When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker met with a billionaire campaign donor a month before he launched his attack on the collective-bargaining rights of public-sector workers and public-school teachers, he engaged in a detailed discussion about undermining unions as part of a broader strategy of strengthening the position of his Republican party.
After he initiated those attacks, Governor Walker testified under oath to a Congressional committee. He was asked during the April 2011 hearing to specifically address the question of whether he set out to weaken unions—which traditionally back Democrats and which are expected to play a major role in President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign—for political purposes. Walker replied: “It’s not about that for me.”
During the same hearing, Walker was asked whether he “ever had a conversation with respect to your actions in Wisconsin and using them to punish members of the opposition party and their [union] donor base?”
Walker replied, not once but twice, that the answer was “no.”
So, did the governor of Wisconsin lie, under oath, to Congress? The videotape of Walker talking with Diane Hendricks, the Beloit, Wisconsin, billionaire who would eventually give his campaign more than $500,000, surfaced late last week. Captured in January 2011 by a documentary filmmaker who was trailing Hendricks, the conversation provides rare insight into the governor’s long-term strategy for dividing Wisconsin. And the focus of the conversation and the strategy is by all evidence a political one.
In the video, Walker is shown meeting with Hendricks before an economic development session at the headquarters of a firm Hendricks owns, ABC Supply Inc., in Beloit. After Walker kisses Henricks, she asks: “Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions?”
“Oh, yeah!” says Walker.
Henricks then asks: “And become a right-to-work [state]?”
Walker replies: “Well, 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.”
After describing the strategy, Walker tells the woman who asked him about making Wisconsin a “completely red state”: “That opens the door once we do that.”
In a transcript of raw footage from the conversation, Hendricks asks Walker if he has a role model. Walker replies that he has high regard for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who early in his term used an executive order to strip collective-bargaining rights away from public employees and who, more recently, signed right-to-work legislation. Walker described the use of the executive order to undermine union rights as a “beautiful thing” and bemoaned the fact that he would have to enact legislation to achieve the same end in Wisconsin.