Wisconsin Newspapers Lead With "Koch" Prank

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 24 2011 8:10 AM

Wisconsin Newspapers Lead With "Koch" Prank

MADISON, Wisc. -- I have a story up at the main page about the role the Koch brothers are playing, and the role protesters think they're playing, in Wisconsin. My position on this has always been that money is part of politics; everybody in politics contributes in order to have influence; and attempts to discredit ideas by attacking the sources of campaign donations are fairly cheap. (For the record, I have worked both at Reason, which is funded in part by David Koch, and The Center for Independent Media, which has been funded in part by George Soros's Open Society Institute. This might have something to do with my laissez faire attitude.)

So that article irritated some liberal readers. I noticed something more interesting on Wednesday -- writing about the Kochs, and the Buffalo Beast "David Koch" prank on Scott Walker, was irritating conservative readers who considered the prank story illegitimate. Driving to the capitol, listening to 620 am, I heard local conservative talkers promise to hold "accountable" reporters who hyped the story.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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Well, what defines whether a story is legitimate? The capitol was fairly festooned with anti-Koch signs, the governor made news in the prank call, and I see that newspapers today are leading with the prank story.

The lede from the Wisconsin State Journal:

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, believing he was speaking with abillionaire campaign contributor, said he "thought about" plantingtroublemakers among people protesting his bill to limit collectivebargaining and discussed confidential strategies for pushing thebill through — all with a New York blogger who recorded thetelephone call.

And some original spin:

Toward the end of the call, the prankster tells Walker "Once youcrush these bastards, I'll fly you out to Cali and really show youa good time."

Walker replies on the recording: "All right, that would beoutstanding."

State ethics laws say public officials "should not accept orretain transportation, lodging, meals, food or beverage ...furnished by a lobbyist or by a lobbyist's employer." KochIndustries has seven registered lobbyists in Wisconsin.

The Journal Sentinel ledes :

Scott Walker took a prank phone call Tuesday, and Wisconsin learned a lot about its new governor.

A recording of the call released Wednesday spelled out Walker's strategies for dealing with protesting union workers and trying to lure Democrats boycotting the state Senate back to Wisconsin.

And the piece goes into the details of Koch campaign funding in 2010, Koch funding of Americans for Prosperity, etc. Fact is, the prank call was impossible to ignore, and it guaranteed that the connection of national libertarian/industrialist money to Wisconsin conservatives would be a bigger part of this story.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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