Here's something for your "can this possibly be for real" file this morning. Over at the Buffalo Beast -- the former print alt-weekly turned online newspaper founded by onetime editor Matt Taibbi, typically best known for its annual list of "The 50 Most Loathsome Americans" -- there appear to be recordings of a phone call between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and current editor Ian Murphy. Now, why on earth would Scott Walker want to talk on the phone with the editor of an online site in Buffalo? Well, he wouldn't.
But what if said editor pretended to be David Koch of the famed Koch Brothers? Well, that's a different story altogether, apparently! And so Walker, believing himself to be on the phone with his patron, seems to have had a long conversation about busting Wisconsin's unions.
Buffalo Beast Publisher Paul Fallon told The Huffington Post that the audio is "absolutely legit." That the call took place as described by the Beast has been confirmed by Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie.
"Basically what happened was, yesterday morning [Murphy] was watching television about this Wisconsin stuff and he saw a report where he saw Walker say he wasn't going to talk to anybody," Fallon said. "And he said, 'I bet he would talk to somebody if he had enough oomph behind him.'"
This all apparently went down Tuesday afternoon, hours before Walker made his "fireside chat." It took some doing: Murphy-as-Koch said he had several hoops to jump through before he was granted access to Walker, beginning with a receptionist, leading to the governor's executive assistant, and finally ending up with his chief of staff, Keith Gilkes.
From Murphy's account:
I politely said hello, not knowing how friendly Gilkes and Koch may be. He was eager to help. "I was really hoping to talk directly to Scott," I said. He said that could be arranged and that I should just leave my number. I explained to Gilkes, "My goddamn maid, Maria, put my phone in the washer. I'd have her deported, but she works for next to nothing." Gilkes found this amusing. "I'm calling from the VOID--with the VOID, or whatever it's called. You know, the Snype!"
"Gotcha," Gilkes said. "Let me check the schedule here...OK, there's an opening at 2 o'clock Central Standard Time. Just call this same number and we'll put you through."
I tell you what, if Walker really wants to pare down the state budget, he can start by firing all of these people!
At any rate, yesterday afternoon, Murphy says he and Walker had their own chat. The other man on the tape dutifully briefs "Koch" on the latest news, telling him that one tactic they are exploring to bring the wayward Senate Democrats back to the state is stopping the direct deposit of their paychecks. "Koch" asks, "Now you're not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?" The other man replies that there is one, state Sen. Tim Cullen, who might be approachable, though he cautions, "He's pretty reasonable, but he's not one of us."
[For a longer collection of transcripted highlights of this call, click here.]
The conversation continues: the other man talks about his plans to threaten workers with layoffs, about sowing divisions between the public sector and private sector unions, and the potential for their union busting efforts to spread to other states. "This is our moment," he tells Murphy when Murphy describes him as "the first domino."
They share some pleasantries about their favorite MSNBC hosts, as well.
Murphy as Koch: Well, not the liberal bastards on MSNBC.
Walker: Oh yeah, but 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.
Murphy as Koch: Joe--Joe's a good guy. He's one of us.
Walker: Yeah, he's all right. He was fair to me.
Murphy as Koch: Beautiful; beautiful.
Walker: Oh, yeah.
Murphy as Koch: You gotta love that Mika Brzezinski; she's a real piece of ass.
The call ends with Murphy-as-Koch promising, "once you crush these bastards, I'll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time." "All right," the other man says, "That would be outstanding."
In a statement, Walker spokesman Werwie says, "Throughout this call the Governor maintained his appreciation for and commitment to civil discourse. 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."
On the matter of Walker saying the same things in private as he does in public, I'm not so sure that's true! As David Weigel points out, it would appear that Walker revealed his "crisis-ending ruse" to Murphy:
WALKER: You've got a few of the radical ones -- unfortunately, one of them's the minority leader -- but most of the rest of them are just looking for a way to get out of this. They're scared out of their minds. They don't know what it means. There's a bunch of recalls up against them. They'd really like to just get back up here and get it over with. So the paycheck thing, some of the other things threatening them, I think collectively there's enough going on, and as long as they don't think I'm going to cave, which again we have no interest in. 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.
Fallon, the Buffalo Beast's publisher, said the most remarkable element of the prank was that "of all things, he called using Skype," although the camera function wasn't used.
Asked how Murphy got up the nerve to make the call, Fallon said, "He's a pretty bold guy."
Koch Whore [The Buffalo Beast]