Kent Markus is in trouble.
Word is that Governor Strickland's Chief Legal Counsel may currently be negotiating a plea deal, or in lieu of that, possibly even be indicted for some of the issues surrounding Troopergate.
The big thing to wrap your mind around for when this breaks is that Markus is smart - way too smart to set up institutionalized obstruction without the knowledge and consent of the constitutional authority. And of course, Strickland will play his assigned role and try to act shocked.
What to watch for next? Does Markus leave the Governor's office and take a lucrative job in the private sector? Does he stick it out and hope the plea deal minimizes the coverage?
The problem for the Governor is that he doesn't want this scandal stretching into the Fall when voters are actually paying attention. Because of that, things need to start moving, and fast.
But, if it goes too long and the prosecutor thinks he’s getting played, don't be surprised if he takes it to the grand jury and forces the action. The Senate hearings are bringing out things that blow the arguments for shutting down the drug investigation out of the water. The hearing is also building a case that this is a pattern of behavior from the Gov’s office that law enforcement deems obstruction.
The most serious issue pushing this to some kind of legal conclusion is the precedent of the Governor’s office requiring signoff on investigations. That ends state level law enforcement. The fact that the call was made when a lobbyist called shows what will be common practice if the seal protecting the Highway Patrol is broken. In one respect this is even bigger than the scandal facing NY Gov. David Paterson because it’s happening under a Governor elected in a landslide caused by another scandal. At its root, this strategy is a scandal suppression method.
The fact is this, Troopergate has the potential to be far more damning to Strickland than Coingate ever was to Taft. This reaches straight to the top.
If the Fourth Estate does their job, this will be the story of the year.