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Featured Work

Curious Cure: WI GOP Injects Partisan Politics into Nonpartisan Elections Board

by Rebekah Wilce

Government Accountability Board-sign200px.jpg
After a scorching two-year controversy involving a "John Doe" criminal investigation into potential illegal coordination between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's campaign and outside big money groups, state GOP leaders are readying a legislative package to dismantle the nonpartisan elections board.

State Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) is proposing a curious cure. He announced that he will author a bill to add partisan appointees to the Government Accountability Board (GAB), now governed by a nonpartisan board of retired judges.

Why add partisan members to a nonpartisan board that is supposed to act as an independent arbiter of elections, campaign finance law, and ethics? Because the board is currently too partisan, says Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

Read the rest of this item here.

5 Years after Citizens United, Democracy Is for Sale

by Brendan Fischer

Expose the kochs-bill-200px.jpg
This week, Republican presidential hopefuls like Gov. Scott Walker, Gov. Chris Christie, and Sen. Rand Paul will travel to an exclusive resort near Palm Springs, Florida to kiss the rings of David and Charles Koch.

The New York Times calls it the "Koch primary."

Over the last five years, the Koch political network has evolved into what many have described as a shadow political party. The Kochs and their network of wealthy donors spent $300 million in the 2014 elections, after raising at least $400 million in the 2012 presidential races, with almost all of the spending passing through an array of political vehicles that are officially "independent" from candidates and political parties.

Today, candidates who receive the blessing of Charles and David can watch their political fortunes skyrocket, thanks to the huge financial resources the Kochs and their deep-pocketed allies can funnel into elections.

Read the rest of this item here.

Koch Party Delivers SOTU Response

by Brendan Fischer

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst
Newly-elected Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) will give the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address, perhaps providing further proof that the Koch political network has evolved into an independent political force.

Ernst's political career has followed a rapid trajectory. Just four years ago, she was a local elected official in Montgomery County, Iowa. Today, she is addressing the entire nation in primetime.

What happened?

According to Ernst, her political rise can be attributed to support from the Koch network of funders and funding vehicles, which planned to spend an estimated $300 million on the 2014 elections.

Last June, Ernst told attendees at a secret Koch donor summit in Dana Point, California that, although she started as "a little-known state senator from a very rural part of Iowa," it was "the exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you, that really started my trajectory." (The summit was closed to press but a recording was obtained by The Undercurrent.) Read the rest of this item here.

Good Money after Bad, WI GOP Demands More For-Profit Schools

by Jonas Persson

2014 Wisconsin education hearing
Image: Joe Brusky
Wisconsin's decades-long effort to turn public schools into for-profit cash cows for private corporations is ramping up with a bill that GOP leaders want to pass by the end of January.

A controversial new bill sponsored by Reps. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) and Jessie Rodriguez (R-Franklin) Assembly Bill 1, would assign letter grades to schools based on student test scores, and convert "failing" schools to for-profit charters.

Multiple studies have shown that student test scores are a better measure of a community's wealth then they are of school performance or teacher quality. And the evidence doesn't show that turning public schools into charters improves test scores or produces better-educated children.

Read the rest of this item here.

Democrats Gear Up to Battle Wall Street in the New Congress

by Mary Bottari

Congressman Chris Van Hollen
Democrats appear to have learned some lessons from their 2014 mid-term whipping. Numerous analysts said the lack of a coherent Democratic message to address the problem of stagnating wages and a stumbling economy hurt the party, especially among lower-income voters.

On election day, the AFL-CIO polled voters and found that 54 percent lost household income during the past year. Sixty-three say the economy is fundamentally unfair. Eighty percent say that both political parties are too focused on helping Wall Street and not Main Street.

Apparently some in Congress got the message. On Monday, President Obama's nominee for a key spot in the Treasury Department, a Wall Street banker, quietly withdrew his candidacy. On the same day, U.S. Rep. Van Hollen embraced one of Wall Street's most despised policy proposals, a financial transaction tax, in an effort to boost middle class wages. Read the rest of this item here.

Hotel Lobby Sues Los Angeles to Block “Extreme” Wages

by Mary Bottari and Jonas Persson

Two trade organizations affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the controversial corporate bill mill, filed suit on December 16 against the City of Los Angeles to block an ordinance passed last September to raise the wages for hotel employees. According to the ordinance, more than 40 percent of the city’s hotel workers currently make a living below the federal poverty line, but once it goes into effect, large non-unionized hotels will be required to pay their employees $15.37 an hour.

In what is one of the most expensive cities in the country, the state minimum, recently boosted from $8 to $9 an hour, has proven woefully inadequate to give people adequate housing and to keep people out of poverty. Even conservative real estate CEO Rick Carusi voiced his support for the measure, telling the LA Times that “It’s very difficult to live in this region … with that kind of money.”

Yet, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (which counts Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton as its members) and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, argue in the lawsuit that the city has created an “insidious mechanism that improperly aids the Hotel Workers’ Union.” Read the rest of this item here.

Recent Articles from

Bill Moyers Passes the Torch, Are You Ready?

by Mary Bottari

After more than four decades of producing some of the most hard-hitting news shows and documentaries ever aired on public television, Bill Moyers concluded his last show with a message to a new generation of progressives, "over to you now."

“So as the next generation steps forward, I am tempted to think that the only thing my generation can say to them is: we’re sorry,” Moyers said. “Sorry for the mess you’re inheriting. Sorry we broke the trust. But I know in my heart that’s not what they ask or expect.”

Once a press secretary to former President Johnson, Moyers' 43 year career on public television earned him a spot in the Television Hall of Fame. Unwavering support from his viewers talked him out of a previous plan to retire in 2013, but at 80 years young, Moyers has decided the time is right to move onto other projects.

Read the rest of this item here.

Selma, Ferguson, and the Right-Wing Backlash

by Brendan Fischer

"Selma," the new biopic of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., offers a snapshot into the civil rights leader's time in Selma, Alabama, as he led a march through hostile territory to pressure President Lyndon B. Johnson into promoting the Voting Rights Act.

The film is centered on a few weeks in 1965, but it raises indisputable parallels between protests for voting rights in Selma and the recent wave of civil rights demonstrations following police killings of unarmed African-American men like Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York. Besides the similarities between civil rights movements confronting injustice in 1965 and 2015, there are clear parallels in tactics: the protests in both 1965 and 2015 used disruptive public demonstrations to promote necessary political change, and intentionally leveraged emerging media -- TV cameras in 1965, social media in 2014 -- to elevate civil rights issues to a broader audience.

Read the rest of this item here.

WI GOP Targets Respected Chief Justice for Removal

by Mary Bottari and Jessica Mason

For almost 40 years, Wisconsin's judges have been working without a mandatory retirement age. But all of a sudden, some state GOP leaders have decided that this is a major problem.

As the Wisconsin Supreme Court prepares to take up multiple cases involving the “John Doe” criminal investigation of potentially illegal campaign coordination between Governor Scott Walker and the "independent" issue ad groups that have bankrolled the Republican party, Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) has decided that the time has finally come to put senior judges out to pasture, saying that he plans to introduce a bill in early January. Read the rest of this item here.

WI GOP Moves “Vendetta” Amendment Against Chief Justice Abrahamson

by Jonas Persson

As the Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing got underway yesterday, several TV crews, including the local FOX affiliate, were in attendance.

What garnered all the news interest? The Committee’s discussion on a bill making it a Class I felony to surreptitiously film under someone’s skirt. Rep. Larson (R-Colfax) assured the women of Wisconsin that the bill also makes it illegal to fly drones under skirts.

But when it came time discuss another form of “defrocking” – albeit a less lurid one – the TV crews wrapped up and left. Assembly Joint Resolution 1 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the way the Chief Justice in the Wisconsin Supreme Court is appointed. Under Wisconsin's Constitution the title is given to the longest serving member, but under the GOP's proposed new system it would be decided by a vote among the justices every two years.

Read the rest of this item here.

eBay Becomes 100th Company to Cut Ties to "Controversial" ALEC

by Rebekah Wilce

"We are not renewing membership in ALEC," eBay tweeted on the afternoon of December 18.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) had joined the climate change awareness group Forecast the Facts, Credo Action, and others in asking eBay to leave what Reuters called the "controversial political group ALEC" in recent weeks. A Twitterstorm on December 17 was followed by the delivery of a petition containing nearly 100,000 petitions to eBay's headquarters in San Jose, California on December 18. eBay's announcement came shortly after.

"After our annual review of eBay Inc's memberships in trade associations and third party organizations we've decided not to renew our membership with American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)," eBay Senior Director of Corporate Communications Abby Smith confirmed.

Read the rest of this item here.

ALEC Bills Quash Public Sector Unions, New Study Finds

by Jonas Persson

We know that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a powerful behind-the-scenes player, boasting that it introduces about 1,000 bills a year, and passing 20 percent of them. But until now, there was no way of empirically measuring how much influence the corporate bill mill has in state politics. This might be about to change. A new study by Alex Hertel-Fernandez, a PhD student in Government and Social Policy at Harvard University, sheds disturbing light on the extent to which ALEC has succeeded in its mission to root out public-sector unions in the United States.

By comparing the text of ALEC model bills affecting unions with bills enacted in state legislatures, Hertel-Fernandez found twelve instances of “ALEC-authored bills related to public unions.” These were often omnibus bills with provisions to restrict collective bargaining rights, and make it more difficult to collect membership dues, while at the same time making it easier for the state to privatize public services.

Read the rest of this item here.

Editors' Pick

New Report!

CMD Issues New Report on Latest Assault on Clean Election Laws

End Dark Money200px.jpg
A bipartisan effort to enforce Wisconsin’s longstanding laws governing coordination between campaigns and independent groups has been mislabeled a “partisan witch hunt” by a well-funded legal and media campaign, with the ultimate goal of undermining what remains of limits on big money in politics, according to a new report from the Center for Media and Democracy.
Five Years After Citizens United

“Anti-coordination laws have become more vital than ever before in the post-Citizens United world, where ‘independent’ political organizations are raising and spending unlimited funds for elections but keeping their donors a secret,” said Brendan Fischer, CMD General Counsel and the author of the report. “If a candidate can coordinate with these secretly-funded groups and establish shadow campaign committees, then the candidate contribution limits and disclosure requirements are rendered meaningless.”

And that, it seems, is precisely the goal.

Read the rest of this item here. Read the report here.

Follow the Money! Wiki Resource

The Center for Media and Democracy, publisher of ALEC Exposed, brings you this unique wiki resource on the billionaire industrialists and the power and influence of the Koch cadre and Koch cash.

Read about Koch Funding Vehicles:

The Kochs' Anti-Civil Rights Roots

Vist Koch Exposed for more.

Watch the Video!

Watch Lisa Graves talk about her new article, "The Koch Cartel: Their Reach, Their Reactionary Agenda and Their Record."

Read the article here.

Featured SourceWatch Article is an interactive wiki website that depends on readers like you to improve content. If you want to help us grow SourceWatch with well documented research and become a volunteer editor, click here for more information.

Americans for Prosperity

Excerpt from a longer SourceWatch article on Americans for Prosperity:

Americans for Prosperity is a right-wing political advocacy group founded by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, the owners of Koch Industries.[1] In the 2012 election cycle, it was a key component of the Kochs' $400 million political network, receiving large portions of its money from Koch-linked dark money groups like Freedom Partners, American Encore, and Donors Trust. AFP's budget, which comes from the Koch family foundations and other unknown sources, surged from $7 million in 2007 to $40 million in 2010 to $115 million in 2012. [2] According to the Center for Public Integrity, Americans for Prosperity "spent a staggering $122 million (in 2012) as it unsuccessfully attempted to defeat President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats," including $83 million on "communications, ads, and media."[3]

2014 Campaign Ads

As of May 2014, AFP had already spent $35 million on ads targeting Democrats like Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, and Mark Pryor. According to Politico, the "projected budget for Americans for Prosperity would be unprecedented for a private political group in a midterm, and would likely rival even the spending of the Republican and Democratic parties’ congressional campaign arms."[4]

Untruthful advertisement from Americans for Prosperity that aired in Colorado

On March 17, 2014, Americans for Prosperity began airing ads in Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, and North Carolina that make statements about the Affordable Care Act rated as "false" and "misleading" by fact checkers. These ads target Senators Mark Pryor, Mark Udall, Mary Landrieu, and Kay Hagan, all of whom are up for election in November 2014.

According to Americans for Prosperity, "millions are paying more and getting less." The Tampa Bay Times Politifact rated this claim as "FALSE", noting that there was "a slowdown in the increase in health costs during the last four years, including a modest 4 percent increase from 2011 to 2012" and "Americans are getting more benefits under the law in a number of ways -- including, in some cases, being able to buy affordable insurance for the first time."[5]

Read the entire SourceWatch page on Americans for Prosperity here


  1. Peter Overby, "Who's Raising Money For Tea Party Movement?," NPR, February 19, 2010.
  2. Eric Lipton, Billionaire Brothers’ Money Plays Role in Wisconsin Dispute, New York Times, February 21, 2011.
  3. Michael Beckel, "Koch-backed nonprofit spent record cash in 2012," Center for Public Integrity, November 14, 2013.
  4. Kenneth Vogel, "Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity plans $125 million spending spree," Politico, May 9, 2014.
  5. Politifact, "Millions of Americans are "paying more and getting less" under Obamacare,", March 17, 2014.

Web Resource on Outsourcing & Privatization

CMD Launches to "Expose the Private Companies Behind the Corporate Takeover of Public Services"

by PRW Staff

Outsourcing America Exposed
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of the award-winning, launched, a web resource devoted to helping taxpayers identify the corporations seeking to privatize public assets and services in their communities: including their schools, roads, prisons, drinking water, court systems, and more.

CMD has unveiled corporate profiles of America’s most notorious corporations that are quietly working with state and local lawmakers to take over public services with little accountability, along with in-depth examinations of the CEOs personally profiting from this corporate coup.

Read the profiles on featured privatizers:

Read the rest of this press release here.


Power Players Behind the Corporate Takeover of Pennsylvania Schools

In 2007, Philly rolled out the red carpet for state legislators and lobbyists attending the annual “State and Nation” policy summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Pennsylvania legislators appropriated a whopping $50,000 of taxpayer money to help pay for the event.

The event apparently had a lasting impact as the ALEC agenda has continued to roll though the hallways of the state capitol in Harrisburg in the years since. After Governor Corbett took office in 2010, ALEC bill after ALEC bill was introduced and signed into law.

With this report the Center for Media and Democracy puts a spotlight on some of the power players behind Corbett’s dramatic moves to reshape state education policy for the benefit of corporate interests. A surprising number of these groups are reportedly under investigation by federal officials or have been charged with wrongdoing.

Read the full report here.

Featured Video

Outsourcing America, Privatization Bites Back

Outsourcing America, Privatization Bites Back

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—Jack Shafer, "Green Is the New Yellow: On the excesses of 'green' journalism," Slate.

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