By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
Sometimes, even the worst of people get it right. Speaking to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Wisconsin’s extreme right-wing Governor Scott Walker actually said something that makes sense: “It’s time to tell the truth to the American people.”
If only! If only Walker would tell the truth about why he’s trying to bust the unions and who’s paying the bills.
No matter how hard he and Fox News try to frame it as an attempt to solve Wisconsin’s budget problems, Walker’s legislation is nothing but a heavy-handed attempt to shut down unions by taking away their constitutional right to collective bargaining. That’s what the protests in Madison, now spreading to other states, are all about.
Does Wisconsin have a short-term budget deficit? Yes, but only because of the $141 million in special-interest tax breaks Walker pushed through in January. Does Wisconsin have a long-term problem? Yes, because of a projected shortfall in public employee pension obligations. But state employees, who willingly worked 14 furlough days last year to help the state balance the budget, have already agreed to the financial sacrifices demanded by the governor: contributing more toward their health and retirement coverage — which translates into a 7 percent pay cut.
What they will not, and should not, accept is the second half of Walker’s bill, which has nothing to do with the budget: an end to collective bargaining. Unions first won that right, in Madison, 75 years ago, with formation of the first chapter of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Today, it’s the only opportunity workers across the country have to fight for themselves and their families. They may not get everything they want in negotiations, but they should at least have a seat at the table.
But here’s what the mainstream media will never tell you. If workers have already agreed to his budget demands, why is Governor Walker stubbornly insisting on breaking the backs of the unions? Because that’s what the Koch brothers told him to do. And, in Wisconsin, as well as many other states, what the Koch brothers want, the Koch brothers get. And they’re willing to pay handsomely for it.
Remember the names Charles G. and David H. Koch, because you’re going to hear a lot more about them. By day, they are major polluters, heads of the energy and consumer products conglomerate Koch Brothers, based in Wichita, Kansas. By night, they are one of the most powerful and secretive forces in American politics — whose stated goal is to get rid of all government regulation. They have, in fact, used a big chunk of their oil money to found and fuel a right-wing political machine so vast, so widespread, and so influential that it’s known in political circles as the “Kochtopus.”
Like any self-respecting octopus, the Koch boys operate with many tentacles, their principal one a faux-grassroots, corporate-funded organization called Americans for Prosperity. In 2009 and 2010, AFP provided most of the funding for tea party rallies nationwide. They bussed people to Washington to protest President Obama’s health care reform and global warming legislation. They paid for busses to Glenn Beck’s rally at the Lincoln Memorial. They put up the money for Proposition 23, an unsuccessful effort to overturn California’s strict climate change laws. And, all the while, they fueled a relentless series of vicious, personal attacks on President Obama.
The Kochtopus was also active at the state level, supporting Republican candidates for governor who would embrace their anti-government agenda. And they found their poster boy in Scott Walker, always willing to dance to the Koch brothers’ tune — and take their call, even when it’s fake.
Because of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, allowing unlimited and unreported corporate campaign contributions, it’s impossible to trace all the money the Kochs poured into Wisconsin. But we do know that Koch Industries was Walker’s second-biggest contributor. Their PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which spent $4.3 million attacking Walker’s opponent. The Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council advised Walker on his union-busting legislation. And Koch Industries have opened their own lobbyist office in Madison.
But don’t say Scott Walker isn’t grateful. Buried deep inside the governor’s so-called “budget repair” bill is a totally unrelated provision allowing no-bid sales of state-owned heating, cooling, and power plants. And, in Wisconsin, guess who’s the leading customer for buying power plants? Koch Industries.
Follow the money. In Wisconsin, it leads to Charles and David Koch.
© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.