Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Koch On Line One #WIunion

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made a bit of a fumble today, answering a prank call from a gonzo journalist claiming to be David Koch, one of the infamous libertarian sugar daddies. The Koch brothers are heavily involved in the Wisconsin labor dispute, opening a lobbying office in Madison today to support stripping bargaining rights away from public sector workers. Ezra Klein highlights Scott Walker's big political problem here:
But if the transcript of the conversation is unexceptional, the fact of it is lethal. The state's Democratic senators can't get Walker on the phone, but someone can call the governor's front desk, identify themselves as David Koch, and then speak with both the governor and his chief of staff? That's where you see the access and power that major corporations and wealthy contributors will have in a Walker administration, and why so many in Wisconsin are reluctant to see the only major interest group representing workers taken out of the game.

The critique many conservatives have made of public-sector unions is that they both negotiate with and fund politicians. It's a conflict of interest. Well, so too do corporations, and wealthy individuals. That's why Murphy -- posing as Koch -- was able to get through to Walker so quickly. And it shows what Walker is really interested in here: He is not opposed, in principle, to powerful interest groups having the ear of the politicians they depend on, and who depend on them. He just wants those interest groups to be the conservative interest groups that fund him, and that he depends on.
The Walker administration wanted a debate over whether "special interest groups" should have a certain level of influence in the political debate. Now that the public knows Walker's willingness to have his ear bent by a more poweful special interest, the debate must shift to which interest groups deserve special training. As I posted on Monday, there is no principled reason to treat unions and corporations differently when it comes to political speech and the power to effect political change. Even the Citizens United opinion acknowledges the similarity. Walker will now have to articulate a distinction that is either contrary to the fairly conservative opinion espoused by the Supreme Court, or explain his preference for the Kochs over the citizens of Wisconsin.

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