Conservative billionaire David Koch, co-owner of the $110 billion dollar Koch Industries chemical and petroleum conglomerate, provided a “lengthy” interview to Boston Globe reporter Stephen Smith yesterday. Smith asked about Ian Murphy’s prank call to Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI). Walker, who thought he was speaking with David Koch, bragged about his union busting campaign, joked about using a baseball bat against his opponents, and confessed that he had considered planting trouble makers in the protest crowd. According to Smith, Koch was both “amused and bemused” by the prank, but said he has “no relationship with the governor and didn’t directly support him.” But through political action committees and right-wing front groups, Koch has actually provided much of the muscle for Walker’s election and his current anti-labor power grab:
— Koch Industry’s PAC provided $43,000 in funds to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, and funneled $1.5 million to the Republican Governor’s Association, which in turn spent $65,000 supporting Walker and $3.4 million in ads attacking Walker’s Democratic opponent.
— David Koch is the founder, financier, and chairman of Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing “grassroots” front group. Americans for Prosperity, according to the New York Times, pressured Walker before he was even sworn in to take on public sector unions. Americans for Prosperity bused in Tea Party activists to support Walker’s current power grab, organized a major rally to support Walker, and has purchased $342,200 in ads supporting Walker and attacking his liberal critics. Earlier this week, Americans for Prosperity announced a ten city bus tour of Wisconsin to hold rallies to bolster Walker. Neither Koch nor Americans for Prosperity has revealed how much they are spending on this bus tour or rallies.
— Koch’s other front groups have marshaled support for Walker. The American Legislative Exchange Council, a group financed with nearly $500,000 in Koch money and lead in part by a Koch executive, has pushed anti-public sector union legislation to Walker and the Wisconsin GOP. A wide range of Koch-tied groups, like the Reason Foundation and the Cato Institute, have also sung Walker’s praise in the media.
Despite Koch’s contention that he has not “directly” supported Walker, during the prank call between Murphy and Walker, Walker said he was coordinating with “your guy on the ground” — presumably referring to Tim Phillips, a top political deputy to David Koch and current president of Americans for Prosperity. Phillips, a former associate of Jack Abramoff, has a history of anti-Semitic smear campaigns and lobbying work on behalf of a forced-abortion sweatshop owner.
Koch was recently in Boston to unveil the new David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. The donation to cancer research deserves high praise. However, Koch’s charitable donations should not give him a free pass for his right-wing lobbying or business practices. Koch Industries is one of the country’s worst air polluters, responsible for millions of pounds of cancer-causing chemicals. As the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer has reported, Koch Industries has lobbied aggressively to stop the government from recognizing their chemicals, like formaldehyde, as carcinogenic. Moreover, Koch’s political operation came close to defeating health reform — running millions of dollars in ads, organizing rallies, disrupting town hall meetings. For those who have not inherited an oil company, and cannot afford health insurance or have what an insurance company deems a “preexisting condition,” Koch’s political operation has worked to ensure that they continue to suffer.