Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The David Koch call, 5 years later, and what it tells us now

5 years ago today in Wisconsin, masses were still at the Capitol protesting Gov Scott Walker's union-busting legislation- a package of regressive crap that became the infamous Act 10. In the middle of all this, this bit of absurdity hit YouTube, courtesy of some gonzo journalism from the Buffalo Beast's Ian Murphy, and it took the Wisconsin Uprising to a whole 'nother level of interest and outrage.

Here, you can check out the transcript yourself if you want to jog your memory. As I tend to do on occasion, I want to go back to some of the things Gov Walker said in that phone call to "David Koch," because it gives a clue into a lot of things that would eventually happen, and are still happening today.
Walker: So it’s, uh, this is ground zero, there’s no doubt about it. But, uh, I think, you know, for us, I just keep telling, I call, I tell the speaker, the senate majority leader every night, give me a list of the people I need to call at home, to 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 is supposed to be objective journalism. They got out of the capital and went down one county south of the capital to Janesville, to Rock County, that’s where the General Motors plant once was.

Murphy: Right, right.

Walker: They moved out two years ago. The lead on this story is about a guy who was laid off two years ago, uh, he’s been laid off twice by GM, who points out that, uh, 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. Um, and they had a bartender, they had, I mean, 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 all these uh, a handful, a dozen or so lawmakers I worry about each day and said, “Everyone, we should get that story printed out and send it to anyone giving you grief.”
This hits at the heart of the whole “divide and conquer” strategy that Walker has gone back to time and again throughout his career. Make low-class white people’s shitty lives and lousy wages be used as fuel for resentment against others that have better jobs and benefits that they do, and then Walker would reverse field against those “blue-collar worker types” in private unions with (right-to) work-for-less in 2015. It's worked out just the way Scotty and Mr. Koch wanted it….until Mr. Trump came along, anyway.

By the way, it doesn’t seem that only public workers were the ones against Walker and Act 10 in Janesville, because Rock County’s vote against Walker increased from 52.5% to 55.7% in the 2012 recall election, and held near it at 55.6% in 2014.

Let’s continue.
Murphy: 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] is probably seeing this is the, well, two things: One, our members originally got freaked out by all the bodies here, although, I told them 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, the union went nuts on me and I got all sorts of grief. But a couple of weeks later I’m in a Veterans Day parade and I’m going down the line and usually unless you’re a veteran or, you know, 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 [Murphy laughs].
In addition to admitting that AFP is nothing but a Koch front group, this is one of the earlier examples of Walker making up stories about his support and those who oppose him. The same way he lied in his book about protestors threatening him in La Crosse, lying about the majority of protestors being from out of state (I was at the Capitol several times- they were overwhelmingly from Wisconsin), and a number of little lies on everything ranging from the votes in the 2011 Supreme Court election down to how he got his (growing) bald spot.

Note this next part, which leads exactly into why the John Doe II investigation started into illegal campaign coordination and laundering of money through various right-wing oligarch groups.
Walker: The other thing is more long-term, and that is, after this, um, you know the coming days and weeks and months ahead, particularly in some of these, uh, more swing areas, a lot of these guys are gonna need, they don’t necessarily need ads for them, but they’re gonna need a message out reinforcing why this was a good thing to do for the economy and a good thing to do for the state. So to the extent that that message is out over and over again, that’s obviously a good thing.
In other words, do some “independent” ads and events that really aren’t so independent, and use the right-wing propaganda shows on AM radio to get the message out without anyone calling bullshit on it, or revealing who your “experts” really work for. This outsourcing of message also allowed for the Walker folks to smear union supporters, Democrats or any of their other opponents without having the words lead back to them. It’s a pattern that repeats to this day, which is why Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig was on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning calling out Milwaukee talk radio as the one-sided garbage that it is, and discussing the Radio-Active Project that intends to hold the hate merchants to account (click here to help it out, it’s a great and necessary cause).

Lastly, here are some words from Scotty that haunt this state and many others to this day.
Walker: And I’ve gotta tell you the response from around the country has been phenomenal. I had Brian [Sandoval], 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’s new 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. The next question, you know, 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, [Rick] 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.

Murphy: You’re the first domino.

Walker: Yep. This is our moment.
Little did many of us realize in February 2011 that all of these governors and new GOP legislatures were working from the same Koch/ALEC playbook, where corporations and oligarchs write copycat legislation for the GOP in any state they think they can sneak it through. Although we got a good hint that there was something big behind the scenes when UW Professor William Cronon wrote a piece on what ALEC was and how they work, and the state’s right-wing slime machine immediately tried to destroy his career (you forgot about that, didn’t you?).

I bet very few of those that voted for the “new governors that got elected to do something big” were thinking it would translate into the union-busting, privatization of public services, abortion restrictions, fiscal irresponsibility and outright corruption that have followed in the states Walker names, as well as several others. BUT YET ENOUGH OF THOSE DOPES RE-ELECTED ALL OF THESE BUMS IN 2014, and now you and your states are paying the price. Forgive me if I show little empathy for you as you realize exactly what we told you about 5 years ago.

Looking back on the David Koch call these days, it makes me wonder why it wasn’t played ad nauseum by Dem officials leading up to the 2012 recall election, to give a warning that “This guy lied to you, and he will do worse if you keep him in office.” But nooooo, that would have been mean, and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and Tom Barrett thought it was a better idea to run a conventional election campaign instead of bringing up the reason there was a recall in the first place. I also haven’t forgotten that the DNC’s Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and President Obama gave little support to the effort, and concentrated on DC World instead of putting resources into the recall effort.

I think this was a major tactical error by the DNC, because had the recall effort succeeded, it would have slammed the door shut on many of these destructive ALEC changes. And not only in Wisconsin, but in many other states that are now suffering real damage as a result of ALEC vandalism. And we wouldn’t have had to wait 3 more years for Scott Walker to become the disgraced laughingstock that he became when he tried to use the Act 10 battle and associated ALEC agenda as a springboard to the national stage.

Today, with continued cuts to public education that are now driving up property taxes and threatening to see schools close 5 years after the Act 10 “tools” were supposed to solve all of those fiscal problems, and potholes opening up every day on the 3rd worst roads in the nation, you certainly can’t say that we were made better off by Scotty changing this state’s direction when he “dropped the bomb.” In fact, we may have understated just how bad things would become, because we didn't see how Act 10 would intersect with other Walker austerity measures that would be released in the coming years. Because Walker and WisGOP slow-played the changes that were to take place in other sectors of the state, not enough people understood the full picture of the damage of these policies until the 2014 elections were past, and we now are stuck with Gov Dropout for another 34 months, and a WisGOP Legislature that will only start to be removed from power this November.

Being nice won’t beat these thugs, but reminding people of their disastrous record and empty (public) promises may be enough to start repairing the damage starting this April, when we start to restore balance to a crooked Supreme Court. The "WMC 4 judges" and the newly-installed Rebecca Bradley (Foundation) are every bit as guilty as Walker, they just haven’t gotten caught conspiring their dark-money plans with the oligarchs on tape, like Scotty did 5 years ago.


  1. It really is amazing the DPW & DNC couldn't capitalize on this. You didn't even mention Walker's admission that they thought about putting "troublemakers" in the protest crowds. So much scum in this conversation, but the Wisconsin media largely ignored it. We're being punished today for how the press and media have propped up Walker and the Wisconsin GOP for the past five years.

    1. This is all true. The most amazing part about the "outside agitators" part is that Walker only disapproves because he thinks it's bad politics, not because it is immoral and unethical.

      This is why the DPW should be guarding every ballot machine on April 5. There is no bar too low for the Fitzwalkerstanis

  2. I would like to say that I'm from Buffalo, so this post makes me proud. I think the link for the calling folks out about talk radio isn't working--I'm really interested in the whole deal, if you could point me to the source.

    And this post is great. There really is something to not giving in to the "take the high road" rhetoric often employed by the left. Time to roll up the sleeves and start leading with rhetorical knuckles.

    1. Chuck- I clicked the link just now and it seemed OK. Go to Citizen Action WI's page if it isnt going through.

  3. Is Gov. Brian Sandoval Pres. Obama's nominee for Judge Scalia's replacement? That can't be right!