Gonzo journalism lives.
In a stunt reminiscent of the time a Montreal radio comedian interviewed Sarah Palin while pretending to be French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Buffalo Beast's Ian Murphy prank-called Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pretending to be conservative megadonor David Koch wanting to talk about the union protests in Wisconsin.
The two conversed for 20 minutes, and The Beast posted their conversation to YouTube Tuesday night. On the recording, Walker admits he'd considered planting troublemakers in the pro-union throngs protesting in Madison before rejecting the idea.
"We'll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers," the fake Koch said on the recording.
"You know, well, the only problem with that -- because we thought about that. The problem -- the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I've talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this," Walker replied.
"My only fear would be if there's a ruckus caused is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems," he added. "Let 'em protest all they want.... Sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting."
Walker's office confirmed the recording was real. "The governor takes many calls everyday," Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said in a statement. "Throughout this call the governor maintained his appreciation for and commitment to civil discourse. He continued to say that the budget repair bill is about the budget. The phone call shows that the governor says the same thing in private as he does in public and the lengths that others will go to disrupt the civil debate Wisconsin is having."
Walker also blamed the agitation on outsiders, saying on the recording, "amazingly there's a much smaller group of protesters -- almost all of whom are in from other states today."
The call went through to Walker via his Executive Assistant Dorothy Moore and Chief of Staff Keith Gilkes, according to The Beast.
Walker detailed for Koch his plan for ending the crisis in the state: "The state Senate still has the 14 members missing but what they're doing today is bringing up all sorts of other non-fiscal items, many of which are things members in the Democratic side care about. And each day we're going to ratchet it up a little bit.... 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 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 desk on the floor of the state Senate."
"Now you're not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?" asked the fake Koch.
"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," replied Walker.
And he laid out a plan to go even further after the unions: "One of the things we're looking at next.... 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 minimum an ethics violation if not an outright felony."
"Well, they're probably putting hobos in suits," the fake Koch replied.
"Yeah," Walker agreed.
At another point, the fake Koch instructed the governor to "bring a baseball bat" to his negotiations.
"I have one in my office; you'd be happy with that," Walker replied. "I have a slugger with my name on it."
On the call, Walker described how he was coordinating with other Republican governors on the anti-collective bargaining issue: "Brian [Sadoval], the new Governor of Nevada, called me the last night he said -- he was out in the Lincoln Day Circuit in the last two weekends and he was kidding 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 Vic 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."
"You're the first domino," fake Koch said.
"Yep. This is our moment," said Walker.
The Buffalo Beast is an online news and entertainment site that began life as an alternative biweekly paper co-founded by Matt Taibbi in 2002. Taibbi went on to become a Rolling Stone writer and is now well-known for his gonzo journalism and colorful writing.