When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took a phone call that he thought was from billionaire campaign donor David Koch, he described the secret meeting of his cabinet at which he outlined the “budget repair bill” that stripped collective bargaining protections from public employees and teachers, replaced civil servants with political cronies and made it possible to sell off public utilities in no-bid deals with out-of-state corporations.
Walker was talking himself up as a new Ronald Reagan, in hopes of impressing one of the primary funders of conservative projects in the United States. But his comments revealed the previously unknown details regarding the political machinations behind a piece of legislation so controversial that it would provoke mass demonstrations, court battles and legislative recall elections.
“This is an exciting time,” the governor told “Koch“ in late February. “This is, you know, I told my cabinet, I had a dinner the Sunday, excuse me, Monday right after the 6th, came home from the Super Bowl where the Packer’s won, that Monday night, I had all my cabinet over to the residence for dinner. Talked about what we were going to do, how we were going to do it, we had already kind of doped plans up, but it was kind of a last hurrah, before we dropped the bomb and I stood up and I pulled out a, a picture of Ronald Reagan and I said you know this may seem a little melodramatic but 30 years ago Ronald Reagan whose 100th birthday we just celebrated the day before um had one of the most defining moments of his political career, not just his presidency, when he fired the air traffic controllers and uh I said to me that moment was more important than just for labor relations and or even the federal budget, that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism because from that point forward the Soviets and the communists knew that Ronald Reagan wasn’t a pushover and uh, I said this may not have as broad a world implications but in Wisconsin’s history—little did I know how big it would be nationally, in Wisconsin’s history, I said, this is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history and this is why it’s so important that they were all there.”
E-mails obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy reveal that the cabinet was indeed present for the meeting. The secretaries and gubernatorial aides who were present are listed. But so, too, is one other key player in the administration: the individual identified in e-mails from key players in the Walker administration as the “point person” for the governor’s push to radically restructure labor relations and state government—a project so significant to Walker that he declared, “This is our moment.”
That person? Cynthia Archer, the subject of last week’s FBI raid, which removed a crate of documents from her Madison home, collected her computer’s hard drive and revealed to most Wisconsinites that a “Joe Doe” probe has targeted key aides to Walker during his service as county executive and governor. The probe remains secret, but leaks associated with it suggest that the focus is political wrongdoing and corruption. One top donor to Walker’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign has already been put on probation after admitting to felony violations of campaign finance and money laundering rules.
The governor says he does not know anything about the inquiry beyond what he has read “in the press.” But Walker’s campaign, which remains a going endeavor, has hired a former US attorney—with extensive experience dealing with federal investigations—to respond to his a subpoena related to the “John Doe” probe for email and other records. And that attorney’s firm has, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, been paid more than $60,000.
Even if we are to believe that Walker is not interested in what’s happening with an investigation into potential wrongdoing by his former aides and his campaign, an investigation that has now extended to include a high-profile FBI raid, he can’t really distance himself from Archer.
A longtime Republican apparatchik, Archer served as Walker’s director of administrative services in Milwaukee County, where she was a key player in developing budgets and advancing Walker’s agenda. When Walker was elected governor, she became his top political appointee in the definitional state agency with regard to the budget fight he planned to initiate: the Department of Administration, where she served as deputy secretary. In August, she moved to a new political position, in Walker’s Department of Children and Families, where her salary is 64 percent higher than that of her predecessor.
Governor Walker’s saying: “We don’t know what exactly is involved. As far as what I know is what I’ve been reading in the press. I don’t have any more information beyond that.” But Wisconsinites who know the governor as one of the most engaged and focused political figures in the state’s history, a detail man who works long hours and keeps his hand in every aspect of his campaigns and his administrations, will be excused if they treat such statements with a measure of skepticism.