Wisconsin's embattled Governor Scott Walker took large donations from Koch Industries in the run-up to the 2010 election that swept him into office. OpenSecrets.org reports that Koch Industries donated a total of $43,000 in two separate contributions -- $15,000 on July 8, 2010 and another $28,000 on September 27, 2010 -- to the Friends of Scott Walker Political Action Committee (PAC), to help get Walker elected governor.
The Koch Industries' PAC also helped Walker through a now-familiar political maneuver that lets corporate donors avoid campaign finance limits. The Koch's PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which spent $65,000 to support Walker, along with a whopping $3.4 million on mailers and television ads attacking Walker's opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker beat Barrett by 5 points, thanks in part to Koch funding.
Walker has taken a total of more than $70,000 from gas and pipeline companies, and opposed a high speed rail project that would have reduced Wisconsin's dependence on oil. Koch Pipeline Company, L.P. operates a pipeline system that crosses Wisconsin, part of the nearly 4,000 miles of pipelines the company owns or operates, and the Koch's paper and wood products division, Georgia Pacific, has six facilities in Wisconsin. A Koch subsidiary, the C. Reiss Coal Company, has locations in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan. All of these business interests give the Kochs ample reason to attempt to influence Wisconsin politics.
This is About More than Just Wisconsin
More and more the events taking place in Wisconsin are seen as the front line in corporate interests' increasingly pitched war on middle-class and public sector workers. Corporate leaders see organized labor as the last real line of serious, grassroots resistance against a corporate takeover of the government. The gains made by labor unions provide a ceiling for the level of benefits and wages that the rest of the American workforce is able demand, which draws the ire of corporations that want to boost profits by driving down wages and benefits for workers. Walker is just one of a group of Koch-sponsored politicians who are helping the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch dismantle organized labor in the U.S.
The portrayal of events in Wisconsin as American workers' line in the sand against corporate power makes the situation even more compelling and underscores the importance of these events to workers across the country. Keep your browser on PRWatch as we continue to cover the events unfolding in Wisconsin.
Updated 1:32 PM Mountain Standard Time, February 18, 2011