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Wall Street Journal Honcho Shills for Secret Worker 'Education' Program Linked to Koch Group

During the 2010 election campaign, WSJ editorial board member Stephen Moore carried the Koch agenda to Wisconsin workers -- in workplace seminars called by their bosses.

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The same standard, she wrote, applies to Times opinion columnists who are not on the editorial board.

A New Paradigm

While paid appearances by Moore at conferences and events sponsored by AFP and its foundation may raise eyebrows, Moore's involvement with Prosperity 101 is more troubling, given the program's uncertain provenance and the reluctance of its founder to discuss the program with reporters.

The idea behind Prosperity 101 is simple: Employers gather workers for a "voluntary" seminar where the nervous employees, already sweating in an economy that is shedding jobs, are told that government regulation, unions and tax increases -- even if only on the wealthy -- are bad for their employers, thereby threatening the workers' own livelihoods. Then they're reminded to vote -- for example, in last year's midterm elections. (The Prosperity 101 textbook includes a sample voter registration form from the State of Wisconsin.) And in the program textbook, employee participants are urged to join Americans for Prosperity, which has a history of alliances with GOP candidates.

In the textbook's introduction, Hansen, Prosperity 101's creator, plays on workers' fears of economic insecurity, stirred up by the lingering recession:

You go to work every day, giving your best efforts in hopes of keeping your job through every economic cycle and every corporate downsizing…Will you be included in the next round of layoffs?… Do you know your job security is not just dependent on your performance?...Prosperity 101 TM is designed to empower you, the employee, to go beyond your paradigms and look at job protection in a new way.

Set up as a for-profit, limited liability company, Prosperity 101's registered agent is Hansen herself. She also serves as executive director and senior vice president of the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, founded in 2009 as a non-profit umbrella group for a number of the state's right-wing think tanks and activist groups in the state. The network's "main organizer," as he described himself to the Wisconsin State Journal, is Mark Block, 54, who at the time served as state director for AFP's Wisconsin chapter. (Block left as director last December, concluding a five-year tenure that helped sweep into power a number of AFP Wisconsin favorites, including Scott Walker, in both the state house and the U.S. Congress.)

The lines between these various entities are often quite tangled. At a February 2010 Tea Party rally in the small city of Sheboygan, Hansen told supporters that Prosperity 101 -- a for-profit company -- was part of the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, the non-profit she directs.

But when I tracked down Moore at a September religious-right conference, he was under the impression that Prosperity 101 was a program of the AFP Foundation. And when I spoke with Tim Phillips, who heads up both AFP and its foundation, after his January 2011 appearance in Virginia, he told me he didn't know if Prosperity 101 was affiliated with his organizations or not. Mary Ellen Burke, then a spokesperson for both AFP and its foundation, responded to an e-mail query in more definitive terms.

"Prosperity 101 is NOT part of Americans for Prosperity," Burke wrote. "Some of our state chapters have worked with them as they would any other like-minded coalition."

Burke suggested that I speak with Mark Block, then AFP state director in Wisconsin, who failed to respond to a phone message and follow-up e-mail. When I caught up with him at February's Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., Block, now serving as "chief of staff" to keynoter Herman Cain, the fast food magnate turned GOP presidential hopeful, denied having any involvement with Prosperity 101. Yet at a Prosperity 101 event the previous summer in Las Vegas, Cain told his audience that it was Block who, with Hansen, had recruited him for the program.