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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.