Wisconsin Democrats Demand Probe of Gov. Walker

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin will file a formal ethics complaint this week against Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker based on comments he made in a conversation with a prankster posing as right-wing billionaire David Koch, a party spokesman tells Mother Jones.

The spokesman, Graeme Zielinski, says party officials will request a probe into statements Walker made to the fake Koch, who was really gonzo journalist and Buffalo Beast editor Ian Murphy, concerning support for Wisconsin Republican lawmakers believed to be vulnerable due to their support of Walker’s bill. Here’s the part of Walker’s call Democrats are zeroing in on:

Walker: “After this in some of the coming days and weeks ahead, particularly in some of these more swing areas, a lot of these guys are going to need, they don’t need initially ads for them, but they’re going to need a message out. Reinforcing why this was a good thing to do for the economy, a good thing to do for the state. So to the extent that message is out over and over again is certainly a good thing.”

Ian Murphy (posing as Koch): “Right, right. We’ll back you any way we can.”

The Wisconsin Democratic Party isn’t the first group to cry foul over these remarks. Last week, a left-leaning campaign watchdog group, the Public Campaign Action Fund, said it was looking into whether Walker violated ethics or campaign finance laws in Wisconsin. “In a call with who he thought to be billionaire political donor David Koch, Gov. Walker may have broken campaign finance and ethics laws,” David Donnelly, national campaigns director for Public Campaign Action Fund, said in a statement. “If he did, he should resign.”

When the recording of Murphy’s 20-minute prank call with Walker came out last Wednesday, it immediately went viral—news networks and Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” played clips—and breathed new life into the pro-labor protests in Madison. Walker told the prankster that “we thought about that” when Murphy mentioned planting “troublemakers” in the crowd, and also bragged that he had a baseball bat in his office—a “slugger”—with his name on it. A spokesman for the governor confirmed the authenticity of the tape, saying Walker’s conversation with Murphy “shows that the Governor says the same thing in private as he does in public.”

As it happens, Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-backed organization, began running ads last week in Wisconsin in support of Walker’s budget bill. The ad says, “Governor Walker has the courage to do what’s right for Wisconsin. Stand With Walker.” Here’s the ad:

The ad is part of Americans for Prosperity’s “Stand with Walker” campaign, which includes a petition drive in support of Walker’s bill and an AFP “fact sheet” on the issue.

As I reported a few weeks ago, Walker has himself directly benefited from the Koch brothers’ largesse. In 2010, Koch Industries’ political action committee donated $43,000 to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, making the PAC one of the future governor’s top donors.

Zielinski, with the state Democratic Party, says more details about the party’s complaint will come out later this week.

More MotherJones reporting on Dark Money

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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