Peeking behind the right-wing political curtain
A wolf in sheep’s clothing is one thing, but what happens when the wolves show up dressed as shepherds? The wolves start giving the sheep advice, and the sheep listen.
Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin is having its annual “Defending the American Dream by Keeping America Asleep” banquet at a resort in the Dells this weekend. They advertise themselves as just plain folks trying to get their country back, but when you follow the money, the picture changes. Littlesis.org and Jim Hightower have been hot on the funding trail and have finally tracked down the Wizards of Oz, the two men behind the curtain, pulling the strings of today’s right wing political chorus.
Americans for Prosperity, and most of the angry media voices that continue to throw kerosene on the national debate, are being bankrolled through a network of interlocking foundations, funded by the biggest corporation you’ve never heard of: Koch Industries.
The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, are tied for 19th richest men in the world in the latest Forbes list. Koch Industries is America’s second largest privately owned corporation with 70,000 employees. They own Northern, Brawny, Dixie Cups, Lycra, Stainmaster Carpets, and Teflon. They are a major producer, refiner, and transporter of petroleum and petroleum based products.
The money, as they say, rolls in – and then flows out into the Cato Institute, Freedomworks PAC (to which, the NY Times reported, Tea Party members are now being sent for organizing seminars), Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
David Koch started AFP in 1984 as “Citizens for a Sound Economy,” changing the name in 2003. It’s purpose is to encourage citizens to fight those darned government regulations that impede the profits of … you guessed it, the Koch family of industries. They found the perfect office manager, too. AFP President Tim Phillips is a long time Republican campaign director and lobbyist. He’s the dirty trickster who helped George W. Bush smear John McCain in South Carolina’s 2000 primary, using pictures of McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi daughter to suggest McCain had fathered a black child. He also helped defeat Sen. Max Cleland by claiming that this Vietnam War vet, who won Silver and Bronze stars for valor in combat and who lost both legs in the war, “lacked the courage” to fight terrorists.
Despite billing itself as “the nation’s premier grassroots organization” AFP only has 8,000 members and is controlled by corporate dollars.
The tea party movement, focused as it is on government spending that’s left millions of regular Americans flat broke, is being financed and manipulated by the very people who have benefited most from that spending. What many of these folks probably didn’t know was that last month, when CPAC hosted the tea party movement’s coming out-party, CPAC itself was being cosponsored by the ultra-right John Birch Society, a group founded by Charles and David Koch’s father. The John Birch Society, we should all remember, believed that President Eisenhower was a Communist agent.
So, back to West Bend and our upcoming election. Our local rightwing political collective, the Common Sense Citizens of Washington County, is proudly affiliated with Americans for Prosperity. Members of this local group (including the two creationist candidates running for School Board, Ed Duquaine, currently running for the 3rd District alderman seat, and now District 5 County Board candidate Michael Bassill) embrace the same set of anti-tax, anti-government, anti-regulation sentiments. Wrapped in the flag, these views look patriotic, but they’ve been designed specifically to guarantee that billionaires can continue to pillage the US treasury and avoid paying their fair share of the nation’s upkeep. These anti-tax, anti-regulation based political premises serve the interests of people like the Koch family, not the interests of unemployed Americans whose jobs were shipped overseas to improve the Koch’s profit margins. There’s no reason to promote the interests of the corporate elite in West Bend where the unemployment rate is still setting records.
The increasing anger that’s characterized so much of the last few years – some of which we’ve seen in recent letters to the editor – is being manufactured, nourished and sustained by billionaires with a financial stake in preventing any movement for political or economic change.
People from across the political spectrum could do something about this. We could begin by finding common ground to take back control of the government. We could attend to what unites us: our belief that a government of the people needs to work for the people. We can no longer remain immobilized by the propagation of fear designed to distract us from these pickpockets rifling through our wallets.
But I’m pretty cynical. Maybe sheep need their wolves after all. Maybe H.L. Mencken got it right when he said “Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”
On the other hand, I hold on to a tiny ray of hope. It’s this: hobgoblins disappear when you turn on the lights – and wake up.
And so it goes.
ps. a big shout out to Joy for putting me on the trail of these guys.