Another Absurd Lie: Walker Has "No Memory" of Signing Feingold-Kohl Recall Petitions

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In December of 1997, I started working for Russ Feingold's re-election campaign as his Communications and Research Director.

When I started, there weren't a lot of staffers on board yet so I was often the one that went out to observe events of Feingold's likely opponent-- Mark Neumann.  I went to dozens and dozens of Neumann events, trying to build an issues file on Neumann.

At the time, Neumann's marquee issue was the so-called partial birth abortion ban, which had become such an intense issue in Wisconsin that Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold nearly had to face a recall election over it earlier in 1997.  (Ultimately the recall effort fell short by a few thousand signatures.)   

Because of this almost tunnel vision focus on partial birth abortion, Neumann was a frequent attendee of pro-life and Christian Coalition-esqe events around Wisconsin.  Another regular attendee at these events was a young state legislator named Scott Walker. 

At the time, Neumann was a distant second to Scott Walker as the champion of the pro-life movement in Wisconsin.  Walker was far and away the leading point person in the state house for all abortion-related issues and had then recently authored legislation banning "partial birth abortion" in Wisconsin, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time:

"If the U.S. Senate doesn't have the guts to take on the president on this issue, we must take action here in Wisconsin," said Rep. Scott Walker (R-Wauwatosa). "One way or another we must out an end to this gruesome act."

I probably heard Walker speak at these kind of events five or six times. I remember him because, like Walker, I am originally from a small town in Iowa and also earned the rank of Eagle Scout-- two talking points that Walker used then as much as he uses now.

And, because Walker was at these events with Neumann, the issue of partial birth abortion and Feingold's alleged support of it was the focus of Walker's speeches.  My specific recollection is that Walker said, on multiple occasions, something in the vein of: We came up a little short with the recall effort, but that effort was not a wasted effort. History will remember it as the first step in Feingold's 1998 defeat.

The reason I remember that particular line is that we were trying to make the case that the 1997 recall campaign was not a grassroots movement, but a GOP-backed effort that at best would trigger a recall election over an issue that was deeply unpopular with the public and at worst would weaken the populist image of Feingold as he prepared for his 1998 reelection. We were specifically concerned that Neumann and the GOP was using the hundreds of thousands that signed the recall as fundraising and organizing tools to defeat Feingold.

However, now Walker is making the absurd claim that he was not only not a leader of the recall Feingold / Kohl movement, but told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that didn't even sign the petition, claiming that he has "no memory" of signing the recall petitions against Kohl and Feingold and that "I don't believe that I did."

To suggest that Walker wasn't a leader of the 1997 effort to recall Feingold and Kohl, and that he didn't even sign the petition, would be about as absurd as saying that not only was Marty Beil not a leader of the 2012 recall of Walker over labor issues, but didn't even sign the petition. 

Oh, but it gets even better: The database of names that signed the recall petitions was supposedly destroyed by the 1997 recall organizers "years ago," leaving behind no evidence.

Except there is evidence: when First Breath Alliance-- the name of the recall group-- was closing down their shop, they had some cash on hand.  To whom do you think they gave that money? Yep: Scott Walker.

Walker is lying because he can.

Once again, he is banking on being able to have the best of both worlds:  He is so deeply entrenched in the pro-life community that he won't alienate any of them by feigning memory loss about his involvement in the 1997 recall effort with and he doesn't have to worry about the Wisconsin media, which is too stupid to point out the absurdity of a rabidly pro-life Walker distancing himself from the biggest pro-life event in Wisconsin history.