorial issues from Washington, D.C., at and was chief of staff to Republican former Gov. John Rowland of Connecticut. “You want to know that he or she is paying attention to the problems of the state, not spending too much time promoting himself or herself and his own career.

“It’s a very basic question that should always be asked: Is he doing his job?” Pagani added.

Walker spent two grueling days in December giving 15- to 20-minute interviews with 25 news outlets. But the next month, the calendars clocked just two hours for media: two TV interviews in Milwaukee, an open press call and a conference on his children’s reading initiative, Read to Lead.

A handful of entries in the fall were blacked out entirely. Werwie described these as “haircuts, parent teacher conferences, family events, as well as other personal items.”

No mention of John Doe

The calendar entries are silent on one subject: the John Doe investigation that’s been swirling around the governor and his former aides.

Activities involving Kelly Rindfleisch, Walker’s fundraising director, appear in March and April 2011 but lack details. “Phone call to your CELL: Kelly will provide information,” reads one entry. Rindfleisch, who was Walker’s deputy chief of staff when he was Milwaukee county executive, was charged in January this year with four felony counts of misconduct in office for allegedly campaigning on county time. Walker has repeatedly declined to discuss the investigation, citing its secrecy.

Walker faces Democratic nominee Tom Barrett in a recall election scheduled for June 5.

Next: How Walker sold his policies — and himself — in and outside Wisconsin.

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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21 replies on “Walker’s official work time declines as national fame grows”

  1. Spokesmodel Werwie (one of 12 people immunized in John Doe) claims Walker was forced into a vicious campaigning circle. Didn’t shortsighted Scotty have enough intellect to see that dropping the bomb might result in massive unrest and discontent? Walker is really good at making himself a victim. He’s not governing; he’s running a propaganda operation with himself as press secretary. Walker’s top priority is Walker.
    The John Doe probe, at its core, is about determining to what extent Walker’s staff, who are public employees like he is, stole money from taxpayers to campaign for him while they were on the public payroll.

    1. Just wondering when the 2 year fishing expedition into the Milwaukee Mayor’s office begins? It is beyond belief to think that NO campaign work for the Mayor has been done on company time, plus you never know what other things a similar fishing expedition might dredge up in the City of Milwaukee.

      I’m also curious what this recall is all about? We have been told over and over that it was because of collective bargaining and Act 10, yet we have heard Tom Barrett whining about everything under the sun BUT collective bargaining and Act 10. this looks more and more like a do over for sore losers such as Tom Barrett and other Democrats.

      1. The recall is an attempt to stem a hostile, corporo-fascist take-over of Wisconsin and other states. It’s a do-over for Wisconsinites, who were sold a bill of goods by your buddy Scooter.

      2. Jan, there’s kind of a big difference between popping out on a “smoke” break to place some calls for campaign donations and setting up a hidden wireless network with laptops used solely for campaign business. If you’re sitting at a desk right now, think about how obvious it would be to have an additional laptop, open and being worked on. This is what was going on in Walker’s office, both as Milwaukee Co. Executive and Governor. Someone in his office was running a clandestine, hidden network, shielded from FOI requests by “private ownership” so workers collecting YOUR TAXPAYER DOLLARS could campaign for Walker during the workday. Walker is either complicit, and a criminal, or oblivious, and unfit to administrate an office, let alone a county or a state. You obviously don’t think he’s unfit to administrate, so maybe you want to admit he a criminal…

  2. I love the ballooning of “Personal Time” in 2011 and 2012.

    ….what does ‘redacted’ mean in this context?

    1. ‘Redacted’ refers to entries or text in public records that were blacked out so they can’t be read by the public. Public records laws allow some items, such as phone numbers or personal information, to be redacted. Thanks for the question!

    2. Hmmmm….does the “ballooning personal time” in 2011 and 2012 by any chance coincide with the temper tantrums of the unions and the frivolous recalls brought against him and other legitimately elected Republicans?

      1. Legitimately elected? Maybe, but not necessarily. Legitimately recalled? Absolutely. The people of Wisconsin can recall any elected official after 1 year in office, for no other reason than that they don’t like what’s being done in their name, so frivolous is maybe the wrong word. Sitting governors, legislators, and judges cannot interfere with the right; they can only act to expedite it. Wisconsin Constitution, Article VIII, Section 12.

  3. First of all stop trying to fool everybody with trying to tie Walker with the John Doe case since he and his administration is the one who alerted the DA in the first place. The head of the investigation many times confirmed that fact and repeatedly said in the 2 year investigation nothing was ever linked to Walker and why would Walker implicate himself by alerting the DA? Democrats are reaching and desperate to hang a man that did the very thing he campaigned on.

    Second, this is nothing but a do over election and if the Democrats and unions can bring in $100 millions of out of state money to fuel this do over election so thus Walker is obligated to get out of state money himself. If you are worried about Walker spending too much time elsewhere then maybe you should stop this foolish do over election. Elections has consequences but it is funny how nobody is rushing out to do over Obama election. Why is this behavior accustomed from the Democrats and not reported but promoted? How about you write a story how your beloved unions are ripping off public teachers in Illinois an extra 5 dollars to pay for this do over election in Wisconsin.

    Last time I checked that money collected could be used more by those teachers who are getting robbed by their unions and out of control state government. I also saw that Illinois is not Wisconsin a and a why would any teacher from Illinois care about Wisconsin since our prosperity we are enjoying in Wisconsin thanks to Walker is not being enjoying in something you call out of state. Why do we hear nothing of these abuses but we hear all the made up stories on Walker that never sticks because people in Wisconsin are not as dumb and not sheep as you thought we are. We can see the facts ourselves, we see you’re behavior as sickening as a spoiled best, we have seen the sky hasn’t fallen, less teachers been laid off this year than the last 20 under past leadership under collective bargaining. We see our property taxes lower in 12 years and we see our state in a surplus, plus he got rid of collective bargaining which he campaigned on. He did what he said and proved to be a man of his word.

    After Walker wins again June 5, you can take this do over election and stick it up where the sun don’t shine.

    1. Keith’s comments reflect a number of things that are simply NOT TRUE.
      1. The John Doe started with the investigation of money embezzled from Veterans by Walker appointees Kevin Kavanaugh and Deputy Chief of Staff Tim Russell, which was first noted by Walker’s Chief of Staff Tom Nardelli. However, it appears Nardelli was ignorant of a number of illegal activities going on in the office, including a secret router set up by Russell to allow himself, Kelly Rindfleisch , and Darlene Wink to illegally campaign on County taxpayer time. The real “heart” of the John Doe began when the DA’s discovered a computer that contained evidence of an illegal computer system centered in an illegal router 15 or so feet from Walker’s office.

      Rindfleisch was formerly given immunity in the Caucus scandal for campaining on public time, and Walker hired her personally to serve in his office and be a liason with other campaigns, including that of Brett Davis. Russell has a history of stealing money that does not belong to him. We KNOW Walker emailed Russell on the private, non-work email account to discuss County policy and to “shut down” the illegal campaign activity (which should have been done on the public email system and thus be subject to a public records request). Walker clearly knew about the system, the activity, and the “chararacter’ of the people he hired to run his office in Milwaukee County.
      Tim Russell and his boyfriend also used a Walker campaign website to troll for underage boys. Even if Walker did not know about this specifically, it should call his judgement into question.
      2. Walker has raised far more than any governor in Wisconsin has ever raised before, and 2/3 of the money has come from rich out of state donors. Based on the recent video of Walker and the ABC Building Supply heiress (who is worth $2.8 Billion and whose company paid NO state income tax), along with the call from the fake David Koch, it appears that Walker is incapable of telling the truth unless he is talking to a billionaire. The claim that unions have “100s of millions” is a lie, much less that they are spending “100’s of millions”.
      3. Walker’s agenda is about destroying democratically-elected organizations that promote the rights of middle-class working people to allow huge corporations to roll over the state and suck money from average Wisconsin citizens. It is no wonder Wisconsin leads the nation in Job LOSSES. Keith, time to wake up and smell the coffee.

    2. Please stop pretending that the Recall is only about Walker and union busting.

      Walker succeeds with his radical agenda only because his Republican cronies held the majority in our state legislature for over a year. The Recall is intended as a message to the entire Republican Party in Wisconsin, and to the rich elites (like the Koch brothers) who buy elections for them.

      Together, ALL these Republicans are making extreme policy changes on a wide range of issues that Wisconsin voters care deeply about.

      They’re gutting Wisconsin’s air and water pollution control regulations, wildlife habitat protections, and other basic environmental standards. And they’re choosing to not enforce environmental laws still in effect.

      They’re eliminating important consumer protection standards and programs, to benefit insurance companies and other private corporate interests.

      They’ve gutted basic medical care for tens of thousands of low income families and children in our state.

      They’ve passed legislation removing women’s rights to equal pay for equal work.

      They’ve attacked several women’s health programs in Wisconsin and are systematically imposing extreme Republican religious views against all contraceptive or reproductive care. As just one example, they passed legislation allowing abstinence-only to be taught in local schools that choose to abandon essential, basic sex education, taking us back to the Dark Ages.

      (No woman should support Republicans after their proven hostility towards women. The Recall should succeed on that basis alone!)

      They’ve also pushed through drastic cuts in Wisconsin’s statewide budgets for K-12, Technical, and University education.

      They’ve also misused federal funds intended for assisting Wisconsin victims of home foreclosure, and used that money for general budget purposes instead (… after Walker promised not to misuse special funds like this.)

      Their DRASTIC budget cuts have stifled economic growth in Wisconsin, and will continue to suppress growth for years to come. Their state job creation record last year was the worst in the country.

      At the same time, they granted billions of dollars in tax cuts for their wealthy donors and corporate allies, with no guarantee of significant job creation for Wisconsinites.

      Republicans have been a disaster for our state. The Party is the problem, not just Walker.

      Many of us in Wisconsin are angry about ALL these issues, not just the attacks on workers’ rights to unionize.

      Pay attention!

  4. A few things amuse me to tears:

    1. “We stand with Walker”. An utter falsehood because Wisconsinites Stand alone without Walker who obviously is elsewhere.

    2. “I’d rather have Walker than 14 Runners” Obviously posted by people who cannot add up time spent out of state. Walker has quite definitively spent more time out of state that the villainized “14”.

    Just start thinking before voting.

  5. How does Gov.Walker’s time away from the office compare with other heads of government who are running for office? For instance, how much time does Barack Obama spend in his office? I notice the headline talks about Gov. Walker spending less time in his office as his national fame grew. It seems to me he has spent less time in his office since the union started making Wisconsin look like a bunch of clowns, and more time out of the office since the left started the frivolous recall efforts. A fair comparison would be how much time our governor spends out of his office versus other Governor’s being put to a recall.
    I assume the Governor could spend a whole lot more time in his office if not being forced to campaign within the first year of taking office.

  6. I see that there is a 3 part series being done about Gov. Walker by this group.
    Any sort of investigations into Mayor Barrett, his record, or how he spends his time that we will see before the election?

    1. Nor will there be any!!! Do you think it should be the responsibility of the press to fairly contrast these times againsr Doyle or Barrett? Next you’ll be asking if any of us or members of the AP or Gannett signed the RECALL petitions.

  7. Wow! Eye-popping details provided by this article and chart. Many thanks to everyone involved in gathering, analyzing and writing about this topic.

    I’m not surprised that Republicans are already posting such negative comments … you’ve exposed a deeply unflattering view of Walker’s activities and priorities.

    I’m disturbed to see all the transit time for PR “photo ops” throughout Wisconsin at (Republican) business sites. I would LOVE to know exactly how much of our tax money was spent by Walker on all the air travel and car time, including the costs of transporting all the assistants, associates and security guards travelling with him.

    It looks like Walker spent a small fortune of OUR MONEY on hugely excessive travelling for partisan self-promotion.

    I didn’t know that Walker was still living in Wauwatosa, and is wasting 1.5 hours a day driving between his home and Madison. That’s awfully inefficient.

    In response to other commenters, I don’t care what other Governor’s or other politicians have done. NONE of them should abuse our trust and waste our taxdollars on pure self-promotion. Walker’s flagrant waste is especially egregious given his self-righteous attacks on OTHER government employees for money they supposedly “wasted” on basic necessities like health care or modest pensions.

    I’ve also been searching and haven’t found any examples of the Governor holding public meetings or listening sessions during all these trips around the state. Instead, he’s just flying in and out of Wisconsin towns, meeting behind closed doors with who-knows-who or holding structured speaking events with news media in order to promote himself.

    Walker clearly doesn’t want contact with the general public that he’s supposed to be serving. He doesn’t care what WE think.

  8. I applaud the work done looking at how Walker has spent his time. Unfortunately, without a comparison to previous governors, any conclusions aren’t very meaningful, if one can draw any at all.

    Did he spend too much time fund raising? We don’t know how he compares to previous governors. In fact, he may be devoting more of his time to the people’s business, than previous governors, but the study doesn’t tell us. Has this organization done any previous studies like this? They don’t say.

    One may safely conclude, that Walker spends a lot of hours working. Subtracting personal time and down time, Walker still averaged over 200 hrs/month, and given a typical month of 4 weeks and 160 hours, that’s quite a heavy schedule amounting to about 10 hours/day. Even if he only spent 150 hours in January 2012 working, that’s like 1.5 days off in the month.

    Instead of highlight the fact of his long hours, the report spins it to make it look like he’s not working and instead working on his fame.

  9. What surprises me is the very little amount of time (proportionately)spent with business and the legislature. As a republican governor touting his number 1 goal (let me emphasize number 1 goal) as job creation, one would think that a greater proportion of time would be spent with business and the legislature to devise plans to generate those jobs.

    As for the travel times commuting to Madison–I work for a company that had a non-resident CEO who did the commute for awhile. I say for awhile because the board chose to replace him with a CEO that was on site.

    And for those of you who constantly bring up unions and outside lobbyists as the big “left wing” bogey men that Walker is being forced to fight; please tell me the difference between those “special interests” and the big business “special interests” that are funding the Walker campaign. Time to get real people. The question isn’t about special interests being involved, the question is will you make up your own minds and go beyond the 10 second sound bites?

    Thanks for the good work on the article.

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