AFP & Walker teaming up again to attack workers’ rights in Wisconsin

Another day, another Governor Scott Walker and Koch brothers’ scheme to further their extreme agenda and harm working families in the Badger State. This week, the Wisconsin state legislature is ramming through legislation that would make the state a right-to-work state, a measure that will pass both chambers and that Governor Walker has pledged to sign into law.

According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the bill is taken word-for-word from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that counts Koch Industries as a key member. This is not the first time Governor Walker has pushed legislation from the Koch-funded group. Governor Walker has used his governorship to sign a litany of ALEC bills into law, including anti-consumer tort reform provisions, restrictive voter ID laws, voucher and virtual school expansions, the privatization of the state’s economic development functions, and more. Now that the ALEC-inspired right-to-work legislation is before the Wisconsin legislature, the Kochs’ political arm, Americans for Prosperity, is urging its grassroots activists to contact their legislators in support of the bill.

All workers — whether in a union or not — in states with right-to-work laws on the books, earn lower wages, and consequently endure lower living standards.  Indeed, Governor Walker, the Koch brothers, and their allies are falling over themselves to deal a crushing blow to Wisconsin’s working families. It’s a deja-vu inducing move from a group that spared no expense in supporting Governor Walker’s campaign in the 2012 recall election, which centered on his attacks on the state’s public sector unions.

When Republican climate deniers in Congress are citing the few remaining scientists who are skeptical about man-made climate change, there is no name they are more fond of throwing out than Dr. Wei-Hock Soon. Well, this weekend, the New York Times revealed that Dr. Soon “appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work” by accepting mountains of money from organizations with a vested interest in protecting the fossil fuel industry. He even referred to his work scientific papers as “deliverables” in exchanges with his funders.

One of Dr. Soon’s major financiers was the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, forking over a whopping $230,000 to the GOP’s beloved climate skeptic. That’s Charles G. Koch of the infamous Koch brothers, of course, who never miss an opportunity to protect their petrochemical empire.

Consider what we already knew about the Koch brothers. They have funneled millions of dollars to climate denial front groups. They’ve been rated as one of the top polluters in the country. They’ve launched massive lobbying effortsagainst climate change legislation. Their political groups have successfully made it untenable for GOP politicians to support climate action.

In 2010, David Koch even offered this hot take to the New Yorker about why global warming would be good news anyways:

“Lengthened growing seasons in the northern hemisphere, he says, will make up for any trauma caused by the slow migration of people away from disappearing coastlines. ‘The Earth will be able to support enormously more people because a far greater land area will be available to produce food,’ he says.”

And now we know that Republican Party’s favorite “scientist” to quote in defense of their dangerous climate denialism was essentially trading “research papers” for hundreds of thousands in Koch cash. Is it surprising? Hardly. But it’s an alarming indicator of just how deeply the Koch brothers’ influence has penetrated every corner of the climate change debate.

When you step back and consider the degree to which two 70-something-year-old brothers worth $100 billion have been willing and able to put the planet in peril to further grow their fortune, it’s really quite nauseating…

Unhappy 35th Anniversary to the Kochs & Campaign Finance Laws

It’s a milestone anniversary for the Koch brothers. 2015 marks 35 years that the billionaire brothers have been attacking campaign finance laws, and to mark the occasion, they’ve made an appropriately bold gesture: hiring a former FEC commissioner and longtime opponent of campaign finance enforcement as counsel. Last week, Donald McGahn testified at an FEC hearing on behalf of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce — aka the Kochs’ “secret bank” — and provided written comments encouraging the FEC not to enhance disclosure requirements for the group and others like it.

The unhappy relationship between the Kochs and campaign finance laws dates back to David Koch’s 1980 run for vice president on a Libertarian Party platform that sought to “abolish the FEC and all limits on campaign spending.” Now, on the cusp of an election cycle where the Koch network has pledged to spend upwards of a billion dollars supporting candidates who back their agenda, the Kochs have hired counsel who shares their extreme views on gutting campaign finance regulations. Donald McGahn, who was appointed to the FEC in 2008, is also a “fierce proponent of weakening FEC enforcement powers,” according to the New York Times. McGahn later admitted that during his time at the FEC, he did not fully enforce the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Before the Koch brothers, McGahn represented Tom DeLay, defending him against numerous campaign finance violations.

This year finds McGahn and the Koch brothers urging the FEC not to require enhanced disclosure for nonprofit groups that engage in “issue advocacy,” rather than expressly advocating on behalf of a particular candidate. For the Kochs, “issue advocacy” is shorthand for the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Freedom Partners and the brothers’ political arm, Americans for Prosperity, on political advertisements that attack Democratic candidates. Neither of these groups — or several others in the Koch network — are required to disclose their donors because they are nonprofits, despite the fact that the groups “more closely resemble the traditional functions of a national political party,” according to POLITICO.

The Koch Brothers’ War On State Colleges

A Huffington Post story last week shed light on the Koch brothers and their cronies’ newest frontier for attack: state colleges.

In North Carolina, Koch consigliere Art Pope’s well-documented influence cannot be overstated, Over the past decade, Pope, the wealthy owner of a chain of dollar stores, has poured $40 million into manipulating American politics and using his fortune to control the legislative agenda in North Carolina.  In 2010, Pope underwrote the Tea Party takeover of the North Carolina state legislature. According to an analysis by the Institute for Southern Studies, of the twenty-two legislative races targeted by Pope in 2010, the Republicans won eighteen. Democrats in North Carolina were outspent and upended.  “It led to Republicans controlling both chambers of the legislature for the first time in more than 100 years.

Pope is at the center of Koch world and he has worked in lockstep with the billionaire brothers to push their shared agenda. In 2012, Pope was forced to resign his post as one of Americans for Prosperity’s national directors when he was appointed to be Governor Pat McCrory’s chief budget writer.

Pope and the GOP state legislators that he and the Kochs helped elect have been waging war on North Carolina’s publicly funded higher education system. Pope advised the University of North Carolina system to identify $15 million in budget cuts to university research centers. Moreover, their ideological agenda is evident in the final centers marked for cuts — for example, the list includes the Poverty Center which offers policy solutions to mitigate poverty in the school’s home state.  UNC-Chapel Hill, which has a $120,000 annual budget, none of which comes from the state. So why is it targeted? Well, the center is is led by Gene Nichol, who has criticized the Republican-controlled legislature for rejecting Medicaid expansion — another fight near to the Koch brothers’ hearts — so perhaps the fact that his Poverty Center is being targeted isn’t so surprising.

In just the last couple weeks, similar attacks have been launched on higher education. In Kansas and Wisconsin — unsurprisingly, the Kochs have close ties to Gov. Brownback and Gov. Walker, and have played crucial roles in electing ultra-conservative legislators in both states.

The Kochs have always loathed public education; now they’re making state colleges pay the price.

New Walker Appointee Teamed Up With AFP To Support Solar Energy Cost Hikes

This week, Bloomberg Politics dubbed Scott Walker the “King of Kochworld.” The article chronicled his deep and long-established ties to the Koch brothers’ network and their support for the ultra-conservative makeover he’s given the state of Wisconsin. It’s a love affair that could pay big dividends for Walker, as he looks to become the beneficiary of a large chunk of the eye-popping $889 million they’ve promised to spend this cycle.

Well, Walker is living up to his regal title. This week, his administration announced a number positional of shakeups, including the appointment of a gentleman named Scott Neitzel to run Wisconsin’s Department of Administration. According to the Wisconsin DOA website, their ultimate goal is to “offer Wisconsin residents the most efficient, highest-quality state government services possible.”

But in Neitzel’s previous role, as an executive at Madison Gas and Electric, he was hardly fighting for his new constituents. Instead, Madison Gas and Electric was teaming up with Americans For Prosperity, fighting to protect profits for Big Oil and petrochemical companies like Koch Industries at the expense of solar energy users. The coalition was pushing for legislation to hike fees and increase regulations on customers who produced their own solar power.

From personnel moves to policy pushes, Scott Walker’s motives are clear — the only constituents he’s looking out for are the ones he reigns over in Kochworld.

AFP pulls out all the stops to keep 200,000 Tennesseans uninsured

If you’ve been following the ongoing political battles over Medicaid expansion in Republican-controlled states across the country, then you know that the Koch brothers’ chief political arm, Americans for Prosperity, has been a vocal opponent of expanding Medicaid coverage in states like North Carolina. Their effort to block Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands of uninsured is bad enough on face, but even worse is the sheer glee with which AFP has heralded the defeat of Medicaid expansion proposals. In North Carolina, the state AFP chapter offered Governor McCrory their “congratulations” for signing a bill blocking Medicaid expansion into law, and now this week in Tennessee, that state’s chapter has declared it a “victory” that 200,000 Tennesseans will remain uninsured.

NBC News has a must-read rundown of AFP’s “aggressive” effort to make Republican Governor Bill Haslam’s widely popular Medicaid expansion proposal, Insure TN, politically unpalatable for conservatives in the state legislature. It’s impossible to read the account of AFP’s blitz against the bill — which included radio ads, aggressive Facebook posts calling out members of their own party, and filling a legislative hearing with dozens of activists — without coming away with the impression that AFP will stop at nothing to ensure that Republicans adhere to Koch-approved AFP policy positions. AFP succeeded in brow-beating Republicans into opposing Insure TN, with the bill ultimately not making it out of committee. But even lawmakers sympathetic to AFP’s cause were bristled by their tactics; NBC News quotes an influential Republican lawmaker who criticizes AFP’s “politics of intimidation,” even though he also opposed Medicaid expansion.

In the NBC account of AFP’s clamoring against Medicaid expansion in Tennessee, there’s a broader point that can’t be missed about the Kochs’ political activity:

When the coalition of conservative groups allied with Charles and David Koch announced recently they would spend $889 million over the next two years, much of the discussion was about how that money could shape the upcoming presidential election. But AFP and other Koch-backed conservative organizations may be having their biggest impact on state politics, where targeted advertising and a strong organization can make a huge difference.

We couldn’t agree more, which is why Real Koch Facts will continue to stay abreast of not just the Kochs’ impact on the upcoming presidential race, but also spotlight the tremendous influence their billions have had in critical state policy debates like this one in Tennessee.

Walker’s Wisconsin budget proposal borrows from the Koch playbook

Earlier this week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker released his two-year budget proposal and like you’d expect from any Koch disciple, it includes plenty of material inspired by the billionaire brothers and their political agenda. In particular, Walker’s budget proposal includes a plan to allow an unlimited amount of taxpayer-funded school vouchers for Wisconsin students, and a whopping $250,000 line item for a study on the supposed health impacts of wind energy, an alternative energy source that has long drawn the ire of the Kochs and their allies.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Walker’s budget proposal removes an existing cap on the number of students who can use school vouchers to attend private schools in the state. What’s more, “Walker would also start paying for the program with money that otherwise would go to public schools,” per the report. Diverting public school funds to pay for private education is a hallmark of the Kochs’ education philosophy. Indeed, the brothers’ political arm in North Carolina has not only demonized the public education system in the Tar Heel State, but also vocally supported a scholarship program that similarly funds school vouchers using public school monies. Last year in Tennessee, the Charles Koch Institute hosted an event that spread misinformation about the state’s public schools in an effort to promote a private school voucher system

In addition to proposing that taxpayer funds for public schools be diverted to pay for private school tuition, Walker’s budget proposal includes a taxpayer-funded — at a quarter million dollars, no less — study on the health impacts of wind energy. According to a Huffington Post report, the Wisconsin Wind Siting Council submitted a study to the state legislature on this very topic last year, which like other scientific studies on the matter, found no “adverse health effects” resulting from proximity to wind turbines. Given the Kochs’ efforts to overturn a popular wind energy program in Kansas, when one county in the Badger State — the only in the country — found that wind turbines posed a health hazard, it follows that a Koch-funded group, Heartland Institute, immediately seized on the determination as evidence for its anti-wind energy campaign. Wisconsin and Kansas are but two examples of the self-serving fossil fuel billionaire Kochs’ efforts to block renewable energy programs across the country.

Last year, we cautioned that “a second term for Scott Walker is a second term for the Koch brothers,” and the proof is in right in Walker’s budget proposal, scarcely a month into his second term. Whether through his proposal to voucherize public education, or to spend taxpayer dollars on a redundant health study that panders to fossil fuel funded anti-wind energy interests, it’s clear that Governor Walker plans to continue to prioritize Koch brothers’ self-serving political agenda over all else.

Head Of Koch Women’s Group Thinks The Movie “Frozen” Is Too Empowering For Women

No matter how much evidence there is to the contrary, the Koch brothers and their defenders continue to argue that the billionaire Republican kingmakers are singly focused on expanding our economic freedoms. Many believe that their efforts are entirely disconnected from movements of social conservatives and that the Kochs can thus help expand the Republican tent.

Well, maybe this latest incident will help some who subscribe to that theory finally…Let It Go.

Penny Nance, the head of Concerned Women For America — a group that, according to the Washington Post, received $8 million from the Kochs’ bank to run “social-media campaign and get-out-the-vote effort aimed at young women in 2012.” — was on Fox News this week bemoaning the degree to which the movie “Frozen” empowered women. She went on to clarify that it’s not just “Frozen” that is problematic, but indeed Hollywood as a whole, which “has often sent the message that men are superfluous, that they’re stupid, that they’re in the way.” With hot takes from the Koch brothers’ women’s group like that, the GOP gender gap should be gone in no time!

Of course, this is the same group that once attacked Harry Potter for indoctrinating children with witchcraft, so perhaps their “Frozen” frustrations are not all that surprising.

But beyond the utter outlandishness of these grievances, there lies a very serious point. Concerned Women For America isn’t, in fact, the modern women’s outreach group you might expect. They are a group whose self-declared mission is to “protect and promote Biblical values” and whose vision is to “restore the family to its traditional purpose.”

Concerned Women For America supported the infamous Blunt Amendment which would have allowed employers to deny contraceptive health coverage to female employees based on their own moral objections. They have posts on their site like this one opposing same-sex marriage, which begins, “Homosexuals are seeking a special right. They already have the same right to marry the rest of us have-the right to marry a person of the opposite sex.”

So next time somebody says that Koch brothers are libertarians who stay out of social issues, keep in mind that their network is financing some of America’s most extreme social conservative advocacy groups.

Background

Concerned Women for America Supported Passage of Blunt Amendment.  According to the Concerned Women of America: “In August, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed an interim rule that required virtually all private health care plans, except those that met a very narrowly tailored religious exemption, to cover sterilization and all FDA-approved contraception, including abortifacients ella and Plan B. HHS reaffirmed the rule on January 20 but delayed implementation for one year for non-exempt religious organizations to change their moral or religious convictions  President Barack Obama tried unsuccessfully to alleviate the religious liberty issues raised by this rule. However, his compromise does not fix the underlying issues, because it still forces religious employers and employees, who have moral objections to sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception, to subsidize them.” [Concerned Women for America, Letter: Urge Your Senator to Vote for the Blunt Amendment, 2/15/12]

Concerned Women for America Rated Support for Blunt Amendment as Key Vote.  [Concerned Women for America, Senate Scorecard, 112th Congress]

Blunt Amendment Would Have Allowed Employers to Deny Contraceptive Health Coverage Based on Religious or Moral Objections.  According to CBS News:  The Senate on Thursday struck down a controversial amendment that would allow any U.S. employer, not just those affiliated with a religious institution, to deny contraceptive health coverage to its employees based on religious or moral objections.  [CBS News, 3/1/12]

CWA Article Attacked Harry Potter For Indoctrinating Children With “Witchcraft.”  According to an article published in the Family Voice, a CWA publication, parents “are now trying to protect their children from classroom discussions about paganism and the occult” when Harry Potter is read in classrooms.  The article argues that “Harry Potter is part of a larger trend to bring occult themes to younger children.”  [Family Voice, November/December 2001]

CWA Article Quoted Reverend Who Said Harry Potter Would Let Children Learn “To Access Demonic Power to Get What They Want.”  According to  The Concerned Women of America’s Family Voice: But Rev. McGee points out that the Potter craze has a particular danger. ‘With Harry Potter children are for the first time seeing other children, step by step, learning to access demonic power to get what they want,’ he said.  Marcia Montenegro, occult expert and founder of the ministry Christian Answers for the New Age, disputes claims that the books center on the theme of good versus evil.  ‘There is no moral center in Harry Potter,’ said Montenegro. ‘Good and evil are depicted as being two sides of the same coin, which is an occult worldview.  ‘Why is Harry considered good? He breaks the rules, gets away with it, and is even rewarded for it. As one of Harry’s professors says in book three, ‘Harry is a law unto himself.’ From a Christian perspective, this cannot be.’”  [Concerned Women of America: Family Voice, “Harry Potter: Seduction of the Occult,”  November/December 2001, November/December 2001]

CWA Article Criticized Scholastic for Harry Potter Discussion Guides, Quoted ‘Christian Anti-Cult Expert’ Who Attacked Guides as “Indoctrination,” that Would Lead Children to Access “Genuine Witchcraft Training Classes Right In His Home or Classroom.”  According to The Concerned Women of America’s Family Voice: “Scholastic, the American distributors of the Harry Potter series, also offers online teacher discussion guides written by Kylene Beers, assistant professor of reading at the University of Houston, Texas.  ‘The following discussion guide … features summaries of the plot, theme, conflict, setting and characterization, as well as a number of questions designed to encourage conversation,” writes Beers on the Scholastic Web site.  Discussion questions include comparing various Potter characters to those in ancient mythology. Another asks about similarities between the masked wizards that torment ‘muggles’ (normal humans) and real group members who have worn hoods when tormenting others.  Still other questions ask students to ponder moral themes, like self-sacrifice, choosing what is right over what is easy, and free will versus preordination—themes better left to parents, since they will likely lose their value under the morally relativistic constraints of today’s public school system.  Christian anti-cult expert Caryl Matrisciana finds this intrusion into classrooms disturbing.  ‘This is a complete indoctrination program in the schools,’ Matrisciana says in the Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged video. ‘First they interest children in the occult with delightful fantasy literature, then they bring the books into the schools, along with teacher’s guides to fuel the interest in exploration of the occult. Now with this Beecham’s Sourcebook, any computer-literate child can access genuine witchcraft training classes right in his home or classroom.’  [Concerned Women of America: Family Voice, “Harry Potter: Seduction of the Occult,”  November/December 2001, November/December 2001]

The Gazillionaire-Owned Party: Kochs Complete Takeover Of The GOP

To: Interested Parties
From: Brad Woodhouse, President, American Bridge 21st Century
Date: Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Re: The Gazillionaire-Owned Party: Kochs Complete Takeover Of The GOP

Eight-hundred and eighty-nine million dollars. The Koch brothers’ budget for the 2016 elections is $889 million.

That’s what it costs to buy a political party these days, apparently. But then again, the Koch brothers’ net worth fluctuated more than that much yesterday, so what’s it to them?

In early 2014, American Bridge launched RealKochFacts.com, a first of its kind research and rapid response website to shine light on the unsavory activities of the Koch brothers, their decades-long self-interested agenda, their growing power within the Republican Party, and the consequences of their platform for working families. At the time, some asked why we were focusing this much time and effort on two private citizens. It should be clear now, we never had a choice — the Koch network has overtaken GOP.

Consider the realities of the current situation. The Koch brothers have committed to spending almost $250 million more in 2016 than the RNC, NRSC and NRCC combined to spend in 2012. The first GOP presidential debate in earnest was sponsored by the Kochs’ Freedom Partners and held in a Palm Springs hotel — that happened the same month Reince Priebus indicated that there would be stiff sanctions against any candidates who participated in debates not commissioned by the RNC. And this all comes on the heels of a year in which the Koch network spent hundreds of millions to elect hand-picked candidates to Congress, and charted the course of the party with now-Majority Leader McConnell and other GOP big wigs at a secretive billionaires’ summit.

The issue with two rich men picking winners and losers for an entire political party goes far beyond the mockery they are making of democracy. The real shame — even more damning than the millions of voices their money is drowning out — is that the self-interested policies they are pushing are utterly destructive:

In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback hired an AFP consultant as his budget director, they pushed through Utopian Koch tax cuts for the wealthy, and the state is now in economic ruin.

In North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Koch-crony Art Pope as his budget director and they jammed through devastating education cuts.

In Iowa, Ohio and more, the Kochs have fought to roll back renewable fuel standards, and they’ve lobbied heavily to kill wind energy tax credits, all to protect the monumental profits they turn from their Big Oil operation.

Koch smear campaigns have been instrumental in everything from blocking Medicaid expansion to killing funding for the Columbus Zoo. And they’re already threatening GOP candidates by making it clear that if they are willing to work to address climate change, “They would be at a severe disadvantage in the Republican nomination process.”

And the newly-minted Republican Congress is already demonstrating their adherence to the Koch principles, roundly attacking calls for a minimum wage increase even while feigning concern over the wage gap.

The GOP is now the Gazillionaire-Owned Party. The Koch brothers bought it. And the new management cares even less about you than the old one did.

End Scene: McCrory & the Kochs Killing NC’s Film Industry

Last year, we brought you the first in the trilogy about the Kochs’ tirade against the successful film industry tax credits in the Tarheel State: Thom Tillis Gives the Koch Brothers Two Thumbs Up. Then there was the smash-hit sequel, North Carolina Film Tax Incentives: The Kochs Strike Back. Although the Kochs sent one of the key protagonists — then-Speaker Thom Tillis — to Washington, the series continues, this time starring Republican Governor Pat McCrory.
 
Although the film tax credit was integral to attracting high-budget films and television shows to the state and critical to supporting thousands of North Carolina jobs, the Koch brothers’ political arm, Americans for Prosperity, ran ads last year railing against the program. Despite dire warnings, McCrory caved to the anti-film tax credit clamor created by AFP and other special interests. First, McCrory signed a budget that effectively ended the film tax credit. Then, the Governor refused to call a special session to protect the more than 4,000 film industry jobs in the state. And now, the warnings seem to be coming to fruition. According to WRAL, “no new movies are in production or currently planned anywhere in the state,” and at least one network television show has elected to move its production to Georgia as a result of the change to the film tax credit program.

There you have it, the sad (but predictable) end of a trilogy that’s not only played out in North Carolina, but also in Kansas, and across the country where the Kochs’ influence has ensured the implementation of extreme policies that benefit their self interests. Part 1: The Kochs and their allies stake out their position, invariably one that harms working families and benefits Koch interests. Part 2: Lawmakers cave to — or even champion — the Kochs’ preferred course of action, despite warnings about the harm that will result. Part 3: Negative impacts on working families, state budgets, jobs, clean energy, education funding, you name it. Real Koch Facts rates this one two thumbs down.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation