Koched Out of Their Skulls


The Kochtopus is back in the news today, after alt-journalism prankster Ian Murphy of the Buffalo Beast called controversial Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pretending to be David Koch, and got 20 minutes of the governor's time. You can listen to the audio, read a partial transcript, and hear from Murphy over at Mother Jones. Longer transcript at the Beast if the website works.

For me the main takeaways were that A) Walker clearly wasn't personally familiar with Koch, B) he let most of the outrageous stuff bounce off him, sticking largely instead to the same kind of boilerplate you've heard from him on TV, with the main exception of C) this troubling exchange in which Walker says he "thought about" planting troublemakers among the protesters:

Koch: We'll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.

Walker: You know, well, the only problem with that —because we thought about that. The problem—the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I've talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this…[explains that planting troublemakers may not work.] My only fear would be if there's a ruckus caused is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems…[something about '60s liberals.]….Let 'em protest all they want…Sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting.

Yes, the transcript is that bad.

A lot of the conversation consisted of this kind of awkwardness:

Koch: Goddamn right! We, uh, we sent, uh, Andrew Breitbart down there.

Walker: Yeah.

Koch: Yeah.

Walker: Good stuff.

Koch: He's our man, you know.

Walker: [blah about his press conferences, attacking Obama, and all the great press he's getting.]

Others were more impressed with the results than I was. Roger Ebert concluded, improbably, that "Now we know what chums people like Walker are on with the far-right Koch brothers." Then there was Michael Moore:

This phone call is the SMOKING GUN. U get 2 hear their plan 2 crush the middle class & take away your right 2 organize. #MadMove #Fascism

Uh, who is "they" in this formulation? Anyway, the stunt, coupled with fresh new Kochs-in-Wisconsin dot-connecting exercises from Mother Jones and The New York Times (do read Ira Stoll's rebuttal to the latter), made Wednesday the official "Koch-whore" day in the ongoing melodrama of Madison. Former Reasoner David Weigel, who is on the scene in Cheeseville, has a good piece over at Slate about all this. My favorite bits:

"I read the legislative summary of the Budget Repair Act," explained Janczy, "and saw the stuff in there about the giveaways for the power plants. I saw the Kochs' fingerprints on that."

She was talking about Section 16.896 of the bill, which empowers Gov. Scott Walker to "sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids." That section started to get attention on Monday; by this morning, Democrats in the state Assembly were using the floor time allotted to them in their quasi-filibuster to ask whether the Kochs were behind it, or interested in buying the plants.

Madison's liberal Capital Times newspaper got a flat denial of that claim. "We have no interest," said Philip Ellender, Koch Companies' president of government and public affairs, "in purchasing any of the state-owned power plants in Wisconsin and any allegations to the contrary are completely false."

I pointed this out to Janczy. "Well," she said, "they may say that, but I don't believe it."

And this:

Democrats in the state Assembly, who had been mentioning the Koch-Walker connections or the no-bid-power-plant theory throughout their debate, took to the floor on Wednesday to ask what Walker knew about Koch and when he knew him.

"These Koch brothers!" said a worried-sounding Rep. Gary Hebl. "These Koch brothers are talking to Gov. Walker!"

After Walker participated in a tense press conference dominated by questions about the Koch tapes, Democratic Rep. Brett Hulsey took questions and explained why the Koch conversation rattled Democrats while confirming their suspicions. The call was evidence of "pay for play."

"It was shocking to us," he said. "We now understand why [Walker] killed the train money, why he killed the wind development, why he killed $46 million of transit money. He's in the pocket of big oil interests."

I asked why this proved that these were things David Koch wanted.

"I'm not going to talk about a vast right-wing conspiracy like Mrs. Clinton," he said, laughing. "But I've seen this movie before."

Like the right's fixation with George Soros, the left's Koch-headedness appears here to stay, particularly now that the Brothers Koch are basically doing what Soros, Peter Lewis, and John Sperling did in 2004: becoming the principle billionaire benefactors of the major political party out of power.

Reason on David Koch–who is on the Board of Trustees of the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason magazine and this website–here. And for those journalists and other lookie-loos who are genuinely interested in the Kochs' pre-Obama history of political and philosophical giving, the book you need is Senior Editor Brian Doherty's Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.