There is no longer any question that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s sworn testimony before Congress has been contradicted by videotaped evidence of the controversial governor discussing with his top campaign donor a “divide and conquer” political scheme to undermine organized labor and make Wisconsin “a completely red state.”
Now, however, there is new evidence to suggest that Walker’s testimony to Congress about when he began preparing his anti-labor legislation—which sparked mass demonstrations and a recall movement that will culminate with a June 5 vote on whether to recall the governor—was not truthful.
The growing controversy over the governor’s testimony led three veteran members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee—who had previously contacted committee chairman Darrell Issa with their concerns—to write Walker directly on Friday.
The ranking Democratic member of the committee, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, has joined Connecticut Congressman Chris Murphy and Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly in asking Walker whether he would like to withdraw the testimony he gave before the committee in April 2011.
That’s an unsettling challenge for a sitting governor.
But Walker is in an unsettling circumstance.
The governor told the committee that he had not engaged in discussions about enacting anti-labor legislation in order to undermine political opponents. But there is now video evidence that he had just such a discussion with Diane Hendricks, a billionaire campaign donor who would eventually give Walker’s campaign $510,000, in January 2011.
In commentary accompanying the letter, the staff of the Oversight Committee notes: “Despite testifying under oath that he never ‘had a conversation with respect to [his] actions in Wisconsin and using them to punish members of the opposition party and their donor base,’ a newly uncovered video taken three months earlier shows Walker explaining to one of his biggest financial donors that he plans to use a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy against public sector workers in order to turn Wisconsin into a ‘completely red state.’ ”
With those details in mind, Cummings, Murphy and Connolly wrote:
Dear Governor Walker:
On May 21, 2012, we wrote to Rep. Darrell Issa, the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, requesting that he send a letter asking you to explain your testimony before our Committee on April 14, 2011, particularly in light of a new videotape taken of you three months before the hearing and an article published by The Nation entitled, “Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath to Congress?” Letter from Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings and Committee Members Gerry Connolly and Christopher Murphy to Chairman Darrell E. Issa (May 21, 2012) (online at http://democrats.oversight.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5701&Itemid=104).
On May 22, you were asked about our letter by your local Fox affiliate, but rather than addressing the substance of our request, you accused us of acting politically because we did not send a letter directly to you. Walker Responds to Allegations He Lied Under Oath, Fox 6 News (May 22, 2012) (online at www.fox6now.com/2012/05/22/walker-responds-to-allegations-he-lied-under-oath/) (stating “I think the fact that they’ve sent it to you before I’ve even seen it suggests that it’s a political issue”).
To address your concerns, it may be helpful to explain why we wrote to Chairman Issa instead of to you. Pursuant to our Committee’s protocols, the Chairman typically writes letters on behalf of the entire Committee to seek clarification of previous testimony, to forward questions for the record from Committee Members, and for other purposes relating to witness testimony at Committee hearings. Chairman Issa has written several letters to witnesses this Congress when he believed they were not being truthful or when new information came to light suggesting that their testimony was not accurate.
Since you appear willing to entertain our inquiries directly, we ask that you submit to the Committee written answers to the following three simple questions no later than June 1, 2012:
Do you dispute that you met with Diane Hendricks, one of your top donors, on January 18, 2011?
Do you dispute that, in response to a question from Ms. Hendricks about whether Wisconsin could become “a completely red state,” you responded “Oh, yeah,” and that your “first step” as Governor would be to “deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions” in order to “divide and conquer”?
In light of your answers to these questions, do you now wish to withdraw your sworn testimony before the Committee in which you asserted that you never “had a conversation with respect to your actions in Wisconsin and using them to punish members of the opposition party and their donor base”?
In the interview with your local Fox affiliate, you stated that “the facts are the facts.” We agree, and in this instance, the facts were captured on videotape.
It is critical for Congress to obtain accurate information from witnesses who testify before the Committee in order to help inform our policy decisions. Your videotaped conversation with Ms. Hendricks not only raises serious concerns about the accuracy of your testimony before the Committee, but it undermines the entire rationale put forward for your unprecedented campaign against public sector workers.
We look forward to receiving your responses to our questions.
This demand may not be the last of the Congressional concerns about whether Walker lied to the committee.
When he testified in April 2011, Walker told the committee that he launched his assault on collective-bargaining rights for public employees and teachers in response to moves by public-sector unions. The governor volunteered that “in December, after the elections but before I was sworn into office, the public sector unions and the state rushed to the lame-duck session Legislature and to the Governor and tried to pass through contracts that would have locked us into a dire financial situation.”
Around the same time, in a media interview, Walker said, “We don’t have a specific plan yet” for dealing with the unions.
Now, however, drafting documents obtained by a Madison radio station, WTDY, have revealed that Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau was asked to begin drafting Walker’s anti-labor legislation in November, weeks before the legislative session Walker described to Congress. Cathlene Hanaman, the Deputy Chief at the Legislative Reference Bureau, has confirmed that she was assigned in November to draft the legislation. In addition, while the governor claimed he was forced to act against the unions because of a budget emergency, it has now been confirmed that Department of Administration budget specialists were working on the project in December.
In other words, neither the timeline nor the circumstances that Walker described to the Congressional committee appear to have been accurate.
“There are serious questions about the governor’s testimony that need to be answered,” says Connolly, the Virginia congressman who questioned Walker when he appeared before the Oversight Committee and who now is asking the governor to explain the contradictions in his testimony.
“My issue here is that people tell the truth, especially when they’re under oath before a Congressional committee, and before anybody casts a vote in this pending recall election, they’re entitled to know if the two candidates are telling the truth. In this case, this is under oath,” says Connolly. “This isn’t a pass off statement at a press conference. This is prepared testimony and answers to questions in a Congressional hearing under oath.”