Tens of thousands protest in Madison, February 16th. (Andy Manis)

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against Wisconsin Tea Party Governor Scott Walker on Wednesday. The protestors are teachers, nurses, students, family members and other people who will be affected by cuts to salaries after two years of cutbacks and furloughs already. The crowd represented nearly 1% of the state’s population.

Scott Walker on Jobs (American Idle)

But the protests are larger than those taking place in Bahrain and they are so large that they are gaining international attention.

The Governor is playing a part in a nationwide coordinated attack on worker’s rights by the Tea Party. One major affiliated group, the Wisconsin Club for Growth has been running ads within the state that bring together surreptitious images of school teachers, ominous music and the message that somehow elementary school teachers are fat cats sucking the teat of the state coffers. In fact the actual reality is far different. The Club for Growth is a major donor to Republican political campaigns. It contributed at least $2.4 million to campaigns during the 2010 election cycle. See OpenSecrets.org for details of their funding sources, expenditures and a list of donors during the election cycle.

In addition, the Wisconsin Club for Growth has posted an email it claims proves that public school employees were working on political campaigns during working hours. The only problem is that several school teachers received an email at a time after normal school hours in June. The post includes the email addresses and the names of the teachers in question. This is the type of smear campaign that the group is using against teachers and other public employees.

Another group, Americans for Prosperity, is also supporting Governor Walker’s proposals with ads and organizing efforts to counter the massive pro-union protests. Americans for Prosperity is a special interest group that was founded by the Billionaire Koch Brothers, who have gotten their hands in a number of political cookie jars right now. The group does not disclose donations to it, but they have very deep pockets. They spend a lot of money on attack ads for progressive causes. Americans for Prosperity helped to found Governor Walker’s Tea Party and it is also aiding efforts to curtail worker’s rights across the nation. Why? The billionaires that founded Americans for Prosperity have a history of attacking labor, environmental reform and social programs.

On Monday, Americans for Prosperity and the Wisconsin Club for Growth attempted to fill the state finance committee’s public hearing with operatives, despite the fact there was no public notice of the committee’s meeting – in violation of legislative procedures. So the connection between Republicans in the state legislature and special interest activists is quite cozy and it reeks of corruption. Check out the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign for more information on funding sources for state legislators and the governor.

Rachel Maddow had an excellent segment in which she describes just how Republican operatives discuss state and federal employees. They use the notion of small government to turn the same people who keep society running into enemies of the state. We can see that happening now in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, New Jersey, and many other places. Maddow also discussed the situation with former
Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold,
who fought his entire career for worker’s rights and removing corporate influence from politics. In fact, he has just begun a new progressive group to continue that work.

What can be done? For Wisconsin residents, JOIN A PROTEST. Even if you are not a state employee, their unions are one of the last defenses against the continued downward slide of wages in the country. If you can not make it to a protest, CONTACT YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS even if they plan to vote for the measure, give them an earful. And you may want to consider calling for Governor Walker’s Recall. Why? Because he is going to keep on making proposal after proposal until he gets his way. For non-residents, send letters of protest to any state legislator and mention that you will consider boycotting the state should the bill be enacted. And for crying out loud, do NOT vote Tea Party again!