Koch Party Time: Billionaire Brothers Show Off the Republican Politicians They Bought
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One of the biggest stars of the convention's opening night was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who became a right-wing superstar when, last June, he turned back a recall effort by progressives and Democrats in the wake of the passage of his bill that gutted collective bargaining for the state's pubic employees, and slashed education funding. Americans For Prosperity spent $3 million on ads supporting Walker in the recall, in addition to launching rallies and other organizing events that aided Walker in his fight to hold onto his office. Another $7 million was spent by AFP on promoting the Walker agenda almost as soon as he took office, and the organization put 75 trained staffers on the ground to turn out the right-wing vote in the recall election.
But perhaps none are as beloved by Koch and his allies than Ryan, whose support from Americans For Prosperity helped propel him to the helm of the powerful House Budget Committee. In his remarks to his assembled admirers, Koch articulates a message on deficit spending that is echoed in Ryan's budget plans and rhetoric. In fighting deficits Koch said, Americans For Prosperity seeks to save America "from financial ruin."
Introducing U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson at the podium, AFP President Tim Phillips acknowledges the special role Wisconsin, where AFP has been organizing and building infrastructure since 2005, has played in his organization's success. Johnson is yet another example of that success; AFP's embrace of Johnson allowed him to best other, more authentic Tea Party-type candidates, much to the consternation of some local Tea Party groups.
Joining Johnson in the Koch-lauding parade of pols is Rep. Tom Price, Ga., and Sen. Jon Kyl, Ariz., along with state legislators from Kansas, the home state of Koch Industries, and North Carolina, home of Art Pope, the other honoree. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a popular speaker at AFP events, is also in the room.
Before his appearance at the podium before his fans, I caught up with Pope, who is believed to have been behind the takeover of the Wake County school board, which tried to end the county's desegregation program until the public voted those members out of office in October 2011. (For more on Pope, read this article by the New Yorker's Jane Mayer.)
Talking to AlterNet, Pope was gracious, saying he welcomed the Democratic National Convention in his home state next week, and hoped the Democrats would find the city of Charlotte to be as hospitable as the Republicans found Tampa. But unlike some Tea Party leaders who bray that the right has turned the tide of public opinion forever in its favor, Pope is more cautious. The Tea Party sweep of the 2010 congressional elections, he said, "does not signify a permanent realignment." Rather, he said, "It's an opportunity." An opportunity that he'd like to see Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan maximize, he said, "to fix the country's problems."
Pope added that he didn't expect to see Obama win North Carolina in the presidential race, despite the Democrats' choice of Charlotte for their convention.
For more on the Koch brothers' relationship with Mitt Romney, click here.