A newly released video in Wisconsin could potentially have profound effects on the state’s recall election: Republican Gov. Scott Walker shown telling a wealthy supporter in January 2011 — before he introduced his legislation to roll back collective bargaining for public employees — that it was part of a “divide and conquer” strategy to take down organized labor, and potentially turn Wisconsin into a right-to-work state.
The video, posted Thursday night by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, was shot on January 18, 2011, by documentary filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein, as part of a documentary project “As Goes Janesville,” about that industrial city’s efforts to recover from the loss of their old General Motors Plant. The Journal Sentinel notes that Lichtenstein has donated $100 to Walker’s Democratic opponent in the recall, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
The video clip shows Walker meeting with Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks, who has since donated $510,000 to Walker’s campaign. Hendricks asked: “Any chance we’ll get to be a completely red state, and work on these unions, and become a right-to-work — what can we do to help you?”
“Well, we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill,” Walker said. “The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer. So for us, the base we get for that is the fact that we’ve got - budgetarily we can’t afford not to. If we have collective bargaining agreements in place, there’s no way not only the state but local governments can balance things out…That opens the door once we do that. That’s your bigger problem right there.”
The Barrett campaign has posted this video excerpt, which also includes Barrett’s campaign appeal to “bring Wisconsin together again.”
A month after that video was shot, of course, Walker introduced his legislation to curtail public employee unions, as part of a budget adjustment bill — setting off a wave of massive protests at the state Capitol and all across Wisconsin, followed by last year’s state legislative recalls, and finally the ongoing recall of Walker himself, his lieutenant governor, and four state senators.
Walker has denied allegations that he would make Wisconsin a right-to-work state — for example, this past January his office reiterated to the Journal Sentinel that Walker would not be introducing such legislation.
In response to the new video, Walker campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews again told the paper: “Governor Walker has made clear repeatedly that he does not have an interest in pushing right-to-work legislation.”
The video does summon up an obvious comparison to another Walker moment from 2011: His 20-minute phone call in late February, at the height of the protests against his anti-public employee union legislation, with a blogger posing as conservative financier David Koch.
During the call, Walker boasted of the surprising nature of the legislation he was set to introduce — contradicting Republican assertions that Walker had campaigned on a platform of making the anti-union changes:
“Yeah, well, thanks. This is an exciting time. This is — you know, I told my cabinet, I had a dinner the Sunday, or excuse me, the Monday right after the 6th. Came home from the Super Bowl where the Packers won, and that Monday night I had all of my cabinet over to the residence for dinner. Talked about what we were gonna do, how we were gonna do it. We’d already kinda built plans up, but it was kind of the last hurrah before we dropped the bomb.”