Photo by Kristen BonsI really love my job. Seriously. I work at home on my couch, and let's face it, there's never a dull moment in politics. One of my favorite things is people sending me pieces of information that they think I'd be interested in.
This morning, someone sent a link to some information on a conference call to be held by Wisconsin Gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker. His main opponent in the Republican primary, Mark Neumann, has claimed that Walker increased spending by 35 percent during his time as Milwaukee County Executive.
Scott Walker claims this is a lie based on cooked books by Neumann's team and bloggers at One Wisconsin Now.
I didn't really understand the blurb on Walker's website addressing this issue.
It appears that Mark Neumann is using the same cooked up numbers from the bloggers at One Wisconsin Now for a "comparison." What Neumann has conveniently left out, is that Scott had the foresight to take advantage of one-time, low interest federal government Build America Bonds by proposing three years of building in one -- a move that saved the taxpayers $3 million. Without these bonds Scott's 2010 capital budget reduces spending by 4.9%. Voters are smart enough to look at the hundreds of millions of dollars Scott has saved for the taxpayers, instead of listening to the rhetoric and skewed numbers coming from the Neumann campaign and One Wisconsin Now.
What does that even mean? Are Neumann's numbers really wrong? Instead of a runaround about bonds over building in one year or three years or whatever, can I just see his budget and whether he increased or decreased spending during his time in office?
Show me the money, people.
I don't think that's too much to ask. If Walker really did decrease spending as he claims, then what's so hard about showing me on paper? So I thought I'd try to get onto the conference call and ask about the numbers.
Using my Smart Girl Politics credentials, I called the contact person listed on the website, Michael Brickman. The call was still an hour out at that point.
"Hi, I'm Jenny Erikson with Smart Girl Politics, and I'd like to be on Mr. Walker's conference call over the disputed budget numbers with Mark Neumann," I (very politely) requested.
"Who?" Wow, super-friendly.
"Jenny Erikson. I'm with Smart Girl Politics, an online conservative organization with over 20,000 members. I host a weekly political podcast for them, and I was hoping to be a part of the conference call today."
"How did you find out about it?" he asked me bluntly and brusquely.
I was a bit caught off guard. I felt like I was being interrogated for wanting to be part of a conference call supposedly for the press. If it wasn't supposed to be open to bloggers or podcasters like myself, why list the information on a public website?
"Uh," I responded, "someone sent me an email with a link to your contact information ..."
"But who sent you the email?" he demanded to know.
"I really don't know. I get a lot of emails from people with interesting information. I thought this topic was interesting and important, and I'd like to hear Scott Walker defend himself over the discrepancies in the budget numbers." There was a pause. I decided to add, "Is that a problem?"
"No," he said finally. "Let me get your contact information and I'll send you the call-in information."
I was excited to be included and eager to hear Mr. Walker's argument. I was also a little nervous to ask my question, but knew it wouldn't be a problem if he had nothing to hide.
Five minutes before the call was supposed to start, I hadn't received my call-in instructions. So I did what any intrepid reporter would do. I called again. A woman answered the phone and I asked to speak with Michael Brickman. I was put on hold for a few minutes, and the same lady picked up the phone again, answering it like I was an incoming call.
"Hi, it's still Jenny Erikson, on hold for Michael Brickman," I said cheerfully.
"You're still holding?" she asked.
"Yeah, I know there was a conference call, and I thought he was going to email me the number ... I never got an email and didn't know what was going on but ... "
‘Your name please?" she interjected.
She took down my name and phone number and assured me that Mr. Brickman was probably on another call and would get back to me right away.
As I'm writing this, the conference call has long since ended, and I've had no word back from anyone at the Walker campaign office.
Something about this isn't sitting right with me. Why did Mr. Brickman demand to know how I received the information about the call, in light of the fact that it was posted on his candidate's public website? Why did he say he'd send the call-in instructions and not follow through? Why refuse to speak to me when I called a second time?
Is Scott Walker's office hiding something, or are they just rude in general? Either way, I'm not impressed.