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For the Tea Party, Another Election, Another Defeat

2:37 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Ever since the high water mark of the Tea Party movement in 2010 the path forward nationally has been nothing if not downhill. The net number of seats held by movement members on Capitol Hill has declined overall. Twice they have cost the Republican Party the Senate. The movement failed to put forth a viable presidential candidate in 2012. Tea Party favorability ratings with the public have steadily sunk to the lowest level since the birth of the movement. Coming off of a fresh debacle in their effort to derail Obamacare via a government shutdown Tea Party Republicans have trundled into yet a new set of defeats in Tuesday’s elections. Not a single Tea Party backed candidate or ballot initiative of consequence was successful.

Tea Revolution 2010 Flag

Another defeat may have Tea Partiers yearning for the good old days.

In Virginia Ken Cuccinelli lost by three percentage points and contrary to accepted wisdom he probably wouldn’t have benefitted from more money. Why? Because Cuccinelli was out of step with the very elements of the electorate that the GOP lost in 2012 so more money would have only advertised his shortcomings that much more increasing his negatives. Democrats won the Lt. Governor race by double digits and they are ahead in the race for Attorney General. Likewise, when the final counts are tallied, Democrats may win the next two most important seats after Attorney General. If Virginia Democrats win all five seats that will be the first time since 1966 that they have done so, a decided setback for the Virginia G.O.P.

Yes the Obamacare rollout has been a mess and that made for a tighter race in Virginia, but the GOP has a hand in that too and that reality will come back to haunt them in the next election cycle. As I have amply pointed out, roughly 35% of the people who are unhappy with the A.C.A. want a single payer system so when you combine that with those who favor the law you get a majority of Americans opposing the conservative plan, if you even want to call it a plan, which it is not. More important in Virginia than Obamacare was the shutdown which, quoting Howard Fineman of MSNBC, affected one out of every three families of whom two out of three blamed the Republican Party and voted for Terry McAuliffe. That said it’s not likely that increasing airtime for Ken Cuccinelli’s would have had much of an effect. In the end, ideology matters and Cuccinelli’s was just too disconnected from the people who’s votes he needed to win the election. The real question is where were all of the ultra conservatives that Cuccinelli needed to secure a win at the ballot box? Do they even exist in large enough numbers in Virginia or nationally, for that matter, to make the Tea Party successful outside of a few southern and rural electoral districts?

Meanwhile a Tea Party backed congressional candidate lost to a pro-business Republican moderate, Bradley Byrne, in Alabama. That defeat, however narrow it might be, speaks volumes to the fading power of the movement within a region where it should be at the peak of power. Yes it is true that in Alabama millions of dollars of outside money via pro-business groups was spent to assist Byrne, but, that said, if the Tea Party is so powerful in the state why couldn’t it mount an effective campaign to put it’s candidate and agenda over the top? The fact is that in Alabama, as is increasingly the case elsewhere, people are falling away from the movement and with that comes a weakened performance on election day.

In the Metropolitan New York area there were two races of significance. The reelection of Chris Christie in New Jersey was a major victory for the moderate and pragmatic Republican message, not the Tea Party version. In fact Christie’s reelection must be seen as a complete rejection of the Tea Party message and approach to politics. Chris Christie was successful by winning the groups that the GOP must win in order to win nationally. He doesn’t deny climate change, He’s not tone deaf on gun issues. He’s not a “know nothing” on the issue of immigration reform. He has a proven track record of working across the aisle and even gave President Obama credit where credit was due for his response to Hurricane Sandy. In his acceptance speech he summed it all up in a single sentence, “When you lead you need to listen.” That’s a far cry from the stock Tea Party language of rejection, fear mongering and obstruction.

The election of Bill de Blasio represents a distinct pendulum swing back from the excesses of the Bloomberg years and the fêting of the mega rich while the average New Yorker struggled to get by. Yes it’s true that we can’t tax the rich out of existence but there’s plenty of tax fairness that can be put back into the tax code to lessen the strain on middle and working class. This can be achieved without significantly affecting the rich and in so doing we could address some of the issues of income inequality that are sure to be a topic of discussion going forward. Besides, there’s no clear link between taxes and prosperity anyway and for all of the benefits to the economy that were supposed to flow from lowering the taxes on the “job creators” where are all the jobs?

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The Growing Revolt Against Grover Norquist

1:57 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Grover Norquist - Caricature

Grover Norquist - Caricature

Two weeks ago I penned a short piece titled “Grover Norquist Collateral Casualty of 2012?” where I broached the question of whether or not Norquist would become a casualty as a result of the coming fiscal cliff negotiations and where I said, “…look for Grover Norquist to politically take a major hit in the resolution of the fiscal cliff crisis.” The way things are playing out I think that we can pretty much assume that Norquist is already taking on water and his support and influence seems to be fading with each passing day. Let’s review a few recent developments, staring with this:”Grover Norquist: Washington Enemy No. 1 :The man who enforces the no-new-taxes pledge is under fire like never before. Why he still expects Republicans will hold the line”; To wit: “Republicans are facing an avalanche of pressure from the White House, the media and even many on Wall Street to abandon their antitax principles to avoid a “fiscal cliff…The pressure on Republicans to repudiate this oath has never been as intense as it is now. Mr. Obama is claiming a voter mandate to raise taxes, while the media and liberals are declaring that the days of “Norquistism,” as they derisively call it, are over. A New York Times story this week claimed that more Republicans are ready to violate the pledge. After the 2011 debt-ceiling debacle, the election losses and the prospect of getting blamed for going over the fiscal cliff, the conventional wisdom is that the GOP has no choice but to fold…I remind Mr. Norquist that the election exit polls show that voters, for the first time in two decades, favor higher taxes on the rich.”

In the Senate, several prominent Republicans have already broken ranks with Norquist publicly, Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece, and Republicans — Republicans should put revenue on the table…We’re this far in debt. We don’t generate enough revenue. Capping deductions will help generate revenue. Raising tax rates will hurt job creation…So I agree with Grover, we shouldn’t raise rates. But, I think Grover is wrong when it comes to [saying] we can’t cap deductions and buy down debt…I want to buy down debt and cut rates to create jobs, but I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.” Tom Coburn (R-OK): “I’m all for the very wealthy paying more taxes…Senate Republicans — and many House Republicans — have repeatedly rejected Mr. Norquist’s strict interpretation of his own pledge, a reading that requires them to defend every loophole and spending program hidden in the tax code…As a result, rather than forcing Republicans to bow to him, Mr. Norquist is the one who is increasingly isolated politically.” John McCain (R-AZ) said Sunday, “that he would support limiting deductions.” Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) who said last week that “the pledge is outdated and unhelpful for reducing the national debt…I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.” Bob Corker (R-TN): “I’m not obligated on the pledge…I made Tennesseans aware, I was just elected, the only thing I’m honoring is the oath I take when I serve, when I’m sworn in this January.” The senior Republican Senator from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander said that the only oath he’s taken is his oath of office.” Regarding taxes Alexander said’ “I think Republicans have done plenty of talking about revenues on the table…We’re ready. It’s time for the president to step up.”

Of even greater significance is the fact that the defections have now moved beyond the Senate, where Republicans are in the minority, to the Republican controlled House of Representatives. Even fiscal hawk Eric Cantor (R-VA) has publicly distanced himself from Norquist, “When I go to the constituents that have reelected me, it is not about that pledge…It really is about trying to solve problems.” While Cantor, like Graham isn’t a fan of raising the tax rates he is unequivocally in favor of increasing revenues and he doesn’t necessarily tie that to matching adjustments in deductions as required by the Norquist pledge. Peter King (R-NY) said, “everything should be on the table in negotiations to avert the “fiscal cliff.” Jeff Flake (R-AZ): “The only pledge I’d sign is a pledge to sign no more pledges…We’ve got to ensure that we go back and represent our constituents in a way — I believe in limited government, economic freedom, individual responsibility. I don’t want higher taxes. But no more pledges.” Quoting the political magazine “The Hill” on the comments of Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK): “Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a respected party strategist and former chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, became the most prominent House Republican to suggest that the GOP do what has long been unthinkable within the party: lock in the George W. Bush-era tax rates for annual incomes up to $250,000 without simultaneously extending them for top earners.” Diane White (R-TN): “I answer to my constituents, not to a pledge.”
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Have Libertarians Forgotten the Republican Primaries?

10:13 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Back in September of 2010 I detailed in an article “Where Have all the Libertarian’s Gone?” how for all of the attention paid to Libertarian ideas there was little in the way of Libertarian electoral success to show for it. To wit: “In the din and roar surrounding politics in America today much is made of the importance of Libertarian thinking. Some have pointed out its importance to the Tea Party Movement…That said it’s interesting to consider the following two questions: First, if Libertarian ideas are so compelling, how come Libertarians garner such a small portion of actual votes during major electoral campaigns? Secondly, if Libertarians command such low voting totals, how is it that there is such a disproportionate number of Libertarian organizations and who is putting up the money to support them?”
Well when one stops to analyze the 2012 Republican Primaries the results continue to prove out my original premise. That is, for all of the continuing talk about the importance of Libertarian ideas there is precious little to show for it when actual results are examined. To date the have been 27 Republican Primary contests and 1031 delegates awarded. The Libertarian candidate, Ron Paul, has not won a single state and has only accumulated 50 delegates. His take equals 4.8% of the overall number of delegates awarded so far. Thus once again, based on empirical evidence, we can only conclude that Libertarians occupy a space on the American political landscape as nothing more than a sideshow to the big show, if not as an outright political oddity propelled forward by its own inertia. If Libertarians truly commanded a healthy amount of respect and political power they would have something to show for it and clearly they don’t. Some have made the case that Libertarians don’t need to vote for Libertarian candidates to be important within the electorate but if that’s the case then that would suggest that they don’t truly hold to the conviction of their own ideas. If the members of a movement won’t adhere to their core convictions and belief system then how can that movement be seen as viable or effective? Surely a Libertarian voting for any of the candidates other than Ron Paul would have to compromise his principles in so doing based on the political track records of Romney, Santorum and Gingrich, none of whom can be considered even remotely close to being a Libertarian.
Some political commentators have said that Ron Paul isn’t a true candidate, he’s a movement. Some have said that his stake in the 2012 Republican Primaries is an attempt to affect his own political rehabilitation or to pave the way for his son’s  political future. Whatever his motives one thing is for sure and that’s that he has made little impact if any in the race to defeat Barack Obama. Ron Paul has often complained that he isn’t getting the media coverage that he and his campaign deserves, but based on his performance thus far and his movement’s historically, he’s getting all the coverage that he deserves. Whatever Ron Paul’s goals one thing is for certain and that is that for all of the money pouring into Libertarian organizations like the Cato Institute via folks like the Koch Brothers, ad infinitum, the Libertarian message still fails to resonate with the Republican electorate in particular and the wider electorate in general. It’s either the aforementioned or America’s Libertarians have failed to notice that there’s a Republican Primary season underway and in full swing.
Steven J. Gulitti

The Unintended Consequences of Citizens United?

1:09 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Quoting Arianna Huffington:”Though the country is sorely in need of solutions, and the public hungry for real debate, that’s not what was served up in Iowa [or in New Hampshire] – either by the candidates or the vast pack of media covering their every word. What we got instead was a deluge of attack ads, largely financed by the super PACs allowed by the Citizens United decision. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 264 super PACs have been spawned for the 2012 race and they’ve already spent almost half of the $32 million they’ve raised. Perhaps this disconnect between what people are really concerned about and what the candidates are talking about is why only 17 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going” Campaign 2012: The Disconnect Widens;

So this brings up the question of what may be one of the great unintended developments resulting from Citizens United: Has its effect spawned an avalanche of intraparty attacks within the conservative movement that may cripple if not badly hamper the prospects of many of the remaining 2012 contenders? We saw Gingrich upended in Iowa and the same thing is already happening to Santorum. Now when Citizens was decided there was much jubilation on the right and dismay on the left as it open the doors for folks like the Koch Brothers to spend as much as they wanted to influence elections. And yes, the same is true for labor unions, Hollywood stars and George Soros.
But look at what is happening within the G.O.P. thus far. The unlimited amounts of money flowing into the primary process is creating unlimited opportunities for the well financed candidates, particularly Romney, to bury their competition alive in negative attack ads thereby closing out alternative conservative positions and leaving the radicalized Republican base with several inconvenient choices. The far right may very well be faced with voting for a Republican moderate, staying home which may result in the reelection of Barack Obama or voting for a third party splinter candidate which would amount to a vote thrown away. Then there’s also that ineffective procedure of the write in vote which serves as nothing more than a symbolic protest as the voter can say he performed his civic duty without having to take any responsibility for who is actually elected as it probably would never be his guy.
Now since Mitt Romney is a moderate and progressive Republican who has the most to spend and has thus far effectively done so, the unintended consequences of Citizens has, to date, been to short circuit those Republicans to the right of Romney. So that begs the question, if Romney has most of the money to spend on attack ads and the more conservative contenders are woefully underfunded, will Citizens United work to the detriment of the radical right and ensure that we have an election between two progressives, one a Democrat, the other a Republican? Moreover what does it say about the much feared influence of the likes of the Koch Brothers and other wealthy conservatives if their money flows to moderate and progressive Republicans thereby starving the radically right-wing contenders of needed funding? Could it be that America’s wealthy elite knows that some degree of progressive measures are required and desirable in a modern democracy and that the agenda of the radical right is just to extreme to be workable? Is this an indication that these same conservatives were happy to have the support of the radical right as a brake on Barack Obama’s thrust to the left but now that his momentum has slowed, they’ve largely shunted the right-wing radicals to the political periphery? While this may not seem all that evident now, the far right will have a hard time competing if it can’t keep up with the money flowing into the Romney camp or the Obama reelection campaign either, for that matter.
While a Romney victory in November wouldn’t be exactly what the Democratic base wanted, the precluding of a Tea Party backed presidential victory by the election of Mitt Romney would surely be a consolation prize for the defeated Democrats. If that’s the case then Citizens United will have harmed the radical right far more than it harmed any other element within the American political system. I Think it goes without saying that few if any on the left or the right ever saw this as the likely outcome of the Citizens United decision.
Steven J. Gulitti

More Tea Party Hypocrisy

7:59 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Now correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t the Tea Party crowd supposed to come to Washington and do away with things like business as usual, excessive and wasteful government spending ad infinitum? I guess if you can grab some loot from those same interest groups that the Tea Party has been railing against from the start, well so much the better. Sounds and seems like business as usual to me. It also smells like more of the same old hypocrisy as well.

Lets take a look at one Tea Party politician in her own words, those of Congresswoman Diane Black (R-TN): “I believe the best ideas to solve our nation’s problems will come from people like you, not Washington bureaucrats and special interest groups.” In the words of one Washington watcher: “…while many say Black and her companions have created a split in the Republican Party, it is not visible among the companies and interest groups that are donating to members of Congress.” Thus it should come as no surprise that Ms. Black has accepted $ 418,000.00 from 190 different PACs!

In an article titled “15 Tea Party Caucus freshmen rake in $3.5 million in first 9 months in Washington” Aaron Mehta, a staff writer with the Center for Public Integrity and Bob Biersack, senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics detailed the contribution track record of contributions to fifteen of the most prominent Tea Party freshman showing just how much money each has received. “A joint analysis by iWatch News and the Center for Responsive Politics has found that the 15 freshmen members of the Tea Party Caucus have embraced many of the same special interests that have supported Republicans for years. The fifteen combined have received over $3,450,000 during the first three quarters of this year from almost 700 different PACs.” Well a tidy $3.4 Million plus dollars sounds like real money to me. And does anyone think that that huge chunk of change comes with no strings attached? Hardly, so lets all just be honest and admit that the Tea Party “patriots” are no less corruptible than anyone else who is in Washington and plenty of them are carrying out business as usual just like the veterans.

For some like Congressman Dennis Ross (R-FL) two thirds of the money he raised this year came from PACs. The litany of contributors ranges from major American corporations to the American Bankers Association to, of course, the Koch Brothers. Again, quoting the aforementioned article: “Overall, this group of freshmen representatives has become just as reliant on PAC money as their counterparts who have been in the House longer. The median Tea Party Caucus freshman brought in roughly 44 percent of their money from PACs, 43 percent from large individual donors, and 4 percent from small donors who gave less than $200 each. Comparatively, the median House Republican got 46 percent from PACs, 45 percent from large individuals and 4 percent from small individual donors.” Its important to note that small rank and file individual donors amount for a piddly four percent of the total intake in contributions. I guess when the “people” represent such a small portion of your total cash intake there’s no reason to believe that their interests will remain in the forefront for very long.

Oh well, so much for the Tea Party movement being a genuine engine of change in Washington. To date the only visible effect of the arrival of the Tea Party on Capitol Hill seems to be a more intense variety of gridlock than had existed before and just a new set of folks who seem amenable to the pay to play politics that they were supposed to change but seems to have changed them instead. All of this kind of reminds me of the Republican “Revolution” that produced the “Contract with America”. Remember all of those fresh faced Republicans who came to Washington in the 90s and were only going to stay for one term? Well more than a few became professional politicians as well, some are still in Washington. Oh well the more things change the more they stay the same.


Source: 15 Tea Party Caucus freshmen rake in $3.5 million in first 9 months in Washington;

Grass Roots vs. The Tea Party

2:52 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Some conservatives are desperately trying to besmirch the ever growing “Occupy Wall Street Movement” as something other than a grass roots movement and some have gone so far as to say that America’s newest grass roots movement is trying to make themselves look “as grassroots as the tea party.” Moreover, they’re saying that the “Occupy” movement has co-opted the Tea Party slogan “take back our country.” There’s more than one fallacy contained in this analysis, lets take a look.

First, the phrase “take our country back” predates the Tea Party movement by several years. I recall it being used by Republicans who wanted to retake the White House from Bill Clinton on the theory that by having won a plurality, his presidency was somehow not quite legitimate. Odd but one of the few Tea Party candidate’s who won a senate seat in 2010, Marco Rubio of Florida, won by a plurality as well. The phrase was used yet again by Democrats in the 2004 elections as they were enraged by the fact that George Bush was handed the 2000 election by the Supreme Court. Hence there is no way that the phrase “take back our country” is generically a Tea Party creation.

As far as the Tea Party movement being genuinely grass roots, well by now it’s a well known fact that the “movement” has been buoyed up by the money of rich conservatives, PACs and other conservative organizations. Jane Mayer, of the New Yorker in an article called “Covert Operations detailed the support given to the Tea Party movement by the billionaire Koch Brothers. To wit: “A few weeks after the Lincoln Center gala, the advocacy wing of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation—an organization that David Koch started, in 2004—held a different kind of gathering…Five hundred people attended the summit, which served, in part, as a training session for Tea Party activists in Texas…At the lectern in Austin, however, Peggy Venable—a longtime political operative who draws a salary from Americans for Prosperity, and who has worked for Koch-funded political groups since 1994—spoke less warily. “We love what the Tea Parties are doing, because that’s how we’re going to take back America!” she declared, as the crowd cheered. In a subsequent interview, she described herself as an early member of the movement, joking, “I was part of the Tea Party before it was cool!” She explained that the role of Americans for Prosperity was to help “educate” Tea Party activists on policy details, and to give them “next-step training” after their rallies, so that their political energy could be channeled “more effectively.” And she noted that Americans for Prosperity had provided Tea Party activists with lists of elected officials to target. She said of the Koch’s, “They’re certainly our people. David’s the chairman of our board. I’ve certainly met with them, and I’m very appreciative of what they do.” Beyond the Koch Brother’s there’s the millions of dollars funneled into the “movement” by Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks. Then there’s the Tea Party Express and various and sundry other groups. By now all of this is established fact and undeniable as well.

Lastly, if the Tea Party is such a viable grass roots organization then why does it have such low favorability ratings? In April of this year in an article titled “The Fading Allure of the Tea Party Movement” I detailed how the “movement’s” favorability ratings had fallen to the levels of the two political party’s. Moreover, this decline was attributable to the fall off in support among those earning less than $50,000.00 per year, a threshold that represents roughly the mid point in American incomes. Thus it’s no surprise that the Tea Party continues to have low favorability ratings as per which shows as of September of 2011 some polls show the Tea Party movement polling its lowest favorable and highest unfavorable ratings of all time or darn close to it. When asked “do you consider yourself part of the Tea Party movement only 12 percent of respondents answered yes and when asked if they supported the movement the number is a low 25 percent. Thus even if the Tea Party movement can legitimately be considered grass roots, big money donors aside, it’s obvious that most of that grass has wilted or died off all together. I have asked many of my friends on the right to show me something that contradicts these findings and I have yet to see anything from a legitimate source that shows the Tea Party ascendant.



Covert Operations by Jane Mayer;

The Fading Allure of the Tea Party Movement; Politics – Tea Party;

The Pathos of Denial

7:17 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

You know as far as being honest about the role of the Koch brothers in Scott Walker’s anti-union efforts, it’s been more than somewhat amusing to see the elaborate kabuki dance of denial, self delusion and double talk that has emerged on the right since the Madison protests began. It seems that some of my good friends on the far right, a few who can clearly be classified as members of the fringe element, have worked overtime at trying to deny the very clear, apparent and undeniable role played by Charles and David Koch in what has become a Midwestern assault on public employee unions. Now at the risk of sounding too high handed, lets all understand one simple thing: If the Koch brothers found and fund an organization like American’s for Prosperity, and that organization’s leadership publically states that it is out to cripple public employee unions, then the link is indisputable and undeniable. That link would be undeniable when viewed by any intelligent and reasonable, right thinking human person, that is. I find the inability, on the part of some of my right leaning friends, to honestly admit the undeniable, a development that for me engenders the utmost pity for them in their self inflicted plight.

For you see every time someone denies established facts his credibility suffers as a result, to the point that it can be diluted to such an extent that it can never be repaired or even restored. All this at the cost of a great effort at vigorously denying that the Koch brothers are involved with these anti-union efforts, in spite of quotes from Dave Koch himself as to their role in founding and funding AFP and of AFP’s president Mr. Phillips and his hit man Mr. Hagerstrom of their desire to “cut the unions off at the knees.” This public denial of the obvious is something that can only be classified as deep denial and severe self delusion. I am sure that there are clinical classifications for this type of behavior, but that’s beyond my pay grade and professional certification. If it’s not the aforementioned then it’s just plain old deflection or outright fraud. Either way it’s a losing proposition for those who have taken up the fight of trying to publicly disentangle the Koch brothers from events in Wisconsin and beyond. This is particularly amusing as the Koch brothers themselves have never denied their involvement, even as their water carriers have been working overtime in an attempt to do so. That said, how much longer are those who are busy talking in circles amongst themselves going to continue to fool themselves as to the degree of impact that they might be having on the current national discussion? In reality, by continuing to deny the undeniable, they have effectively removed themselves from the larger discussion and are only talking to each other and reinforcing their continued self delusional fantasies as the rest of reasonable humanity has long since tuned them out.

Perhaps this affliction on the right that is the result of the heavy involvement of the Koch brothers and other big money players in the Tea Party Movement. Perhaps it has it’s roots in the desire of the Tea Party crowd to go on believing that the “movement” is actually a genuine grass roots operation rather than an organization pumped up with the money of the wealthy and puffed up by all of the free press It has received from Fox News. Perhaps all of this big money involvement, especially the part it played in the last election, has given rise to a certain uneasiness among the rank and file of the far right, suggesting that they have ceased to be in control of their own “movement”, if in fact they ever were. That uneasiness would in fact be very hard to cope with over the long term, especially when the interests of big money leave their little allies behind as they pursue their own specific interests. If that is in fact the cause of this complicated dance of denial, then that would go a long way to explaining things. Short of that explanation, I’m not sure that another exists out there in the realm of the real world.

If anyone is in need of the details pertaining to the involvement of the Koch Brothers in the battles of Madison, see the following for details:Scott Walker, Conservative Hero Propped Up By the Koch Brothers or The Proof of the Pudding Concerning the Koch Brothers

Steve Gulitti


Scott Walker, Conservative Hero Propped Up By the Koch Brothers

7:21 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has been heralded by some as a conservative hero, a man of the grass roots if you will, who is attempting to bring order to the financial woes of the state by crushing the public employee unions. The Governor may have overreached in this effort and there is now some solid evidence that Walker may be dancing to a tune, coming in part, from the Koch Brothers. Do the financial titans who have so heavily bankrolled the Tea Party Movement have a finger or two in this epic battle now underway in Madison? The answer to that question can only be yes. 

Now to be fair to Walker, his anti-union attitudes go back to his days on the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, thus nothing has changed. Quoting Wisconsin State Senator Chris Larson: “Unions have always been his piñata, over and over…And this time I think he’s trying to out-right-wing the right wing on his way to the next lily pad.” However, those initiatives go beyond economics and that leads one to believe that Walker is as much interested in crushing public sector unions as he is in balancing the budget. With Wisconsin’s public unions having agreed to compromise with Walker on economic concerns, his continued obstinacy on issues of union security and non-wage bargaining can only be seen for what they are, a blatant attempt to destroy the rights of Wisconsin’s citizens to join and participate in public employee unions. According to Mary Bell, the president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council: “We have been clear — and I will restate this again today — money issues are off the table…Public employees have agreed to Governor Walker’s pension and health care concessions, which he says will solve the budget challenge.”

Specifically: “Mr. Walker’s plan would require government workers to put 5.8 percent of their pay into their pensions (most pay less than 1 percent now), and would require them to pay at least 12.6 percent of health care premiums (most pay about 6 percent now). Union leaders said they would go along with those plans, but they wanted to remove provisions that would prohibit collective bargaining for issues beyond wages, limit pay raises to a certain level without special approval by public referendum and require unions to hold annual votes on whether they should remain in existence.” This begs the question: “If Walker is solely concerned with the effects of public unionization on his state’s deficit and the unions have met him more than halfway, why won’t he declare victory and move on to the next big issue?” The fact that Walker is insisting on having his way on issues beyond economics is proof positive of his deep-seated anti-union animus. Walker has denied harboring any political motives in his standoff with the unions. “But in an interview with The Associated Press last week as protests raged inside the Capitol, he acknowledged his plan to allow workers to opt out of paying their dues could cripple unions…”

Here is where the influence of the Koch brothers comes into play. According to the Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel: “While there has been significant attention devoted to the fact that Walker’s 144-page budget repair bill would strip away collective bargaining rights for public employees, the site “Rortybomb” points out a less noticed provision that would allow the state to sell or contract out any state-owned energy asset in no-bid deals with private corporations. But if this deal goes through, one of the companies that could stand to benefit significantly is Koch Industries. Koch already has several companies in the state, including a coal subsidiary, timber plants and a large network of pipelines.” Thus the brothers Koch have an economic stake in Wisconsin, above and beyond their political agenda.

The Koch brothers had invested heavily in the 2010 elections having donated $2 Million dollars to conservative candidates directly and now they are looking to cash in on that investment. They have fueled up the coffers of  Americans for Prosperity so that it could influence a wide range of issues. According to Eric Lipton, reporter for the New York Times: “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, Mr. Phillips said, adding that he expects new proposals to emerge soon in some of those states to limit union power.” 

During the 2010 election cycle, according to Amanda Terkel, “Walker received $43,000 from the Koch Industries PAC, his second-largest contribution. The PAC also gave significantly to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn helped out Walker considerably in his race. Koch also contributed $6,500 to support 16 Republican legislative candidates in the state…The Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity has also been standing with Walker throughout his budget battles, busing in Tea Party activists and launching the site, Stand With Walker. After the election, Walker and other Republican governors received guidance from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that is also funded by Koch dollars and has pushed anti-union measures.”

Thus it should come as no surprise that Tim Phillips, President of Americans for Prosperity was in Madison this past weekend attempting to rally support for Scott Walker’s besieged administration. As it turns out Phillips’ organization is a major recipient of the financial largesse of David and Charles Koch, having received $40 Million dollars from the brothers last year. That’s close to a sixfold increase over the budget that Americans for Prosperity had just three years ago. According to Eric Lipton, reporter for the New York Times, the Koch brothers laid their groundwork in Wisconsin long before the first protestor held up a sign in Madison. To wit: “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…We thought it was important to do… 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.” From the aforementioned, it is more than obvious that the Koch brothers and their fellow travelers have an agenda that goes far beyond the bottom line of state budgets and aims at the very institutional integrity of unions, as we know them. Why else would they be concerned with issues such as an employee being able to opt out of their membership or the desire to force a showdown?

The motives of the Koch brothers are more than amply clear as is the actions taken on their behalf by their operatives, both elected and paid, now at work in Wisconsin and across the Midwest. Their can be no denying that the Koch brothers have a political agenda designed to reshape the American economic landscape into one in which unions no longer exist. When one considers the money invested and the macro-political issues that transcend the mundane economics of state budgets, one can only wonder once again about to what degree the Tea Party Movement and it’s followers have been had by the political pros who have received a greatly enhanced degree of power and influence as a result of the 2010 elections and the money they invested therein.

Steven J. Gulitti



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