What's Behind the Recall in Wisconsin: Workers Fighting Back As Walker Dodges Questions About Corruption
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ALEC and Koch in Wisconsin
Also in summer, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) published the Web site ALECexposed.org, releasing over 800 previously secret “model bills” from the American Legislative Exchange Council and documenting known ALEC member corporations and legislators. ALEC, described as a “corporate bill mill,” allows corporations like Koch Industries and ideological interest groups like the National Rifle Association to hand state legislators changes to the laws that benefit their bottom line and further the right-wing agenda. ALEC “model bills” promote privatization of education and Medicare, environmental deregulation, “tort reform,” union-busting, and more.
Many first heard of ALEC during the height of the Wisconsin protests when University of Wisconsin history professor William Cronon, a self-described political moderate, published a blog post raising questions about ALEC's role in Walker’s reactionary anti-union bill. His posting prompted the Wisconsin Republican Party to submit an open records request for Cronon’s emails in a failed effort to peg the moderate professor as a political apparatchik.
With the publication of ALECexposed.org, the out-of-state corporate and ideological influence on elected officials in Wisconsin and elsewhere became clear. Walker was an ALEC member when he was a state legislator, and he appointed other ALEC members to key administrative posts. The leaders of both the Senate and the Assembly were active ALEC members. Multiple ALEC bills were spotted in Wisconsin legislation. In addition to Walker’s attack on public sector unions, everything from voter ID and anti-consumer bills and targeted tax breaks for tobacco companies to concealed carry and “Castle Doctrine” laws, telecommunications deregulation and more, were discovered to have ALEC roots.
ALEC is also closely tied to the Koch agenda, particularly the family’s anti-union zeal. Starting in November, as recall proponents started gathering signatures, the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity (AFP) started running TV and web ads supporting Walker and his “reforms.” Sources say AFP has spent nearly $3 million in the state on its “It’s Working!” campaign.
In early 2012, the real David Koch told a Florida newspaper that “we’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.”
Koch also sees the recall election as a focal point in a national showdown over union rights.
“What Scott Walker is doing with the public unions in Wisconsin is critically important. He’s an impressive guy and he’s very courageous,” Koch said. “If the unions win the recall, there will be no stopping union power.”
As the recall election date has grown more near, additional controversies surrounding Walker have emerged.
The ongoing John Doe investigation into illegal campaigning on the public dime during Walker's 2010 gubernatorial race has so far netted 15 felony indictments and two convictions. Because the John Doe proceedings are secret, the scope and target of the investigations is not known. What is known is that Walker has established a legal defense fund, which under state law is only permitted if Walker (or his "agent") is the subject of a criminal investigation. Thus far, Walker has transferred $60,000 to the fund, and Walker's opponents are making it a campaign issue -- Barrett is demanding the release of emails that could show whether Walker is tied to the illegal activity, and is running ads asking "Doesn’t Wisconsin deserve the truth about Walker’s role in the [John Doe] investigation before the election?"
In April of last year, Walker was called before Congress to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about the drastic changes he had implemented in the first months of 2011. Walker admitted that he never campaigned on public bargaining, and that despite claiming that Act 10 was a necessary fiscal measure, admitted that some of the anti-union provisions saved the state no money.