For anyone who’s been following the events here in Wisconsin, it’s common knowledge that Koch Industries’ oil/energy billionaire owners, David and Charles Koch, have been the object of scrutiny for their involvement with GOP Governor Scott Walker. But just how far do the tentacles of the notorious Kochtopus reach into our state government?
In early January, I published an article about the Koch’s confab of fellow billionaires to be held later that month in Rancho Mirage, CA, with an agenda focusing on strategies to sway elections and politicians. A little over a month later, Walker was putting much of the Koch agenda into effect, including busting unions in the public sector. Mother Jones published a story about Walker’s Koch connection (several others followed), and then Buffalo Beast blogger Ian Murphy, imitating David Koch, made his revealing prank phone call to the governor.
In short order, “Koch” here in Wisconsin became a four letter word.
THE DOTY DETOUR
When a news story broke that the Kochs had opened a new lobbying office in Madison, I checked online with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) and found Koch registered at 10 East Doty Street, Suite 703, with Jeffrey Schoepke as the listed lobbyist. It was a block from Capitol Square where huge protests were happening daily. It didn’t take much, then, to persuade a small group of protesters to take a detour one afternoon in late February.
But there were problems. Nobody could find an office bearing the Koch name on the seventh floor. There was no listing in the office building directory. Up a floor at suite 800, a sort of nervous receptionist at the American Petroleum Institute said the Kochs used to have an office there but moved out a long time ago. Then a security guy said the Kochs weren’t in the building and threatened to call the police. Private property. The group left.
The next day I checked the GAB web site again. This time I got a Koch office listed in Minnesota; the information was for 2009-2010 (see image, “Screen Shot 1”). I clicked on the link for lobbyist Jeffrey Schoepke, and he popped up at the American Petroleum Institute (see image, “Screen Shot 2”). Hmm.
On March 1, I checked again and found the Koch office back at the original East Doty address (see image, “Screen Shot 3”). The following day I contacted the GAB, which advised me that (1) they had no record of changes for the Koch address in the current legislative session, (2) the address was indeed the same, and (3) only the GAB can make changes to the information in the system.
I started to wonder:
- Why did the information change, and who in the GAB changed it?
RECALLS, RECOUNTS & THE GAB
You might be questioning why this is important. I did too.
Right now the GAB is overseeing several recalls of Wisconsin state senators and a vote recount for the state Supreme Court election between Walker mentor David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, who asked the GAB for an independent special investigator to probe the “found" votes in Waukesha County that put Prosser over the top. There is a LOT to that story I won't repeat. The GAB rejected Kloppenburg’s request, saying they have investigators of their own, no need for one from outside.
So, that leads to another question:
- If there is a Koch mole in the GAB who can change things around on a GAB computer without there being a record of it, what does that say about the GAB’s oversight and the integrity of the vote?
I know this sounds crazy. It gets crazier.
I didn’t think much about all of this at first, but then stories started popping up about the GAB and its director, Kevin Kennedy:
The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board asked a judge to allow the use of electronic voting memory cartridges to speed the recount in a contested Supreme Court election, even if that use might erase the voting data.
The GAB later backed off, but it was a disturbing idea considering the cloud of suspicion hanging over so much of the Walker Administration and the electoral process here.
And then there’s this:
And the number one reason this Election is FUBAR is that the person supposed to be looking out for us, Kevin Kennedy, the director of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board...was a former lobbyist for Accenture and ignored the law and the will of the people to force this voting system on the voters of Wisconsin.
I dug deeper and found, Is Kevin Kennedy a Koch Plant? The story contains links and excerpts of articles about Kennedy’s relationship with Accenture, voting systems, key players, lobbyists, and more, though a direct link to Koch is unclear. But I remembered the Koch electoral agenda: strategize for 2012 elections, use "advanced technology" for "micro-targeting" the electorate, and target “judicial elections" in various states.
As we say in Wisconsin, “Holy Cow!”
LAW AND DISORDER
Following the lead of Michigan GOP Governor Rick Snyder, Walker is said to be preparing a plan that would allow him to force local governments to submit to a financial stress test with an eye towards permitting the governor to take over municipalities that fail to meet with Walker’s approval…
According to my sources, the plan is being written by the legal offices of Foley & Lardner, the largest law firm in the state, and is scheduled to be introduced to the legislature in May of this year.
Hello! Among the current lobbyists for Koch Industries are Ray Carey, Jason Childress, and Kathleen Walby who work at Foley and Lardner. Walker denied the “martial law” allegation, but then this story came out about the source:
During the conversation, one of the parties speculated as to whether “Jason” might have been responsible for the leak(s) that gave life to the story…
That speculation has now turned to Jason Childress, a lobbyist employed by the law firm of Foley & Lardner, the Wisconsin based firm with strong ties to Gov. Scott Walker and the Walker administration…
Also on Walker’s hit list is the University of Wisconsin in Madison, which he’s trying to split off from the UW System in order to privatize it:
On Tuesday, the newly formed group Badger Advocates had 11 lobbyists - the majority of them Republicans - register to lobby in favor of the change for UW-Madison in the state budget bill. The non-profit group, a 501(c)(4) organization, was formed on Feb. 16 and so far has a limited website…
Brandon Scholz, a lobbyist and former executive director of the state Republican Party who is running the effort, declined to say who is providing the financial backing for the new group.
If you check the Koch education agenda, you’ll find that infiltration and privatization of college campuses is one of their objectives.
The GAB lists names and addresses for Badger Advocates’ registered lobbyists here; of the 16 shown, five are at 10 East Doty; three have offices at Suite 800—home of American Petroleum Institute and the “former” office of Koch lobbyist Jeffrey Schoepke.
Controversy erupted when UW professor Bill Cronon published an article linking the Walker/GOP bills with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The backlash from the right was big, coordinated, and harsh, calling his and the university’s integrity into question. The state GOP made a sweeping “open records” request for his emails. At whose behest was that done?
ALEC is not listed as a registered lobbyist in Wisconsin (see images, "Screen Shot 4a" and "Screen Shot 4b"), yet both Cronon’s article and their own web site identify many “initiatives” ALEC is pushing, including “Critical State Fiscal Reform.” And this article from the New York Times reveals part of that legislative focus:
State officials from both parties are wrestling with ways to curb the salaries and pensions of government employees, which typically make up a significant percentage of state budgets... But in some cases — mostly in states with Republican governors and Republican statehouse majorities — officials are seeking more far-reaching, structural changes that would weaken the bargaining power and political influence of unions, including private sector ones…
A group composed of Republican state lawmakers and corporate executives, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is quietly spreading these proposals from state to state, sending e-mails about the latest efforts as well as suggested legislative language.
Michael Hough, director of the council’s commerce task force, said the aim of these measures was not political, but to reduce labor’s swollen power.
Walker succeeded in ramming through his union busting/poor bashing budget bill thanks to Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald and his brother, assembly speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. Scott Fitzgerald “currently serves as an ALEC state chair,” according to a report by Big Think’s Lindsay Beyerstein. ALEC, in turn, gets big bucks from the Kochs and other wealthy right-wingers and has come under increased scrutiny by ALEC Watch, Greenpeace, and others. Greenpeace concisely describes ALEC as a “climate denial front group” that offers “ one-stop shopping for elected officials interested in perusing the wares of an array of Koch-funded opposition organizations including IER, ACCF, Mercatus and other sources.”
MSNBC Countdown host Keith Olbermann also identified ALEC as one of the groups behind the GOP’s latest assault on unions and public employees:
The ALEC Web site says it is down for maintenance. But a Google cache reveals that its early leadership included Kasich, among others. And a listing of board members includes executives from Wal-Mart, PhRMA and Koch Industries, which helped to bankroll the Tea Party.
As all this is going on, the GAB lists only two bills that the Kochs have officially lobbied for in Wisconsin, neither of which are Walker’s union busting/poor bashing budget bill. (The second listed about “economic impact analyses of proposed rules and emergency rules” might have relevance to the “martial law” allegation.)
- Is ALEC lobbying in Wisconsin without being registered?
- Is ALEC lobbying through the Kochs, which provides funds to ALEC anyway?
- If the Kochs are lobbying on budget “initiatives,” why isn’t that registered with the GAB?
- Are ALEC and/or the Kochs using the American Petroleum Institute or others as proxies?
- Did ALEC, the Kochs, the American Petroleum Institute, the Fitzgeralds, and/or Scott Walker violate any state laws concerning lobbyists and their activities?
- Is the GAB party to any violations of state laws?
Maybe state Republicans should be subject to a sweeping “open records” request like the kind they laid on Professor Cronon. Maybe we need that kind of “special investigator” JoAnne Kloppenburg asked for to check into more than just the vote anomalies in Waukesha.