DeVos, Koch, Scaife, Walton, ALEC, AFC: The Corporate Royalists and Right-Wing Groups Propelling the GOP's Assault on the Middle Class
Continued from previous page
[HISTORICAL FLASHBACK: In the fierce labor wars of the last century, industrial barons employed Pinkertons and other goons to bloody the heads of laborers or simply gun down those struggling for a share of economic and political power. It was brutal, but organized workers persevered and eventually gained a share of economic and political power. From their sweat and blood, America's middle class flowered.]
Today, the bands of nouveau corporate royalists (with coats of arms bearing such names as Coors, DeVos, Koch, Scaife, and Walton) are determined to take back those middle-class gains of yesteryear. They are working to achieve this through a coordinated, long-term campaign to (1) crush the ability of working people to unionize, (2) bust America's middle-class wage structure, (3) eliminate job security, and (4) emasculate government as a force capable of controlling corporate avarice and arrogance.
These latter-day royalists are employing a more sophisticated thuggery than brute force (though don't think they wouldn't resort to it). Instead, their goons are more likely to be in Gucci's than brogans, using dollars and computers rather than clubs and guns. They have been recruiting, financing, training, deploying, and coordinating thousands of political operatives to work through hundreds of front groups, law firms, think tanks, PACs, lobbying offices, media and PR consortiums, faux academic centers, astroturf campaigns, and--of course--compliant politicians.
Among the compliant is our covey of hyperactive governors, all carrying basically the same anti-worker, anti-democratic policy ideas. Their unified agenda wasn't produced by telepathy or freakish happenstance, but by AFC, ALEC, IFL, SPN,* and other obscure organizational acronyms unknown to 99 percent of Americans. But Daniels of Indiana, Walker of Wisconsin, Kasich of Ohio, Scott of Florida, and the rest of the covey have these organizations on speed dial. Behind the non-descript acronyms are aggressive and insidious right-wing wonk shops that have been set up and richly financed by the corporatists to prepare and hand-deliver pro-corporate programs to compliant governors and key legislators. Once delivered, the organizations work (usually clandestinely) to get the programs enacted. Let's peek inside a couple of these acronyms.
Forget children, AFC is an astroturf organization spreading the gospel of public education privatization. It is a creature of Michigan's multi-billionaire DeVos family--daddy Richard founded Amway, ranks 62nd among the richest Americans, and owns the Orlando Magic basketball team.
AFC is ramrodded by Betsy DeVos, whose right-wing bona fides are rock solid. Raised in the wealthy, ueber-conservative Prince family (her brother is Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, the infamous private war corporation), she married Dick (son of Richard) and has been a major donor/fundraiser for the GOP, for religious-right political groups, and for a national web of school privatizers. Also, she and the larger DeVos klan are longtime co-conspirators in and co-funders of the Koch brothers' plutocratic political network. [Bonus tidbit: The DeVoses reportedly helped finance the Citizens United case that the Supreme Court used last year to unleash secret, unlimited corporate money on our elections.] Betsy is unabashed about using the family's vast fortune for, as she puts it, "buying influence" in government. In 1997 she bluntly declared, "We expect a return on our investment."
Eradication of public schools is her passion, and AFC is her machine. It's essentially a front group that funnels big money from a cadre of like-minded rich people into other front groups across the country. In turn, these groups funnel AFC's money into local privatization campaigns. Last year, for example, just one political action committee registered by AFC in Indiana amassed $4.6 million from only 13 donors--none from Indiana. The list included Alice and Jim Walton (two billionaire Walmart heirs), a trio of super-rich global speculators (who, interestingly, say they base their risky gambles on poker strategies), a multi-millionaire operator of a national chain of for-profit charter schools, and Betsy herself. Very little of the money stayed in Indiana--more than $4 million was flung out to pro- privatization front groups and candidates running campaigns in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wisconsin. This shell game is repeated in campaigns around the country, with the same core group of gabillionaires putting up the cash.