WASHINGTON -- A member of the crew of 14 Democratic state senators who fled Wisconsin to prevent passage of a sharp anti-union measure, said a revealing prank phone call involving Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has strengthened the resolve of those breaking the quorum and pushed them even further away from the negotiating table.
State Sen. Chris Larson, in a brief phone interview before a meeting with his colleagues, called Walker "cocky" and "gullible" for believing that David Koch, the billionaire conservative bankroller, would call him up to discuss political tactics.
On a tactical level, however, he called the prank -- pulled by the website Buffalo Beast -- a major blunder on Walker's behalf. "He just gave it all away right there," Larson insisted.
In particular, Larson pointed to a portion of the roughly 20-minute call in which the governor talked about getting the senate Democrats back to the state by promising to hold negotiations, only to quickly pass the anti-union legislation while a quorum was reached.
"The part that really had my eyebrows up is the idea that he would trick us to come back for a compromise and use that as an excuse for passing it," said Larson. "He is such a hypocrite because he is saying what we are doing is an affront to democracy and then he is going to trick us into coming back?"
"To anyone who was thinking, 'Well they wouldn't try anything shady,' this puts an end to that idea," he added.
One of the issues confronting those Democrats who have fled to Illinois is to what extent they can enter into good-faith negotiations to end the current standoff, either by putting a sunset provision on eliminating collective bargaining rights for public sector unions or by eliminating the issue altogether. Some of the 14, said Larson, hold the notion (quaint, but laudable) that lawmakers should be "collegial" and play by the rules.
"To a certain extent we should do that," the senator added. "But if someone is willing to do something like this, it throws this idea out the window ... A lot of the Republicans who are rubber-stamping [Walker's] legislation have to be seeing him as a liability at this point."
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