Pamela Powers Hannley, 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.
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.