Tom Barrett is already raising money off of potentially explosive video footage reported late Thursday by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, in which a then newly elected Gov. Scott Walker tells his largest donor that he intends to pursue a "divide and conquer" strategy as the first step in diffusing union power.
Barrett's fundraising plea begins: "We all know Scott Walker didn't tell the truth to the people of Wisconsin about his private plans for an ideological civil war. But now there is never-before-seen footage of Walker talking to a Koch Brothers strategist that proves it."
In the video clip, Walker donor Diane Hendricks -- a billionaire from Beloit who, according to Journal-Sentinel reporters Jason Stein and Patrick Marley, has given Walker's campaign $510,000, making her the largest donor to Walker and the largest known donor to a candidate in state history -- asks Walker whether he could "work on these unions" and make Wisconsin a "right-to-work" state. He answers, "Oh, yeah." Their discussion happens at about the 7:30 mark in the video below.
Here's the rest of his answer from the transcript:
Walker: 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. So for us the base we've got 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. So you think city of Beloit, city of Janesville, any of the school districts, that opens the door once we do that. That's your bigger problem right there.
"Right-to-work" laws prohibit private-sector unions from requiring employees to pay union dues if they choose not to join the union.
The transcript makes clear Walker knew he was being filmed. The video was shot on Tuesday, January 18, a few weeks before Walker introduced his "budget repair bill" that would successfully curtail collective bargaining rights for most public employees. Filmmaker Brad Lichenstein shot the conversation as part of As Goes Janesville, a docmentary for the economic development group, Rock County 5.0. Hendricks co-chairs the group along with Mary Willmer-Sheedy, a community bank president for M&I Bank, who was also part of the conversation.
The documentary attempts to capture efforts under way to create jobs in the Janesville area in the wake of the closing of the General Motors plant. Marley and Stein report that the filmmaker gave $100 in 2010 to Barrett, who lost to Walker then and is now facing him again in the June 5 recall election.
Marley and Stein note that Walker sponsored a right-to-work bill while a state assembly representative in 1993 but has said he would not push such legislation as governor. But the reporters also point out that he has repeatedly declined to say what he would do if the Legislature passed it and sent it to him for signing.
Walker's spokesperson Ciara Matthews chose her words carefully in responding to the article: "Governor Walker has made clear repeatedly that he does not have an interest in pushing right-to-work legislation."