Is the Scott Walker Story Just the Tip of the Koch Brothers’ Political Iceberg?

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Last week I wrote up a post titled Scott Walker: A Fiscally Responsible Governor or a Politician Who Is Playing Favorites?. Judging from the number of comments left at that post, it appears that people are very interested in what’s been going on in the state of Wisconsin. I think many people may believe that as Wisconsin goes—so goes the nation…and probably the life expectancy of labor unions and collective bargaining.

What got a lot of press attention was the story of the prank phone call that Governor Walker received from gonzo journalist Ian Murphy. Murphy pretended to be billionaire industrialist David Koch. He talked to Walker for twenty minutes. Murphy reportedly told the Associated Press he made the prank phone call in order to show how candid Walker would be in a conversation with Koch at a time when Democrats claim the governor was refusing to return their calls.

The prank phone call appears to show a cozy relationship between Walker and Koch, a top campaign donor who may have a financial interest in fighting unions. Union workers protesting in Wisconsin have already made monetary concessions to help with Wisconsin’s budget shortfall. One has to wonder what is really behind the governor’s demand that public employee unions be stripped of their right to bargain collectively. Is it all part of an agenda to “take unions out at the knees”—a strategy suggested by Scott Hagerstrom at the annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC)? Hagerstrom is the Executive Director of Michigan’s chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP).

In a Mother Jones article, Andy Kroll writes: Walker’s plan to eviscerate collective bargaining rights for public employees is right out of the Koch brothers’ playbook. Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Reason Foundation have long taken a very antagonistic view toward public-sector unions.

And who is Americans for Prosperity? Felicia Sonmez has written that AFP is really two groups—both of which were founded by David Koch in 2004: Americans for Prosperity, a 501(c)4 and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, is a 501(c)3.

Somnez says that both groups are considered “not-for-profit” organizations under the Internal Revenue Service code—and that they do not have to disclose the identity of their donors or the contributions made by those donors. She added that David Koch is believed to be one of the group’s top donors.

In a New Yorker article titled Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama, Jane Mayer wrote about Peggy Venable, the Texas State Director of AFP: She (Peggy Venable) explained that the role of Americans for Prosperity was to help “educate” Tea Party activists on policy details, and to give them “next-step training” after their rallies, so that their political energy could be channelled “more effectively.” And she noted that Americans for Prosperity had provided Tea Party activists with lists of elected officials to target. She said of the Kochs, “They’re certainly our people. David’s the chairman of our board. I’ve certainly met with them, and I’m very appreciative of what they do.”

In August 2009, ThinkProgress said that it had obtained an exclusive memo from a Tea Party group that is supported by Koch’s Americans for Prosperity.

From Think Progress: “The memo outlined various ways for Tea Party activists to intimidate Democratic lawmakers and disrupt their town hall meetings on health reform. ThinkProgress published half a dozen articles exposing the role of Koch-funded groups like “Patients United” in encouraging opposition to health reform. For instance, in Virginia, a Koch-funded operative Ben Marchi assisted a birther who followed Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) around, yelling at him at town hall meetings.”

That’s all I’ve got for now, folks. Talk amongst yourselves. I need a break!


Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama. (New Yorker)

Who is “Americans for Prosperity”? (Washington Post)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Funded by the Koch Bros. (Mother Jones)

Why did Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker take a call from ‘David Koch’? (Christian Science Monitor)

Billionaire Brothers’ Money Plays Role in Wisconsin Dispute (New York Times)

On prank call, Wis. governor discusses strategy (Yahoo)

Koch Front Group Americans For Prosperity: ‘Take The Unions Out At The Knees’ (Think Progress)

Billionaire Right-Wing Koch Brothers Fund Wisconsin Governor Campaign and Anti-Union Push (Democracy Now)

Union Busting: The Real Call from the Koch Brothers (Huffington Post)

Charles And David Koch Exposed For Insidious Role In Crafting The Modern Right (Think Progress)

For Further Reading
Koch-Powered Tea Party Pushes Climate Denial Bill In New Hampshire (Think Progress) 

Commentary: Koch brothers and the union-busting Kansas House (The Kansas City Star)

630 thoughts on “Is the Scott Walker Story Just the Tip of the Koch Brothers’ Political Iceberg?”

  1. Mike A.,

    You are welcome…. Yes, it appears that they are very sleazy….and they ain’t even from Arkansas… and they do each other….I suppose they are worse than the Dart family….

  2. AY:

    Thanks for the 60 Minutes link. It appears that the brothers Koch are one sleazy family.

  3. Don’t Believe the (Union-Busting) Hype

    Posted on Mar 3, 2011
    By Joe Conason

    If you are a normal, trusting consumer of American journalism, you might well have gotten the impression by now that the current attempt to break public-sector unions—with its epicenter in Wisconsin—is overwhelmingly supported by the nation’s voters.

    You need not be a devotee of Fox News Channel or Rush Limbaugh to believe that Americans despise the unions that represent cops, teachers (especially teachers!) and firefighters. You might reasonably believe that simply because far more authoritative news sources have repeatedly suggested it.

    You might think so, for example, because the New York Times Sunday magazine told you so in a cover story written by one of the newspaper of record’s top political analysts last week, or because the Wall Street Journal editorial page said the same thing a few days ago.

    But if you believe that the American people are now eager to follow Gov. Scott Walker’s example, in Wisconsin or across the nation, it turns out that you (and those who have misinformed you) are unmistakably and profoundly wrong. For as one poll after another has indicated over the past two weeks, Americans soundly reject Walker’s union-busting gambit.

    The polling organizations span the political and journalistic spectrum, from Republican-leaning Gallup and Rasmussen to the Pew Research Center, NBC News/Wall Street Journal and CBS News/New York Times, yet their results are remarkably consistent. While many voters surveyed in all of the polls say that it is fair to require public employees to contribute more to their health and retirement benefits, a clear majority object to any attempt to curtail their collective bargaining rights.

    Asking about the struggle in Wisconsin, the Pew researchers found that 42 percent stood with the unions versus only 31 percent who sided with Walker. The CBS News/New York Times poll was considerably stronger, with 60 percent supporting the right of public employees to bargain collectively and only 33 percent in opposition; those numbers closely matched an earlier Gallup Poll that showed 61 percent supporting labor against the governor.

    And again, in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, only 33 percent say that it is “acceptable” to abolish those rights as a supposed way to address state and local budget deficits. Just under twice as many—62 percent—say that eliminating those rights is “unacceptable.”

    That finding coincided embarrassingly with a Journal editorial assuring its readers that Walker and his allies are prevailing because “the public in Wisconsin and around the U.S. seems to be listening and absorbing his message. The cause has been helped by the sit-ins and shouting of union members, the threats toward politicians who disagree with them, and by the flight of Democratic state senators to undisclosed locations in Illinois.”

    Actually, the vigorous resistance to Walker appears not to have damaged the union cause at all, but to have drawn attention to the gross partisan overreaching of the Republican governor and his corporate friends. In Wisconsin, many voters are now expressing buyer’s remorse over their choice of Walker, and tell pollsters they are evenly divided over whether to recall him.

    The ruckus in Madison, which he brought upon himself, has called attention to his budget’s favoritism toward upper-income taxpayers and its destructive impact on educational standards and public safety. Naturally, the good people of the Badger State are starting to wonder whether they cannot do better.

    The battle over the rights of public employees—and labor’s future in this country—is far from decided. Indeed, the debate over how to restore the middle class and the prospect of a better future is about to begin again. But the next time a blustering pundit tries to persuade you that some right-wing crusade is trendy or popular, just remember Wisconsin.

    Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer.

  4. According to the Forbes list of the 400 richest americans, each Koch brother is worth about 22 billion ranking them in fifth and sixth place.

  5. Moar said…Republican have children….

    Geeze…. I thought that they were known as non producing assets….. hence Tax Deductions….

  6. AY:

    You’re thinking of Willie Sutton, who robbed banks because, as he famously explained, “That’s where the money is.”

  7. moar,

    This is simple…

    Something to be proud of, I am sure….

    Charles writes that the ?purpose of business is to efficiently convert resources into products and services that make people?s lives better.? But when it comes to Koch?s carcinogenic pollution and carbon emissions, the purpose of Koch?s political giving is to avoid any financial responsibility ? no matter who gets hurt. Koch Industries has cornered the market in monetizing some of the most dirty industrial businesses. Koch imports oil from the Middle East, refines high-carbon Canadian crude, maintains coal-burning plants, owns one of the largest oil pipeline networks in America, runs environmentally hazardous lumber mills, produces toxic chemicals, and manufacturers fertilizer . The University of Masschusetts Amherst has scored Koch as among the top ten worst air polluters for its carcinogenic chemicals.…/c7f5ba6962de46339f0af921c14f3c5b

    Something else to be very, very proud of….right moar….

    CBS) This is the story of a blood feud, a battle between brothers. As we told you when we first reported this story last November, the Koch family of Wichita, Kansas is among the richest in the United States, worth billions of dollars. Their oil company, Koch Industries, is bigger than Intel, Dupont or Prudential Insurance, and they own it lock stock and barrel. The trouble is a former employee says the brother who controls the company grew rich through fraud and theft, stealing from the taxpayers of the United States.


    Yes, they are making the money the old fashion way….. What was that guys name that kept robbing banks….. He was asked why he robbed so many banks….his response was thats where they keep the money…..

  8. Even General Motors, famously late to the innovation starting line, says it will join the race—if ordered. Mark Reuss, the company’s top North American executive, said that although he was concerned about meeting a 62-mpg standard, “I think the industry can do anything it wants when it puts its mind to it … we’re going to make a plan that’s profitable with cars and trucks that people want.”

    GM sold 321 of the new plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in January and 281 in February. The numbers were released shortly after GM announced plans to make the Volt available nationwide by the end of the year.

  9. Do Republicans like clean air? Eh, not so much …

    Fouling the Clean Air Act

    Posted on Mar 3, 2011

    By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

    In a largely hidden component of its attack on the federal budget, the House of Representatives has approved a key Republican campaign promise to big business: protecting it from what the new majority calls the handcuffs of environmental safeguards. The Republicans would cuff the Environmental Protection Agency instead.

    If the Republicans prevail in the Senate and overcome a White House veto, they would hobble the Clean Air Act, probably the most successful U.S. law protecting health and the environment, and threaten the authority of California and several other states to use it to fight pollution and global warming.

    The Clean Air Act has meant fewer hospitalizations and missed workdays, and would save a projected $2 trillion in 2020 alone by reducing asthma, chronic bronchitis and premature deaths from lung disease. Now, having been given the go-ahead by the Supreme Court, the EPA is using it to cut back on carbon dioxide pollution, the prime culprit behind our changing climate.

    Think of the law as the legal weapon—passed by an overwhelming bipartisan congressional majority, signed by President Richard M. Nixon, approved by the highest court—that has allowed every president beginning with Nixon to fight some of the nation’s most difficult health and environmental challenges. Using the law to reduce carbon dioxide will bring us solutions that people like: hybrid and other high-tech, gas-sipping cars that cut our gasoline bills by more than the costs of the improved technology.

    But some of the nation’s biggest polluters have teamed up with the Republicans to try to stop progress—as the evidence of global warming grows: The 10 warmest years on record have all been since 1998; last year was tied with 2005 as the hottest. Together, the polluters and the GOP would turn the House into a special-interest court of appeals to circumvent the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that ordered the EPA to fight global warming. They would limit the clean air law’s protections against power plant pollution and block several states from adopting tougher pollution controls than the federal government.

    California has been a leader in setting air pollution and emissions standards under Clean Air Act provisions. Its efforts to set strong standards have been joined by 13 other states, among them New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Washington.

    Now, automakers are demanding that politicians—not scientists—write the clean car standards intended to reduce carbon dioxide pollution.

    The automakers supported a 5 percent annual reduction in emissions that will get us to 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016—the biggest step we’ve taken against global warming. They say they cannot cut emissions 6 percent the next year. These are the same people who said they could not equip cars with seat belts, air bags or catalytic converters.

    By using continuously variable transmissions, low-friction lubricants, improved engines, aerodynamic designs and high-strength lightweight steel and producing electric vehicles, the manufacturers could deliver a fleet that would achieve 62 mpg, cut our emissions by 6 percent per year and help us reduce our oil consumption by half by 2030, saving us money at the pump.

    Sure, they don’t want to. But they can. If you don’t believe this, listen to Toyota.

    Whatever goal the administration sets “Toyota will be prepared to meet,” the automaker’s vice president for product communications, Jim Colon, said. “If it’s 62 miles a gallon, we’ll be able to achieve that.”

    Even General Motors, famously late to the innovation starting line, says it will join the race—if ordered. Mark Reuss, the company’s top North American executive, said that although he was concerned about meeting a 62-mpg standard, “I think the industry can do anything it wants when it puts its mind to it … we’re going to make a plan that’s profitable with cars and trucks that people want.”

    That would be a welcome epiphany for a company that stayed afloat only with the help of a $50 billion bailout from America’s taxpayers.

    With the planet growing warmer, gasoline prices climbing and new turmoil in the Middle East threatening our energy security, we can’t afford to allow polluters to team up with the new House leadership to deny us progress.

    As Mark Twain said, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

    Dan Becker is director of the Safe Climate Campaign, which advocates strong action to fight global warming. James Gerstenzang is the campaign’s editorial director.

  10. According to the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB), the Wisconsin Retirement System owns $5.5 million in Georgia Pacific corporate bonds. (Georgia Pacific is owned by Koch Industries­.) This is the retirement system in which the overwhelmi­ng majority of state and local employees participat­e. These are the pension benefits that public employees are trying so hard to protect.”

  11. Maor,

    If Republican’s like children and clean air and water, why are they seeking to cut education, and eliminate the EPA by defunding it?

    If Republican’s like the outdoors so much, why are they seeking to drain it of its natural resources instead of focusing on alternative energy sources?

    If the Republican’s like open space, why do they seek to get rid of it by selling to private corporations who poison the air and water? Without the EPA, who will ensure that private industry uses the resources, and disposes of toxins, responsibly?

    Do keep in mind that many of the open spaces currently held by government are there not just for your enjoyment. Many are ecosystems within themselves, providing hundreds of species of animals with room to roam and sustenance. If that open space is to disappear into private hands, what happens then?

    The financial reform bill passed last year does not reform just mutual funds, but the financial system as a whole. So I will point out again that if the GOP has its way, the regulations will stand but there will be no money to ensure they are enforced.

    Sure entitlements need to be reformed but they should not be reformed on the backs of those who need them, i.e. the elderly, the disabled, families who could not survive without food stamps, low income housing, children.

    Want to take care of the deficit and fund entitlements and education? Close the loopholes that allow the most profitable corporations in this country escape paying either nothing or next to nothing in terms of corporate income tax. Jesus Christ, I pay more in income taxes than Bank of America, Exxon/Mobil and GE combined.

    Raise the payroll deduction ceiling on Social Security from the current $96,000. Institute a means test in order to determine who really needs social security to survive, and those who have other options in terms of retirement funds.

    Raise taxes from 36% to 39% on the top 2% of income earners in this country. The wealth disparity in this country is now at levels not seen since the Gilded Age. It’s shameful and it is disgusting that the top 2% have seen their bank accounts grow, while the other 98% are lucky they have two nickels to rub together.

    Cut defense spending and end the two clusterf*cks disguised as war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    There is much more that can be done, but in no way, shape or form should the middle and lower classes – the very people who enable the rich to live as they do – be the one’s to sacrifice. It’s high time Corporate America and the wealthy start bearing some of the burden that rest of us have been carrying for decades.

  12. Yep. It must surely suck to be a troll when the law says the exact opposite of what you claim. But then again, sucking is what Moar seems to do best.

  13. Blouise,

    I never doubted that for a moment – that’s just the one typo I make a point of correcting…

  14. Moar,

    Wow, you really are hard of thinking, aren’t you? I was going to respond to you, but Buddha beat me to it, so I wont bother – what he said!

  15. Stamford Liberal:

    I think that you are forgetting that republicans have children and like clean air and water.

    I don’t know how much you know about mutual funds but that is not the best example to use. Most of them are tools to enrich the managers.

    If I have a paper mill I must have a sustainable supply of pulp wood. So I need to either have tree farms or buy from local property owners. I will agree that when land is timbered it is pretty ugly but if new trees are planted the land is usually ready to be harvested again in 20 or 30 years.

    And I like to enjoy the outdoors as much as the next guy so some park space is a good thing. But the federal government is the largest holder of land in the US, to what end? How much park land do we need?

    Entitlements make up about 50% of our budget and defense is about 17%. So I agree with cutting entitlement spending. But it has to be done over a protracted period of time and done intelligently or you are going to cause a good deal of problems.

    The regulatory agencies should be cut back and is a good place to start. The reason you libs don’t want to start there is that you know it would help the economy which would put people back to work and make government entitlements less necessary and therefore vulnerable to reductions. Which is not in your best interest, a needy society is one easily manipulated by your type.

  16. maor,
    As Slarts suggested above, If employees have the right to collectively bargain, the company cannot just say no I won’t bargain. To be more accurate, they can say no, but they pay a legal price for their refusal to bargain. If you are in favor of workers having the right to form unions to bargain, you have to be in favor of the laws that prevent either side from refusing to bargain otherwisze the right to collective bargain is made moot.
    Of course, you are the same guy who claims that the investment bankers had plenty of regulations during their bizarre mortgage backed security scam that helped bring down the economy during the Bush regime, so maybe reason doesn’t matter to the Koch family.

  17. Slarti,

    Just a typo … usually I just write Dem and Rep … but I take your correction with a smile for even the appearance of being in that group of teabagging, Koch-loving, labor-hating, middle-class destroying, female bashing, immigrant-killing Republican party supporters is not an image I wish to project.

Comments are closed.