One year ago this week, blogger Ian Murphy of the Buffalo Beast pranked Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker by posing as billionaire David Koch on a phone call. As the crowds at the Capitol protesting Walker's bill to end collective bargaining were increasing in size and volume, the fake Koch inquired how Walker's efforts to "crush that union" were going. Walker's fawning response helped rocket the Wisconsin protests into the national media limelight.
Now the real David Koch reveals that crushing unions is indeed at the top of his agenda. In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Koch talks about Walker, unions and the historical importance of the Wisconsin recall fight.
"We have spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We are going to spend more."
Koch didn't know that when he sat down with Palm Beach Post reporter Stacey Singer that he was talking to a native Wisconsinite and University of Wisconsin graduate, who follows state politics closely. Singer knows that residents filed over one million signatures to recall Walker (almost half of the people who voted in the last statewide election) and that a spring recall election is likely.
Although the interview was slated to be about Koch's charitable efforts to cure cancer, Singer got in a few questions about the Wisconsin fight. To his credit, Koch answered the questions expansively, for the first time giving America his views on Scott Walker and his battle with Wisconsin's working families.
Koch acknowledges working hard on behalf of Walker. "We're helping him, as we should. We've gotten pretty good at this over the years," he says. "We've spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We're going to spend more."
Koch may be referring to the efforts of AFP, his Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a 501(c)(3) "charitable" organization, which is up on air with another $700,000 TV ad-buy in defense of Walker and his budget. AFP is also sponsoring astroturf rallies around the state that few attend. While most Americans understand fighting cancer as a "charitable" activity, it is harder to see AFP's ads in defense of Walker in this light.
But Koch may also be referring to expenditures we don't yet know about. "If Koch is willing to spend $700,000 on issue ads, there is no telling how much he will spend to directly aid Walker when the recall is scheduled," warns Wisconsin Common Cause Director Jay Heck.
"There Will Be No Stopping Union Power"
While Walker has consistently framed the collective bargaining issue as a fiscal necessity -- "Wisconsin is broke" -- refreshingly, Koch states the obvious. He tells us the fight in Wisconsin is about "stopping union power."
"What Scott Walker is doing with the public unions in Wisconsin is critically important. He's an impressive guy and he's very courageous," Koch told the Palm Beach Post. "If the unions win the recall, there will be no stopping union power." The reporter adds: "As Koch speaks, he repeatedly uses the phrase 'union power' as though it's interchangeable with the word 'Bolshevik' -- a new red scare for a new century."
As CMD's Lisa Graves has reported, the Kochs' mistrust of unions can be traced to their father, Fred Koch, who raved that the National Education Association was a communist group and that public-school books were filled with "communist propaganda." He even suspected President Eisenhower and spoke of the "pro-communist" Supreme Court.
"Koch seems to be driven by his hatred for unions. Anyone who equates unions and Bolsheviks has some pretty extreme views," says Common Cause's Jay Heck. "It emphasizes how Walker has decided to align himself with some extreme elements outside of the state."
Koch-Funded Ads on Air, But No Ads from Critics
A year ago, Walker asked the fake Koch to help defend Wisconsin senators facing recall for their collective bargaining votes. AFP got the message and delivered, going up on air to defend the collective bargaining bill and Walker's austerity budget, which generated six straight months of job loss starting in July, the month Walker's budget kicked in. Walker was elected on a promise to create 250,000 jobs in the state. According to the most recent data, while the nation added 853,000 jobs over the last six months of 2011, a steady growth of 0.7 percent, Wisconsin lost 35,600 jobs, a loss just over one percent. No other state lost that many jobs.
But AFP's newest ad fails to mention the striking impact the budget has had on jobs in the state, nor do they mention teacher layoffs, increased class sizes or cutbacks in services. Instead, AFP and the right-wing MacIver Institute have tried to convince voters that Walker ended collective bargaining "abuses" and saved the state money without any "mass layoffs."
As Walker travels around the nation giving policy address after policy address at Koch-funded institutions (the Texas Policy Foundation, Arizona's Goldwater Institute, Florida's James Madison Institute), he complains ceaselessly about the "union ads" being run against him and the efforts of "out of state unions" to unseat him. He follows his speeches with high-dollar fundraisers that have netted $250,000 checks from out of state billionaires like Bob Perry of "swift boat" fame.
In reality, there are no union ads on TV in Wisconsin or any other ads critical of Walker, only pro-Walker ads from AFP and the Walker campaign. Walker has successfully raised $12 million with this gambit and has spent some $7 million on television already, but unions and independent expenditures groups have yet to spend a nickel on television. Given that six Walker aides and associates have been indicted in a wide-ranging criminal investigation being run out of the Milwaukee District Attorney's office, the lack of ads is surprising.
Federal Reserve Forecasts More Job Loss in WI
In his conversation with the fake David Koch over a year ago, Walker said Wisconsin is "ground zero, no doubt about it." For once, Walker was right. Wisconsin is the only state in the nation to suffer six straight months of job loss. Worse, the state is only one of six forecast to continue this damaging contraction.
These predictions arise not from the Bolsheviks or the unions, but from the staid Philadelphia Federal Reserve. Economists there say "there is little prospect that such trends will reverse. Given the Contractionary policies implemented in the budget, this is no surprise."
Given the impact of his policies, to many observers Walker's recall election will be a bellwether on whether or not Americans will allow policymakers to force them to bear the blame and the brunt of the Wall Street financial crisis, which tanked state revenues, or if another view of Wisconsin's future will prevail.