He tells a billionaire donor about his “divide and conquer” anti-union strategy – on camera
Scott Walker’s hopes of surviving Wisconsin’s June 5 recall election in part depend on his ability to convince voters that he’s only worried about a very particular type of union – and only because of fiscal issues, not philosophical ones. Democrats’ hopes of ousting him depend in part on convincing voters this isn’t true, and that their governor is waging an ideological war on all unions.
This is why a newly-released video could be very significant. The video, which was shot by a pro-Tom Barrett filmmaker who is working on a documentary, shows Walker in January 2011 talking with Diana Hendricks, the billionaire owner of a roofing company. She asks him if there’s any chance he’ll be able to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state. Walker tells her that “we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.”
Those last three words are the key. The bill to strip public employees of their right to bargain collectively was introduced a few weeks after Walker’s chat with Hendricks, prompting protests of an unprecedented scale in Madison and giving rise to the recall effort. Walker has long argued that he was responding to a budgetary emergency, and that unduly generous contracts won by public sector unions were a big reason for it. His desire, the line goes, was merely to correct a flawed system that encouraged elected officials to commit huge sums of taxpayer money to public employees, for fear of incurring their wrath in elections.
What Walker swears he wasn’t – and isn’t – interested in doing is taking power away from private sector unions. There’s a very practical reason for this. In Wisconsin, an unusually large segment of the electorate – 26 percent, in the most recent statewide election — is composed of voters from union households. (Nationally, the figure is 17 percent.) And the union tradition is ingrained in the state’s history. So Walker, in his public comments, routinely distinguishes between the two types of unions. “Private sector unions,” he said recently, “have been our partner in the economic revival we’ve had in this state. A bigger issue is the impact the public-sector unions have had on the taxpayers.”
Union leaders and their Democratic allies have been pleading with voters to see this as a ruse, a way for Walker to divide the union movement by pitting public employees against private sector workers. Which makes the new video so powerful. Here is the governor conversing with a billionaire (who later gave $500,000 to his campaign) and telling her all about his “divide and conquer” strategy against union power. Granted, it’s not clear if Walker is actually laying out a road map to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state (a complete transcript of the exchange isn’t much help), but the video basically conveys everything that Democrats have been trying to get voters to see about him. And its run-time is 28 seconds – ready-made for a television ad.
Steve Kornacki writes about politics for Salon. Reach him by email at SKornacki@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveKornacki More Steve Kornacki.
More Related Stories
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
- Coburn calls questions about tornado aid "typical Washington B.S."
- Conspiracy theorists clash over London attack
- Voting is not a right
- Destroying the planet for record profits
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Pic of the day: Barack Obama at prom
- Anti-Islam backlash in London after machete attack
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Obama’s drone speech will probably be maddening
- Boehner: "Inconceivable" Obama didn't know about IRS targeting
- Obama to announce new effort to close Guantanamo Bay
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- Judge tells lesbian couple to separate -- or lose kids
- Obama to address drones, Guantánamo
- If Alex Pareene were a cable news executive...
- Portland's senseless war on fluoride
- Graphic video reportedly shows possible London machete attack suspect
- What economists get wrong about the jobs crisis
- Ted Cruz: "I don't trust the Republicans"
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11
War Room is our political news and commentary blog, with coverage and commentary throughout the day.