A network of rightwing groups is driving news coverage, phony research, and legislation that pushes its privatization agenda in all the states, according to 12 new reports published concurrently today.

In Wisconsin, the focus is on privatizing the public schools.

The Wisconsin report, by One Wisconsin Now, the creators of BradleyWatch.org, and the Center for Media and Democracy, creators of ALECExposed, documents a two-decade-long assault on public education, including a propaganda campaign to push the idea that public schools are "failing," and legislation that "solves" this problem by shifting funding from public schools to unaccountable private education entities.

"These Wisconsin groups pass themselves off as home grown research organizations commenting on the issues of the day," says One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. "But in reality they are strands in a much larger right-wing web of money and organizations dedicated to advancing the agenda of multi-national corporations and billionaire ideologues."

Among the key findings of the Wisconsin report, "S is for Shill":

MacIver and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute benefit financially from the nation's pre-eminent anti-public education funding sources;

On the boards of directors of both organizations are long-time established Republican donors and political operatives;

While the Bradley Foundation provides substantial support to both groups, they are part of a coordinated, nationwide effort by the State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Council to advance anti-public education propaganda and promote privatization.

"S is for Shill" is one of twelve new reports that expose the State Policy Network, an $83 million web of rightwing "think-tanks" in every state across the country.

Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, elaborated on the larger network in a conference call with reporters today.

Some 63 groups that are part of the rightwing State Policy Network are "extraordinarily influential," Graves said. "They've been flying below the radar screen."

"The 'experts' of State Policy Network groups get quoted on TV, in the papers, or in the legislature as if they were nonpartisan, objective scholars on issues of public policy," said Graves. "But in reality, SPN is a front for corporate interests with an extreme national policy agenda tied to some of the most retrograde special interests in the country, including the billionaire Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Coors family."

Other funders include tobacco companies Reynolds American and Altria, as well as Facebook, Microsoft, AT&T, and Verizon.

Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director of ProgressOhio described the danger of "this Kochtopus in murky water" combined with gerrymandered voting districts in his state as a grave danger to the public interest.

The SPN group in Ohio, the Buckeye Institute, is behind attacks on everything from the state's renewable energy program to closing down voting on the weekends to new "stand your ground" and concealed carry bills, to an effort to privatize Cincinnati's pension plan, Rothenberg said.

In Arizona, the SPN state affiliate is the Goldwater Institute. John Laredo, the former minority leader of Arizona's house of representatives told reporters that group is behind the "constant attacks on clean elections in Arizona," because they view Arizona's public financing law as a barrier to special-interest legislation.

Anti-minimum-wage laws, cuts in unemployment compensation, and weakening of job-discrimination protections in state across the country, all supported by the States Policy Network groups, according to Gordon Lafer of the Economic Policy Institute.

"It's the ATM of the right," Lisa Graves said. "There is much more to the Kochtopus than previously described."

Photo: Flickr user Sue Peacock, creative commons licensed.


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White supremacist posters on campuses play on ignorance and fear within the very institutions that should be our...

Trump's politics are not the problem.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

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