Have a Koch and a smile!

One fact about the news media and the blogging business is that one can never plan every detail about how your week will go.

I had planned on only one item this week on The Evil Koch Brothers, but my email provided me item number four, on …

How Conservatives Took Over Wisconsin!!! (Exclamation points and boldface  mine.)

Bridge Project is releasing a new report today examining the trail of dark money that has fueled and funded the recent conservative take over of Wisconsin politics and policy. Long a state with reliably Democratic leanings, everything changed in 2010 when conservative outside groups helped flip the state legislature and governor’s office from blue to red. Now, Wisconsin’s current political landscape looks wildly different than it did just a few years ago.

The Milwaukee Shepherd Express took an early look at Bridge Project’s report. Click here to read their Q&A with Bridge Vice President Eddie Vale.

About the report, Vale said: “The issue of the Koch brothers and their money isn’t a D.C. issue; it isn’t a campaign finance issue. It’s really hurting and affecting people’s lives on a day-to-day basis. The reason why workers in Wisconsin are losing their collective bargaining rights is because of this outside money. The reason why voting rights are being cut back is because of this money. The reason why women’s access to family planning services is cut back is because of this money. It is having a very negative effect on people’s lives in the state.”

Fault number one is the assertion about “reliably Democratic leanings.” If Hillary Clinton’s superduper PAC is talking about votes for president, they have a point, given that a majority of Wisconsin voters haven’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan wiped out Walter Mondale in 1984. If they’re talking about U.S. Senate races, they might also have a point, if they’re only looking at, say, the past 20 years, when Democrats Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold failed to represent any non-Democratic Wisconsinite. On the other hand, five of the eight Congressional districts are represented by Republicans. Bob Kasten and Joe McCarthy probably would be surprised to find out they represented a “reliably Democratic state” too.

If they’re referring to state government, they’re flat wrong. Over the past 50 years, this state has had every possible combination of control of the Legislature, from Democratic control of both houses to Republican control of both houses, and variants thereof. Since statehood, in fact, Wisconsin has had 31 Republican governors (including Thompson and, obviously, Scott Walker), 12 Democratic governors, two* Progressive governors (the asterisk is because, in addition to Gov. Philip La Follette, there was Gov.-elect Orland Loomis, but he died before inauguration) and one Whig governor.

Nothing else in the Bridge Project report is news, or even “news.” It is instead an attempt to delegitimize non-Democratic and non-liberal political beliefs. For instance:

In 2011, Republicans enacted one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country – although it was later placed on hold due to court challenges – as well as a Stand Your Ground-style gun law and a measure allowing concealed weapons in public parks, bars, and near schools. They also passed a budget cutting taxes for businesses and the wealthy, increasing the burden on low-income families, and slashing $800 million from K-12 education in a way that hit high-poverty districts the hardest. The next year, they passed an abstinence-only education bill and limited certain types of abortions. In 2013, Walker signed one bill forcing medically unnecessary ultrasounds on women seeking abortions and another – currently under injunction – imposing requirements that could force some of the state’s abortion clinics to close. So far this year, Republicans have stalled a minimum wage increase, interfered with local minimum wage laws, and further limited voting opportunities.

I didn’t support everything on that list, but I did support most of it. As for the next accusation …

The Koch brothers’ company heavily supported Walker’s 2010 campaign and spent on behalf of 16 Republican state candidates, all of whom won their elections. Yet the Wisconsin branch of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-founded and -financed group, made an even bigger splash, reportedly spending $10 million to support Walker’s policy agenda and buying ads during his recall election.

Along with the Kochs, the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation helped fuel the surge in Wisconsin by doling out money to a wide variety of conservative advocacy groups. As Bradley Foundation president Michael Grebe, who also chaired Walker’s gubernatorial and recall campaigns, put it, “In some way or another, most (local) conservatives, I guess, would have a connection to us.”

The state-based groups working to support the right-wing agenda include Wisconsin Club for Growth, Citizens for a Strong America (funded almost entirely by Wisconsin Club for Growth), Wisconsin Right to Life, the DeVos-linked American Federation for Children, and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Driving the plot from the national level were the Republican State Leadership Committee, which planned and largely bankrolled a nationwide strategy to control redistricting, and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads.

… I support most of those organizations too, not because I am a Republican (I am not a Republican), but because I support smaller government. I’m happy the Kochs gave that much money too to causes I support, since thanks to Obama’s economy and my line of work I don’t give money to politicians or political candidates.

When the Koch brothers took their place as the liberal bogeyman earlier this decade, I added up the number of jobs they were responsible for in this state. The number I got then was 2,400, which is an order of magnitude more private-sector jobs than any of their critics can claim to employ. (And, David Blaska reported earlier this week, most of those are union jobs. Any single one of the Kochs’ union jobs are more than Mary Burke’s union jobs at Trek Bicycle.)

Speaking of the Koch brothers and their unconscionable political  spending, the brothers Koch rank … 59th, below, as the Gateway Pundit points out, these unions:

2.) American Fedn of State, County & Municipal Employees $60,667,379
4.) National Education Assn $53,594,488
7.) Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $44,478,789
8.) United Auto Workers $41,667,858
9.) Carpenters & Joiners Union $39,260,371
10.) Service Employees International Union $38,395,690
11.) Laborers Union $37,494,010
12.) American Federation of Teachers $36,713,325
13.) Communications Workers of America $36,188,135
14.) Teamsters Union $36,123,209
16.) United Food & Commercial Workers Union $33,756,550
20.) Machinists & Aerospace Workers Union $31,313,097
23.) AFL-CIO $30,938,977
32.) National Assn of Letter Carriers $26,106,359
39.) Plumbers & Pipefitters Union $23,886,248
42.) Operating Engineers Union $23,036,848
43.) International Assn of Fire Fighters $22,963,260
46.) Sheet Metal Workers Union $22,372,978

The Koch brothers chose to spend their own money in politics, of course. The members of those unions, whose dues went to fund, in AFSCME’s case, $60.667 million in political spending, did not.

The tiresome ranting from the left about the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions isn’t about money, since they never seem to object about how much money George Soros and Warren Buffett have, or spend on politics. They don’t believe opinions other than theirs have the right to be heard. Well, here’s an opinion different from theirs: If a business can be taxed and regulated, then that business has the absolute First Amendment right to be heard in the political process, including contributing money to candidates, parties or third-party groups.

The assumption in Kochanoia is that voters are too stupid to decide for themselves the validity of the messages of political commercials, which result in their normal liberal political hearts being turned dark by evil right-wing thoughts. In this school of thought, Wisconsin voters were too dumb to be able to decide for themselves that the Doyle administration and the Democrat-controlled 2009-10 Legislature had done a craptacular job with the state’s economy and state government, and that’s why they voted for a Republican governor and Republicans to replace Democrats in the Legislature.

(Of course, there’s a way to sharply reduce political spending, and that’s by reducing the size and scope of government, therefore decreasing what politicians can do, and therefore decreasing the stakes in elections. That happens to be what the Koch brothers argue needs to happen.)

More generally, ever since the Progressive Era, and maybe before that, the official Wisconsin attitude toward successful people has been, at best, that they are a necessary evil. Wisconsinites pay some of the highest personal and corporate income taxes and property taxes in the country, and have ever since the income tax became law 100 years ago. Conversely, the official Wisconsin attitude toward government, probably since statehood, has been that too much government is just right. And so we have 3,120 units of government, state legislators who make more money than most of their constituents, and people who work in government who make more money than the people who pay their taxes in some areas of this state.

According to American Bridge, anyone who argues that maybe the so-called forward attitude of this state, as listed in the previous paragraph, through this state’s history maybe is the wrong direction — that business is more important to this state’s present and future than government is — well, you just don’t count.



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