Feb. 23, 2011 -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker today defended comments he made to an alt-news reporter posing as billionaire conservative activist David Koch on a prank phone call, arguing that he never said anything inappropriate and wasn't trying to trick Democrats.
"The bottom line is that the things I've said are things I've said publicly all along," Walker said at a press conference this afternoon. "I'm not going to allow one prank phone call to be a disruption from the reality."
In the 20-minute phone conversation, first posted online at BuffaloBeast.com, Walker revealed his strategy for breaking Democratic and union opposition to his budget.
Even as he called on outside groups -- specifically Washington lawmakers -- to keep out of the Wisconsin debate, Walker argued that it wasn't inappropriate for him to take a phone call from a third party not involved in the debate.
"It's not [a] campaign. What we're talking about right now, we're free to discuss with people all across the state who are interested in this issue," he said.
"I don't hide in my office, I don't hide in another state. I'm here doing my job pointing out the facts," he added, referring to Democrats who went to Illinois to prevent the vote from taking place.
The governor's critics say the immediate access granted to the Koch pretender and the length of their conversation illustrates a damning tie between outside influences and what they see as an orchestrated effort to bust unions.
This is "unadulterated complete nonsense" and "absolute union busting," said Democratic State Rep. Brett Hulsey from the podium immediately following Walker's press conference.
Meanwhile, a conservative group founded by the real David Koch, Americans for Prosperity, announced it would buy more than $300,000 in television advertising to support the governor in his standoff with state government workers.
While Walker's comments during the taped phone call closely tracked what he has said publicly -- expressing refusal to compromise or negotiate with Democrats -- they shed new light on the tactics he has considered to discredit his opponents and move the budget process forward.
The Republican governor's budget would, among other things, strip state employees of their collective bargaining rights and trim their benefits. Democrats have protested the plan and some lawmakers have fled the state to block the legislature from moving forward.
In the phone conversation, Walker said he was investigating whether the unions were paying food and lodging expenses of the 14 Democratic senators believed to be hiding out in Illinois. "If the unions have been paying to put these guys up out of state we think at the minimum there's an ethics code violation if not a felony," he said.
The governor also indicated on the call that his overtures to Democrats to "sit down and talk" have an ulterior motive.
Once the Democrats register their presence in the chamber during the session, Walker said, Republicans may be able to proceed to move the bill forward, whether or not the Democrats were present for the final vote.
"Legally, we believe once they've gone into session, they don't physically have to be there," Walker said. "My sense is hell, I'll talk to them. If they want to yell at me for an hour, I'm used to that. But I'm not negotiating."
Walker today said that comment didn't imply he was trying to trick Democrats.
"I think that's a thing I've said time and time again in front of you all here and have stated very frankly," he told reporters.
The prankster pretending to be Koch also asked Walker whether "troublemakers" should be "planted" into the protests, presumably to discredit their efforts. Walker revealed that he and his aides "thought about that," but decided against it.
"My only fear would be that if there was a ruckus caused, that would scare the public into thinking that maybe the governor's got to settle to avoid all these problems," Walker said.
"I think it's actually good if [the protesters are] constant, they're noisy, but they're quiet and nothing happens. Because sooner or later, the media stops finding them interesting."
At his press conference today, the governor said that "all sorts of options" were brought to him and his staff by outside groups, but that he didn't think implementing them was a good idea.
Walker Defends Comments on Call
The governor's office earlier today said the call showed the governor's "appreciation for an commitment to civil discourse" and repairing the state budget.
"The phone call shows that the governor says the same thing in private as he does in public and the lengths that others will go to disrupt the civil debate Wisconsin is having," Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said in a statement.
The reporter behind the prank, known as "Murphy" on BuffaloBeast.com, wrote in a blog post that he devised the scheme to reach Walker after Democrats had complained of not being able to engage Walker on a path forward.
Murphy said that attempts to set up a call with Walker using Koch's name were surprisingly easy.
When he reached Keith Gilkes, Walker's chief of staff, "Murphy" explained that he wanted to talk directly to Walker.
"He said that could be arranged and that I should just leave my number. I explained to Gilkes, 'My goddamn maid, Maria, put my phone in the washer. I'd have her deported, but she works for next to nothing.' Gilkes found this amusing. 'I'm calling from the VOID—with the VOID, or whatever it's called. You know, the Snype!'" he said of the exchange on his blog.
Gilkes then apparently gave Murphy the number to call Walker directly at the approved time.
The Koch immitator ended the 20-minute call with a promise and encouragement to Walker.
"Well I tell you what Scott, once you crush these bastards I'll fly you out to Cali and show you a good time," the man posing as Koch said.
"Alright, that would be outstanding," said Walker. "Thanks for all the support and helping us move the cause forward."
ABC News' Barbara Pinto contributed to this report.