Prank call shows Wisconsin Governor Walker in billionaire benefactor’s pocket

NYHTC — March 22, 2011

In his March 1 budget speech, Governor Scott Walker spoke of the good and decent people who make Wisconsin the great state it is. Unfortunately for them and their families, Walker, in the weeks since he unleashed his savage assault on the state's government workers, has shown himself not to be one of them.

Nowhere was this more clearly revealed than in what Walker thought was a private telephone chat with David Koch. Koch is the behind-the scenes billionaire, who, along with his brother Charles, controls one of the country's biggest corporations. Substantial amounts of Koch money went to Walker's gubernatorial campaign.

So, when Walker received a telephone call from an individual he believed to be his politically conservative billionaire benefactor (but who was in fact someone posing as him), he assured him they were "hanging tough." Walker eagerly reported on what he and the state's Republican legislators are doing to, not for, the working people of the state and the 14 state senators who have been fighting for them.

The sleazy maneuverings that follow are among those he recounted; they and others appear in a transcript of his telephone conversation with the fake Koch.

*He described as "a great plan" passing a rule that would enable the paychecks of the Democratic legislators to be diverted from direct deposit and instead locked in their desks on the floor of the state senate so they would have to return to the state capitol to get them. Their principled absence has to date deprived the state senate of a quorum, thus disrupting Walker's plan to ram the anti-union legislation through the legislature.

*The State's Attorney General was tasked with determining whether they can charge the absent Democratic legislators with engaging in "at a minimum an ethics violation if not an outright felony" if unions were paying for their food and lodging while they have been out of the state. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Democratic senators said they were paying their own expenses, and nothing more has been heard of the Republicans' efforts to be able to get them charged with something. Interestingly, despite his concern with the ethics of the Democratic legislators, Walker responded to the fake Koch's offer "to fly you out to Cali (California) and really show you a good time," with an enthusiastic, "All right, that would be outstanding!"

*When the fake Koch asked if they had thought about "planting some troublemakers" among the thousands of protestors who had turned out and been peaceful and law-abiding throughout Walker responded, "we thought about that," and voiced no ethical or legal concerns. His "only fear" was that a ruckus "would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has to settle to avoid all these problems."

*Walker's ugliest stratagem involved using government workers and their families as pawns in the ongoing legislative battles over the state budget and their collective bargaining rights. Walker showed no concern about jeopardizing their well-being and that of their families to gain a political advantage. He told the fake Koch:

"I've got layoff notices ready, we put out the at-risk notices, we'll announce Thursday, they'll go out early next week and we'll probably get five to six thousand state workers will get at risk notices for layoffs. We might ratchet that up a little bit too."

Given his readiness to throw state workers and their families under the Walker bus, it should come as no surprise that he is entranced with being a national figure and thinks this is all about him: what's laying off five or six thousand workers when he gets to be the center of attention! The transcript captures him babbling to the fake Koch about the esteem in which other newly-elected Republican governors hold him, about how at a parade the crowds were "cheering, screaming, yelling, 'Way to go, hang in there, Walker,'" and about his numerous television appearances (I've done Hannity, I've done Good Morning, America, I've done the Today Show, I was on Good Morning Joe, I've done Greta).

The transcript also makes strikingly clear how little feeling and how little respect Walker has for the "good and decent" people of Wisconsin he claims to care so much about. What he really cares about is building his own political career by attacking them, and currying favor with billionaires by attacking the state's public sector unions.

Given all this, it's fitting the transcript ends with Walker telling the person he thinks is his wealthy contributor "Thanks a million!".

Schultze, Steve. Transcript of prank call to Walker. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. February 23, 3011.

Simms, Patricia. Absent state senators paying for their own food and lodging, not accepting donations. Wisconsin State Journal. February 24, 2011.