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.”



So I suppose you will be abiding by every "screw your neighbor and thyself" law the politicians pass, whether immoral or not. Grow a set!!!

Right on Ohio vet, this has been my take for decades. To use a weapons analogy, "they" have fully loaded fully automatic weapons and "we" are holding a dry plastic water pistol. But our weapon can get through security check points... we must find a way if it is not already too late.

Thank God that the Plutocrats don't try to influence the Democratic politicians. After we rid the world of all wealthy people and destroy the plutocracy, then Government Unions can be in chrge, trying to extract 3 trillion dollars from their kids working at McDonalds! I can't wait.

You are so right on. This is a great response.

Hilarious, a Soros funded group complaining about the Koch brothers funneling money to candidates. You guys are pathetic.

Dear Anonymous: You've shown real courage posting an anonymous accusation. The Center has a small grant from the Open Society Institute to study security policy, because I personally have been recognized for my expertise in analyzing federal surveillance law and history by national security policymakers in this country. OSI does not provide general support for CMD's operations. Furthermore, although people like you have bought into Glenn Beck's scurrilous attempts to malign Mr. Soros, the fact is that OSI is not backrolling a propaganda campaign through its donations, unlike the Kochs. In my opinion, Beck and his backers have targeted Mr. Soros in order to feed this little talking point to easily duped fools like you, because they know how extensive the Koch investment is in the right-wing disinformation machine. And, so they need to manufacture the idea that there is a counter-weight behind the Democrats and so it's all a wash, even though it is not. They're not equivalent. The Kochs are behind documented misinformation campaigns about energy policy and a host of other issues. You've probably been spoon-fed the lies they have funded. Or perhaps you even work for one of the Kochs' web of groups or the party apparatus they fund. Why don't you reveal both who you really work for and who you get your talking points from? I'll bet one or the other traces back to the Kochs. On the other hand, unlike you and unlike Americans for Prosperity and its ilk, the Center actually does disclose its major donors and supporters. So, what I find a little funny is that either you are dupe or you are a cog in the machine they've built. It'd be really funny, if it weren't so sad for you and the people you are trying to mislead by your comment. I stand by my report 100%.

Lisa, Very interesting article. I have been trying to keep up with the situation in Madison, WI as it has been something that I have been very interested in. I am a retired union worker, and I grew up in Madison. The things that Scott Walker has been trying to do in Madison is nothing short of a horrible crime against the middle class, as well as the people of Wisconsin. Since my retirement I have been able to spend more time on educating myself on these issues. You, and people like you, that are dedicated to writing about these issues in a factual way are doing an outstanding service to all Americans. It is so refreshing to hear things like this instead of hearing such negative things from people like Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck. Thanks for all you do! Diane p.s. we share the same last name!

I really appreciate your writing in, and not just because we have the same last name. It has been really stunning to see this whole awful power grab unfold. We are doing are best to let people know what is going on and what it really means. Thank you again for taking the time to write in!! Lisa

Very informative and truth yielding article. Can't imagine your motivation for writing this piece would have anything other agenda other then just trying to get the simple truth out there about the forces driving what is happening here in WI concerning this blatant attempt by Republican majority governing party to take away simple employess negotiating work place rights.