image: Wisconsin Gov Scott Walker

Walker’s Plan in Wisconsin: Divide and Conquer

As if there was any remaining question about what it was all about, there is none now. The surprise attack by Gov. Scott Walker on public employee collective bargaining in February 2011 was done not to balance Wisconsin’s budget, cut the state’s structural deficit or to “save” the jobs of public employees. Oh that’s what Walker and his allies claimed and many Wisconsinites still haven’t seen through it. Yet. There are many ways to balance the budget, eliminate the structural deficit and prevent employee layoffs. The Walker “bomb” was packaged to be sold as an economic measure to help Wisconsin.

But the action—which has torn Wisconsin apart—was done far more to gain partisan political advantage than it was to improve Wisconsin’s economic climate.

Now we know, without any doubt, that the attack on public employees was first and foremost political. It was done to transform Wisconsin into a red state (solidly Republican) by crushing the political power of unions and others who have often supported Democratic candidates in Wisconsin. Walker, just two weeks after being inaugurated in January 2011, went to Beloit to see Diane Hendricks, the billionaire owner of ABC Building Supply and a strong Walker supporter. Hendricks has contributed more than $500,000 to Walker since last year, making her the single largest campaign contributor in the history of Wisconsin! She wanted something big from Walker and he told her he would deliver. And then, he did. It is quid pro quo politics at its most dramatic.

In this amazing video, Hendricks and Walker have this exchange:


Hendricks: Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions

Walker: Oh, yeah

Hendricks: …and become a right-to-work? What can we do to help you?

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.

The complete story was broken by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Still think big money has no role in Wisconsin politics? If so, you must be living in a cave in the woods. Under a rock.

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About Jay Heck

Jay Heck is executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin.

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