Scott Walker’s new book seeks to portray the governor of Wisconsin as an “unintimidated” political warrior, ever at the ready to advance the conservative cause.
That, like Walker’s suggestion that his austerity agenda has been successful, is a fantasy grounded in his ambition rather than reality.
In fact, Walker is a particularly intimidated politician.
When Walker ran for governor in 2006, he framed a reform message that talked about ending crony capitalism and addressing the influence of special-interest campaign money and lobbying on the state budget process. In meetings with The Capital Times and other papers, he pitched himself as a different kind of Republican who would not play insider political games. Walker earned some high marks for his message, but national Republicans were unimpressed with his campaign.
In March 2006, just days after he met with Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, and barely a week after a visit to the state by Vice President Dick Cheney, Walker folded his gubernatorial campaign.
No “unintimidated” stand against the Washington power brokers. No fight to the end on behalf of his ideals. No faith that a grass-roots campaign could beat the money power.
Four years later Walker was back, with a better fundraising operation. This time, he had all the right connections. National donors, like Charles and David Koch, made maximum contributions to his campaign, and then gave even more money to groups making “independent” expenditures on Walker’s behalf.
He won, and in February 2011, when he got a call from someone he thought was David Koch, Walker played along with the caller’s talk about “planting some troublemakers” to disrupt peaceful protests against the governor’s anti-labor policies. Walker writes in his book that “we never — never — considered putting ‘troublemakers’ in the crowd to discredit the protesters.” Yet, when he was talking to someone he thought was a billionaire campaign donor, the governor said: “We thought about that.” If we take Walker at his word — that he never considered using agent provocateurs — then why didn’t he say so at the time? Was he intimidated by someone he thought was a major campaign donor?
The same question arises regarding Walker’s conversation with Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks, who gave $500,000 to his 2012 campaign. Walker has said he has “no interest in pursuing right-to-work legislation” to weaken private-sector unions. Yet, when Hendricks asked him about right-to-work legislation, Walker did not say, “We’re not going to do that.” Rather, he told Hendricks his “first step” would be to attack public-sector unions as part of a “divide-and-conquer” strategy.
Walker imagines he is “unintimidated.” And perhaps that is the case when he is picking on teachers and nurses. But when the party bosses and billionaire donors come calling, he’s just another politician telling the money power what it wants to hear.