WASHINGTON -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) phone conversation may have been with a fake "David Koch," but it's had real consequences for his relationships with lawmakers and his plan to push through a budget repair bill. In fact, one Democratic lawmaker said that if Walker's grand master plan hadn't been revealed in the call, it might have even worked.
One of the most interesting parts of Walker's conversation -- a prank call by a blogger from The Buffalo Beast pretending to be the billionaire David Koch -- was when he revealed his plan to hoodwink the state's Senate Democrats, who fled Wisconsin in order to prevent their Republican colleagues from reaching the quorum needed to pass budget measures.
"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...legally, we believe, once they've gone into session, they don't physically have to be there," said Walker on the call. "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...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 capital with all 14 of them."
In an interview with The Huffington Post, state Sen. Robert Wirch (D) called the information revealed in the conversation "devastating." "This governor cares about right-wing think tanks and the Koch brothers more than he cares what the people of the state think," he said, pointing out that Walker has also ignored Democrats when they've reached out.
Wirch was also glad he found out about the governor's plan to trick them into coming back, admitting that it might have worked.
"Candidly, I think we probably would have given the governor the benefit of the doubt, so I'm glad I found out about his real agenda," said Wirch. "We probably would have thought the governor would have had a change of heart. So candidly, in politics -- especially with a new governor -- you try to go along with him. We probably would have seen it as a breakthrough instead of a trick."
Shortly after the news of the prank call began circulating, Walker's spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the conversation (on the governor's end, at least), and said it "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."
State Sen. Tim Cullen (D) disputed that assessment.
"His public posture is that he's the adult working hard in Madison on the people's budget," Cullen told The Huffington Post. "But in fact, he's in Madison trying to see if we committed a felony, what he can do to hide our paychecks and then trick the minority leader to come to the Capitol in the guise of a meeting in order to pass the bill -- get him back there under false pretenses. That's not what he's been saying in public."
Cullen said that because of the news today, he thinks there is now a better chance that Democrats will be able to convince some of their moderate Republican colleagues to break with the governor and compromise. "I think there is that possibility," he said. "I didn't think there was until today. ... He [Walker] may have done what we've been unable to accomplish. We'll see."
On Tuesday, state Sen. Jim Holperin (D) said the Democratic caucus had basically given up on the governor and turned its attention toward persuadable Republican senators.
"I think this is a governor who is a very stubborn individual and maybe does not understand fully the collateral consequences of his stubbornness," said Holperin. "So we've decided to refocus on the people we believe may be flexible to some degree, and that's Senate Republicans. A lot of those Senate Republicans have been around a long time, and I think understand the gravity of eliminating rights from people."
When asked whether Democrats are now less likely to trust Walker, Wirch replied, "Yes. In a word, yes."