Friday, February 25, 2011

Ethics fallout from the Koch prank call to Wisconsin's Walker

Yesterday, PR Watch pointed out some interesting implications from Daily Beast's Ian Murphy's prank call to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Murphy pretended to be billionaire David Koch, who has been a big Walker funder both through PAC donations and to groups supporting his campaign. Aside from the tacky factor--Walker hadn't been taking calls from the Senate minority leader but he had 20 minutes to eagerly bring a big time funder up to date on the situation--PR Watch points out some basic ethical implications from the content of the call, not to mention some overlooked provisions in the so called "budget repair bill."

For instance, did you know there's provisions in the bill "allowing the no-bid sell-off of any state-owned heating, cooling, or power plant, plus new rules on pipeline transport"? Koch interest include a pipeline system that crosses Wisconsin, a power plant company, and a company that distributes fuel through pipelines and terminals in four Wisconsin cities. Which company might be first in line for state energy infrastructure if the governor decided to raise some quick cash by privatizing them?

Walker's on-call plan to lay off state workers to strongarm Democrats into cooperation may also be in conflict with state labor and contract law. And there's a strong whiff of "pay to play" in the call, as the PR Watch article points out:

Wisconsin has the toughest ethics law in the nation... You can't even take a cup of coffee from a lobbyist.

Earlier in the call, Walker had asked the fake Koch for help "spreading the word," especially in the "swing" districts, in defense of his determination to break the unions, and help get calls in to shore up his Republican allies in the legislature. Walker benefited from a high-dollar "issue ad" campaign by groups funded by Koch group before the election. Americans for Prosperity, which Koch chairs, also promoted and funded a couple thousand counter-protestors last Saturday.

On the same day that the scandal broke here in Wisconsin, Americans for Prosperity went up with a $342,000 TV ad campaign in support of Walker –- an enormous sum in a state like Wisconsin. If such ads are effectively coordinated with the Governor's office, they may be subject to rules requiring greater disclosure of expenditures and contributors.

Toward the end of the call, the fake Koch offers to fly Walker out to California, after they "crush the bastards," and show him "a good time," to which Walker responds enthusiastically, "All right, that would be outstanding." But, Wisconsin rules bar state officials from taking action for something of value. After Walker agrees to the junket, the fake Koch adds, "And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well" to which Walker responds, "Well that's just it."

The full article is here.

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