Governor’s official phone line goes down: ‘The number you dialed is not a working number’
Update: Walker’s office says call was real
Second update (at bottom): Watchdog calls for probe on possible ethics violation
Prepare for prankgate.
Wisconsin’s newly elected Republican Governor wasted no time in taking the fight to public sector unions, but union supporters and the alternative press have spared no expense firing back.
But now, a hay-maker has been thrown.
An alternative paper in Buffalo, New York, which prides itself on being about as beastly as the subjects they cover, managed to trick Governor Scott Walker into taking a call from their editor posing as tea party tycoon David Koch.
The transcript isn’t pretty. It’s also unclear whether it was real, but efforts to contact Walker’s office proved futile Wednesday morning. While the governor’s official phone line — at (608) 266-1212 — was returning busy signals for a time, it had reverted to an automated error message by 11 am EST.
“The number you dialed is not a working number. Please check the number and dial again.”
While the Buffalo Beast‘s website went down almost immediately after their story was posted, likely due to a torrent of web traffic, bloggers far and wide seized upon the story and were sharing bits of the text by Wednesday morning.
A few highlights included the alleged governor warning the phony oil baron that Wisconsin House Rep. Tim Cullen, a Democrat who’s voted with Republicans on numerous issues, was “not one of us;” Walker supposedly commenting that he’s “got the layoff notices ready” and bragging that he’s got a baseball bat with his name on it; and accepting an offer to be flown out to California for “a good time.”
The call also allegedly reveals that Wisconsin Republicans are planning to hold Democrats’ paychecks hostage by changing the rules to end direct deposit, placing their printed checks in their desks on the floor of the senate, forcing them to physically come in to pick them up.
The voice alleged to be Walker also said he was trying to find ways to prosecute Wisconsin Democrats on ethical violations if they accepted favors from union organizers.
Moments later in the call recording, Walker allegedly accepts an offer for similar favors from the fake Koch.
Charles and David Koch, two key financiers of the Republican tea parties, were also major financiers of Walker’s bid for the Wisconsin governor’s office. Their political action committee gave Walker roughly $100,000 in campaign contributions during the 2010 election, according to campaign finance records highlighted by Mother Jones.
The contributions came from the same source — Koch Industries PAC — and though through two channels which were both legal under current campaign finance law.
About $43,000 worth of PAC monies went directly to Walker’s campaign, while the Republican Governors Association (RGA) sent $65,000 from the PAC to Walker. Wisconsin’s governor also received help from the RGA by way of a $3.4 million ad buy on television and direct mail attacks against his political opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
As if the connection weren’t clear enough, the Koch brothers front group Americans for Prosperity produced a website called standwithwalker.com, encouraging people to support elimination of labor union rights.
If the call is indeed real, it would not be the first time a prominent politician got pranked over the phone. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin took a prank call in Nov. 2008 from a Canadian comedian pretending to be the president of France, Nicholas Sarkozy.
Update: Walker’s office says call was real
Gov. Walker’s spokesman, Cullen Werwie, issued the following statement hours after the Beast went to press:
“The Governor takes many calls everyday. 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.”
Second update: Watchdog calls for probe on possible ethics violation
The non-profit Public Campaign Action Fund said Wednesday that Governor Walker’s revealing conversation with a gonzo journalist pretending to be one of his wealthy financiers could constitute an ethics violation and breach of campaign law.
“In a call with who he thought to be billionaire political donor David Koch, Gov. Walker may have broken campaign finance and ethics laws,” a group spokesman said, according to a media advisory. “If he did, he should resign.
“If you didn’t believe it before, you have to now—this fight isn’t about the budget, it’s about favors for corporate special interests. If Wisconsin law forbids coordination with political donors similar to federal law, Gov. Scott Walker is not just in political trouble, but in legal hot water.”
The group said it was consulting with experts on whether or not to file an official complaint.
This audio was published to YouTube on Feb. 23, 2011 by TheBeastvideos.