Slate.com : Wisconsin, Progressives, and the Koch Brothers
The standoff over the Budget Repair Act is about the portions of the legislation that scale back union rights. That’s how it started. That’s why the AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFT, and every other union with a bus is at the capitol. But many of the protesters think it’s about something more insidious. On the walk into the capitol today, I saw these six signs in the space of 10 minutes:
Scott, How Much KOCH Have You Done?
Scott Walker is a KOCH Whore
CONFIRMED: Walker and Koch, Brothers With Bats
Drunk With Power—High on Koch
Recall Koch Bro’s “Puppets”—”Scott Walker” & “Republicans”
None of the protesters knew the other, but some of them bonded over their obsession: the influence of David and Charles Koch, two of the wealthiest men in America, donors to a bouquet of libertarian and Tea Party causes. Amy Janczy, from Lake Mills, Wis., carried the “Drunk With Power” sign; David Wend, from Madison, carried the “Puppets” sign. They stopped to talk.
“I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the Kochs,” explained Wend.
“I read the legislative summary of the Budget Repair Act,” explained Janczy, “and saw the stuff in there about the giveaways for the power plants. I saw the Kochs’ fingerprints on that.”
She was talking about Section 16.896 of the bill, which empowers Gov. Scott Walker to “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.” That section started to get attention on Monday; by this morning, Democrats in the state Assembly were using the floor time allotted to them in their quasi-filibuster to ask whether the Kochs were behind it, or interested in buying the plants.
Madison’s liberal Capital Times newspaper got a flat denial of that claim. “We have no interest,” said Philip Ellender, Koch Companies’ president of government and public affairs, “in purchasing any of the state-owned power plants in Wisconsin and any allegations to the contrary are completely false.”
I pointed this out to Janczy. “Well,” she said, “they may say that, but I don’t believe it.”
When it comes to the Kochs, progressives in Wisconsin are ready to believe the absolute worst. Inside the capitol there are dozens of agitprop signs accusing the brothers of buying the election for Walker. There are detailed lists of Koch companies and which products to boycott in order to starve them. There are articles taped to the walls from Forbes magazine (“Texas Koch Brothers Behind Wisconsin Effort To Kill Public Unions”) and the New York Times (“Koch Brothers’ Money Fuels Wisconsin Fight”). On Wednesday, a new sign started appearing around the halls, informing protesters of a picket outside the stately office building, not far from the capitol, where Koch Companies have hired seven lobbyists.
In sum: They have found the enemy, and it is Koch.