If you've been following the situation here in Wisconsin (yes, the apex is in Madison, but today protests are state-wide, as are, of course, the concerns about Walker's bill) you just may have heard about the prank phone call our esteemed Governor received yesterday morning. A blogger named Ian Murphy posing as David Koch had a 20-minute phone conversation with Scott Walker, during which Walker believed he was talking to the actual David Koch the entire time and divulged troubling information about his plans for this bill and beyond. It's hardly worth linking here because I'm sure a google search will result in several sites with the recording of the phone call and transcriptions, but here you go anyway (that link is a transcription of the entire phone call, printed in the Wisconsin State Journal). Jon Stewart couldn't help weighing in already (that link is for the full episode, but the Walker bit is at the beginning).
Before the prank call, there was already speculation and concern about Walker's political ties to the Koch brothers. David and Charles Koch, who are based in Wichita, KS, are extremely wealthy - multi-billionaires - and their money comes from the oil industry, power plants and manufacturing. They are also extremely conservative politically and have made it their business to weaken government and regulations as much as they possibly can by pouring money into getting people elected who can best serve their interests. This is done in all kinds of ways, from donating to political candidates directly (they gave $43,000 to Walker when he ran for governor last fall), donating to organizations that support those candidates (they gave one $1 million to the Republican Governors' Association last fall, and the RGA in turn spent $5 million on attack ads against the Democratic candidate Tom Barrett in one of the most expensive gubernatorial races in history), and they fund think tanks with benign-sounding names like Citizens for Change to influence the public. Rumor has it the Koch brothers paid for the buses full of Tea Party activists to show up last weekend. (For more on the Koch brothers and their opposition to the Democratic party, especially President Obama, see this piece from last August in the New Yorker. It's rather long, but excellent.)
The Koch brothers' agenda includes eliminating as much environmental regulation as possible, casting doubt on the scientific certainty of global climate change, shrinking government, and they also really hate unions. If they get their way on all these things, they stand to make even more money. You'd think being mega-rich multi-billionaires would be enough for these guys, but no. They want to own all the politicians, too.
So anyway, back to lil' ol' Scott Walker and this phone call with the fake David Koch. Clearly, he doesn't know Koch very well or he might have recognized that the caller was faking, but he spoke with disturbing openness about his intentions to layoff state workers if the bill doesn't pass by Friday, and his plan to trick the 14 Senate Democrats who left the state into coming back by pretending to be willing to sit down and talk. Perhaps the most disturbing, however, was his admission that he'd actually considered planting troublemakers among the crowd at last weekend's protests, and that he had dismissed this idea not because doing such a thing would threaten public safety and be morally reprehensible and under-handed and completely inappropriate for the governor of a state to do. No, he rejected the idea because trouble at the protest might reflect on him politically: "My only fear would be is if there was a ruckus caused is that that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has gotta settle to avoid all these problems."
This bit of conversation with fake Koch has raised serious concern among local leaders. Madison Mayor Dave Dieslewicz is furious. Madison's police chief wants Walker to explain himself. I, for one, have been present at the protests nearly every day this week as well as the gathering last Saturday that was 70,000 strong, and I can tell you unequivocally that you won't find a more peaceful, respectful, clean bunch of angry people anywhere. Thousands of people pack the Capitol every day and sure, we make a lot of noise, but every time I've been there I've felt completely safe. Believe me, if I didn't, I wouldn't be bringing my children with me. To know that the governor even considered sneaking in troublemakers makes me feel very unsettled, but at least I'm not alone (see above re: the mayor and police chief).
Walker isn't hiding from this phone call. He claims that he didn't say anything in that conversation that he wouldn't say in public, (which might as well be true since it's public now, right?) but he said enough to raise valid concerns about the exact nature of the relationship between the Koch brothers and the GOP. The former Attorney General of Wisconsin Peg Lautenschlager thinks there may be grounds for an investigation of violation of ethics, among other things. I know that there have been requests for phone and email records already.
To be honest, I'm not sure where I see all this going. Maybe, just maybe, it will be proven that Walker was bought by corporate interests and he'll have to step down. If not, I guess we're stuck with him at least until the end of 2014. I just hope by then the voters of this state pay a little more attention when they go to the polls.