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Not A Prank: Koch Brothers A Real Threat to Wisconsin’s Green Economy

As we have noted, even more than attacking the rights of Wisconsin workers, Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal threatens the economic security of Wisconsin families. Among the many damaging proposals that Walker is attempting to unilaterally force through in the budget “fix” bill is Provision 16.896, which would allow the sale of the state’s heating, cooling, and power plants to private corporations without the solicitation of bids. Adding insult to injury, Walker also aims to strip away the ability of the Public Service Commission to approve or certify this buy-out. In other words, if this bill were to pass, state-owned utilities could easily be bought by corporations as the latter wishes. As the content of an incredible 20-minute call between Gov. Walker and an impersonator posing as a prominent billionaire contributor revealed this week, it’s powerful corporate interests that truly direct the right-wing agenda in Wisconsin and other states across the nation.

For months, Gov. Walker has been carrying out a plan to put Wisconsin at the mercy of mega-corporations, eliminating good jobs and increasing the state’s dependence on fossil fuels. The most illustrious examples of corporate dominance over the state’s politics is none other than the Koch Empire -- David and Charles Koch. Prominent financial supporters of Gov. Walker (they spent about $5 million in his 2010 campaign), the Koch brothers are also prime funders of the tea party movement through their organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP). AFP actively supported and promoted candidate Scott Walker by featuring him at a tea party rally as far back as September 2009 and running millions of dollars in ads on a “spending crisis” and a “spending revolt” tour in Wisconsin during last year’s campaign. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), another Koch-funded group, reportedly advised Walker and the GOP legislature on its anti-labor legislation and its first corporate tax cuts.

If there was any doubt that the Koch brothers have Gov. Walker’s ear, it was removed by the startling recording and transcript released this week of a 20-minute call between an impersonator pretending to be David Koch and a credulous Gov. Walker himself. Among the many troubling revelations on the call were that Gov. Walker is seemingly planning to replicate his scheme in other states:

Walker: “Brian [Sadoval], the new Governor of Nevada, called me the last night... I talk to [Ohio Governor] Kasich every day.... I think we could do the same thing with Vic Scott in Florida. I think, uh, Snyder - if he got a little more support - probably could do that in Michigan. You start going down the list there's a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big.”

Koch impersonator: “You're the first domino.”

Walker: “Yep. This is our moment.”

The real Koch brothers are the puppeteers here -- only looking out for their own massive profits while destroying jobs for the people in Wisconsin. Koch companies have at least 17 facilities in Wisconsin, no doubt likely to receive the assets handed to them by the Governor if his proposed bill passes. Among the companies that the Koch brothers own in Wisconsin are Flint Hill Resources, a refining and chemicals company, and the C. Reiss Coal Company, a supplier of coal used to generate power.

It will come as no surprise that after taking money from gas and pipeline companies, Gov. Walker also rejected $800 million in federal funds for high speed rail, costing his state 13,000 jobs. The rail line would have connected Madison and Milwaukee, representing 75 percent of Wisconsin’s entire population. When the state’s major university and state capitol are in one city and industry and commerce are in another, investing in smart transit while creating jobs would have been a common-sense solution to ensure Wisconsin’s prosperity.

While benefiting his cronies, Gov. Walker’s decisions are harming the economic security of Wisconsin. The potential of Wisconsin is vast: the state has the ability to meet its electricity needs by generating energy from renewable sources, workers are willing to negotiate budget provisions, and the currently unemployed are willing and able to work. By hewing to his own ideological rigidity and the wishes of his corporate backers, Gov. Walker is denying his constituents the opportunity to build a green economy that will put Wisconsinites back to work.

This article is part of PSN's email newsletter, The Stateside Dispatch.
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