Category: Koch Brothers


Wisconsin Republicans look on as Governor Walker signs their anti-worker bill (Dangerous Minds)

Though once quite self-contented after signing the provision to end collective bargaining rights for state employees, the state Republicans are facing a few new problems, even as they prepare for tonight’s big fundraising event in Washington D.C., where they hope to be rewarded by billionaires and corporate PACs for their efforts to undermine unions.

Huge Madison Protests, March 12, 2011 (Digby's Blog)

The Republicans plan to attend a fundraiser tonight that will be put on by the BGR Group, a bi-partisan lobbying group based in Washington and London that has (according to BGR) been “Dubbed a powerhouse by CNN and Newsweek” and they claim to be a leader in government affairs, strategic communications and investment banking. Senator Ron Johnson will be there, too (Russ Feingold would never go to this event!) The Republicans plan to fill their coffers at the $1,000 per plate dinner tonight. BGR has deep ties with Wisconsin. According to Digital Journal,

BGR has a long list of ties to the Republican Party. Bob Wood, a former aide to Tommy Thompson, the Republican governor of Wisconsin for 14 years is among BGR’s executives and BGR’s past client list includes Wisconsin Energies Corp. who provides electrical service to much of Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Wisconsin Energies Corp. also serves natural gas customers in Wisconsin.
The Public Campaign Action Fund, a nonprofit advocate for campaign finance reform, pointed out that Wisconsin Energies has spent $320,000 on lobbying with BGR since 2009, and that BGR executives donated at least $10,800 to Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s campaign. Wisconsin Energies stands to benefit greatly from a provision in Walker’s budget that would privatize state-owned companies through no-bid contracts. Adding fuel to the controversy is the fact that Wisconsin Energies has ties to the Wisconsin’s State Senate caucus: Heather Liebham, who has worked for Wisconsin Energies state regulatory advocacy, is the wife of Republican Wisconsin State Senator Joe Liebham, who was one of the eighteen who illicitly pushed Walker’s “budget repair” bill through the Wisconsin Senate, producing a major conflict of interest.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/print/article/304654#ixzz1Gjdqlg8h

BGR also maintains an active client base with a number of foreign banks, governments and power companies,

The Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics are two informative resources for people wanting to follow the money in politics. In addition to representing Wisconsin Energies Corp., BGR represents a significant number of foreign interests and governments including The Republic of India which paid BGR $1.2 million to represent its interests in Washington, India’s Reliance Industries which has paid BGR $1.52 million from 2009 and 2010, The American Chamber of Commerce in China and the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, which paid a combined total of $280,000 to launder money into the U.S. political process, The Kurdistan Regional Government which paid BGR $1.13 million from 2009 to 2010, and Russia-based Alfa Bank which paid BGR $510,000 in 2010 to help subvert U.S. politics.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/print/article/304654#ixzz1Gjeyuy6A

Meanwhile, attempts to sell Wisconsin power stations have reappeared in Walker’s budget bill.

It was a weekend of record-breaking. Last Saturday, while the largest protests in the history of the Wisconsin took place, the largest protest in the history of Washburn, Wisconsin also took place. When Governor Walker arrived to give a speech to Republicans at a local steakhouse, governor Walker was met on location by up to 5,000 protesters. What is special about this is that the city of Washburn only has 2,280 residents! Here is a video from the huge protest in the little town:

Protests in Washburn, WI, March 12, 2011 (SunRidge Video)

Walker was also met the following evening by 4,000 protesters when he was to give a speech in Green Bay.

But that is not even half of it!

More legal problems are mounting on the Wisconsin Republicans. The International Commission for Labor Rights has declared Governor Walker’s anti-union provisions illegal, and so have the National Lawyers Guild. According to truth-out.org, statement by the ICLR says:

As workers in the thousands and hundreds of thousands in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio and around the country demonstrate to protect the right of public sector workers to collective bargaining, the political battle has overshadowed any reference to the legal rights to collective bargaining. The political battle to prevent the loss of collective bargaining is reinforced by the fact that stripping any collective bargaining rights is blatantly illegal. Courts and agencies around the world have uniformly held the right of collective bargaining in the public sector is an essential element of the right of Freedom of Association, which is a fundamental right under both International law and the United States Constitution.

There is more. State Senator Randy Hopper, already considered the least likely Senator to survive a recall election, has a new heap of trouble. When protesters showed up at his house in Fond du Lac to demonstrate, they were surprised when his wife came to the door and mentioned that they were now estranged. It seems that Hopper has been living in Madison for the past few months with a 25-year old lobbyist named Valerie Cass. Several reports mention that his former wife and maid were apparently happy to sign the petition for Hopper’s recall, though this is not confirmed.

He is in a lot more trouble, though. Madison, as it happens, is not technically inside his legislative district – if he has been living outside of his district, that would be a felony violation of elections law. So would be conspiring with lobbyists while acting in a state office. Ms. Cass no longer works for her former lobbying firm, Persuasion Partners of Madison, located one block from the State Capitol. The group touts itself for “Turning blue states into red states”. I have three screenshots, showing their “Candidate Clients” as well as their “Grassroots, Corporate and Third Party Clients”, shown here:

Persuasion Partners Inc. Candidate Clients, part 1 (Persuasion Partners Inc. Screenshot, March 15, 2011)

Persuasion Partners Candidate Clients, Part 2 (Persuasion Partners Inc. Screenshot, March 15, 2011)


Persuasion Partners Inc. Grassroots, Corporate and Third Party Clients (Persuasion Partners Inc. Screenshot, March 15, 2011)

There are a couple of interesting things to note here. First, the firm Persuasion Partners is involved with Koch-sponsored groups. It is also involved with the Minnesota Republican Party and the Republican Party of Tennessee and Republicans in both states are pushing for draconian cuts to state services and benefits for public workers just as they are in Wisconsin. The Kochs are apparently embedded with the Republicans quite deeply. Another surprise is that Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is also a client, along with Scott Walker and Wisconsin Congressional Representative Paul Ryan – who gave the Republican address after the most recent State of the Union speech, in which he called for draconian cuts for federal services and public employee benefits. It seems as if there may be a connection…

Will the State Attorney General investigate whether Hopper has been living outside of his district and whether there are ethics violations involving his ex-lobbyist girlfriend? He should, a complaint has already been filed against him by a citizen, Dawn Meyer.

Remember when the Republicans put arrest warrants out for the Wisconsin 14? Well, that was a felony. Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach discusses this and very clearly explains what is happening in the video here.



Video streaming by Ustream

The recall efforts are progressing ahead of schedule as well – the recall of the Republicans, that is. A new poll indicates that at least three Republicans would lose in recall elections, by sizable margins. And mswsm at Daily Kos has found out that the Americans for Prosperity “Stand with Walker” Bus Tour must be faking its signatures. They had about 1,000 signatures when they left Green Bay, and after meeting 200 supporters in Wausau (pop 38,000), they somehow arrived in Rhinelander (pop 7,700) with 115,000 signatures! Someone on that bus has a very sore wrist!

Meanwhile, calls for boycotts are picking up steam. A “move your money” campaign has already begun to spread statewide with firefighters spontaneously closing their accounts with M&I Bank, conveniently located at the site of the Madison protests. It turns out that M&I bank is not in the best financial shape as it is. They gave out lots of bad loans and hold a high ratio of toxic assets. For information on companies that supported Scott Walker, check out my link as well as the list at Scott Walker Watch. Boycotts are the way to go:

Cenk Uygur discusses how to fight billionaires (MSNBC)

It is disappointing that the Obama Administration has not come out more strongly in favor of the workers in Wisconsin, however in his defense,
he is trying to manage negotiations with the Republican House of Representatives who would like to make all sorts of crazy cuts to everything that middle class people need to remain in the middle class. Standing firmly behind the crowds could inflame the his problems with the House is probably what he is thinking, but why not take control of the bully pulpit of the presidency and promote the idea of worker’s rights? Obama is running the show at the moment and he could really get a boost from people who are already fighting for their rights. Besides, President Obama should be concerned about his re-election prospects if labor chooses one of its own to run for the Presidency.

Other Democrats are helping a bit more. Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich gave a great speech last week at the Madison Worker’s Rights Rally. It pretty much sums up what is at stake and how to make sure that the U.S. remains a democracy, free from corporate control.

Cenk Dennis Kucinich in Madison, March 12, 2011 (Uptake)

And on one final note – more rallies are planned throughout Wisconsin! Keep up the great work! The schedule can be found at SEIU with information on free buses to the events.

“They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.”
– Henry A. Wallace

The actions by the Republican Party in Wisconsin since January have been playing out across the country at the same time. In Wisconsin, the attack was led by stripping public unions, the strongest remaining unions, of their right to collectively bargain. Hidden in the budget bill are provisions to sell state assets so that they can be purchased by large companies and their services can be sold back to the state at a higher price. In Michigan, the Republicans are passing unconstitutional laws that can be used to eliminate elected local governments, fire all union staff and give control of the municipality over to large corporations under the guise of a fiscal crisis. Arizona sold their statehouse so that they can rent it for a higher price in perpetuity! The current political instability in the US is due to a coordinated attack on American public institutions and infrastructure by billionaires and the companies that they run. What is playing out is an attempt to replace representative democracy with corporate control of the like we have not seen since the time of the Robber Barrons during the Gilded Age. During the past few evenings, Rachel Maddow has aired a number of pieces that make an excellent primer to what is taking place, who is funding it, and what the outcomes are. These pieces are a must see for anyone in the middle class that cares about their own standard of living, the future for their children, access to education, and the rights of human beings.

Part I: The Koch Brothers – the billionaires who are funding the Tea Party and directing Republican policy.

The Koch Brothers are behind the Tea Party and they are pulling strings, 7 March, 2011 (The Rachel Maddow Show)

Part II: One of the things that the Right does when they receive hundreds of million dollars from billionaires is to hire people to misinform people on internet discussion sites and to place attack ads on air against popular causes and liberal politicians.

Rachel Maddow discusses Astroturf campaigns, 7 March, 2011 (The Rachel Maddow Show)

Part III: Despite the fact that all of the Republican Governors and Congressmen claim that the problem is one of fiscal insolvency, the actions that are taking place right now have very little to do with the budget and everything to due with taking political control from the people. All of the fiscal problems in the country are easily fixed by raising taxes on the wealthy (the people who created the problem) and state and national budgets are being used as a ruse.

Rachel Maddow on the Tea Party's use of financial crises to drive draconian legislation, 8 March, 2011 (The Rachel Maddow Show)

Part IV: Naomi Klein discusses how the Right uses the threat of disaster to gain control all…the…time. She describes how the current state and federal budget crises are no different.

Naomi Klein discusses Disaster Capitalism and Michigan's Financial Emergency Law with Rachel Maddow, 8 March, 2011 (The Rachel Maddow Show)

Part V: Rachel Maddow announces the Wisconsin State Senate’s illegal vote on collective bargaining rights.

9 March, 2011: Wisconsin Senate illegally votes to remove collective bargaining rights (The Rachel Maddow Show)

Part VI: How did this mess all begin? Remember when a group of billionaires collapsed the economy through their own financial irresponsibility and criminal behavior? Well, neither the irresponsibility nor the criminal behavior have stopped, but now the billionaires want control.

We should focus on the people who created the current economic crisis: The billionaires. 9 March, 2011 (The Rachel Maddow Show)

Part VII: Rachel Maddow announces the new Michigan law that allows the Governor to choose which local governments are in financial crisis… and to pick which corporation can run the town once he invalidates the local elected governments.

A new Michigan law gives the governor the power to overturn local elections and grant control of municipalities to corporations. 9 March, 2011 (The Rachel Maddow Show)

Part VIII: Michael Moore discusses the pro-labor and pro-democracy movements in Wisconsin and how people can rise up against the class war and the loss of democracy in their own state.

Michael Moore discusses the current attack on the Middle Class and what can be done about it. 9 March, 2011 (The Rachel Maddow Show)

Part IX: What is at stake and the need to act to stop the corporate takeover of the country.

Michael Moore: "We can win this, but we have to do something" 9 March, 2011 (The Rachel Maddow Show)

Wisconsin Protests

Protests in Madison continued through the weekend. 30-50,000 people showed up Saturday to protest against Governor Walker’s attacks on working families. Mail carriers had their day on Sunday. But the Tea Party had a pro-Walker rally on Sunday as well at Alliant Energy Center. Despite having access to the Kochs’ billions, they could only muster 600 people to support Scott Walker. A new poll came out, albeit with a very small sample (603 respondents, corresponding to errors greater than +/- 4%), showing very negative reactions to Governor Walker, a strong majority against stripping unions of collective bargaining rights, and 72% of Wisconsinites want to solve the Walker-created budgetary problems by raising taxes on people earning more than $150,000 per year. HUGE protests are expected across the nation next Saturday, with more events also planned throughout the week. And the bottom may be dropping out on Governor Walker as thousands of dairy farmers plan to drive their tractors to the Capitol to show support for unions next Saturday. In Wisconsin, when dairy farmers protest Republicans, it generally means the end of the careers of those Republicans. Some are predicting that the protests in Madison are just the beginning, as the debate to cut Social Security begins in Washington.

Other Tea Party Fun

In Ohio, the Tea Party legislature is passing tougher anti-union legislation than the bill in Madison. It makes it a criminal offense for workers to go on strike. Some shenanigans were required in order to get the bill through committee, however. When a committee was deadlocked on the proposal with even some Republicans dissenting, the Republican Senate Majority Leader fired two Republican Senators from their committee assignments so that the bill could reach the floor. Still, even some Republicans are calling the bill unconstitutional and it likely violates existing labor laws. Unfortunately Ohio Dems can not prevent a quorum in the Republican-filled Ohio legislature. This week has seen the largest protests to date in Columbus.

Indiana Democratic House Members are still in Illinois, preventing a vote on anti-union legislation there. As protests in Indiana continue, Indiana’s newly elected Republican Secretary of State Charlie White is probably going to jail. He has ben indicted on three counts of felony voter fraud for registering to vote in places where he did not live. One would think that a State Secretary of State, who is in charge of elections within the state, would understand the rules here – that is unless that was the reason for his choice to run. Keep in mind that White has supported the voter ID requirement in Indiana, ostensibly to prevent people from voting illegally as he has done. There are a lot more interesting details in this article
from the Brad Blog.

The State Legislature of Arizona has passed an unconstitutional bill to nullify federal laws. Laws of this sort were the same type that precipitated the Civil War, when southern states attempted to nullify federal regulation of slavery. This comes on the heels of a vote by the Arizona Legislature to allow people to carry guns to public events, because, you know, guns at public events are a fantastic idea and it is not as if one of their own members of Congress was shot in the head by a lunatic carrying a gun or anything just two months ago. Oh, as it happens, Jared Loughner has just been hit with 49 additional criminal counts for his firing spree on a crowd at a Giffords event in January.

The Tea Party-led Montana State Legislature is still at it. Even Republicans are now claiming that the Tea Party is leading to the the Republicans to become such a national laughingstock that they are driving away young GOP voters. In addition to working to allow guns in schools, they are trying to, as MT Cowgirl puts it, “legislate the laws of nature” to deny climate change, eliminate stem cell research, to claim the earth is between 4,000 and 6,000 years old, and to criminalize homosexuality.

Florida Tea Party Governor Rick Scott may be subject to a criminal investigation over his firing of the state nursing home long-term care obmudsman. It is not generally considered a smart move to anger the nursing homes in the state with the nation’s most geriatric population.

Wikileaks

Julian Assange is appealing the expected British court ruling that he should be extradited to Sweden. His organization WikiLeaks has already uncovered a huge amount of corruption from countries accross the world. It was revelations of the excesses of the family of the Tunisian dictator that have led to pro-democracy rallies across Africa and Asia. Meanwhile, Bradley Manning, who the military claims gave WikiLeaks documents that it later published, is in detention under cruel and unusual conditions – including being kept in his cell naked, being refused sleep, etc. Does this sound familiar?

Corruption on the Supreme Court

Calls are coming out for the removal of Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia for illegally participating in political fundraising, tax evasion and refusing to make public conflicts of interest.

Wisconsin State Capitol (rbw)

After a Dane County Court ruled that the State was violating a prior ruling to allow protesters into the State Capitol, the scene at the Capitol was quiet once protesters left peacefully in accordance with the part of the ruling that prohibits nighttime sleepovers in the building. However, the cynical action by the Governor was not finished. Members of the Walker Administration claimed that it may take as much as $7 million to repair the damage done during the 2-week sleepover in the building. Though when pressed by the media, the Walker Administration was forced to backtrack, indicating that there was no damage to the building and all that was necessary was a through cleaning, including removing signs taped to the marble interior.

That was not all. The police presence at the State Capitol remains strong, though many officers are working during the day, only to join the protests after their shifts are complete. Democratic Assemblyman Nick Milroy of South Range was tackled to the ground when he tried to enter his office to get his coat. Video of the incident can be seen on WISN.

Because of the lockdown earlier this week, Democratic Legislators moved their desks outside so that they could meet with their constituents. Republicans did not apparently want to meet their constituents, in contrast, because they kept their desks inside during the lockdown. The Dems have kept their desks outside, even after visitors could enter the Capitol again.

After .22 caliber bullets were found in several locations around the State Capitol Thursday, visitors to the Capitol were screened heavily for weapons. Because of the incredibly peaceful nature of the protests so far and because Governor Walker has already admitted to considering to bring thugs in to create trouble, the discovery of the bullets has prompted Wisconsin ex-Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager to say:

“For all we know somebody planted them there — we don’t know if it was a protester.”

Thanks to the 14 Democratic Senators who are still in Illinois on their own dime, under the threat of an unconstitutional arrest, more details of the Koch-supported Budget “Repair” bill are coming to light. The ramifications are profound, including a $1billion cut to education across the state, the budget could end interlibrary book loans, it would force local referendums in order to maintain services, and strip collective bargaining rights for union employees, as well as end their subsidized child care. In a nod to the insurance companies that backed his campaign financially, the bill would also gut the self-supporting Wisconsin State Insurance Fund. This is a crystal clear example of companies giving candidates contributions for political services.

It would not be the only corruption on the part of Scott Walker. The Milwaukee Magazine has outlined cronyism and corruption that occurred in the Milwaukee County pension system under Walker’s watch. He has violated a Dane County judge by refusing entry for demonstrators into the Capitol. He has apparently lied to the press, who are now suing, over the notion that he had received a large number of emails in favor of his budget proposal. He likely broke the law when he mentioned that he had considered sending thugs to create trouble to discredit the protests and he is clearly in the pocket of the Koch brothers, given his friendly relationship with them, and he has been threatening state workers with pink slips if he does not get his way, a form of political coercion. In addition to all of that, Walker likely broke state labor laws by refusing to negotiate with the unions. Laura Flanders discussed these legal issues with Lautenschlager.

With his legal exposure, the story gets worse for Walker. Recall efforts are underway for 8 Republican Senators and they are going swimmingly. The recall of three senators gives the Democrats a majority and the recall of all 8 gives them a 2/3 majority, which they could use to bring about impeachment hearings. Scott Walker’s window to pass his budget is closing and he knows it: Some Republicans may even break with the party if it comes up for a vote.

So do the mainstream media William Rivers Pitt discusses why the mainstream media has not been reporting the huge crowds in Madison, preferring to discuss Charlie Sheen instead. In short, he says “I think they’re scared.” More on media coverage later!

100,000 people showed up to rally against the GOP in Madison Saturday (John Hart, State Journal, via Madison Capitol Times)

After a weekend of protests that spread through all 50 states, the numbers continue to rise as rallies continue. The protests in Ohio are growing quite large as well. More that 20,000 people rallied in Columbus on Monday, protesting more Koch-supported union-busting Tea Party legislation passing through the legislature there.

One hiccup did occur as Governor Walker refused to allow protesters into the State Capitol Monday, though he was hit with a restraining order by a Dane Country judget. In addition, police refused to enforce the Governor’s order to clear the building, arguing that they “are not the Palace Guard”. It is public relations like these that explain why more than one million Wisconsinites are willing to sign a petition for Scott Walker’s recall. That is about 1 in 4 voters in the state asking for his recall, and that is only after one week.

Walker’s political future may be doomed, but he plans to continue to do damage before he leaves. The Governor, who was ousted from Marquette University for cheating while still only garnering a 2.4 GPA, is gutting the Wisconsin state educational system with cuts of up to $900 million in aid to schools. Meanwhile, the damage continues to build. Restaurants are leaving the Wisconsin Restaurant Association for its support of the Walker Budget “Repair” Bill.

As the national assault on education continues, including the Detroit school districts packing up to 60 pupils per classroom and all of the Providence teachers being fired in one swoop, more and more evidence of criminality and conspiracy begin to arise.

The Media are doing their part to aid Governor Walker’s disinformation program. Fox “News” has once again been caught lying,
when it turns out that a reporter who claimed to be punched by a protester – well, was not punched by a protester. They have been shouted down by protesters to the tune of “Fox News Lies” (because it does), but there has been no violence directed toward them. Fox’s response to “Fox News Lies” has been to argue that the protesters have a lot of “vitriol toward the media” and that the protesters want to shut down communication. Watch the link to see the worst, most dishonest reporting ever. Good Grief.

But Fox News is not the only complicit new organization helping the Tea Party out. The New York Times has once again taken to burying the lead. Oh, sure the real news is right there – on page 23 – but you have to get past the misleading headlines first. Keith Olbermann, now of Fok News, has exposed a piece in which a “regular union guy” from Janesville, WI argued against the teachers’ right to collectively bargain. Well, it turns out that the New York Times failed to report that the “regular union guy” was not actually a member of a union, the plant he supposedly worked for has been closed for years, and they misspelled his name. Oops.

Word is slowly getting out that Minnesota, with a bigger biennial budget deficit than Wisconsin, is closing its gap by taxing the rich. Wisconsin should do the same, since the wealthy and corporations in Wisconsin actually pay lower taxes than their fair share. And if those other companies are like Koch Industries, they have gotten rich by demanding bailouts and robbing from the states anyway.

The cyber-activist group, Anonymous, is also getting involved. They have taken down the Americans for Prosperity website as their first attack on a Koch-run organization. They say:

“[i]t has come to our attention that the brother, David and Charles Koch- the billionaire owners of Koch Industries-have long attempted to usurp American Democracy. Their actions to undermine the legitimate political process in Wisconsin are the final straw. Starting today we fight back.”

Code Pink Protest the Koch Brothers (Crystal Chatham, AP)

In two previous articles, Meet the Kochs, the billionaires who fund the Tea Party and Who are the Koch Brothers?, we have highlighted the corporate interests and the political actions of the Koch brothers. Well, there is more to the story. Back in the 1980s, David and Charles Koch were vying with their brother, Bill Koch, for control of Koch Industries. The fact that Bill was forced out of the country left a bit of a rift between the brothers, even if he is incredibly wealthy as well. A CBS News 60 Minutes episode dealt with the feud. Bill Koch accused Koch Industries of earning a minimum of $230 million bilking the government out of oil by falsifying the amount and quality of the oil it was purchasing from federal lands. A note for Libertarians: This is only possible when companies are allowed to police themselves.

Koch Industries was convicted not only of stealing oil, but also for cutting back on safety for the sake of cost. In 2000, Koch Industries was hit with the largest fine ever under the Clean Water Act for spilling 3 million gallons of crude oil in six states.

In another incident:

“They don’t care for any loss of human life. Like I said, it was the buck that counted for them,” says Danny Smalley. He had the extreme misfortune of living near a Koch Industries underground pipeline that ran through Texas. In August, 1996, Smalley was home with his daughter Danielle and her friend Jason Stone. Danielle was packing to leave for school the next day – the first person in her family to go to college.

She and Jason started smelling gas. It was butane, pouring from a corroded Koch Industries high pressure pipeline, 200 yards from their home. Jason and Danielle set out in a pickup truck to find help. But their truck set off the butane, and caused an explosion.

Danny Smalley filed suit against Koch Industries. His attorney, Ted Lyon, says the investigation exposed a pattern of negligence and coverup involving the pipeline known as Sterling One. Lyon describes the pipeline as like “Swiss Cheese.”

In April, 2001, the Koch Petroleum Group was fined for releasing benzene at a chemical plant in Texas. But that is not the only time that has happened. Greenpeace lists Koch Industries’ long and inglorious environmental record.

The Kochs are actively working to construct a major oil pipeline from the Tar Sands of Alberta to their refineries in Texas. The pipeline would pass through the heart of the Ogallala
aquifer that provides water to much of the central United States and they plan to put the pipeline under the aquifer… but the area is prone to earthquakes. If you are worried, do not worry: Koch Industries is seeking redactions of environmental regulations and they are buying political campaigns to have the project approved.

The long history of Koch Industries acting in an environmentally negligent and politically active way seems to be a perfect combination for corruption. Given the immense amounts of money that the Koch brothers funnel to their political operations, we should be wary of their influence on public elections. This is especially true when we consider the effects of their proposals to essentially void the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

It is time for a public investigation into the Koch brothers financial support for the Tea Party as well as for a close inspection of safety at their plants across the country. The U.S. Government should get involved in there investigation because the public should not be forced to rely on groups like Anonymous, who are monitoring the Koch’s computer networks now, when the Government is supposed to work in the best interests of the people.

Walker continues his assault on the Middle Class (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

When will the billionaires be asked to share in the burden? Hundreds are protesting outside Koch Industries’ new lobbying office that is located a block from the Capitol in Madison.

Governor Walker, not content to deprive teachers and nurses of their rights to collectively bargain for their salaries is now eager to raid the state employee insurance fund to balance the budget.

The first layoffs have been announced by Walker, including the wife of Wisconsin Democratic State Senator Scott Fitzgerald, Lisa, who is a teacher, in a fine case of political retribution.

In addition, Republican legislators will restrict access to their offices beginning pm Saturday because they are not really about free speech and democracy, unless one is talking about the “free speech” that Citizens United claimed comes in the form of corporate political donations. Vote such as the one last night come about when a political party no longer thinks it requires constituents (or when it really believes that corporations are people).

David Koch (New Yorker)

In the aftermath of Wisconsin Governor’s phone call with a David Koch impersonator, we now know that Scott Walker is a puppet. The Koch’s have purchased his election, with a combination of both direct funding and indirect funding through the Kochs’ vast network of right-wing organizations. We can only speculate on the Kochs’ true motivations, but if the talking points listed on their think tank websites give any indication, it involves a dismantling and part and parcel sale of government assets to private interests as well as an assault on environmental regulations. The New Yorker published an excellent article about the Koch Brothers last August. This exposé is quite illuminating in that it brings up a number of issues, including the roots of their interest in the Libertarian movement, how they gained political influence, and how they have now been able to buy elections across the country.

New Yorker: Covert Operations, The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama

This is true only because Fox profits from human misery (via Slinking Toward Retirement)

Protests continue in the Midwest, amidst growing fortune

As the protests against Governor Walker’s Medieval and corrupt budget proposal continue in Wisconsin into their ninth day, cracks continue to form in the self-assured façade of the Governor. After being punked by a blogger from Buffalo in a phone call with a person he believed to be David Koch, Walker exuded corruption and cronyism. Though in a tense press conference after the new of the prank call came out, Governor Walker glossed over the overt signs of influence peddling and argued that this “distraction” will not prevent his budget bill from going through. Meanwhile, as the 14 Wisconsin Democratic Senators continue their exile in Illinois, new details of Walker’s plans come out:

1. He considered sending in thugs to create violence in the protests.
2. He plans to sell state assets to private interests in no-bid sales, even as his benefactors, the Koch brothers set up a lobbying office one block from the state capitol.
3. The “Budget Repair Bill” would give the Governor unilateral control over the state’s Medicaid program and could lead to a drastic reduction in coverage as well as the closure of 400 nursing homes in the state.
4. Details are emerging in which the governor would separate the flagship University of Wisconsin-Madison from the rest of the UW system. The school would have a new board of trustees, possibly stacked with corporatists who would like to privatize the campus.
5. In the phone call, there are numerous hints at ethics violations, possible trojan horses for Democratic Senators…
6. …and threats. Walker is threatening to lay off 1500 employees if his bill is not enacted, punishing the defenseless for his failure to pass a bill.
7. He is likely guilty of a number of ethics violations in relation to Koch Industries. This should be investigated in detail.

Meanwhile, the Indiana state Senate leader indicates that the draconian anti-union legislation making its rounds there are dead, killed by the flight of Democratic state Senators to Illinois à la Wisconsin. This signals the first major victory in Democratic opposition to the Byzantine anti-labor bills that have been promulgated by the Tea Party and the GOP. And another victory occurred in Ohion, where after a day of huge protests, the Ohio Senate has voted to allow collective bargaining for state employees, further isolating Wisconsin’s Walker who is in close contact with Ohio Governor Kasich (based on his own words). And the Governor of Florida backs away from anti-union legislation in a state that is ripe for major protests.

More protests around the country

More rallies took place around the country in solidarity with Wisconsin workers. Events were held in Washington D.C., Hartford,Nashville, Scranton, and thousands showed up to support Wisconsin workers in Atlanta despite a call for armed Tea Party counter-protesters. More protests are scheduled throughout the state of Wisconsin, as well as the rest of the country through the weekend. See bottom for a list of dates and locations.

DOMA

Congratulations, GLBT Community! The federal government no longer sees you as second-class citizens as President Obama announces that the Executive branch, on the advisement of the Justice Department, will no longer enforce defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)!

Upcoming rallies

Thursday, 24 February
Orlando, FL
Peoria, IL
Duluth, MN
New York, NY
Philadelphia, PA
Pittsburgh, PA

Friday, 25 February

Tucson, AZ
Morristown, NJ
Trenton, NJ
Portland, OR
Corpus Christi, TX
Spokane, WA

Saturday, 26 February

San Diego, CA
Dallas, TX
As well as 63 other gatherings in Madison and around the country!

Sunday, 27 February

West Bend, WI

Governor Walker is snookered by a blogger from Buffalo (Madison.com)

After hearing Democratic Wisconsin State Senator Tim Carpenter complain that Governor Walker is not taking phone calls, blogger Ian Murphy of the Buffalo Beast had an idea. He decided to impersonate David Koch to see whether he would get through. After being transferred immediately to the executive secretary (who believed that they had met before) was greeted quite warmly by Scott Walker, “David!” What follows in this link are recordings of the conversation and transcripts that detail a possible trojan horse for the Senate Dems, potential ethics violations, close communication with other Tea Party governors, a belief in plutocracy, and an obvious history of a cozy, top-down relationship between the Kochs and Walker.

Be sure to read the transcript or listen to the conversations and spread the word!

A sign from Saturday's protest in Madison (mjs538 at Buzzfeed)

The labor movement spreads across the country

Heated action spread from Wisconsin across the nation today, where Democrats have left the Statehouse in order to prevent the passage of another Tea Party bill that would eliminate the right of public employees to collectively bargain. This prompted Indiana Governor Daniels to suggest dropping the bill!

Unfortunately, leaving the state is not an option in Ohio, where Republicans can maintain a quorum without Democrats, though protests continued in the state’s capital, Columbus.

More rallies were held around the country in solidarity with the state employees in Wisconsin. There was a rally in Phoenix, Little Rock, there were 6000 in Sacramento, also in Palmdale, and a large rally in Denver, and in Des Moines, union protests vastly outnumbered a 50-person Tea Party squad. More rallies took place in Annapolis, 2000 showed up in Boston, workers packed the state capitol in St. Paul while a large group rallied outside Fox News in New York City, thousands surrounded the Statehouse in Columbus, joining several hundred people in Santa Fe, and in Providence, and Montpelier

Unions continue to plan more events, including Wednesday rallies in Hartford, Atlanta, Baton Rouge and Scranton. Check the SEIU website for more details. A number of unions around the country, including the Madison area AFL-CIO, are also preparing for a general strike if the union-busting bill is passed.

The crowd in Madison may have reached 68,000 again as demonstrations took place across the state of Wisconsin Tuesday, including up to 450 people in small towns like Waupaca (population 5,700). Meanwhile, Walker responded with threats during an ironically named “fireside chat”
in which he said that if the state budget bill is not passed by friday, he would lay off 1500 state workers.

Despite the Governor’s declaration that employees must avert disaster by paying more into their pensions, the state pension fund is one of the healthiest in the nation because pension payouts are funded to the tune of 99.67% while some states have pension funding levels as low as 54% due to a failure to act upon the promises made to workers. The pension fund is independent of the state’s general fund as well, which does have a roughly $140 million deficit due to the Governor’s tax subsidies and health care adjustments given to corporations.

But this bill is not about balancing the budget. Today, Walker signed a bill that would require a 2/3 majority vote for approving tax increases. That is right – Walker created a budget deficit, argued that state employees must pay for the difference in addition to losing their collective bargaining rights and the ability of unions to deduct union dues from their paychecks all while making it more difficult for the state to balance the budget. Here is what he said:

“I went to work today, met with my cabinet, and signed legislation that will help government operate within its means,” Governor Scott Walker said. “Wisconsinites can’t turn to raising taxes to balance their own family budgets when times get tough. This bill will ensure that we don’t kick the can down the road for a quick budget fix only to slap a long-term tax hike on the backs of Wisconsin taxpayers. I thank Senator Leah Vukmir and Representative Tyler August for their leadership on this issue.”

It gets better, the Governor, who was kicked out of Marquette University for cheating with a 2.4 GPA, has a long history of cronyism and incompetence. As Milwaukee County Commissioner, he illegally fired publicly-employed security staff from the Milwaukee County Courthouse and replaced them in a no-bid contract with members of a private security firm that has now obtained a rather inglorious reputation while working in Afghanistan.

Rachel Maddow discusses Walker's incompetence as Milwaukee County Commissioner (Rachel Maddow Show)

That is not all. The “Budget Repair Bill” has another provision, Section 16.896:

16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state-owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).

So Governor Walker is planning to sell state assets – steam and power plants – in no-bid contracts to private companies. Could this perhaps involve Koch Industries? A Koch-funded group, Americans for Prosperity (an ironic title) is now purchasing ad time in support of Governor Walker’s proposals. This is corruption pure and simple: A Governor, elected on the purse strings of billionaires sells state assets to them so that they can charge the state to receive power from their new plants.

Scott Walker wants to sell state-owned power plants in no-bid contracts (Rachel Maddow Show)

Shenanigans continue in the Wisconsin State Legislature, leading to an impassioned response by a Democratic Assemblyman from Oshkosh. Today, the Democrats offered over 100 amendments to the Budget Bill in order to delay it a bit longer. The State Legislatures Phone Comment Line has shut down due to too many complaints and a pro-union website was blocked inside the Wisconsin State Capitol. Meanwhile, Indiana Democrats joined Wisconsin Democratic Senators in Illinois, following a similar strategy.

Popular opinion in the country is decidedly against the actions of the Tea Party. In a USA Today/Gallup Poll, Americans oppose weakening unions ability to collectively bargain 61-33%. Furthermore, the AFL-CIO hired Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research to conduct surveys over the past week. They were simple approve/disapprove surveys. Huffington Post reports the change in the data most prominently, which is unfortunate because it is a weak result that lies within the error bars but does show popular opinion moving from Walker to the Democratic Senators now out of state. The real, statistically significan result from the poll is shown here:

Reaction of Wisconsinites: With which groups do you agree given the current situation? (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, via Huffington Post)

Scott Walker has nowhere to go. His approval rate is around 39%. He has just gone all-in and the state will turn on him provided that everyone learns his overreach in the deals to sell state assets in no-bid contracts. The state will become even more enraged if he follows through on his threat to fire state workers without a budget bill. Even some Republican Senators may be wavering. The protests can take them down, even if the corporate media is circling the wagons.

Yet, what is happening in Wisconsin is also happening across the country as Republican and Tea Party-led legislatures show the public what astroturf is made of. Bill after bill is designed to eliminate worker’s rights, sell public assets to companies so that the services can be sold back to the states. They seek to redact environmental laws. They cut jobs, and education, entitlements and health care, all being inefficient when viewed through the lens of the state as a funding source for corporations. The only way to stop this dismantling of American society now is to organize and to protest the leaders who adopt these draconian and corrupt laws. Scott Walker may be the first to break under the pressure – but you will not read that on CNN, Fox, or in other corporate media. They are circling the wagons and putting out headlines intended to dissuage protestors. More on that later.

Clarence and Virginia Thomas (credits in photo)

It is now well known that the Governor of Wisconsin has made to demonize teachers and care givers while making the decision to lower their living standards rather than to govern in a way that lifts the living standards of everyone. For those of you who are wondering how the state reached this predicament, we would need to go back to the foundation of the Tea Party with the help of the Koch Brothers and Dick Armey.

But that would not be the entire story because the Tea Party needed a little more help to get off the ground. The reason is not that the Tea Party had trouble finding funding because the Koch Brothers have billions. Rather, the trouble was that the Tea Party could not use that money to legally fund campaigns because of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law. So the Koch Brothers,
who hold a gathering of conservative operatives every year, invited Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia to their soirée in 2009.

Well, it just so happened that the Supreme Court was hearing a case around that time, Citizen’s United vs. Federal Election Commission and by an amazing coincidence, that case just happened to deal with campaign finance law! When the Supreme Court Ruling on the case came out, it became clear that it was a bonanza for Corporations. Equating corporate money to “free speech” and a corporation to a person, the majority opinion, written in part by both Scalia and Thomas, ruled that companies could anonymously donate as much money as they wanted to any political candidate. In short, the decision opened the floodgates for corporate money in elections, which was already widely perceived to be a problem – even under McCain-Feingold.

The decision was strongly repudiated by lawyers, elections officials, lawmakers and voting rights advocates alike. In his dissenting opinion, Justice Stevens sharply rebuked the decision:

At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.

The result of this decision was a resounding victory for Republicans across the country. A huge influx of corporate cash, much of it from unknown donors. Some funds from foreign sources may have been funneled (read: laundered) through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. All of this meant a huge cash disadvantage for Democrats around the country.

The corporate money fueled misinformation and attack ads everywhere. It funded smear campaigns by the Chamber of Commerce, who hired a consultant to develop a strategy of hacking Union computer systems, planting false documents and alerting authorities after a false-leak to the “accounting fraud” information they “learned” about their adversaries. But they also set up malware and virus attacks on liberal groups. They also used the campaigns to try to force public policy to accept the outsourcing of jobs that their constituents have profitted heavily from.

These illegal operations took their toll. Russ Feingold, who had spent his career on improving the electoral process and eliminating untoward corporate influence also fell victim as Tea Party candidates, with coffers filled by the Koch Brothers won elections everywhere.
Corporate contributions reached a record $220 million in 2010, effectively throwing the same amount of support as a whole political party behind pro-corporate Republicans. Their agenda was and is about maintaining a corporate stranglehold on elections so that the government becomes a source of funding for entrenched and politically connected companies. Any funding on social programs is therefore inefficient to their ends and must be stopped. That includes Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment, you name it.

It is *only* through this lens that you can understand why Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker would create a budget deficit to precipitate a false crisis while refusing to raise taxes by $25 per person per year to solve the problem (that is all it would take). The Koch Brothers do not want to pay taxes and they and their news commentators such as Glenn Beck prey on the unassuming sense of fairness of normal people to convince them that raising taxes on the wealthy would be tantamount to theft. This is despite the fact that the world’s third richest man, Warren Buffett, publicly stated that it was wrong for him to pay a lower tax rate than his middle-class secretary. Buffett is diametrically opposed to the Kochs on the taxation issue: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates want to pay more taxes and they think other wealthy people should do the same in order to preserve democracy in the country.

Well, it turns out that this is not even the whole story yet. Clarence Thomas’ wife, Virginia, was a long-time lobbyist for the Heritage Foundation. And the Heritage Foundation was founded by the Koch Brothers! Even more: Clarence Thomas has not reported his wife’s nearly $700,000 per year income on their joint tax filings for several years, likely due to the fact that it is against the Supreme Court Code of Conduct for a Justice to engage in fundraising activities of any sort.

It gets even better: The group Citizens United spent over $100,000 on ads that supported his candidacy for the Supreme Court Bench! His wife also began two groups, Liberty Central and Liberty Consulting, which have profited from the Citizens United Ruling! Hence, Thomas has failed to report several conflicts of interest from which he was required to recuse himself. It may therefore be possible to vacate the Citizens United decision with the help of the Justice Department.

What kind of Justice is Clarence Thomas? Despite the fact that he has not asked a single question in hearings for 5 years now. (Sonja Sotomayor famously asked more questions on her first day of court than Thomas had in his entire time on the bench.) When it came out that Thomas had hidden his ethics violations with tax evasion, he claimed that he made a mistake on his tax forms because did not understand the corresponding tax law. So there you go – he is either corrupt or incompetent or both.

The progressive group, Common Cause is calling for an investigation of Justice Thomas and has filed a bar complaint with the Justice Department. If guilty could conceivably be impeached, though it would only be the second time in U.S. history in which a Supreme Court Justice faced impeachment.

On a lighter note, here is Stephen Colbert’s take on Clarence Thomas’ finances. Enjoy!

Talking points screen shot (Americans for Prosperity Website)

The group, Americans for Prosperity is run by the Koch Brothers. Here is what they say about teachers and public workers. Please notice any and all similarities to the exact words and phrases used by Governor Walker. It is almost as if the Governor is a puppet! Here is the original source (please note directory name containing the PDF file) : http://americansforprosperity.org/walker/talkingpoints.pdf