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Koch-Funded Group's "Road Show" in Support of Union-Busting Scott Walker Was a Flop

At every stop, Americans for Prosperity's pro-Walker road show participants were vastly outnumbered by anti-Walker demonstrators.
 
 
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For some, when the going gets tough, the tough gas up the custom-painted luxury motorcoach.

So it is with the Wisconsin branch of the Koch-backed group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), whose four-day, ten-city bus PR event across Wisconsin to support controversial Governor Scott Walker started in Kenosha March 3 and concluded in Madison on March 7 -- but not at the Capitol, where the bus would have been surrounded by the tens of thousands of people gathered to oppose Walker's union-crushing "budget repair" bill. Instead, AFP ended its tour at the Alliant Energy Center, where protesters against Walker's radical proposals who were outside in the cold easily outnumber the pro-Walker crowd in inside the rented space.

And so it went with AFP's "Stand with Walker" Wisconsin road show. At every stop, the AFP PR gambit was met by some supporters, but it was also greeted often by an equal or a substantially greater numbers of opponents. A little-watched YouTube video of AFP's stop at Serb Hall on March 3, 2011 shows a group of about a dozen Scott Walker supporters, and a sidewalk packed with what appears to be about several hundred demonstrators against the governor's extreme proposals.  

Classic Astroturf

As we have already reported, AFP is also in Wisconsin with a $400,000 and counting TV ad-buy themed "Who Decides Wisconsin's Future?" in support of Governor Walker. The ad buy has been a subject of two ethics complaints filed with the state's Government Accoutability Board. AFP's "Stand with Walker" bus tour is classic astroturf, defined by SourceWatch as "organizations that appear to be grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions, but that are primarily conceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms."

AFP certainly fits the bill. By now, it's been widely reported, both within Wisconsin and in prominent publications elsewhere, that AFP was largely inspired by the man who serves as its chairman, David Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, one of the larget privately-held corporations in the world.  AFP also possesses many characteristics indicative of a front group. It avoids mentioning its main sources of funding, engages in actions that benefit a third party, like a company, industry or political candidate. Its members are not its primary financial supporters, though it touts its membership while not revealing its biggest funders. And, last but not least, AFP can afford to send a custom-painted luxury coach on a highly-publicized road trip, even as the price of gas goes through the roof. The "star" of the road show was Ohioan Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher who gained some degree of notariety during the 2008 presidential campaign.

PR Disaster on Wheels

Governor Walker has repeatedly attempted to dismiss the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have visited the Capitol over the course of the past month as out-of-towners. Judging from thousands of hand-made signs seen in the crowd around Wisconsin's Capitol building, many people see the billionaire Koch brothers (one lives in New York City and the other in Kansas) and the Washington, D.C.-based AFP as the real "out-of-town" political interference in Wisconsin politics.

Count AFP's road trip as a flop. Below is a selection of media from around the state.

La Crosse Tribune - Hundreds turn out at pro-Walker event -- some in support, more to protest: Several hundred protesters chanted and waved signs Saturday night outside the Radisson Hotel. Inside, about 100 people in a meeting room heard state Sen. Dan Kapanke, Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher and others express their support for Gov. Scott Walker... "I think (Walker) is basically sending Wisconsin over the cliff with what he is doing," said former La Crosse County Circuit Judge Roger LeGrand of La Crosse. He also is acting chairman of the Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission, which decides disputes between taxpayers and the state Department of Revenue.