Koch Brothers Have a Hand in Wisconsin Fight

Their activist group is on Gov. Scott Walker's side
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2011 9:50 AM CST
Koch Brothers Have a Hand in Wisconsin Fight
A supporter of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker walks among hundreds of protesters inside the state Capitol Monday, Feb. 21, 2011, in Madison, Wis.   (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

The billionaire Koch brothers are said to have a hand in the Tea Party, the new Congress … why not the Wisconsin protests, too? Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-created and Koch-financed nonprofit, has a definite presence at the demonstrations, with the group’s president recently telling anti-union counterprotesters that the controversial Wisconsin budget bill represents the start of a nationwide move to slash union benefits and “bring fiscal sanity back to this great nation.” The group had encouraged a union showdown even before Gov. Scott Walker was sworn in—and Koch Industries was also one of the biggest contributors to Walker’s election campaign, the New York Times reports.

The group’s president says Americans for Prosperity is urging Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to follow Wisconsin’s lead. The group represents the Koch brothers’ most aggressive effort at influencing public policy; its budget grew to $40 million from $7 million just three years ago. Union leaders and liberal activists aren’t happy, particularly since the ties between groups like Americans for Prosperity and wealthy corporate executives like the Koch brothers are not always made clear. “This is a dangerous moment in America history,” says one former House Democrat. “It is not that these folks don’t have a right to participate in politics. But they are moving democracy into the control of more wealthy corporate hands.” (Read more Charles Koch stories.)

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