Kochs Dump $23.4 Million into Wisconsin Politics

April 1, 2016

Though this weekend all eyes may be on Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary election, Wisconsin politics have been in the sights of the Koch brothers for some time.

From discovering a “rising star” in Gov. Scott Walker to their strong support for current Speaker of the U.S. House, Paul Ryan, Charles and David Koch have spent at least $23 million since 2010 buying their way into the Badger State to advance an agenda that is far from “Wisconsin nice.”

As governor, Scott Walker worked hard for his patrons, making teachers, social workers, and snow plow operators his Public Enemy #1. He slashed funding for senior centers, food banks, public schools, and universities, while at the same time gave tax breaks for the wealthiest and rewrote laws to help his corporate friends get off the hook. Walker was such a promising political investment for the Kochs that they had hoped to back him all the way to the White House.

Walker is not the only Wisconsin politician that the Koch Brothers have sunk their claws into. Based on a recent FEC report, on February 14, 2016 KochPAC gave $71,000 to Speaker Paul Ryan’s fundraising committee, Team Ryan PAC. The money was then routed to Ryan’s campaign, his PAC, and to the NRCC and NRCC building fund to build a team in Congress that would advance the Koch’s agenda.

Ryan showed the Kochs he was worthy of their investment and praise when he shepherded the budget in 2012. Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips said, “Paul was one of the first guys that we looked at and said, ‘Hey, that young guy could be the guy’ … and when he put out the budget and defended it, that’s when he said, ‘He could go all the way.'”

According to Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money, the Koch network helped “pay for expensive private polling and market testing to help Ryan fine-tune his pitch,” as well as provide an astroturf campaign “to popularize” Ryan’s “radical budget plan.'”

These instances are just a drop in the bucket of political influence that the Koch Brothers are buying in Wisconsin.

Below is a preview of highlights from an upcoming report about the Kochs and their growing influence in Wisconsin.

For more information, go to Real Koch Facts.

The Koch Hijacking Of Wisconsin

The Kochs Have Spent At Least $23.45 Million On Their Puppet Candidates In Wisconsin Since 2010

The Kochs Have Spent At Least $23,455,420 To Support Wisconsin Republican Political Efforts Since 2010. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, FEC, and Follow the Money, the Koch network including Koch Industries, KochPAC, Charles Koch, David Koch, Elizabeth Koch, Julia Koch, Anna Koch, Chase Koch, Americans for Prosperity, Wisconsin Club for Growth, Citizens for a Strong America, the MacIver Institute, 60 Plus Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, American Future Fund, US Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Responsible Leadership, and the Susan B. Anthony List have spent $23,455,420  in Wisconsin since 2010. [Open Secrets, accessed 3/29/16; FEC, accessed3/29/16; Follow the Money, accessed 3/29/16]


Koch-Backed Club For Growth Has Spent More Than $1 Million On Presidential Ad Buys For The Wisconsin Primaries

Club For Growth Spent $253,000 On TV Ad Buys To Support Republican Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz In Wisconsin. According to FEC filings, Club For Growth spent $253,453.53 on TV ad buys to support Republican Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz in Wisconsin in the 2016 cycle. [FEC, 3/26/16]

Club For Growth Spent Over $473,000 On TV Ad Buys To Oppose Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump In Wisconsin.According to FEC filings, Club For Growth spent $473,064.84 to oppose Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump in Wisconsin TV ad buys in the 2016 cycle. [FEC, 3/26/16]

Club For Growth Spent $287,000 On TV Ad Buys Opposing Republican Presidential Candidate John Kasich In Wisconsin. According to FEC filings, Club For Growth spent $287,184.03 on TV ad buys to oppose Republican Presidential Candidate John Kasich in Wisconsin in the 2016 cycle. [FEC, 3/26/16]

Koch-Funded American Majority Wisconsin Signaled They Will Finance An Anti-Trump Blitz  According to United Press International, “A super PAC, American Majority Wisconsin, which is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, is set to buy up a significant amount of airtime for what is expected to be an anti-Trump blitz.” [United Press International, 3/29/16]
Koch-Tied Wisconsin Alliance For Reform Spent $1 Million On Ads Supporting Wisconsin Republican Supreme Court Nominee Rebecca Bradley

The Koch-Tied Wisconsin Alliance For Reform Ran $1 Million In Ads Supporting Bradley During The Primary For The Wisconsin Supreme Court, According To The Campaign Manager Of Opponent JoAnne Kloppenburg. According to Fox 6 Now, “A conservative group is firing back at Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg with a TV ad calling her soft on crime. […] Below is a statement from Kloppenburg’s campaign manager on the ad: ‘The Kloppenburg for Justice Campaign has sent a letter to stations carrying a deceitful ad produced by an unregulated special interest group, Wisconsin Alliance for Reform. The group has ties to the Koch Brothers and ran $1 million in ads supporting Judge Kloppenburg’s opponent, Rebecca Bradley during the recent primary.’” [Fox 6 Now, 3/8/16]

Strong Support For Paul Ryan

In February 2016, KochPAC Gave $71,000 To Team Ryan. According to FEC Filings, KochPAC gave $71,000 to Team Ryan on February 4, 2016. The Team Ryan funding was then distributed to Ryan for Congress, Prosperity Action Inc., NRCC, and NRCC building fund which received $6,000, $5,000, $15,000, and $45,000 respectively. [FEC Filings, 3/18/16]

Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips: “Paul Was One Of The First Guys That We Looked At And Said, ‘Hey, That Young Guy Could Be The Guy’”… And When He Put Out The Budget And Defended It, That’s When They Said, ‘He Could Go All The Way.’” According to the New York Times, “‘Paul was one of the first guys that we looked at and said, “Hey, that young guy could be the guy,’” said Tim Phillips, Americans for Prosperity’s president. And when he put out the budget and defended it, that’s when they said, ‘He could go all the way.’” [New York Times, 8/13/12]

Sean Noble Suggested In 2011 That The Koch Network Should Focus On Helping Paul Ryan. According to Dark Money by Jane Mayer, “First, though, there was a lot of discussion about how they could help the Republicans in the House, now that the GOP had the majority. Sean Noble, who continued as a contract political consultant to the Kochs, was pushing hard for them to start by helping Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who was the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee.” [Jane Mayer – Dark Money, 285]

Dark Money: “To Popularize” Paul Ryan’s “Radical Budget Plan… Noble… Suggested” The Koch Donors “Pay For Expensive Private Polling And Market Testing To Help Ryan Fine-Tune His Pitch,” As Well As An Astroturf Campaign Of Fake Public Support. According to Dark Money by Jane Mayer, “To popularize his radical budget plan, Ryan would need help, and Noble soon came up with a way for the donors to deliver it. He suggested they pay for expensive private polling and market testing to help Ryan fine-tune his pitch, as well as a campaign by ‘Astroturf’ groups to create a drumbeat of public support. It was an intriguing idea, but it teetered on the edge of impropriety. Drafting the government’s annual budget was a core congressional function” [Jane Mayer – Dark Money, 287]

Dark Money: In 2011, “Sean Noble, With The Assent Of The Kochs, Had Been Furtively Trying For Months To Persuade Paul Ryan To Run For The White House.” According to Dark Money by Jane Mayer, “The choice of a strong Republican candidate, however, fifteen months before the next presidential election, was far from assured. Behind the scenes, Sean Noble, with the assent of the Kochs, had been furtively trying for months to persuade Paul Ryan to run for the White House. The billionaire backers were eager for him to apply his ‘sharp knives’ to the federal budget. But Ryan had demurred. Neither he nor his wife relished a presidential marathon. ‘Wouldn’t it be easier just to be picked as vice president?’ he asked an emissary from the Kochs, in a meeting in the congressman’s Washington office. ‘Because then it’s only, like, two months.’ With Ryan declining to run, the Kochs and their operatives searched anxiously for an alternative. Mitt Romney was obviously a serious contender, but they worried that he couldn’t relate well enough to ordinary people to get elected.” [Jane Mayer – Dark Money, 302]

The Kochs Have Driven The GOP Agenda In Wisconsin

The Koch Brothers Used AFP To Harness The Tea Party’s Energy In Service Of Their Own Goals And Found In Scott Walker A “Perfect Instrument” To Help Carry Them Out. According to Bloomberg, “With Americans for Prosperity, the brothers had harnessed the Tea Party’s energy in service of their own policy goals, including deregulation and lower taxes. And in Walker, they’d found the perfect instrument to help carry them out. The rally was one of the first times they’d joined forces.” [Bloomberg, 2/17/15]

Koch Groups “Led The Way” In Pushing For Wisconsin’s Right-To-Work For Less Legislation

AFP-Wisconsin Staff And Volunteers “Led The Way In Pressing For Passage” Of The State’s Right-To-Work Legislation, Which Was A “Central Plank Of The Organization’s Agenda.” According to a press release from AFP-Wisconsin, “Americans for Prosperity is applauding the passage of right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin, which will now head to Governor Scott Walker’s desk to be signed. Staff and volunteers from AFP’s Wisconsin chapter led the way in pressing for passage of this policy, a central plank of the organization’s agenda.” [AFP-Wisconsin Press Release, 3/6/15]

Two Weeks Before Walker First Raised The Issue Of Collective Bargaining Rights, The MacIver Institute Published An Editorial Urging Walker To Make Wisconsin A “Right To Work” State. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, “On November 24, 2010, just weeks after Walker was elected governor, the MacIver Institute published an editorial by Brian Fraley calling for the newly-elected governor and legislature to repeal public sector collective bargaining and make Wisconsin a ‘Right to Work’ state. Walker never mentioned attacking collective bargaining rights during the campaign. The editorial was published two weeks before Walker first raised the subject publicly at a Milwaukee Press Club luncheon.” [Center for Media and Democracy, 2012]

AFP-WI Has Been A Leading Voice Against Prevailing Wage Laws

AFP- WI Announced It Would Launch A Website And Statewide Online Advertising “Targeted At Repealing Wisconsin’s Outdated, Costly Prevailing Wage Laws.” According to a press release from AFP-Wisconsin, “Today, Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin is announcing the next step in its plan to move Wisconsin forward. AFP Wisconsin is launching a new microsite, GetWisconsinWorking.com, and a statewide online advertising effort targeted at repealing Wisconsin’s outdated, costly prevailing wage laws.” [AFP-Wisconsin Press Release, 4/7/15]

AFP- WI Said It Would Reach Out To “Its Network Of 125,000 In-State Activists” To Educate Them On The Benefits Of Repealing The Prevailing Wage And “Encourage Them To Contact Their Representatives.”According to a press release from AFP-Wisconsin, “The chapter will be reaching out to citizens and its network of 125,000 in-state activists in order to educate them on the benefits of repealing the prevailing wage requirement and encourage them to contact their representatives.” [AFP-Wisconsin Press Release, 4/7/15]

AFP Spent Handsomely To Defend Walker’s Deep Cuts To Public Education

Americans For Prosperity Heralded Walker’s $749 Million In Cuts From K-12 Public Education As Budget Reforms And Held Townhall Events And Spent Handsomely To Defend These “Reforms.” According to the Center for Media and Democracy, “The Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP) says it is aiming ‘to help citizens separate the rhetoric from the reality on the budget reforms passed in Wisconsin last year,’ according to a press release from the organization. The ‘budget reforms’ AFP is addressing include Governor Walker’s limits on public sector collective bargaining as well as around $749 million in cuts from K-12 public education and other ‘reforms,’ all of which inspired months of protest in 2011 and recently led over 1 million Wisconsinites to sign petitions to recall the governor. With a recall election almost imminent, AFP is holding ‘townhall’ events across the state to allegedly have a ‘respectful discussion on why we must maintain the reforms that have saved hundreds of millions for Wisconsin taxpayers.’ The implication seems clear. The election of a governor other than Walker would threaten the ‘reforms;’ his reelection would maintain them. And according to AFP, ‘we must maintain the reforms.’ AFP is also spending $700,000 on a statewide TV ad campaign defending Walker’s reforms.” [Center for Media and Democracy, 2/9/12]

  • Americans For Prosperity, Along With The MacIver Institute Spent $2.9 Million On Their Campaign To Defend Walker’s Budget Cuts. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, “Just as Governor Walker’s opponents started collecting recall signatures in November 2011, AFP began running a series of slick TV and web ads claiming ‘It’s Working!’, and alleging that Walker’s fiscal policies have been good for the state (while ignoring all the bad news). The campaign has reportedly cost at least $2.9 million so far — nearly three times as much as Walker’s opponent Tom Barrett has raised. The ads come from the ‘charitable’ side of AFP — the AFP Foundation — which as a charity organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, has an absolute prohibition against intervening in political campaigns. The ads were produced in collaboration with another 501(c)(3), the Bradley Foundation-funded MacIver Institute, which has the same prohibition.” [Center for Media and Democracy, 4/27/12]

AFP’s State Level Agenda Centered On “Expanding School Choice” Voucher Programs

AFP-WI’s State Level Agenda “Is Centered On… Expanding School Choice.” According to Wisconsin Election Watch, “The Wisconsin Chapter of Americans for Prosperity announced on Thursday their Legislative agenda at the state and federal levels for 2015. At the state level, AFP’s agenda is centered on passing right to work legislation, expanding school choice, and implementing further tax reform.” [Wisconsin Election Watch, 1/15/15]

Koch Backed ALEC Has 43 Wisconsin Members And Has Had Tremendous Policy Influence

Center For Media And Democracy Deputy Director Mary Bottari: “Wisconsin Is Governed By The 43 ALEC Members Who Make Up The Leadership And GOP Majority Of Both Houses.” According to a post by Deputy Director Mary Bottari for the Center for Media and Democracy, “Wisconsin is governed by the 43 ALEC members who make up the leadership and GOP majority of both houses. Governor Scott Walker is an ALEC alumnus who signed 19 ALEC bills into office in his first year as governor.” [Mary Bottari – Center for Media and Democracy, 3/2/15]

Witzenburg: “ALEC Has Had Tremendous Influence In Wisconsin,” Passing “Bills That Defund Unions, Require Photo IDs At The Polls And Help Privatize Schools.” According to an opinion by columnist Harvey Witzenburg for the La Crosse Tribune, “ALEC has had tremendous influence in Wisconsin. ALEC bills that have been adopted and passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker include bills that defund unions, require photo IDs at the polls and help privatize schools. ALEC made headlines recently after Wisconsin legislators introduced a virtually word-for-word copy of ALEC’s right-to-work act on the heels of Michigan and other states that have taken up the anti-union measures in recent years.” [Harvey Witzenburg – La Crosse Tribune, 7/26/15]

Governor Scott Walker Has Sought To “‘Radically’ Overhaul Wisconsin’s Education System Using Several Pieces Of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Model Legislation.” According to the Center for Media and Democracy, “Governor Scott Walker seeks to ‘radically’ overhaul Wisconsin’s education system using several pieces of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation, and to do it through the budget process, meaning this privatization agenda could be enacted with minimal public discussion or debate.” [Center for Media and Democracy, 5/23/13]

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