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Scott Walker In 2008: Too Many "Poverty Pimps" Use "Cycle Of Dependency" For Political Control

"I think for too long -- and I'll say this, this is a fairly aggressive term -- but I think there are too many poverty pimps in our society."

Posted on May 5, 2015, at 5:01 p.m. ET

Nati Harnik / Associated Press

Scott Walker said in 2008 that the government "needs to do more to give people freedom back" by fighting the "poverty pimps in our society," referring to government officials and community-based organizations that, he said, use poverty for political power.

The Wisconsin governor is likely to run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Sitting on a panel at the Future Wisconsin Conservative Conference, Walker, who at the time was the Milwaukee County Executive, was asked, "How do you get human services programs to be more productive as far as helping people get a jumpstart and then create wealth, not only for themselves but for society?"

"I think government needs to do more to give people freedom back," Walker answered. "And I think that's true across the board, but particularly on this topic in that I think for too long -- and I'll say this, this is a fairly aggressive term -- but I think there are too many poverty pimps in our society. Too many government officials who rely on poverty as a way, a means of political control, too many community-based organizations who rely on their existence by perpetuating the cycle of dependency."

When asked about Walker's 2008 remarks, AshLee Strong, the spokeswoman for the governor's Our American Revival PAC, told BuzzFeed News that Walker believes that citizens, not the government, know what is best for their future.

"From implementing programs to help individuals access job opportunities, to pushing for health care reforms that closed the coverage gap, to advancing inner city programs to support entrepreneurship, Governor Walker has continually fought for reforms that help Wisconsinites achieve independence," Strong said.

"As Governor Walker often says, true freedom and prosperity don't come from the mighty hand of the government — it comes from empowering people to live their own lives and control their own destiny. Governor Walker understands that citizens know better than government bureaucrats how to spend their money, choose their healthcare, pick their child's school, and plan for the future. Americans know better than Washington how to make their dreams a reality."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.