Unfortunately for the Left, there's no there there. As Matthew Shafer notes, "a would-be exposé from the New York Times couldn’t establish a single financial interest the Koch brothers would have in busting public-sector unions in Wisconsin." And at Power Line, John Hindraker took a look at the numbers, and found that the truth is pretty underwhelming:
Lipton leaves that claim hanging, and never tells his readers how much the Koch PAC contributed to Walker's campaign. In fact, the total was $43,000. That was out of more than $11 million that Walker raised, and $37.4 million that was spent, altogether, on the 2010 race for Governor of Wisconsin. Which means that people associated with Koch Industries contributed a whopping one-tenth of one percent of what was spent on last year's election. So why is the Times running scare headlines about the "Billionaire Brothers' Money?"He also found that big corporate moolah isn't exactly exclusive GOP territory (click to enlarge):
So, is Koch Industries one of the largest sources of political cash, in Wisconsin or elsewhere? Not even close. In fact, nearly all of the top moneybags in politics are on the Democratic side of the aisle [...] You have to get down to number 19 before you find a big-time donor that gives significantly more to Republicans than Democrats. And at $2 million an election cycle, the Kochs have a long way to go before they can be considered big-time contributors.Making boogeymen out of donations from businessmen stems from the Progressive practice of labeling any policy goal or interest that doesn't line up with the Progressive agenda as a "special interest" automatically opposed to the public good. The truth is, all organizations that try to sway policy in either direction on anything - tax cuts, defense spending, health care, Israel, guns, abortion, gay marriage, environmental regulations, education, you name it - have an "interest" of some sort, and can just as easily be defined as a "special interest group."
What's more, of the top 20 donors, 12--more than half--are unions. Isn't there an untold story here? Aren't the Koch brothers lonely rebels who are trying to offset the monolithic power and unparalleled financial muscle of the unions, especially the public employee unions? Isn't that what the Wisconsin story is really about?
Liberals are also alternating between glee and outrage over the audio of a call some foul-mouthed soldier hater named Ian Murphy made to Walker, impersonating David Koch. The talking points on this are that Walker's a moron for falling for it, and it proves he's in cahoots with Koch. But as Ann Althouse points out, it reveals nothing of the sort:
You could say that it's bad that the prankster got through, but that shows that he's willing to talk to a lot of people and also that David Koch isn't a frequent caller who gets special treatment and is recognized by his caller ID and his voice and manner of speaking.Greg Sargent summarizes the "controversial" bits:
Doesn't this prank call prove that Scott Walker is not close to Koch? He doesn't recognize his voice! He doesn't drift into a more personal style of speech. He treats him like a generic political supporter.
Walker doesn't bat an eye when Koch describes the opposition as "Democrat bastards."I wouldn't bat an eye, either. These are Democrats we're talking about.
Walker reveals that he and other Republicans are looking at whether they can charge an "ethics code violation if not an outright felony" if unions are paying for food or lodging for any of the Dem state senators.
Sounds to me like that would be worth looking into. I'm not aware that any of that is going on, and accordingly, Walker hasn't publicly made any such accusation. What's the problem?
Walker says he's sending out notices next week to some five or six thousand state workers letting them know that they are "at risk" of layoffs.Walker's been saying that in public, too. As for "Koch's" reaction, I agree with Althouse: "Walker just ignores that stuff and goes on with his standard points, which is probably the standard strategy that most politicians use when people interact with them."
"Beautiful, beautiful," the Koch impersonator replies. "You gotta crush that union."
In a key detail, Walker reveals that he is, in effect, laying a trap for Wisconsin Dems. He says he is mulling inviting the Senate and Assembly Dem and GOP leaders to sit down and talk, but only if all the missing Senate Dems return to work.Again, what's the problem? Wisconsin Democrats aren't acting in good faith. They're not doing the people's business. Walker is discussing ways to get them to do their jobs. Democrats opened this can of worms by fleeing the state instead of voting. (Besides, it's not as if the Dems don't know the quorum rules themselves.)
Then, tellingly, he reveals that the real game plan here is that if they do return, Republicans might be able to use a procedural move to move forward with their proposal.
"If they're actually in session for that day and they take a recess, this 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they'd have a quorum because they started out that way," he says. "If you heard that I was going to talk to them that would be the only reason why."
Then the fake Koch says this: "Bring a baseball bat. That's what I'd do."Genuine calls to violence are over the line (except when Democrats do it, apparently), but come on. It's a private conversation. People make jokes like this ("knocking some sense into" political foes) all the time. What, do liberals think these guys were conspiring to beat up Democrats? Or to just intimidate them? (Nope, that can't be it - liberals don't have a problem with political intimidation using melee weapons.)
Walker doesn't bat an eye, and responds: "I have one in my office, you'd be happy with that. I've got a slugger with my name on it."
Murphy: "What we were thinking about the crowds was, planting some troublemakers."This is the only snippet of any real potential significance. And yeah, it sounds bad. If somebody in Walker's team really suggested that, I'd like a fuller explanation. However, Walker did not act on any such suggestion. Besides, the thuggery of left-wing and union protesters is so well known that it simply isn't plausible that any reasonably-competent Republican would consider it worthwhile to fake any of it.
Walker: "[Pause]...we thought about that. My only gut reaction to that would be, right now, the lawmakers I talk to have just completely had it with them. The public is not really fond of this.The teachers union did some polling and focus groups [...] My only fear would be if there was a ruckus caused, is that, that would scare the public into thinking, maybe the governor's gotta settle to avoid all these problems. Whereas I'm saying, hey, y'know, people can can handle this, people can protest, this is Madison, y'know, full of the 60s liberals, let 'em protest. It's not gonna affect us. And as long as we go back to our homes and the majority of the people tell us we're doing the right thing, let 'em protest all they want. Um, so that's my gut reaction is that I think it's actually good if they're constant, if they're noisy, but they're quiet, nothing happens, because sooner or later the media stops finding them interesting.
And for what it's worth, two of Althouse's commenters have more charitable, entirely-plausible explanations. Madawaskan says, "Walker does a big pregnant pause when 'Koch' mentions the plants. You can almost tell that Walker is thinking-'crazy' to himself." And liberal Dose of Sanity says, "As far as calling the liberals bastards, 60s liberals, baseball bat, plant protesters, etc etc it seems obvious he's doing that to appease the 'Koch' caller's request - none of those were brought up unsolicited." It seems like Walker was being diplomatic with someone he thought was a supporter, and - quite reasonably - didn't think he needed to waste time with niceties in what he thought was a private conversation.
Walker appears to agree when "Koch" calls David Axelrod a "son of a bitch." Walker tells an anecdote in which he was having dinner with Jim Sensebrenner, and at a nearby table he saw Mika Brzezinski and Greta VanSusteren having dinner with David Axelrod. Then this exchange occured:How dare he? David Axelrod is positively the salt of the earth!
WALKER: I introduced myself.
FAKE KOCH: That son of a bitch.
WALKER: Yeah, no kidding, right?
FAKE KOCH: Well, I'll tell ya what, Scott. Once you crush these bastards, I'll fly ya out to Cali and really show you a good time.Good Lord, Scott Walker responded politely to an invitation! Better start the impeachment proceedings right away!
WALKER: Alright. That would be outstanding. Thanks for all the support and helping us move the cause forward.
If all of the above hasn't sated your Koch thirst, Allahpundit's got his own roundup of Koch coverage, including a response from Koch Foundation execs and a look at some of the foundation's not-so-conservative political causes. Bottom line: the Koch brothers are a couple of run-of-the-mill right-leaning political donors who leftists have decided to drag out of the mud to tarnish Scott Walker and his efforts without engaging the merits of the issue.