MADISON, Wis. —On a prank call that quickly spread across the Internet, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was duped into discussing his strategy to cripple public employee unions, promising never to give in and joking that he would use a baseball bat in his office to go after political opponents.
Walker believed the caller was billionaire David Koch, but it was actually the editor of a liberal online newspaper. The two talked for at least 20 minutes — a conversation in which the governor described several potential ways to pressure Democrats to return to the Statehouse and revealed that his supporters had considered secretly planting people in pro-union protest crowds to stir up trouble.
"The caller was not David Koch, and we have no further response to this fraudulent act at this time," Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel for Koch Industries, said in a statement.
The call, which surfaced Wednesday, also showed Walker's relationship with Charles and David Koch, who have poured millions of dollars into conservative political causes, including Walker's campaign last year.
Walker compared his stand to that taken by President Reagan when he fired the nation's air-traffic controllers during a labor dispute in 1981.
"That was the first crack in the Berlin Wall and led to the fall of the Soviets," Walker said on the recording.
The audio was posted by the Buffalo Beast, a left-leaning website based in Buffalo, N.Y., and quickly went viral.
Ian Murphy said he carried out the prank to show how candidly Walker would speak with Koch even though, according to Democrats, he refuses to return their calls.
Murphy said he arranged the call Tuesday after speaking with two Walker aides, including the governor's chief of staff. He placed the call using Skype and recorded it.
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie confirmed that it was Walker's voice on the call. At a news conference, Walker acknowledged being deceived but stuck to his message that the union changes were needed to balance Wisconsin's budget.
"I'm not going to let one prank phone call be a distraction from the job we have to do," Walker said. "The things I said are the things I've said publicly all the time."
On the call, the governor said he was ratcheting up the pressure on Senate Democrats to return to the Capitol a week after they fled to block the legislation. He said he supported a move to require them to come to the Capitol to pick up their paychecks rather than have the money deposited directly.
He also floated an idea to lure Democratic senators back to the Capitol for negotiations and then have the Senate quickly pass the bill while they are in talks.
Democrats seized on Walker's recorded comments as evidence that the governor plans to go beyond budget cuts to crushing unions.
"This isn't about balancing the budget. This is about a political war," Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee yelled Wednesday on the floor of the state Assembly.
The governor's plan would strip most public employees of their collective bargaining rights and force them to pay more for their health care and retirement benefits. Unions could not collect mandatory dues and would be forced to conduct annual votes of their members to stay in existence.
The proposal has set off more than a week of protests at the Capitol.
On the call, Walker said he expected the anti-union movement to spread across the country and he had spoken with the governors of Ohio and Nevada. The man pretending to be Koch seemed to agree, telling Walker, "You're the first domino."
"Yep, this is our moment," Walker responded.
The remarks showed Walker's private relationship with David Koch. He and his brother, Charles, own Wichita-based Koch Industries Inc., which has significant operations in Wisconsin.
Its political action committee gave $43,000 to Walker's campaign, and David Koch gave $1 million to the Republican Governors' Association, which funded ads attacking Walker's opponent in last year's election.
The Kochs also give millions to support Americans For Prosperity, a business group that launched a $320,000 television ad campaign in favor of Walker's legislation Wednesday.
On the recording, after Walker said he would be willing to meet with Democratic leaders, the caller said he should bring a baseball bat to negotiations.
Walker laughed and responded that he had "a slugger with my name on it."
The caller suggested he was thinking about "planting some troublemakers" among the protesters, and Walker said his administration had thought about doing that, too, but decided against it. Walker said the protests eventually would die because the media would stop covering them.
Walker told reporters the plan to bring in outside agitators was one of many ideas his supporters and aides have raised that were dismissed.
At the end of the call, the prankster says: "I'll tell you what, Scott, once you crush (them), I'll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time."
"All right, that would be outstanding," Walker replies, adding that the standoff is "all about getting our freedoms back."