Wall Street Journal Honcho Shills for Secret Worker 'Education' Program Linked to Koch Group
This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.
This article has been updated. See postscript.
In a darkened hotel ballroom in Pittsburgh, a middle-aged man with a boyish affect stands before the enthusiastic, if graying, activists of the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, gathered in August 2009 for its annual RightOnline conference.
"How many people here read the Wall Street Journal editorial page?" asks Stephen Moore, who sits on the paper's editorial board. The crowd responds boisterously. "What would we do," he continues, "without the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, right? And Americans for Prosperity?"
As the nation's largest-circulation newspaper and the paper of record for the nation's financial sector, the Wall Street Journal occupies a unique place amid the panoply of American news sources, and not only for its influence on the nation's economy. The paper is matched only by Fox News in its unabashed alliance with political advocacy organizations associated with Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers and noted conservative funders who run Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held corporation in the United States.
Along with his colleague, John Fund, a columnist for the paper's OpinionJournal Web site, Moore is a frequent and popular speaker at events sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP Foundation). The foundation, which aims to inculcate a right-wing economic agenda among citizen activists, is chaired by David Koch, whose personal wealth is estimated at more than $20 billion. Ubiquitous as pundits on cable news, both Moore and Fund also participate, AlterNet has learned, in a workplace "education" program, Prosperity 101, that is linked to the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a group that mobilizes activists to advocate for policies and politicians who support a pro-business agenda.
The Prosperity 101 program was presented, according to Moore, in at least a dozen workplaces in the heat of the 2010 election campaign -- most of them in Wisconsin. Organizers of Prosperity 101, a for-profit company, were unwilling to speak with AlterNet about it, as were executives at most of the participating companies. So, too, were executives of the Wall Street Journal.
Moore's involvement with such a blatantly political organization -- one whose agenda aligns so obviously with that of the GOP -- is an anomaly for an editorial board member of a national newspaper. AFP pledged to spend $45 million in the 2010 election cycle and launched a barrage of televised attack ads against Democratic candidates.
Founded by Koch in 2003, the AFP Foundation and its sibling organization, simply called Americans for Prosperity (the two share staff but have separate boards of directors), did not gain widespread public notice until the brutal battle against President Barack Obama's health-care reform legislation. The two groups organized battalions of Tea Party activists to oppose the bill at noisy protests and town-hall meetings.
Yet opposition to health-care reform is but one part of the AFP agenda. The groups have also made it a priority to battle energy reform and, according to Tim Phillips, who leads both organizations, to shrink both the government workforce and the unions that represent its rank and file. Last January, in a speech to activists at the Leadership Institute, a right-wing training center located in Arlington, Virginia, Phillips explained that the reason fiscal conservatives failed to win the day on their issues during the tenure of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was that right-wingers did not "have an army on the ground" while "the left did."
"They had the public employee unions," Phillips said, "which have only gotten stronger, have only gotten better-funded, have only gotten better organized in the period of time between the 1990s and today."