Kochs Continue War on Workers by Lobbying to Repeal Wisconsin’s Prevailing Wage

Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity is joining forces with other anti-worker organizations to lobby the Wisconsin state legislature in hopes of ending the state’s prevailing wage. The prevailing wage creates an even playing field for workers on local and state public works and constructions projects. Republican lawmakers are citing a study funded by a trade association called Associated Builder and Contractors (ABC) to argue that the prevailing wage is unnecessarily adding to the cost of such projects.
However, the study seems to be deeply flawed; one economics professor even called it “a mirage.” If AFP and its cronies are successful in ending the prevailing wage it could drive workers away from the state.
 
State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said, “Repealing prevailing wage would be another huge hit against the middle class and small businesses in Wisconsin. Over the last decade, Wisconsin has been the worst state in the nation for the middle class… The bottom line is that Wisconsin has a system that works and Republicans want to dismantle it knowing that it will drive down wages.” 
 
For over thirty plus years, the Kochs have fought against the minimum wage with AFP at the helm of their campaign. They have no problem hurting Wisconsin’s workers and the state’s greater economy as long as they come out with a profit.

 

Koch carbon takes over downtown Green Bay

A Koch Industries subsidiary, C. Reiss Coal, is wreaking havoc in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The mineral transport company produces enormous coal piles that have monopolized part of the downtown waterfront for over ten years. A Wisconsin county commissioner is pushing for a study to measure the potentially deleterious health effects of the dust buildup that has become menace to the facility’s neighbors.

Green Bay Mayor, Jim Schmitt, said, “We thought maybe they’d get out of this business, but they’re committed to (it) … I would like nothing more for them to self-relocate (but at a cost of) of at least $20 million, it’s not going to happen in the next four years.”

Unsurprisingly, a spokesman for the facility said they have no plans to move the piles.

This is not the first time Koch Industries has jeopardized the health of it’s neighbors. Over the last few years, a Koch carbon facility came under serious scrutiny for their storage of hazardous petroleum coke, a waste byproduct of oil refining, in turn producing large clouds of dark dust over Detroit.

This has become a predictable narrative for Koch Industries whose mishandling of hazardous materials and disregard for environmental safety has been well documented.

It’s clear the Kochs care a hell of a lot more about their bottom line than about the health of Wisconsinites. 

P.S. 
Thank you, Senator Reid, for your call to action to expose the self serving agenda of the Koch brothers. Senator Reid was one of the first to recognize that the shadowy billionaires’ ability to use their money to co-opt the Republicans Party is a solemn threat to our democracy. The Senator’s leadership has driven American Bridge’s communications, research and rapid response operations. We will continue to fight to hold the Koch brothers accountable. Thank you for your service, Senator Reid.

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.

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.

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.

New report highlights same old Koch education scheme

In addition to myriad political entities and nonprofits, the Koch brothers’ network — or the “Kochtopus” — also comprises Koch-funded education initiatives designed to impart their extreme libertarian views on our nation’s young people. These initiatives — like Youth Entrepreneurs — wield influence in our schools the same way the Kochs do politically: by buying it. Standard operating procedure among the Kochtopus’ tentacles, but as a new report from Huffington Post highlights, it’s especially craven when you consider the Kochs’ open hostility toward public education, and the drastic education funding cuts that some of their favorite elected officials have presided over in North CarolinaKansas and Wisconsin.

Huffington Post digs into the machinations of the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI), an organization that has received millions in funding from the Koch organizations that came together to launch BRI in 1999, including the Charles Koch Foundation and the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation. A senior vice president at Koch Industries sits on BRI’s board. These are BRI’s explicit ties to the Koch network, but implicit, self-serving Koch philosophies abound in the free materials that the group provides to teachers and students on topics surrounding the Constitution. According to the report, BRI “cherry-picks the Constitution, history, and current events to hammer home its libertarian message that the owners of private property should be free to manage their wealth as they see fit.” Sounds eerily like the billionaire Kochs’ opposition to the wealthy paying their fair share in taxes, just remixed for social studies class. Other lowlights from the BRI’s materials include its support for “Stand Your Ground” legislation proliferated by the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the teachings’ utter lack of references to climate change, natch.

Another HuffPo report on Youth Entrepreneurs earlier this year deemed the group’s efforts as being part and parcel with the “Kochs’ slow creep into America’s schools.” As the piece on BRI notes, the infiltration is even more bizarre when taken with the rest of the Koch legacy on education, which dates back to David Koch’s insistence in 1980 that the Department of Education be abolished and with it, all federal funding for education. In the decades since, the Kochs have backed Republicans like Scott Walker, who slashed education funding in Wisconsin, a move that would naturally lead cash-strapped schools, students and teachers to lean on the free resources and funding opportunities Koch groups like BRI and YE proliferate.

Deprive schools of resources, then ply them with free materials that espouse your self-serving worldview — it’s a vicious circle that only promises to worsen as bought-and-paid-for Republicans usher in the Kochs’ anti-public education agenda.

Koch network likely to spend heavily for Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson

Just over a week has passed since the 2014 elections, so all eyes are now on the November 2016 elections, natch. Given that the Koch brothers and their allies spent heavily this cycle to help send their top cronies, like Iowa’s Joni Ernst and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, to the Senate, it’s unsurprising that the Kochs’ 2016 spending plans are already being discussed. It’s especially unsurprising when you consider the battleground state in question: Wisconsin, where the Kochs and their political arm, Americans for Prosperity, have already spent millions to support Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to implement a far right agenda in the Badger state.

According to POLITICO, Wisconsin’s potentially vulnerable Tea Party Senator Ron Johnson’s bid for a second term would likely be aided by the deep-pocketed brothers. The report notes that Johnson is a “favorite of the Koch brothers’ donor network” and that Koch-affiliated operatives confirm the likelihood of heavy spending on his behalf. If AFP’s history in the state is any indicator, Wisconsinites can look forward to a bevy of misleading ads on Johnson’s behalf.

Regardless, it’s clear that this cycle’s Koch favorites were candidates who espoused Koch-approved positions at every turn. It follows that Johnson must also prioritize the billionaire brothers’ interests if he is eliciting talk of heavy Koch spending this early on in the cycle.

Closing Argument: Kochs Fight To Save Candidate Cronies In Critical Election

The midterms are around the corner and the Koch brothers and their vast political network have gone to unprecedented lengths to elect extreme Tea Party candidates who support their self-serving agenda. The Kochs have bought and paid for these candidates (both senate and gubernatorial), and are clearly hoping for an Election night wave to secure support for their anti-working families agenda.

Unparalleled Spending

The billionaire brothers began their dirty campaign early this cycle. By January of 2014, the Kochs’ chief political arm, Americans For Prosperity (AFP), had already poured $22 million in dark money into TV ads smearing Democratic senators up for reelection. AFP did not stop there. They have continued to spend so heavily on television ads, which range from misleading to patently false, that AFP has accounted for one out of every sixteen Senate ads this cycle as of August 2014.

But Americans For Prosperity’s spending is just one cog in a complex, ever-growing machine — a machine that increasingly threatens our democracy as it drowns out the voice of the people by amplifying the voice of a few self-interested billionaires. The many arms and extensive reach of this network have been dubbed the “Kochtopus,” and it continues to expand. This year, the Kochs launched a new Super PAC, Freedom Partners Action Fund, to allow for more direct spending on electioneering. While this new group is subject to financial disclosure, its biggest donors were unsurprisingly the Koch brothers themselves.

Overall the Koch network promised to spend around $300 million this cycle. While much of that money has gone to misleading voters over the airwaves, the real prize for the Kochs is buying candidates. From their secretive billionaires summit, which attracted hoards of powerful Republican politicians milling about with their benefactors and swapping thoughts on policy and strategy, to hosting events with key governors and 2016 GOP hopefuls jockeying for their support, the Koch network’s purchasing power is on display all around. Any smart Republican who wants to climb the political ladder is already pledging allegiance to the kingmakers. Florida Governor Rick Scott has fought to show he’s the governor the Kochs truly love the most, while major Koch beneficiary and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has spent his tenure in office trying to implement the extreme Koch agenda at every turn.

A Purchased Party

The aforementioned secretive billionaires summit the Koch brothers hosted provided an eye-opening look into their political operation. Many of the most trusted and wealthy members of the Koch political network gathered at a highly-guarded Southern California resort along with a number of the top leaders in today’s Republican Party — Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 2016 frontrunner Marco Rubio, crucial Senate candidates including Cory Gardner, Joni Ernst, and Tom Cotton, and the list goes on.

Leaked audio from that retreat confirmed that these big wigs of the GOP, responsible for charting the very direction of the party, are using the Koch agenda as their north star. We heard Joni Ernst credit the Koch network for having “started my trajectory” and Tom Cotton lavishing them with praise for elevating the GOP in Arkansas. Mitch McConnell promised that if he becomes majority leader, the Senate won’t waste time debating “gosh darn proposals” like raising the minimum wage or keeping student loan rates low. These comments are merely a tiny window into the Kochification of the GOP.

For decades, the Koch brothers have been fighting for their self-serving agenda to the detriment of working families, and now the Republican party has aligned with them on nearly every issue. The Koch brothers have long fought against the minimum wage; now key Republican senate and gubernatorial candidates have come out against a federal minimum wage altogether. The Kochs fund climate change denial because addressing it would hurt their bottom line; suddenly the entire GOP disavows scientific consensus. David Koch once called Social Security “the most serious threat to the future stability of our society next to nuclear war.” Today’s GOP is fighting to slash it. The Kochs have fought against the Farm Bill for years; now even Republican candidates in states driven by agriculture, like Kansas and Arkansas, voted against it.

The symbiosis between the Koch brothers and the GOP runs deep. The Kochs finance their candidates. The candidates push the Kochs’ self-serving agenda. The Kochs fund groups like the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). NFIB endorses Koch-supported candidates across the board. Those candidates tout their NFIB endorsement to claim they have the support of small businesses. Then the NFIB and the Republican politicians they back continue to push for policies, such as massive tax cuts for the wealthy that shift the tax burden toward working families, that do more good for the Koch brothers than for small businesses.

While they may have previously flown under the radar, these Koch-Republican charades are no longer going by unnoticed.

Fighting Back

American Bridge has spent the past six months exposing the truth about the Koch brothers’ self-serving agenda, their damaging business practices, and their chokehold on the Republican Party. We are holding them accountable, and voters will too.

It was not long ago that most Americans didn’t know who Charles and David Koch were, let alone why they should be wary of their agenda. But the Koch brothers are becoming household names — household names with a very negative connotation to them. Every day, the American people are learning more about the Kochs, and the more they learn, the more they reject the extreme Koch agenda and the candidates who support it.

We launched RealKochFacts.com in May, and in just six months, we’ve managed to drastically change the way the Kochs are viewed in American politics. We dug up long-buried documents from Libertarian archives that demonstrated how extreme the Koch agenda has been for over 30 years — and the lengths to which the Kochs have gone to implement it. We showed for the first time that the Kochs and their business conglomerate, Koch Industries, are outsourcers, tied to lost jobs and American jobs shipped overseas. We’ve exposed the depths of the environmental damage caused by their work, and dove into how their business practices can wreak havoc on a community, all in the pursuit of further growing their unimaginable fortune.

On a day-to-day basis, our research and tracking team is digging deeper into the Koch brothers’ antics, and we are telling that story to voters across the country. With our current campaign finance laws, we can’t stop the Koch network from pouring hundreds of millions of dollars of dark money into elections of all shape and size. But we can make sure that voters know exactly who they are, how extreme their self-serving agenda is, and how broad their reach is within the Republican Party.

That’s exactly what we’ve done, and it’s exactly what we will continue to do in the 2016 election cycle and beyond.

Continue reading to learn more about Republican candidates who share the Koch agenda and are being propped up by the secretive billionaires in North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Florida.

Closing Argument: A Second Term For Scott Walker Is A Second Term For The Kochs

The Koch brothers’ political arm, Americans for Prosperity, spent heavily in Wisconsin in 2010 to ensure that Scott Walker was one of the many extreme Conservative Republicans swept into office by that year’s Tea Party wave. Over the course of his first term as Governor, Walker and his allies have steered Wisconsin to the far right, cutting education spending by $800 million, working to block an increase to the state’s minimum wage and at the same time, giving massive tax breaks to the wealthy. Led by Walker, the state’s Republican legislature introduced an assault on collective bargaining rights that effectively cut public workers’ pay and destroyed their ability to negotiate over health coverage, safety, or sick leave.

When Walker’s extreme policies were at issue in the 2012 recall election, AFP spent $10 million promoting his — and the Kochs — political agenda. Walker’s current campaign for reelection has also benefited from Koch support, with AFP pledging to spend just shy of $1 million in ads touting the governor’s policies. One of Walker’s first actions after the recall election was to sign a pro-mining bill into law, the language of which had been largely informed by a significant donor to the Wisconsin Club for Growth (another Koch-backed entity), the mining company Gogebic Taconite. AFP has issued mailers in the mining area of Northern Wisconsin touting the measure, though not without bending the truth to inflate the benefits of the controversial law and help pad Walker’s job creation credentials.

The Kochs’ have a history of ideological disdain for campaign finance laws, not to mention that these measures often interfere with their inclination to spend freely on behalf of their favorite candidates, like Walker. A federal judge in Wisconsin happens to share some of these views, which is perhaps not surprising given that he has attended multiple expenses paid junkets funded by the billionaire brothers. In the last two months alone, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa has issued two rulings favorable to the Koch brothers, their myriad political groups, and Walker’s campaign. In September, he removed an existing limit on PAC and political party campaign contributions to gubernatorial candidates, which Walker’s campaign quickly exploited to the tune of almost $2 million. Just weeks before Election Day, Randa made an injunction halting Wisconsin’s longstanding ban on coordination between political campaigns and outside groups — like those funded by the Kochs — so long as the groups are engaging in so-called “issue advocacy.”

From the initial Tea Party wave of 2010, through his 2012 recall election, to 2014, the Koch brothers and Scott Walker have teamed up to implement a far right agenda in Wisconsin. Walker’s policies mirror the Kochs’ extreme agenda, which is why the self-serving billionaires and their allies are spending heavily in the hopes of winning four more years for Walker. As Wisconsinites head to the polls on Election Day, they should bear in mind that a vote for Scott Walker is a vote for four more years of the Koch brothers’ political agenda.

AFP adds Wisconsin to its roadshow of misleading ads

To understand the relationship the Koch brothers’ political arm, Americans for Prosperity, has with the truth, you needn’t look any further than the group’s scorecard on PolitiFact. During this midterm cycle, the group has racked up a consistent stream of “mostly false” and “false” ratings for their claims in ads. A toddler taking a “true or false” quiz is more likely to get a “true” than this outfit, which has also employed paid actors to spout falsified stories about the Affordable Care Act.

The latest “mostly false” rating was issued in response to a misleading mailer AFP is circulating in Northern Wisconsin. According to the mailer, Republican Governor Scott Walker’s administration is responsible for the region’s mining economy “moving forward” and for more people “getting good, high-paying jobs.” Per PolitiFact, AFP’s citation for this claim is Senate Bill 1, a controversial bill partially written by a mining company with significant interests in Northern Wisconsin and signed into law in 2013. As PolitiFact notes, “taken together, that suggests a boom in jobs related to the iron ore mine.” And yet, when they dug into the claim further, PolitiFact only found evidence of about 10 miners who are employed at the new iron ore mine project, which is in its early stages. PolitiFact notes that AFP claims that it also was including sand mining in its claim, yet the bill cited was specifically related to “metallic” mining.

Given that Scott Walker is a favorite of the Koch brothers and their allies, it’s hardly a surprise that AFP is sending misleading campaign mailers on his behalf. The “mostly false” mailer is especially subversive when you consider the mining project and Senate Bill being referenced. There are numerous questions about whether the bill was part of a pay-to-play scheme, after the mining company Gogebic Taconite gave $700,000 to the Koch-affiliated Wisconsin Club for Growth in support of Walker’s 2012 campaign in the recall election, before the bill the company helped author was signed into law early in 2013.

In effect, not only is AFP Wisconsin misleading voters about Scott Walker’s mining job creation record, they’re inflating the benefits of an early-stage project involving a company whose donations to another Koch outfit and ties to the Walker administration are being called into question.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation