Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had a candid 20-minute conversation with billionaire Republican donor David Koch, or so he thought. In reality, the caller was Buffalo Beast reporter Ian Murphy, who recorded the call and posted it online. Walker is battling Democratic state legislators over his plan to curtail the power of state government workers' unions; thousands are protesting in the capital. The call reveals him to be at turns sympathetic and a jerk.
Murphy, noting a state senator's complaint that Walker is "just hard-lined--will not talk... will not return phone calls," decided to test just how hard it is to get the governor on the line. So he pretended to be Koch, and a receptionist immediately transferred him to Walker's executive assistant.
The resulting chat has some embarrassing moments: Walker agrees with fake Koch that MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski. is a "real piece of ass." He indicates he'd accept an offer from fake Koch to "fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time" once "these bastards" are crushed.
Murhpy gets a scoop, Dave Weigel says, when Walker reveals his strategy involves tricking the opposition: He says he's trying to trick Democratic state senators into coming back into the state for a meaningless talk so that Republicans will have a quorum to pass the bill.
WALKER: ... An interesting idea that was brought up to me by my chief of staff, we won't do it until tomorrow, is putting out an appeal to the Democratic leader. 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 will come back and sit down in the state assembly. They can recess it... the reason for that, we're verifying it this afternoon, 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 quorum because it's turned out that way. So we’re double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capitol with all 14 of them. My sense is, hell. I'll talk. If they want to yell at me for an hour, I'm used to that. I can deal with that. But I'm not negotiating.
One moment that makes Walker more sympathetic, if only to his ideological allies, is the revelation that he thinks the people of Wisconsin are on his side. (He's wrong about that, Jonathan Chait notes.)
This might count as damning with faint praise, but at least Walker doesn't want to use "troublemakers" to beat up the protesters, communist-crackdown-style.
Koch: We'll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.
Walker: 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...[explains that planting troublemakers may not work.] My only fear would be if there's a ruckus caused is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems...[something about '60s liberals.]...Let ‘em protest all they want...Sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting.
Though he's not opposed to physically intimidating lawmakers.
Koch: Bring a baseball bat. That's what I'd do.
Walker: I have one in my office; you'd be happy with that. I have a slugger with my name on it.
In a way, perhaps the guys that come off worst of all are rich people. The call shows that all that campaign cash buys you something else: license to be weird, and to force politicians to listen to your weird ideas, as Politico's Ben Smith notes.
The Buffalo Beast's site is down, likely due to a huge influx of traffic. Here's audio of the prank call:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.