Koch funneled $1.2 million to governors battling unions

As protests continued in Madison, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker warned of dire consequences if lawmakers don't vote soon on his budget plan. Meanwhile, similar battles over union rights are starting to take shape in other states. (Feb. 22)
By Bloomberg
(c) 2011 Bloomberg News
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 11:04 AM

Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Koch Industries Inc. and its employees and subsidiaries spent $1.2 million in the last election helping to elect Republican governors who are now trying to take away bargaining rights of state workers.

Republicans Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio, who won election last November with Koch support, are pushing to limit the ability of public-employee unions to negotiate for salaries and benefits. Senate Democrats in Wisconsin walked out in protest, preventing a quorum in the Republican-controlled chamber.

Protests in Ohio and Wisconsin spread yesterday as organized labor planned rallies, vigils and press conferences in at least 27 states. Workers in Indiana protested a proposal by Governor Mitch Daniels, a Republican elected in 2008, to curb collective bargaining and House Democrats stayed away from the chamber, blocking action. The Koch-backed advocacy group Americans for Prosperity joined a rally, set up a website and launched an advertising campaign backing Wisconsin's Walker.

"This is a very well-financed, well-coordinated assault on labor unions," said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the Washington-based advocacy group Public Citizen. "If they can break the backs of organized labor, they will have accomplished a great deal toward deregulating the American society."

Public-employee unions contributed $20.5 million to federal campaigns for the 2010 elections, more than 80 percent of it to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington research organization. In Wisconsin, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees made $83,888 in donations, all to Democrats, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a Helena, Montana-based research group.

Koch, a closely held energy and chemical company based in Wichita, Kansas, is controlled by the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. Along with other corporations, Koch Industries has often opposed organized labor on regulation and free trade, Holman said. Now they see a chance to cripple unions in the name of balancing budgets, he said.

The $1.2 million in Koch support for Republican governors includes $1.1 million given to the Republican Governors Association, which spent more than $3.4 million in support of Walker, according to Common Cause, a Washington-based advocacy group that opposes the governor's proposal.

In addition, Koch gave $43,000 directly to Walker, his single largest corporate source; $11,000 to the Wisconsin Republican party; $22,000 to Kasich; and $34,000 to the Ohio Republicans.

Koch also supported the 2008 campaign of Indiana's Daniels, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The Republican Governors Association, which received $25,000 from Koch, was the biggest source of campaign cash for Daniels, institute records show.

In addition, Americans for Prosperity spent $1.2 million in support of Republican candidates for Congress last year, Federal Election Commission records show. Koch Industries' federal political action committee contributed $1.3 million to candidates for the 2010 elections, 90 percent of it to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the Bentonville, Arkansas, subject of a campaign by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, also contributed to the campaigns of Walker and Daniels, and donated more than $340,000 to the Republican Governors Association for the 2010 elections, according to the Internal Revenue Service and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

"We have a long history of supporting elected officials on both sides of the aisle," said Lorenzo Lopez, a spokesman for Wal-Mart. "We contribute to candidates who are supportive of issues important to our customers, associates and shareholders."

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