A CMD Special Report: Scott Walker Runs on Koch Money

Madison, Wisconsin -- A new investigation by the Center for Media and Democracy documents the big money funneled by one of the richest men in America and one of the richest corporations in the world to put controversial Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in office.

The Republican Governors Association and the Kochs' Investment in Scott Walker

Walker was elected just over three months ago on the heels of an exceptionally expensive gubernatorial race in the Badger State, fueled by groups funded by the Koch brothers, David and Charles. David Koch, the son of a radical founding member of the John Birch Society, which has long been obsessed with claims about socialism and advocated the repeal of civil rights laws, personally donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association (RGA) in June of last year. This was the most he had ever personally given to that group. (Fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch matched Koch's donation to the RGA with a $1 million donation from his company News Corporation, parent company of FOX "News" Channel.)

Screen Shot of RGAs 5 million Investment in WalkerThe RGA in turn spent $5 million in the race, mostly on TV ads attacking Walker's political opponent, Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett. As this photo shows, the RGA described itself as a "key investor" in Walker's victory. In its congratulations, the RGA notes that it "ran a comprehensive campaign including TV and internet ads and direct mail. The series of ads were devastating to Tom Barrett ... All told, RGA ran 8 TV ads and sent 8 pieces of mail for absentee, early voting, and GOTV, totaling 2.9 million pieces."

The Center for Media and Democracy reported on some of the RGA's spin-filled ads last November, including the ads against Barrett, and filed a snapshot report this week. As the RGA takes credit, its multi-million dollar negative ad campaign probably did help make the difference between the 1.1 million votes cast for Walker against Barrett's 1 million votes. According to Open Secrets, Koch Industries was one of the top ten donors to the RGA in 2010, giving $1,050,450 to help with governors' races, like Walker's.

As Mother Jones has noted, the Koch Industries' political action committee, KochPAC, gave Walker's campaign $43,000 directly (according to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board). It may seem like a small amount compared with the millions the Kochs are spending funding the RGA and other groups, but that donation was one of the larger individual donations to Walker not from an expressly-named partisan PAC. It is, however, a drop in the bucket compared with the impact of a million-dollar negative ad campaign, especially because the candidate promoted by the mud-slingers does not have to get his hands dirty.

The Kochs' Investment in Americans for Prosperity

The laundering of Koch dollars through the RGA dwarfs the Kochs' direct donations to Walker, and it also does not tell the whole story. As the Center for Media and Democracy has been documenting on its SourceWatch site for several years, David Koch was the founder and chairman of a front group called Citizens for a Sound Economy, which received at least $12 million from the Koch Family Foundations and which is the predecessor of the group Americans for Prosperity.

As Jane Mayer reported in the New Yorker, the Kochs do not deny funding Americans for Prosperity (the amount is not disclosed) but assert that they provide no funding "specifically to support the tea parties." "Specifically" is the key word in that sentence that does not deny what is known in the non-profit world as "general support," meaning general funding or endowments, for an organization's operations and overall mission. As Mayer noted, Peggy Venable -- who helps the Americans for Prosperity Foundation train Tea Party activists and "target elected officials" -- "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.'"

Americans for Prosperity provided “Tea Party Talking Points” as the Tea Party was launched around tax day in 2009, and this weekend it is providing talking points to those coming to Madison for a pro-Walker protest it is helping to stage. Media watchers can expect to hear Americans for Prosperity protesters get equal time on the news, and more than equal time on FOX, using phrases to cloak union-busting as merely getting workers to accept "paying a fair share" through "modest but critical reforms" that end "strong-arming politicians for exorbitant benefits." The spin will also likely include a trumped up statistic claiming that private sector employees in Wisconsin earn 74 cents for every dollar paid to "overpaid" state union members--you know, teachers, firefighters, police, social workers, nurses, and other civil servants. An "unofficial" theme, a drumbeat of the Bircher baby propaganda efforts bankrolled by the Kochs, is calling opponents "socialists," a smear heard with increasing frequency as the Kochs' influence has expanded in the past two years.

Americans for Prosperity's Investment in Scott Walker

Notably, Americans for Prosperity bragged that it was going to spend nearly $50 million across the country in the November elections. As one of the groups exploiting the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision to allow unlimited spending by corporations to influence election outcomes, it does not disclose its donors and it does not report its expenditures on so-called "issue ads." It did run such ads in Wisconsin last fall.

Americans for Prosperity has actively supported and promoted Scott Walker in a variety of ways. It featured him at its tea party rally in Wisconsin in September 2009, when he was running for the Republican nomination for governor. Americans for Prosperity also ran millions of dollars in ads on a "spending crisis" (a crisis it did not run ads against when Republicans were spending the multi-billion dollar budget surplus into a multi-trillion dollar deficit), and it selected Wisconsin as one of the states for those ads in the months before the election. It also funded a "spending revolt" tour in Wisconsin last fall through its state "chapter."

Just how much money has Americans for Prosperity and its Wisconsin counterpart spent on issue ads or promoting Walker over the past two years is one of the questions for this weekend's orchestrated "Stand with Walker" event.

The Return on Investment?

Some things are known, though. Koch money helped get Scott Walker the governor's seat in Wisconsin. And now a major Koch-related group is spearheading the defense of Walker's radical plan to kill public employees' right to organize in Wisconsin. The question is whether an actual majority of Wisconsin citizens want two of the richest men in the world, who do not live here -- and who, as Lee Fang has pointed out, have eliminated jobs in this state -- to be playing such an influential role in the rights of working people here.

The Kochs assert that they do not "direct" the activities of Americans for Prosperity or the Tea Party. No, they just fuel them with their riches from the oil business they inherited from their daddy.

And they did not vote for Scott Walker in the traditional sense in a democracy. Rather, as the Republican Governors Association spells out, they "invested" in him.

What is the return desired for their investment? It looks like the first dividend Walker wants to pay, through the help of the Koch-subsidized cheerleaders from Americans for Prosperity, is a death knell for unions and the rights of workers to organize. But tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens have stood up this week to say this ROI will not be paid, that their rights will not be the price Walker exacts from them in return for the largess the Kochs have shown him as the anointed instrument of their agenda in this state.

Lisa Graves is Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, the publisher of PRWatch.org, SourceWatch.org, and BanksterUSA.org. She formerly served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice, as Chief Counsel for Nominations for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and as Deputy Chief of the Article III Judges Division of the U.S. Courts.

Lisa Graves

Lisa Graves is President of the Board of the Center for Media and Democracy and President of True North Research. She is a well-known researcher, writer, and public speaker. Her research and analysis have been cited by every major paper in the country and featured in critically acclaimed books and documentaries, including Ava Du Vernay’s award-winning film, “The 13th,” Bill Moyers’s “United States of ALEC,” and Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously.”



Thanks to CMD I am more aware of the effort to undermine the workers and give all the control to the power elite. I am glad you can balance the hype all around me.

Well stated, I thought I was the only one still reading C. Wright Mills and William Domhoff. Where are the moderate voices of the Power Elite /Ruling Class on this issue, are they silent because they have withered away during these last 30 years? The agreement was that unions would be used to marginalize radicalism within labor, because the Power elite, wished: 1) stability for profit extraction, 2) a bigger government- so that agencies could be co-opted more easily, and 3) to blunt socialistic and more radical movements. Are they really that sure they have won the day?

Having been born and raised in Wisconsin, I am proud of the direct action taken by citizens and public officials in the face of such irresponsibility. While disappointed with Walker's victory, I hardly think he made this farcial "plan" known in any campaign speech. No, this is something one keeps in the bag until one's victory is confirmed. Having read and heard the entirety of his rationale for such cost-cutting, I see many errors in logic, or even critical thinking. As the article points out, it was a constant and expensive media barrage that put him over the top in November. One can hardly believe all the pies in which the Koch Brothers have a finger. In this, the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision bulldozed the way clear for such billionaires, millionaires, and multi-national corporations (which need not be American) to donate however much they want to any campaign, anywhere they want. Because a corporation should have the same rights as a citizen. Let that sink in. By the way, if a corporation has these same rights, can I thence sue, or swear out a criminal complaint against, a corporation for libel, slander, environmental law-breaking, tax evasion, misrepresentation, money laundering, etc? Or, in fact, was the CU decision just so much garbage? Republican, and Ronald Reagan Appointee, Sandra Day O'Connor's legal opinion seems to bear this out. The former Supreme Court Justice came out strongly against this ruling in her address at the Georgtown University Law Center. To this, she also warned that the decision has the potential to destroy the independence of the judicial branch, since so many districts and states elect their judges.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/justice/ I wonder how many Teabaggers realize this, or the relationship of the Koch Industries to Clarence Thomas, to say nothing of his lobbyist wife?

Now we see the results of the unspeakably foolish SCOTUS decision to allow unlimited, unseen campaign funding from unknown entities. This decision should be rescinded, and Thomas and Scalia ought to recuse themselves from this unConstitutional foolishness. Time for the United States to start acting more like Egypt.

What took off with one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, Ronald (McDonald) Reagan, was a very carefully planned attack (I call it a war)on the Middle-class by the richest Americans (Plutocrats.) Reagan initiated the war by attacking the Air Traffic Controllers Union. The Labor Dept. listed "air traffic controller" as the most stressful job in our country. So, when the Air Traffic Controllers Union threatened a strike to force the government (FAA) to lessen the stress and danger of mistakes and to get state-of-the-art computers, Reagan jumped in to stop it. I worked in corporate America for 31 years and I saw this campaign against unions and the Middle-class take off in the early part of Reagan's first term. The factory owners pitted one factory union against another. The factory that lost got closed down and moved to non-union southern states. Then, the factory got moved to Mexico, China, etc. The only unionized factories that survived were ones the owners couldn't move to foreign countries because the foreign workers couldn't produce a high quality product. The Hoover Company (formerly of North Canton, Ohio), discovered that when it opened a plant in Mexico and the stuff coming out was grossly inferior in quality to the Ohio plant. So, Larry Hoover, who had controlling interest in the Hoover Company, sold it in 1982 (think Reagan era) to Chicago Pacific and it ended up in Hong Kong (Dirt Devil.) It followed the Plutocrat plan to the letter. The bottom line is this. The last honest Republican president was Dwight Eisenhower and it should be remembered that he warned against the take-over of our country by the MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX! Ever since, there has been an escalating war on the Middle-class by a tiny group of people we should be calling PLUTOCRATS. They are simply enormously rich people who want to control our country by the nature of their wealth. Just look at the concentration of wealth in the U.S. in the last 20 years (check out the Forbes 400 last year) and you will see that the U.S. is already, in many ways, a Plutocracy. Before the rise of the Middle-class after WWII, the U.S. was absolutely a Plutocracy. Think Henry Ford, the Duponts, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Carnegie, etc. The newer Plutocrats are the current Bush family, Rupert Murdock and the Koch brothers. This article is exactly the truth and I commend CMD for its work in exposing the Plutocratic war on America. Middle-class Americans had better wake-up fast (as is happening in Wisconsin and other states), before the Plutocrats slam the door on a democratic America. The Plutocrats might as well change the spelling to AMERIKA.

I agree completely with your post! When Ronald Reagan broke the air traffic controllers, I remember calling my sister and telling her this was the beginning of the end. When I read how great Ronald Regan was, I read books and articles and can't figure out how someone can believe he was so great. It was the beginning of the haves and the have nots. All I want is to be able to live paycheck to paycheck, but for some reason the billionaires think that's asking for to much. The old adage of the rich wanting to get richer is truer today then ever. It's so sad that we're a society that can be manipulated so easily. Wisconsin ranks #2 in education and we pay more taxes then the majority of other states. When our pay goes down, will Walker have to increase taxes to make up the difference? All that aside, we shouldn't try to pull each other down, but help each other up. But the rich want it all. How much money will make them happy? When nobody has anything and we are all on the welfare rolls? Oh, there won't be any welfare. We will be prison for robbing banks, killing each other for we can feed our kids. Oh, there won't be any prisons. Where will we all be? I'm scared.

I am friends with the man who was president of PATCO during the strike. He has told me that he met with Reagan while Reagan was running for president. Reagan told him that he knew PATCO's contract was coming up and that he saw no problems with it and would write a letter as such if he could have PATCO's endorsement, which my friend gave. My friend knew there was a problem when he set down with the Sec. of Transportation and the Sec. said he knew nothing of the letter and saw no reason to honor it. My friend said PATCO didn't want to strike but were pushed hard in that direction. He said his organization kept taking national membership votes on it and even though there were enough in favor of it to strike, he held off. Finally, they went on strike. Once on strike, the said the Reagan administration wouldn't let them stop the strike. Finally, PATCO was beaten and all of their funding confiscated. My friend was blackballed through administration intimidation so he never worked in a union again. Years later, the Sec. of Transportation from that time called him and they went out for dinner. The Sec. wanted to come clean about what happened. He said that the Reagan administration came in to office to bust unions, so it picked the most visible and vulnerable and set them up. The Sec. said that they pushed PATCO to strike intentionally and that they then wire taped all of the pre-strike and strike conversations so they knew vote #'s, strategies, decisions, etc. The Sec. said that PATCO could have won if they had struck immediately because the substitute air traffic controllers that were being secretly training on an air force base wouldn't have been ready. The striking a.tr. controllers were banned from ever working for the federal government or as a.tr. controllers for the rest of their lives. Years later, the ban was lifted for working for the gov't., but not for being a. tr. controllers. This was the first bust of a union and the rest retreated in fear. The movement has never recovered.

Let's see it is illegal for air traffic controllers to go on strike and Reagan told them so. If you strike you will be fired. They thought he was bluffing and he was not. In your eyes I guess it is okay to break the law. A certain group in Russia saw this play and knew they had one tough leader on their hands in the USA.

Patco's post is but a recitation of right wing distortion of reality to better suit their ideological, and truth be damned, that is so profound, the idea of our nation coming together again on even the most straightforward of issues, seems at this point to be a hopeless one. Such deeply flawed dogma is believed with the fervor of religious zealots by those on the right wing. This is a sad time for our nation. Thankfully 2012 is still many months away. Time is the enemy of dogma and nonsense. In Wisconsin right wing dogma and nonsense is already trembling before the American people.