by Gary Farber
Let's go with Adam Weinstein's take:
Is that really Scott Walker? [Update: Yep.] A New York-based alt-news editor says he got through to the embattled Wisconsin governor on the phone Tuesday by posing as right-wing financier David Koch...then had a far-ranging 20-minute conversation about the collective bargaining protests. According to the audio, Walker told him:
- That statehouse GOPers were plotting to hold Democratic senators' pay until they returned to vote on the controversial union-busting bill.
- That Walker was looking to nail Dems on ethics violations if they took meals or lodging from union supporters.
- That he'd take "Koch" up on this offer: "[O]nce you crush these bastards I'll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time."
According to his Wikipedia entry, Ian Murphy is a gonzo journalist and editor of the Buffalo Beast, an online mag that was founded in 2002 as an alternative biweekly by gonzo Matt Taibbi and a band of colleagues. Murphy's probably best-known for a tough read about America's war dead called "F*ck the Troops." But if his latest Beast post, "Koch Whore," is to be believed, it's likely to be read a lot more widely.
When Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tim Carpenter complained that Walker wouldn't return any of the Dems' calls, Murphy says he wondered: "Who could get through to Gov. Walker? Well, what do we know about Walker and his proposed union-busting, no-bid budget? The obvious candidate was "David Koch." Koch, of course, is one of the right-wing brothers behind Americans for Prosperity and a host of other GOP-friendly causes; MoJo's own Andy Kroll broke the news last week on the Koch brothers' past support for Walker and his agenda.
So, Murphy says, he managed to have a phone audience with the governor by posing as Koch. And he taped the whole thing, copied on the videos below. What Walker says on the tape is pretty convincing...and sweeping. There'll be no negotiations with the unions or their legislative supporters, he says; after all, he doesn't need them:
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…legally, we believe, once they've gone into session, they don't physically have to be there.
At one point in the tape, Walker dismisses the left-leaning MSNBC. "Who watches that? I went on Morning Joe this morning. I like it because I just like being combative with those guys, but, uh. You know they're off the deep end."
UPDATE, 11:41 a.m.: A few items of note from the call:
* Walker doesn't bat an eye when Koch describes the opposition as "Democrat bastards."
* Walker reveals that he and other Republicans are looking at whether they can charge an "ethics code violation if not an outright felony" if unions are paying for food or lodging for any of the Dem state senators.
* Walker says he's sending out notices next week to some five or six thousand state workers letting them know that they are "at risk" of layoffs.
"Beautiful, beautiful," the Koch impersonator replies. "You gotta crush that union."
UPDATE, 11:54 a.m.: In a key detail, Walker reveals that he is, in effect, laying a trap for Wisconsin Dems. He says he is mulling inviting the Senate and Assembly Dem and GOP leaders to sit down and talk, but only if all the missing Senate Dems return to work.
Then, tellingly, he reveals that the real game plan here is that if they do return, Republicans might be able to use a procedural move to move forward with their proposal.
"If they're actually in session for that day and they take a recess, this 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they'd have a quorum because they started out that way," he says. "If you heard that I was going to talk to them that would be the only reason why."
Then the fake Koch says this: "Bring a baseball bat. That's what I'd do."
Walker doesn't bat an eye, and responds: "I have one in my office, you'd be happy with that. I've got a slugger with my name on it."
12:09 p.m.: Another key exchange:
FAKE KOCH: What we were thinking about the crowds was, planting some troublemakers.
WALKER: We thought about that. My only gut reaction to that would be, right now, the lawmakers I talk to have just completely had it with them. The public is not really fond of this.The teachers union did some polling and focus groups...
It's unclear what Walker means when he says he "thought" about planting some troublemakers, but it seems fair to ask him for clarification.
UPDATE, 12:27 p.m.: One last fun tidbit: Walker appears to agree when "Koch" calls David Axelrod a "son of a bitch." Walker tells an anecdote in which he was having dinner with Jim Sensebrenner, and at a nearby table he saw Mika Brzezinski and Greta Van Susteren having dinner with David Axelrod. Then this exchange occured:
WALKER: I introduced myself.
FAKE KOCH: That son of a bitch.
WALKER: Yeah, no kidding, right?
UPDATE, 12:41 p.m.: Another great exchange:
FAKE KOCH: Well, I'll tell ya what, Scott. Once you crush these bastards, I'll fly ya out to Cali and really show you a good time.
WALKER: Alright. That would be outstanding. Thanks for all the support and helping us move the cause forward.
Reminder of how Jane Mayer develved into the Brothers Koch.
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UPDATE, 6:43 p.m.: Sam Stein reports: Gov. Walker Informed That Bill Targeting Unions May Cost State $46 Million In Federal Funds.
[...] Wisconsin received $74 million in federal transit funds this fiscal year. Of that, $46.6 million would be put at risk should the collective-bargaining bill come to pass -- in the process creating an even more difficult fiscal situation than the one that, ostensibly, compelled Walker to push the legislation in the first place. The governor is certainly aware of this. While the potential loss of funds may have escaped the attention of many observers, sources familiar with the state's transportation policy tell The Huffington Post that Walker's office has been informed of the relevant legal language.
[...] Faced with the prospects of forfeiting $46.6 million in federal transit funds, Democrats in the Wisconsin House of Representatives have crafted an amendment to Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public union bill that would protect collective bargaining rights strictly for transit workers.
The amendment, authored by Reps. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) and Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton), would add transit employees to the list of "public safety employees" that are exempted from some of the harsher measures under Walker's bill.
While protecting the rights of only a small sliver of the union members -- Grigsby's office said she "would much rather maintain employee rights for all" -- the amendment could, nevertheless, be worth tens of millions of dollars for the state.
The full analysis document from the non-partisan Wisconsin State Fiscal Bureau, is included at the link.
It's good to have $43 billion lying around. You can do all sorts of things with that kind of spare change.
Just for added fun, a crazy communist at Forbes.com writes: Koch Brothers Behind Wisconsin Effort To Kill Public Unions.
[...]The Americans for Prosperity group, a Tea Party group that is a Koch Brothers front, has put up a website and petition called www.standwithwalker.com. The website attacks all collective bargaining – not just for public employees’ unions. Americans for Prosperity is also organizing a rally tomorrow in Wisconsin to support Gov. Walker.
Why are the Koch Brothers so interested in Wisconsin? They are a major business player in the state.
This from Think Progress:
Koch owns a coal company subsidiary with facilities in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan; six timber plants throughout the state; and a large network of pipelines in Wisconsin. While Koch controls much of the infrastructure in the state, they have laid off workers to boost profits. At a time when Koch Industries owners David and Charles Koch awarded themselves an extra $11 billion of income from the company, Koch slashed jobs at their Green Bay plant:
Officials at Georgia-Pacific said the company is laying off 158 workers at its Day Street plant because out-of-date equipment at the facility is being replaced with newer, more-efficient equipment. The company said much of the new, papermaking equipment will be automated. [...] Malach tells FOX 11 that the layoffs are not because of a drop in demand. In fact, Malach said demand is high for the bath tissue and napkins manufactured at the plant.
You really have to wonder how long it will take for Tea Party devotees to realize just how badly they are being used.
a thought experiment that asks readers to consider the mirror image of what is going on. In this case, you'd be asked what the reaction would be from Republicans and business interests if a newly elected Democratic governor and legislature proposed to deal with a budget deficit by first raising unemployment benefits and then pushing through a big corporate tax increase for all but the Democratic-leaning tech sector. For good measure, the package would also contain a ban on corporations making political donations without getting the permission of each shareholder, lest they use their power to repeal the tax increase and push the budget out of balance.
This is analogous, of course, to what Gov. Scott Walker has proposed for dealing with Wisconsin's budget gap: the tax breaks for businesses, the benefit cuts for all state employees except Republican-leaning police and firefighters, the automatic decertification of all public-sector unions and the stripping of their right to bargain anything but wages. Looking at Walker's reflection in the political fun-house mirror makes it abundantly clear that the governor has a more ambitious agenda than merely closing a modest budget gap.
Gee, ya think?
That $43 billion can fund Americans for Prosperity.