FIRST THE EFFORT, THEN THE PAYOFF…. Republican officials in Wisconsin last week completed an odious task, approving a union-busting proposal from Gov. Scott Walker (R) that strips most state workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Last night, they received a reward of sorts.

Wisconsin Republican state Senators, fresh from passing draconian anti-labor and privatization legislation, jetted into Washington, D.C., Wednesday night to collect tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from the one constituency group that approves of what Governor Scott Walker and his GOP allies are doing: corporate lobbyists.

But if Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Joint Finance Committee co-chair Alberta Darling thought they could get away from the mounting campaign to remove Republican state senators and shift control of the chamber to the Democrats — creating a check and balance on Walker — they were mistaken.

Lobbyists paid as much as $5,000 each to host the fundraiser for the Wisconsin Republicans, held at offices of one of DC’s most powerful lobbying firms.

But the crowd outside the event was significantly larger than the crowd inside. Estimates vary, but by some counts as many as 1,000 protestors took to the streets of Washington to protest the fundraiser, and even worked their way to the lobby of the building where the event was held.

The progressive activism inspired by Wisconsin Republicans is a sight to behold.

The president of the corporate lobbying firm, BGR Group, said the fundraiser wasn’t necessarily a payoff to the GOP state officials for a job well done, because the event had been in the works for months.

I have no evidence to the contrary, but at face value, that seems hard to believe. A powerful DC lobbying firm has been working on a fundraiser for members of the Wisconsin state legislature for months? It’s possible, of course, but that’d be quite a coincidence. Will GOP lawmakers from every other state also benefit from the lobbyists’ largess?

In either case, it appears Wisconsin Republicans are going to need the money. Both state parties are trying to mount recall efforts, but as the Huffington Post reported yesterday, “Both national and Wisconsin-based Republican operatives tell the Huffington Post the party is being dramatically outworked and out-organized by Democrats in the recall campaigns being launched against state Senators.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.