WASHINGTON -- The man who pretended to be conservative bankroller David Koch on a prank phone call with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said Wednesday that he originally planned to pose as exiled Egypt President Hosni Mubarak but couldn't perfect the voice.
Ian Murphy, the editor of the Buffalo Beast, told The Huffington Post in an interview that he was "shocked" at how easy it was to get Walker, currently the nation's most-talked-about governor, on the phone merely by pretending to be a billionaire donor.
"Fifteen minutes in, I wanted to almost stop it and say, 'Are you so dumb, I'm not David Koch. How can your staff be so incompetent and how could I get on the phone with you so easily,'" Murphy said, barely suppressing his glee. "But I didn't."
Instead, Murphy spent an additional five minutes talking to Walker about a host of outlandish proposals and takes on the protests that have erupted around the governor's anti-union budget legislation. Walker's office insists that he said nothing on the phone with Murphy that he wouldn't have said in public, but the governor pitched the Koch impersonator some bizarre plans.
Walker said he wanted to ostensibly trick Democratic lawmakers to return to Wisconsin so that he could call a quorum and quickly pass his bill to strip collective-bargaining rights from the state's public-employee unions. He also talked openly about putting plants in the crowd of protesters to sway public opinion against their favor.
"He didn't do it because it was unethical, but because it didn't work," Murphy said. "People ask me what was the smoking gun. That's what I'm saying."
How the call came to happen provides a window of sorts into how even the most audacious forms of guerrilla journalism -- if a prank call can be called that -- can affect political debates. Murphy said he came across a Huffington Post article quoting a Democratic state Senator complaining that Walker wouldn't take his calls.
"I just wondered ... who could get ahold of him," Murphy said.
After deciding not to call as Mubarak, Murphy said he was looking to pose as someone whose voice was "more generic." He settled on Koch and practiced imitating the billionaire's voice with the help of some YouTube videos.
Perfection, however, was elusive. Instead, Murphy just spoke with a bit more bass, with the idea of playing the part of a Koch caricature. "I just envisioned him saying 'beautiful, beautiful' a lot, and things like 'crush those union bastards,'" he said.
Calling the phone number on the governor's website, he managed to talk his way onto the line with Walker's chief of staff, via Skype. After explaining that Walker couldn't call him back because his "maid" threw his phone in the washing machine and he'd have her "deported" but she made "next to nothing," Murphy waited for 10 minutes on the phone -- a tell in itself, he noted: "You don't expect David Koch to wait 10 minutes on the phone."
Nonetheless, Walker came on. "I kind of just let him talk. I was in shock," Murphy said.
So too, apparently, was the governor. As Murphy noted, Walker seemed "thrilled" to talk to "Koch." The impression left was that the billionaire backer and the upstart governor really hadn't rubbed elbows before.
"That might be one downside of this thing, it shows that they don't have the intimate relationship people imagined," Murphy said. "It's henchmen passing envelopes back and forth and the billionaire never actually talks to the politician."
But Murphy said took another key lesson away from the prank. "If you are David Koch, you can get anyone on the phone," he said, "period."