Pamela Powers, a progressive voice for Arizona
Billionaire Brothers’ Money Plays Role in Wisconsin Dispute from the New York Times may belong in the “duh” category, but I think it worthwhile to note the connection between billionaire right-wing philanthropists Charles G. and David Koch, Wall Street, and the current union-busting activities in Wisconsin and other states.
According to the Times, Koch Industries was one of the largest contributors to union-busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The article excerpted below also says that Koch Brothers’ political operatives have been working with state governments in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania to bust public employee unions.
From the NY Times…
WASHINGTON — Among the thousands of demonstrators who jammed the Wisconsin State Capitol grounds this weekend was a well-financed advocate from Washington who was there to voice praise for cutting state spending by slashing union benefits and bargaining rights.
The visitor, Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, told a large group of counterprotesters who had gathered Saturday at one edge of what otherwise was a mostly union crowd that the cuts were not only necessary, but they also represented the start of a much-needed nationwide move to slash public-sector union benefits.
“We are going to bring fiscal sanity back to this great nation,” he said.
What Mr. Phillips did not mention was that his Virginia-based nonprofit group, whose budget surged to $40 million in 2010 from $7 million three years ago, was created and financed in part by the secretive billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch.
State records also show that Koch Industries, their energy and consumer products conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., was one of the biggest contributors to the election campaign of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican who has championed the proposed cuts.
Even before the new governor was sworn in last month, executives from the Koch-backed group had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown, Mr. Phillips said in an interview on Monday.
State governments have gone into the red, he said, in part because of the excessively generous pay and benefits that unions have been able to negotiate for teachers, police, firefighters and other state and local employees.
“We thought it was important to do,” Mr. Phillips said, adding that his group is already working with activists and state officials in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania to urge them to take similar steps to curtail union benefits or give public employees the power to opt out of unions entirely.
To union leaders and liberal activists in Washington, this intervention in Wisconsin is proof of the expanding role played by nonprofit groups with murky ties to wealthy corporate executives as they push a decidedly conservative agenda.
“The Koch brothers are the poster children of the effort by multinational corporate America to try to redefine the rights and values of American citizens,” said Representative Gwen Moore, Democrat of Wisconsin, who joined with others in the union protests. Check this link for the rest of the article.
A few weeks ago, Common Cause linked the Koch Brothers to Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia (who voted in favor of corporate personhood and the right of corporations to donate unlimited secret funds to political campaigns). At issue is Thomas’ and Scalia’s attendance at soirees hosted by the Kochs before the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling in January 2010.
How much more evidence do we need to show that the US government is a corporate oligarchy and not a democracy? How about this story from Rolling Stone Magazine and Democracy Now?
Ohio’s union-busting Republican Governor John Kasich worked for Lehman Brothers. As such, he was “intimately involved” in selling risky investments to Ohio’s pension fund managers and those of other states. Of course, a big part of the reason pension funds are under water now is that they lost money on Wall Street during the crash– the crash that Kasich’s former employer Lehman Brothers helped to create. From Democracy Now…
Governor Kasich, yeah, and he was intimately involved with selling—getting the state of Ohio’s pension fund to invest in Lehman Brothers and buy mortgage-backed securities. And of course they lost all that money. And this, broadly, was really what the mortgage bubble and the financial crisis was all about. It was essentially a gigantic criminal fraud scheme where all the banks were taking mismarked mortgage-backed securities, very, very dangerous, toxic subprime loans, they were chopping them up and then packaging them as AAA-rated investments, and then selling them to state pension funds, to insurance companies, to Chinese banks and Dutch banks and Icelandic banks. And, of course, these things were blowing up, and all those funds were going broke. But what they’re doing now is they’re blaming the people who were collecting these pensions—they’re blaming the workers, they’re blaming the firemen, they’re blaming the policemen—whereas, in reality, they were actually the victims of this fraud scheme. And the only reason that people aren’t angrier about this, I think, is because they don’t really understand what happened. If these were car companies that had sold a trillion dollars’ worth of defective cars to the citizens of the United States, there would be riots right now. But these were mortgage-backed securities, it’s complicated, people don’t understand it, and they’re only now, I think, beginning to realize that they were defrauded. Check this link for the rest of the interview.
I agree with the Progressive Democrats of America. I’m fed up with politicians who are owned by corporatists; this includes Walker, Kasich, and Arizona’s own Governor Jan Brewer and State Senate President Russell Pearce (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). How do these people get elected? Oh, yeah, money. Lots of money.
“I’m fed up with politicians who are owned by corporatists;”
You should look into small, distributed government as described in this country’s founding documents. As long as you have a large, centralized government it will be captured by special interests. But then the Unions could not capture the government to enact a Marxist agenda and your life would have no meaning.
I think we’ve seen what happens when local government is not overseen by the people as a whole. We ended up with something a lot less than equal justice for all.
But then the Teahadists could not capture the government to enact a fascist agenda.
“small distributed government as described in the (constitution)” whatever do you mean? Can you cite this? Having it your way would put us on the road to township government, hardly a competitive position in a global economy. There is no way to turn back the clock unless you would like to see another dark ages on the heels of Greek and Roman civilization.
One has to wonder why no Justice department investigation is not happening now, since selling ones office, vote, governorship, judgeship is a crime! High misdemeanors in office is a crime, even old Trick Dick Nixon new when to cut and run and avoid the old cross bar hotel! 🙂 Let them federal prosecutors start investigating these corrupt billionaire’s and their puppets haul them into court and make them testify under oath, “follow the money” it will be their achille’s heel!
If you look at the 1986 Tax Reform Act you will see the license given certain institutional players to exact whatever thye wanted from Americans. Who approved this fish story? Our Congress and Ronald Wilson Reagan. Look at the roster of players in the the 99th Congress. Strom Thurmond in Senate and Tip O’Neill in House weer the leaders. What else would you expect?
How convenient to bring up the issue now, 2 years after Obama got elected thanks to George Soros, moveon.org, acorn, unions, etc. You are all hypocrites!
The money spent by unions in the 2010 election was less than 1% of what was spent by secret funding groups (like Americans for Prosperity, mentioned in this article). Comparing union spending to corporate spending, as if they are somehow equal is a FOX News canard.
I think we should do away with all private, outside funding of political campaigns. Just think– fewer televisions commercials, less junk mail, fewer pleas for donations, etc. We could shorten the campaign cycle to 3 months– similar to what the UK and Europe.
Eliminating the ability of the wealthy corporatists to buy candidates would clean up Congress pretty quickly.
Unfortunately Pamela, you would have to convince the corrupt Congress to pass the laws!
We need to demand by a multimillion person protest on the capital stairs to make this happen and also demand removal of all who have been a part of the collapse of the american way? politicians tied to these elite seperatists must be cuffed and tossed into jail under their patriot act for terrorism of the worst kind “ECONOMIC”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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To be honest, I did not make the connection before reading your article. I should have done so because I am a professional investment advisor. The pension fund managers of Ohio and other states who bought too much MBS in the housing bubble are partly to blame. They are fiduciaries and they have a due diligence obligation. However, there’s not much one can say when they retort that these securities had these ratings from reputable agencies and some were even insured. It’s interesting how often we read the “finance oligarchy” or “corporate oligarchy” terms being expressed. Perhaps this is because it is true. The oligarchy has tilted the playing field with their move to allow unlimited and faceless donations to candidates. Of course the only candidates who are seeing this money are those who are advocating for the class privilege of the oligarchy. By nullifying the electoral process of democracy, they push us into Tahir Square.
Impeach “Justice” Clarence Thomas now!
He clearly should have recused himself from the Citizens United case, and for years he blatantly lied on federal disclosure forms checking a box stating his wife had no income when in fact she was earning hundreds of thousands working for right wing groups.
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