In a speech earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual conference, Americans For Prosperity-Michigan Executive Director Scott Hagerstrom revealed the true goal of his group and its allies like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) efforts. Speaking at CPAC’s “Panel for Labor Policy,” Hagerstrom said that AFP really wants to do is to “take the unions out at the knees”:
HAGERSTROM: It’s easy to go out there and fight taxes and increased regulation, you know we send out an action alert on taxes to AFP and we get thousands of people to respond. You send out one on a more complicated issue and it just doesn’t quite resonate…We fight these battles on taxes and regulation but really what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees so they don’t have the resources to fight these battles.
Taking “the unions out at the knees” has long been a goal of the Koch brothers and their many front groups. In the run-up to the 2010 elections, the Kochs worked with other anti-labor billionaires, corporations and activists to fund conservative candidates and groups across the country. Now after viciously opposing pro-middle class policies for years, Koch Industries is trying to eliminate the only organizations which serve as a counterweight to the well-oiled corporate machine.
Earlier this week, ThinkProgress reported on the Koch brothers’ integral role in provoking Walker’s showdown with Wisconsin’s public sector unions. Koch Industries donated $43,000 to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, and Koch political operatives encouraged the newly elected governor to take on the unions. Since the showdown began twelve days ago, Koch-funded front groups like Americans for Prosperity — which is chaired by David Koch — and the American Legislative Exchange Council have organized counter-protests, prepped GOP lawmakers with anti-labor legislative talking points and even announced an anti-union advertising campaign. Even while local business leaders have called for Walker to end his assault on Wisconsin unions, Koch executives have said that they “will not step back at all” and pointed to the importance of their “grassroots” group, saying, “it is good to have them on the ground, in the battle, trying to help out.”
For now, however, the AFP message doesn’t appear to be resonating: Koch-backed pro-Walker demonstrations have had low attendance and were dwarfed by pro-union supporters in Madison this week.