By Matthew Rothschild on March 01, 2011

In the now-infamous phony phone call to Scott Walker, the reporter impersonating the billionaire David Koch asked the Wisconsin governor about "planting some troublemakers" in the crowd of protesters.

"We thought about that," Gov. Walker responded.

With that admission, Walker may have put himself in some legal jeopardy.

Since 1871, there has been a civil rights statute on the books entitled "Conspiracy Against Rights" (See TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 13 > § 241.)

It reads as follows:

"If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same ... They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both."

Since Gov. Walker said, "We thought about it," it's logical to conclude there were at least "two or more persons" involved. And they may have been conspiring to "threaten" or "intimidate" protesters from exercising their First Amendment rights.

That, at least, is the interpretation of Lisa Graves, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice, who previously served as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the United States.

"Governor Walker has conceded that he considered disrupting the protests of Wisconsin residents exercising their right to assemble and petition the government for redress and that he discussed doing so with legislators and perhaps others," says Graves, who is now the executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, Wis. "His admissions warrant further investigation of his compliance with civil rights laws that have been in existence since the Civil War to protect Americans from conspiracies to injure or intimidate them for exercising their fundamental rights as free people, which obviously includes freedom of speech and dissent."

Repeated calls to Gov. Walker's office for comment were not answered.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "The New York Times Plays Into Gov. Walker's Hands."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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