Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Koch Brothers, Oil Magnates, Behind Gov. Walker's War On Unions

Last August, Jane Mayer wrote in The New Yorker (article here; my excerpt here) about Charles and David Koch (left), billionaire oil magnates who fund the "Americans for Prosperity," a supposedly grass-roots (i.e. "astroturf") group that campaigns for right-wing policies benefiting the wealthy. The Koch brothers and their group are backing Gov. Scott Walker's campaign to eliminate Wisconsin public service unions of collective bargaining rights:

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 [public sector union] cuts.

Even before the new governor was sworn in last month, executives from the Koch-backed group [Americans for Prosperity] had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown...

...the most aggressive expansion of the Koch brothers’ effort to influence public policy has come through the Americans for Prosperity, which runs both a charitable foundation and a grass-roots-activists group. ...David Koch is chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

...The organization has taken up a range of topics, including combating the health care law, environmental regulations and spending by state and federal governments. The effort to impose limits on public labor unions has been a particular focus in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all states with Republican governors...

To Bob Edgar, a former House Democrat who is now president of Common Cause, a liberal group that has been critical of what it sees as the rising influence of corporate interests in American politics, the Koch brothers are using their money to create a façade of grass-roots support for their favorite causes.

“This is a dangerous moment in America history,” Mr. Edgar said. “It is not that these folks don’t have a right to participate in politics. But they are moving democracy into the control of more wealthy corporate hands.”

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