When Governors Get Punked
Scott Walker took office on January 3, 2011. And immediately became unavailable to anyone who was not a campaign donor.
After learning that Walker would not talk to constituents, or any Democrats, or return their calls, blogger-journalist Ian Murphy began to wonder just who could get through to Gov. Walker.
So on February 23, 2011, he called Walker’s office pretending to be conservative libertarian billionaire David Koch (who had donated $43,000 directly to Walker’s campaign and millions more to other groups running negative ads attacking Walker’s opponent).
Walker took the call.
[Wait a minute! He got punked? A governor who refuses to meet or respond to constituents for months, refuses talk to members of the legislature about government business, will only make scripted, tightly controlled appearances but readily accepts a phone call without question from someone he thinks is an out-of-state billionaire? Who happens to give him large sums of money?]
The call was recorded. A transcript is below. Clarifications and comments are in brackets.
Walker: Hi, this is Scott Walker.
“Koch”: Scott! David Koch. How are you?
Walker: Hey, David! I’m good. And yourself?
[Doesn’t it seem like Scott has met this guy before? Because 1) he wasn’t surprised that Koch would call him and 2) he’s relaxed and calls him David. Not “Mr. Koch” – just David. If billionaires started calling me, I’d be saying: “No way! Who is this really?” And then: “Holy shit! It is? Wow, thanks for all the money and what can I do for you?]
“Koch”: I’m very well. A little disheartened by the situation there, but, uh, what’s the latest?
Walker: Uh, we’re actually hanging pretty tough. I mean, you know, amazingly there’s a much smaller group of protesters almost all of whom are in from other states today.
[He made that part up because 1) the groups were growing in number; 2) they were always almost all state residents; and 3) it sounded better than saying thousands of Wisconsinites are really pissed.]
The State Assembly is taking the bill up, getting it all the way to the last point it can be at where it’s unamendable. But they’re waiting to pass it until the Senate’s — the Senate Democrats, excuse me, the assembly Democrats have about a hundred amendments they’re going through.
[The Assembly Democrats are so annoying. They even got upset just because the Assembly Republicans called the vote early on the budget repair bill to keep them from voting, whining that it was illegal. I mean really, why get upset? There’s nothing they could do to stop it so why even bother coming to work?]
The state Senate still has the 14 members missing [nervy little bastards] but what they’re doing today is bringing up all sorts of other non-fiscal items, many of which are things that members in the Democratic side care about. And each day we’re going to ratchet it up a little bit.
[Nice work by good Christians. What next, arrest and torture their families?]
The Senate majority leader had a great plan he told about this morning — he told the Senate Democrats about and he’s going to announce it later today — and that is: the Senate organization committee is going to meet and pass a rule that says if you don’t show up for two consecutive days on a session day in the state Senate, the Senate chief clerk — it’s a little procedural thing here, but — can actually have your payroll stopped from being automatically deducted —
Walker: — into your checking account and instead, you still get a check, but the check has to be personally picked up and he’s instructing them — which we just loved — to lock them in their desks on the floor of the state Senate.
[Really? Grown men, elected officials who are vested with the public trust, plotting and scheming in secret backroom deals? And enjoying it? I mean, really? While receiving tax dollars?]
“Koch”: Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?
Walker: Ah, I, there’s one guy that’s actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he’s worked with us on other things, to tell him I wasn’t going to budge.
[I’m confused. Wasn’t Walker at the same time publicly saying that he was trying to work things out but the Democrats weren’t willing to negotiate?]
“Koch”: God damn right!
“Koch”: Mainly because I thought he’s about the only reasonable one over there, I figured if I talked to him, he’d go back to the rest of the gang and say you know, I’ve known Walker for 20 years and he’s not budging.
[Now there’s real leadership for you. I wonder if he learned that in pre-school: the “you have to do what I say because I’m the boss of you” approach to government. And what is this “gang” thing?]
“Koch”: Now what’s his name again?
Walker: Uh, his name is Tim Cullen —
“Koch”: All right, I’ll have to give that man a call.
Walker: Well, actually, in his case I wouldn’t call him and I’ll tell you why. He’s pretty reasonable but he’s not one of us. [That sounds ominous.] So I would let him be. I think he is in a position where he can maybe motivate that caucus. But he’s not an ally, he’s just a guy. [And of course Walker isn’t because he’s the new Galactic Emperor.] He was in the Senate years ago, he was actually the Senate Democratic leader back in the ’80s and [then Governor] Tommy Thompson hired him to be the head of Health and Human Services. He went into the private sector, made real money and became a little more open-minded, and last fall he got elected to the Senate seat he was in 25 years ago. And he’s kind of one of these guys who he really doesn’t care, he’s not there for political reasons, he’s just trying to get something done. So he’s good to reach out to for me, but he’s not a conservative, he’s just a pragmatist.
[So someone who has no personal agenda, who’s not there for political reasons, who just wants to get things done is “not one of us”? Then who IS “one of you”?]
“Koch”: Now who can we get to budge on this collective bargaining?
Walker: Well, I think in the end, a couple of things. One, if the, I think the paycheck will have an impact. Secondly, one of the things we’re looking at next, we’ll probably announce in the next day or two — we’ve been working with our Republican leaders in the Legislature — we may, we’re still waiting on an opinion to see if the unions have been paying to put these guys up out of state. We think there’s at a minimum an ethics violation if not an outright felony.
[Wow. What is this unhealthy fixation on unions?]
“Koch”: Well, they’re probably putting hobos in suits.
“Koch”: That’s what we do. Sometimes.
Walker: I mean paying for the senators to be put up. I know they’re paying for these guys to be here — I mean, people can pay protesters to come in and that’s not an ethics code [nobody was being paid to protest but it sounded better than saying thousands of Wisconsinites are really pissed], but, I mean, literally if the unions are paying the 14 senators, if they’re paying for their food, their lodging, anything like that, we believe at a minimum it’s an ethics code violation and it may very well be a felony misconduct in office. Because see technically, it’s not just a political contribution, it is, if they’re being paid to keep them from doing their job, we think that there’s legally an obstruction of justice, but an obstruction of their ability to do their job, and we still got, the attorney general’s office is looking into it for us.
[That was a stretch. Wasn’t true. Didn’t work.]
So we’re trying about four or five different angles. Each day we crank up a little bit more pressure.
[Sneaky scheming again – is Walker a governor or a gangster? And why is it that he’s discussing government business with this guy?]
The other thing is 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.
[The hell with the state workers, what do I care?]
“Koch”: Beautiful, beautiful. Gotta crush that union.
Walker: Well it’s one of those that where in the end, and I’ve had not only Cullen — I’ve talked to him myself — I had three or four of my other business leader friends who know him over the years and just kind of pass the message on to these guys, if they think I’m caving, they’ve been asleep for the last eight years because I’ve taken on every major battle in Milwaukee County and won even in the county where I’m overwhelmingly overpowered politically and it’s because we don’t budge.
[Not exactly how it really happened – most people in Milwaukee County say that if Walker “won,” everybody else in the county lost, but what the hell. Or am I catching a whiff of that new Walker after-shave: “Deluded”?]
“Koch”: God damn right.
Walker: You’re doing the right thing, you stay firm. And in this case, we say we’ll wait it out. If they want to start sacrificing thousands of public workers who get laid off, sooner or later there’s going to be pressure on these senators to come back.
[Excuse me? Isn’t Walker the one sacrificing the workers?]
Walker: We’re not compromising.
[Maybe he thinks he’s John Boehner. Or Eric Cantor.]
The other thing we may do, ‘cause the senator I mentioned thinks that these guys, you’ve got a few of the radical ones who unfortunately one of them is the minority leader, but most the rest of them are just looking for a way to get out of this. And they’re scared out of their minds, they don’t know what it means. There’s a bunch of recalls up against them. They’d really like to just get up back here and get it over with.
[Is he just completely disconnected from reality or what?]
So the paycheck thing, some of the other things threatened them. I think collectively there’s enough going on and as long as they don’t think I’m going to cave, which again we have no interest in. An interesting idea that was brought up to me this morning by my chief of staff, we won’t do it until tomorrow is putting out an appeal to the Democrat leader that I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the Assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders — talk, not negotiate and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn — but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them come back and sit down in the state assembly. They can recess it to come back in to talk to me, but they all have to go back there. The reason for that is — we’re verifying it this afternoon — but legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have a quorum because they started out that way. So we’re double checking that. Bu that would be, if you heard that I was going to talk to them, that would be the only reason why. We would only do it if they came back to the Capitol with all 14 of them. My sense is hell, I’ll talk to them, if they want to yell at me for an hour, you know I’m used to that, I can deal with that, but I’m not negotiating.
[Great – he’s willing to lie, betray, and intentionally mislead to get his way. Yup, that settles it: gangster.]
“Koch”: Bring a baseball bat. That’s what I’d do.
Walker: [Laughs] I have one in my office; you’d be happy with that. [Laughs] I got a Slugger with my name on it.
[A gangster who thinks beating people with a bat is funny. Wonderful – we’ve got a sadistic thug as our governor.]
Walker: But in the end, this is, and I even pointed it out last night ‘cause I’m trying to keep out as many of the private unions as possible. I said, this is about the budget. This is about public sector unions. Hell, even FDR got it. There’s no place for the kind of, I mean, essentially you’re having taxpayers’ money being used to pay to lobby for spending more of taxpayers’ money. It’s absolutely ridiculous.
[Let’s see – once employees earn their salary, it’s their money. Can’t they spend it as they see fit? And wait a minute – how can this be about the budget? He testified to the U.S. Congress that the collective bargaining provisions didn’t affect the budget. ]
Walker: So it’s, this is ground zero, there’s no doubt about it. But I think for us, I just keep telling my, I call any, I tell the speaker, the Senate majority leader every night: Give me a list of people I need to call at home, shore ‘em up. The New York Times of all things, I don’t normally tell people to read The New York Times, but the front page of The New York Times has got a great story, one of these unbelievable moments of true journalism, what it’s supposed to be objective journalism. They got out of the Capitol and went down, one county south from the Capitol to Janesville, to Rock County, that’s where the General Motors plant once was. They moved out two years ago. The lead on this story is about a guy who was laid off two years ago, he’s been laid off twice by GM, who points out that everybody else in his town has had to sacrifice except for all these public employees, and it’s about damn time they do and he supports me. And they had a bartender, and they had every stereotypical blue-collar worker type they interviewed, and the only ones that weren’t with us were people who were either a public employee or married to a public employee. It’s an unbelievable story. So I went through and called a handful, a dozen or so lawmakers I worry about each day and said, “Every one of you should get that story printed out and send it to anyone giving you grief.”
[Oops! Except that he distorted the story – and the laid off guy from Janesville, described as “a union man from a union town” was not, in fact, a union member – and the New York Times printed a front page retraction – shown here at the bottom http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/us/22union.html?_r=1]
“Koch”: God damn right! We, uh, we sent, uh, Andrew Breitbart down there.
Walker: Good stuff.
“Koch”: Yeah. He’s our man, you know.
Walker: Well it has been amazing to me, the massive amount of attention. I want to stay ahead, so every day I do a five o’clock press conference, tonight I’m actually doing a fireside chat, which the state TV stations are picking up and I guess a bunch of the national ones too. And in the last couple of days when I do the TV shows, I’ve been going after Obama because he’s stuck his — although he’s backed off now — but he’s stuck his nose in here.
[Wow – make that a rude, sadistic gangster. And he’s “been going after Obama”? In the sense of an annoying gnat or what?]
And I said, you know they asked me what I thought about it, I said the last time I checked, this guy’s got a much bigger budget deficit than we do, maybe he should worry about that and not stick his nose in Wisconsin’s business.
[Ok, so charm is not on a list of Walker qualities.]
We’ve had all the national shows, we were on Hannity last night, I did Good Morning America and The Today Show and all that sort of stuff, was on Morning Joe this morning. We’ve done Greta. We’re gonna keep getting our message out; Mark Levin last night. And I gotta tell you, the response around the country has been phenomenal. I had Brian the new Governor over in Nevada, call me last night he said — he was out in the Lincoln Day Circuit in the last two weekends — and he was kidding me, he’s doing as well as me, he said, “Scott, don’t come to Nevada because I’d be afraid you beat me running for governor.” That’s all they want to talk about is what are you doing to help the governor of Wisconsin. I talk to Kasich every day, John’s gotta stand firm in Ohio. I think we could do the same thing with Rick Scott in Florida. I think, uh, Snyder, if he got a little more support, probably could do that in Michigan. You start going down the list there’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big.
[Megalomania, anyone? I mean seriously, he’s prattling to David Koch about how important he is.]
“Koch”: You’re the first domino.
Walker: Yup. This is our moment.
“Koch”: Yeah. Now what else could we do for you down there?
Walker: Well the biggest thing would be — and your guy on the ground [Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips] probably seeing this, is the well, two things. One, our members, originally the guy that got freaked out about all the bodies here — although I told him an interesting story, when I was first elected county executive in Milwaukee of all places. The first budget I put through was pretty bold, aggressive and the union went nuts on me and got all sorts of grief. But a couple of weeks later I’m at a Veterans Day parade and I’m going down the line and usually unless you’re a veteran or marching with a veterans’ group, politicians all get polite applause but nobody gets up. I come down the line, 40, 50 people in a row, hands up, thumbs up, you know cheering, screaming, yelling, “Way to go, hang in there, Walker.” And then after about 40, 50 people like that, there’s a guy flipping me off. This goes on 40, 50 –
[break in recording]
– right thing, the people who know it’s right will cheer you, they’ll applaud you, they’ll run through a wall for you. And the people who don’t like you, they’re going to flip you off. But stop worrying about them because the other day there were 70,000, probably two-thirds were against the bill, one-third were for, 70,000 people at the Capitol.
[Definitely deluded – I mean, when he left Milwaukee County they couldn’t slam the door fast enough. And who told him one-third of the more than 70,000 people at the Capitol supported the bill? Not counting his fellow party members working in the building, maybe 5 people did – but that’s less than one one-thousandth per cent, certainly not quite the 25,000 supporters that he is claiming.]
All week there’s been fifteen to thirty thousand a day. But I remind all our lawmakers that there’s five and a half million people in this state. And just because a bunch of guys who can jump off of work because of their union rules doesn’t mean the rest of the people in your district are with them.
[Seriously deluded. Did he just say that everyone in the state of Wisconsin who didn’t come to the Capitol – including infants, small children, the disabled, the elderly, and anyone who had to be at work or had a conflict or couldn’t be there for whatever reason – supported him just because they didn’t come protest?]
So the one thing per your question, the more groups that are encouraging people not just to show up but to call lawmakers and tell them to hang firm with the governor, the better. Because the more they get that reassurance, the easier it is for them to vote yes. The other thing is more long term, and that is after this, you know the coming days and weeks and months ahead, particularly in some of these more swing areas, a lot of these guys are gonna need, they don’t actually need ads for them but they’re going to need a message out reinforcing why this is a good thing to do for the economy and a good thing to do for the state. So the extent that that message is out over and over again is obviously a good thing.
[Notice all the non-stop ads across the state by Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity?]
“Koch”: Right, right. We’ll back you any way we can. But what we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.
Walker: You know the, well, the only problem with, because we thought about that,
[Dear lord – he actually thought about planting agitators! Someone could have gotten hurt!]
the problem with — my only gut reaction to that would be, right now the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them. The public is not really fond of this. The teacher’s union did some polling and focus groups I think and found out that the public turned on them the minute they closed school down for a couple of days. The guys we’ve got left are largely from out of state and I keep dismissing it in all my press comments, saying eh, they’re mostly from out of state.
My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused is that, that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has to settle to avoid all these problems.
[Wait a minute – he seriously considered bringing in agitators to make the protestors look bad and his concern is not that it’s unethical and immoral and someone could get hurt but that it might cause the public to think he needed to compromise?]
You know, whereas I’ve said, hey, we can handle this, people can protest, this is Madison, you know, full of the ’60s liberals. Let ’em protest. It’s not gonna affect us. And as long as we go back to our homes and the majority of people are telling us we’re doing the right thing, let ’em protest all they want. So that’s my gut reaction is that I think it’s actually good if they’re constant, they’re noisy, but they’re quiet, nothing happens. Cause sooner or later the media stops finding them interesting.
“Koch”: Well, not the liberal bastards on MSNBC.
Walker: Oh yeah, but who watches that?
[He’s kidding, right?]
I mean I went on just on Morning Joe this morning. I like it just cause I just like being combative with those guys, but, uh. You know they’re off the deep end.
“Koch”: Joe, Joe’s a good guy. He’s one of us.
Walker: Yeah, he’s all right. He was fair to me. I mean, the rest of them are a little out there. Although I had fun, they had Schumer over from New York on, ripping me, and then they had a little clip of a state senator hiding out ripping me, and it was almost too easy. I walked in, Joe asked me a question and I said, well, before I answer that, let me just point out the amazing irony of the fact that you’ve got a United States senator from New York, a senator who by the way is part of a team that can’t seem to balance the federal budget talking about my budget.
[And stupid. But we knew that. I mean really – first off it’s a rude response. And second off – might not the federal budget problem have something to do with the republicans who refuse to compromise, insisting on their extreme, far-right agenda, saying over and over they will not negotiate?]
At least he’s coming into work to talk about something, although it’s mine. And you’ve got one of these 14 state Senate Democrats who can’t even bother to show up and deal with the budget he’s elected to do something about. And uh, so that kind of tells you the whole story right there.
[Whole story my ass. Didn’t he just say two minutes ago that he wouldn’t talk with them?]
“Koch”: Beautiful; beautiful. You gotta love that Mika Brzezinski.
Walker: Oh yeah.
“Koch”: She’s a real piece of ass.
Walker: A couple weeks ago, I’d known Joe before, but I was having dinner with Jim Sensenbrenner when I came into D.C. for a day to do an event and we’d gone over to do the The Greta Show and had dinner with Congressman Sensenbrenner and right next to us was the two of them and then their guest was Axelrod [an Obama advisor not the ball player]. So I came over, I introduced myself.
“Koch”: That son of a bitch!
Walker: Yeah no kidding huh? [Such a good Christian.] Introduced myself and said I figured you probably knew who I was [Whoa – delusional AND narcistic] since your boss was campaigning against me [as if ] but it’s always good to let ‘em know you know what’s going on.
“Koch”: Well, good, good. It’s good catching up with ya’.
Walker: Yeah, well thanks. This is an exciting time. This is, ya know I told my cabinet, I had a dinner the Sunday uh, excuse me, Monday right after the sixth. Came home from the Super Bowl where the Packers won, that Monday night I had all my cabinet over to the residence for dinner, talked about what we were going to do, how we were going to do it, we’d already kind of built plans up but it was kind of the last hurrah before we dropped the bomb. And I stood up and I pulled out a picture of Ronald Reagan, and I said, you know, this may seem a little melodramatic, but 30 years ago Ronald Reagan, whose 100th birthday we just celebrated the day before, had one of the most defining moments of his political career, not just his presidency, when he fired the air traffic controllers.
[Really? I mean – really?]
And I said, to me that moment was more important than just for labor relations or even the federal budget. That was the first crack in the Berlin Wall in the fall of Communism because from that point forward the Soviets and the Communists knew that Ronald Reagan wasn’t a pushover. And I said, this may not have as broad of world applications, but in Wisconsin’s history — little did I know how big it would be nationally — Wisconsin’s history, I said, this is our moment. This is our time to change the course of history, and this is why it’s so important that they were all there. I had a cabinet meeting this morning, I reminded them of that. I said, for those who thought I was being melodramatic, you now know it was purely putting it in the right context.
[Where does one begin? And comparing himself to Reagan?]
“Koch”: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: Once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali [California] and really show you a good time.
Walker: All right, that would be outstanding.
[Wait a minute – now he’s accepting free trips from campaign donors. Isn’t that illegal?]
“Koch”: All right
Walker: Thanks for all the support in helping us move the cause forward, and we appreciate it, and we’re doing it the just and right thing for the right reasons and it’s all about getting our freedoms back.
“Koch”: Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. [Laughs]
Walker: Well that’s just it, the bottom line is we’re gonna get the world moving here ’cause it’s the right thing to do.
“Koch”: Alright then.
Walker: Thanks a million! [Several of them?]
Walker: Bye now.
Listen to tapes here: http://www.buffalobeast.com/?p=5045