Feb 23 2011
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker compared himself to Ronald Reagan during the president’s iconic showdown with striking workers during a telephone interview Tuesday– an interview he thought was with billionaire and Walker supporter David Koch, but which was actually with a blogger making a prank call.
The Buffalo, N.Y. – based blog, the Buffalo Beast, published an interview with the governor during which the interviewer pretended to be one half of the Koch brothers, two conservative kinsmen who have funneled millions of dollars to defeat legislation they don’t like. The brothers have sought to kill key provisions of President Obama’s agenda and have contributed to Illinois GOP candidates, including Walker.
The Koch brothers have been especially supportive of Walker’s bill that would strip unionized state employees of most of their bargaining rights. That legislation has been stalled in the Legislature after it sparked massive protests, including a walkout by Democrat senators to prevent a quorum to vote on the measure.
While thinking he was talking to Koch, Walker said his push against the state employees’ union was like Ronald Reagan’s 1981 face off against striking air traffic controllers.
“That moment was more important than just for labor relations or even the federal budget; that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism – because from that point forward the Soviets and the Communists knew Ronald Reagan wasn’t a pushover,” Walker told his interviewer.
Buffalo Beast Publisher Paul Fallon told The Huffington Post that the audio is “absolutely legit” and Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie has confirmed that the call did take place.
Later Tuesday, the governor did know to whom he was speaking when, in a speech broadcast statewide, he warned that failure to pass his bill would have “dire circumstances.” Those circumstances, he elaborated, would be the layoffs of 1,500 state walkers by July – with a further 6,000 over the next two years.
In another development, Wisconsin’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau warned that Walker’s bill, if passed, could cost the state $46.6 million in federal transit funds. State transit workers are among those workers targeted by the plan, and federal Department of Labor Law requires that federal funds be withheld from those states which change the bargaining rights of affected workers.
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