Tag Archives: koch brothers

Walker says White House interested in Wisconsin anti-union law

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said this week that he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence about how the White House can implement on a federal level parts of the Republican governor’s contentious measure that all-but eliminated collective bargaining for public sector unions in the state.

Pence, when he was governor of Indiana, frequently sparred with public employee unions and only awarded pay increases to state workers who received positive performance reviews.

And President Donald Trump has talked about wanting to weaken collective bargaining protections for federal workers.

Walker’s claim to conservative fame is he severely restricted union power in the state.

The Wisconsin law passed in 2011 barred collective bargaining over working conditions or pay increases greater than inflation, for most public workers while requiring them to pay more for health care and pension benefits.

The fight over its passage led to protests as large as 100,000 people and Walker’s recall election in 2012, which he won. Walker was the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall attempt.

Now the governor is talking with those in the Trump administration about “how they may take bits and pieces of what we did” with the union law and civil service reform and “apply it at the national level.”

“It’s something the vice president has brought up before,” Walker told reporters following a speech in Wauwatosa.

The AP reports that union membership in Wisconsin has dropped 40 percent since the law passed. In 2016, 8 percent of Wisconsin’s public and private-sector workers were in a union, below the national average of 10.7 percent.

“I don’t think that the model that Scott Walker has put forward is a model for success,” said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. “That’s the model that the Koch Brothers have tried to spread everywhere.”

Charles and his brother David Koch operate one of the most powerful conservative groups in the nation and have supported efforts across the country to curtail union rights.

Trumka said collective bargaining is the best way to ensure workers get fair wages.

“If you’re going to get workers a raise you have to give them the right to collective bargaining unless you’re willing to impose a straightjacketed minimum wage on everybody,” Trumka said.


Koch brothers investing in state-level Wisconsin lawmakers

After apparently shrugging off the 2016 presidential election, Charles and David Koch are focusing their campaign dollars further down the ballot to maintain control over state governments, according to the Center for Media and Democracy;

CMD intern David Armiak reported that the billionaire brothers, who are the bedrock of the modern Republican Party, have already spent $400 million this year on influencing campaigns around the nation. Some of that money is believed to have gone to Verona Swanigan’s failed campaign to oust Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.

Chisholm and other district attorneys conducted a “John Doe” probe of Koch-backed groups they suspected of illegally coordinating their campaign activities with those of Gov. Scott Walker during his recall race. Justices who’ve received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from those same Koch-backed groups ruled unconstitutional the law under which the probe was conducted. They ordered the case closed and, in what many called an unprecedented move, they ordered the files destroyed.

The DAs appealed the case the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to hear it.

As this election year heats up, Wisconsin is once again in the Koch brothers’ sites.

Below are candidates for state office — all Republicans —  in whom the industrialist titans have already invested this year, Amiak’s research revealed.

  • Joel Kitchens (WI-01) is receiving campaign help from Americans for Prosperity’s door-to-door operation. Kitchens also received $500 from KochPAC to Joel Kitchens for Assembly.
  • André Jacque (WI-02) received $500 from KochPAC to his Jacque for Assembly.
  • Majority Leader Rep. Jim Steineke (WI-05) received $500 from KochPAC to his Steineke for Assembly.
  • Gary Tauchen (WI-06) received $500 from KochPAC to Tauchen for Assembly.
  • Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Daniel Knodl (WI-24) received $500 from KochPAC to Knodl Assembly 24.
  • Mark Born (WI-39) received $500 from KochPAC to Born For Assembly
  • Michael Schraa (WI-53) received $500 from KochPAC to Michael Schraa for Assembly.
  • Mike Rohrkaste (WI-55) received $500 from KochPAC to Rohrkaste for Assembly.
  • Speaker of the House Rep. Robin Vos (WI-63) received $500 from KochPAC to his Friends & Neighbors of Robin Vos.
  • John Spiros (WI-86) received $500 from KochPAC to Spiros for Assembly.
  • John Macco (WI-88) received $500 from KochPAC to Friends of John Macco.
  • John Nygren (WI-89) received $500 from KochPAC to Taxpayers for Nygren.

Endorsement: Milwaukee needs DA John Chisholm

(UPDATED: Additional endorsements added at the bottom.]

The Wisconsin Gazette strongly supports John Chisholm for re-election as Milwaukee County District Attorney. He has served the community well, and is widely considered one of the best district attorneys in the nation. Chisholm’s “public health” approach to crime prevention is becoming a national model. The New Yorker featured Chisholm in a laudatory 2015 article titled, “The Milwaukee Experiment.”

As part of his strategy, Chisholm helped spearhead creation of the $21 million Sojourner Family Peace Center. It brings together a wide array of partners, including his office, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Public Schools, Jewish Family Services and the Milwaukee Police Department to provide intervention services —including shelter, child protection and core health and legal services — for people at risk of becoming part of the revolving door of violence in underprivileged communities.

But a district attorney who does a good job invariably makes some enemies. As Milwaukee County’s chief prosecutor, John Chisholm has made some big ones.

First and foremost among them are Scott Walker supporters, especially wealthy dark-money groups. Chisholm irked them by going after their efforts to circumvent election laws.

When independent John Doe investigations found evidence of illegal electioneering by Walker’s staff in the Milwaukee County Executive’s office, Chisholm took a big political risk by agreeing to prosecute. He took an even greater risk by joining with a bipartisan group of DAs in a second John Doe case that uncovered what was then illegal coordination of dark money groups with Walker’s campaign. The state’s Supreme Court, led by justices who had taken huge amounts of money from those same groups, retroactively changed the law and threw out the case.

Now the corrupt dark-money groups are out for revenge by trying to knock Chisholm out of office in a low-turnout Aug. 9 primary election. They’ve chosen Verona Swanigan, an attorney with no prosecutorial experience and not much of a trial-court record, to face off against Chisholm.

Swanigan is a goofy fake Democrat in the mold of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. There are differences: Clarke dresses up like a cowboy, while Swanigan barely dressed for the cover of her book of erotic poetry. And unlike Clarke, who’s prone to lunatic rants laced with Trump-style insults — he once accused Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele of penis envy — Swanigan possesses great personal charm.

But like the sheriff, she’s supported by local right-wing radio. And also like him, she claims to be a “conservative democrat,” even though her campaign is backed financially by Koch-brothers’ operatives, in her case Craig Peterson.

Swanigan won’t talk to the press or debate Chisholm for the obvious reason that she knows nothing about the job, which involves overseeing a massive bureaucracy and 125 assistant district attorneys. She’s probably not too keen on having to discuss her pro-Walker supporters, either.

Swanigan’s backers are apparently using her race — she’s African American — to tap into some of the black community’s anger with Chisholm for not prosecuting Christopher Manney and others. Manney was the Milwaukee police officer who shot to death Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed, schizophrenic black man in Red Arrow Park two years ago. Chisholm concluded that the law did not support filing charges.

That case notwithstanding, Chisholm embodies the creativity, skill, dedication and integrity that every community longs to have at the helm of its district attorney’s office. Make certain that we keep him in office by voting Chisholm on Aug. 9.

See also:

Rep. Mandella Barnes for 4th Senate District

State Rep. LaTonya Johnson for 6th Senate District

Edgar Lin for 16th Assembly District

Endorsement: Marisabel Cabrera is best choice for 9th Assembly District

David Crowley for 17th Assembly District

Endorsements from Planned Parenthood, Fair Wisconsin and Voces de la Frontera

Johnson campaign loses $2.2 million in ads from Koch PAC

A conservative group funded by the Koch brothers that is backing U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson canceled $2.2 million worth of ads it had planned to run to help the Republican in August and September.

Johnson is in a rematch with Democrat Russ Feingold.

Feingold has been outraising Johnson and leading in the polls in the closely watched race.

Democrats are hoping to pick up the Senate seat as they try to regain majority control in the Senate.

The super PAC Freedom Partners Action Fund ran about $2 million worth of ads attacking Feingold in May.

The PAC was slated to run another $2.2 million in pro-Johnson ads over the next two months, but a Democratic media tracker said that they had been canceled.

“We are realigning our television advertising strategy to ensure maximum impact across key Senate races,” Freedom Partners spokesman James Davis wrote in an email. “We will continue direct citizen outreach through our grassroots activists, volunteer phone calls, digital media and direct mail. Last weekend alone network grassroots organizations made almost half a million contact attempts to targeted audiences.”

The news for Johnson came a day after he spoke in prime time at the Republican National Convention, a late-reversal from his long-held position that he was going to skip the gathering to campaign in Wisconsin.

It also came day after the National Republican Senatorial Committee said it was delaying until October $1.3 million in ads it originally planned to run over the next two months.

Johnson campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger tried to downplay the effect of the ad cancellation by the group funded by influential billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch.

“We just had our strongest fundraising quarter ever and the polls show this race tight,” Reisinger said. “We are comfortable and confident and believe we have the support to run a winning campaign. The voters already fired Sen. Feingold once, and they will reject him again.”

In the three-month period ending in June, Johnson raised $2.8 million, up from $2.1 million in the first three months. That put him in the top three of all Senate Republicans.

But he still trails Feingold, who served 18 years in the Senate before Johnson defeated him in 2010.

Through the first six months of the year, Feingold raised about $7.4 million, compared with $4.9 million for Johnson. Feingold also had more money on hand at the end of June — $7.2 million compared with $6.3 million for Johnson.

A Marquette University Law School poll released last week showed Feingold ahead of Johnson by 5 points among likely voters and 7 points among registered voters.

The race has tightened considerably since January, when Feingold was up by 12 points over Johnson among registered voters.

Johnson has benefited from spending by outside groups, which had outspent Feingold’s campaign by about $5 million to $1 million from the April 5 primary through late June.

In addition to Freedom Partners, the ads benefiting Johnson have come from Americans for Prosperity, another Koch brothers group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Let America Work and the Judicial Crisis Network.

“Sen. Johnson has always relied on the Koch Brothers and these outside groups to run his campaign for him, so this must come as a disappointment for their model legislator,” said Feingold spokesman Michael Tyler in an emailed statement.

Koch brothers spend $44 million to hijack Wisconsin

For the 2016 election cycle, Charles and David Koch have announced they are on track to spend nearly $900 million to elect politicians that would push their self-serving agenda.

In Wisconsin, the Koch brothers have spent more than $44 million since 2010, helping to foster the rise of Gov. Scott Walker, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. Ron Johnson and to fund political astroturf groups to carry their water.

What the Kochs are doing in Wisconsin is emblematic of what they’re doing across the country, all their political efforts and PR shams boil down to self-interest and higher profit shares. — Eddie Vale, the vice president of the Bridge Project

In Wisconsin, the Koch brothers have helped create one of the worst governors who has allowed the hazardous pollution of our rivers and waterways, not to mention how they’ve been behind the attacks on working families in the state.

The Koch network has invested heavily in lobbying to directly assert their influence on the state’s policy agenda. Since 2010, the Kochs have spent $2.6 million lobbying on dozens of pieces of legislation to further their corporate agenda at the expense of Wisconsin’s workers, environment, students, and families.

In addition, the Koch astroturf network has been on the frontlines fighting for some of the most regressive political efforts in Wisconsin in recent years. They pushed for devastating anti-labor efforts including the silencing of workers, eliminating the prevailing wage, and preventing a raise of the minimum wage.

The Koch-backed ALEC created dozens of pieces of boilerplate legislation, many of which have been incorporated into Walker’s radical education agenda. They fought tooth and nail to turn the state against healthcare reform and block the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. And finally, to protect the full profit-generating capacity of their Wisconsin operations, the Kochs have railed against the EPA and renewable energy development while simultaneously praising the Keystone pipeline and open pit iron mining. Absolutely nothing in Wisconsin could deter the Kochs from their selfish objectives.

Their agenda proves that they are willing to compromise the lives and livelihoods of Wisconsin families, and their record shows that they would even stoop so low as to malign Native Americans and target minority and student voters in fraudulent schemes to achieve their full objectives.

The Kochs are cementing their imprint in Wisconsin this year.

“Already, they have given more than $500,000 to Speaker Ryan’s leadership PAC and are providing cover for Sen. Ron Johnson, who has benefited from millions spent on ads and contributions from the Koch network for his hotly-contested reelection bid. Their investment this year will only help Scott Walker who has announced he will seek a third term as governor.” — — Eddie Vale, the vice president of the Bridge Project

Read the report.

Walker signs bill banning bans on plastic bags

“Paper or plastic?” isn’t going away anytime soon in Wisconsin. Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation March 30 protecting plastic bags from community bans. AB 730 prohibits local governments from regulating the commercial use of plastic bags or other “auxiliary containers” such a cups, bottles or other packaging.

The measure also prohibits local governments from enacting measures that attach a fee or surcharge on plastic bags.

There are no communities in Wisconsin with such bans; Eau Claire in 2013 considered a measure intended to reduce the use of plastic bags.

However, more than 100 communities in other states have enacted restrictions on single-use plastic bags, considered a major source of global pollution. In 2007, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to adopt a ban.

Additionally, Hawaii adopted statewide restrictions in 2012 and California lawmakers passed restrictions in 2014, which are on hold pending the outcome of a ballot initiative in November.

The goal with the restrictions is to decrease trash and litter, as well as reduce the use of the natural resources required to manufacture the bags, which generally are made from fossil fuels.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year and bags used for an average of 12 minutes before they get discarded.

About 2.2 billion pounds of fossil fuel and 3.9 billion gallons of fresh water are needed to produce the 100 billion plastic bags annually used in the United States, according to the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a group based in New York that’s been a leader on the ecology side of the issue. The manufacturing process creates about a billion pounds of solid waste each year and produces 2.7 million tons of CO2.

At Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group that conducts regular cleanups of waterways, activists emphasize that the bags and other petroleum-based plastics never really break down — thus, about every square mile of ocean is polluted with about 46,000 pieces plastic.

The plastic pollution contributes to flooding and threatens wildlife, as animals ingest or become entangled in the materials.

Despite the environmental concerns with plastic bags, protecting their use and challenging bans is big business.

A force behind the “preemption” bills such as the one signed by Walker is the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC, the national organization of legislators and businesses that promotes corporate interests and conservative policies.

Also, an offshoot of ALEC, the American City County Exchange, adopted a resolution encouraging local elected officials to not regulate single-use containers and packaging, “such as reusable bags, disposable bags, boxes, cups, and bottles that are made of cloth, paper, plastic, extruded polystyrene, or similar materials.”

ALEC’s campaign against plastic bag bans is backed by plastic manufacturers and a trade group, the National Federation of Independent Business, which has had funding from the Koch brothers’ Freedom Partners and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, according to the Center for Media and Democracy.

Florida banned plastic bag bans in 2008. Missouri and Arizona passed bag bans last year, but Arizona’s legislation faces a legal challenge.

In Wisconsin, these entities lobbied for the ban on bans: Alliance of Wisconsin Retailers, American Chemistry Council, American Progressive Bag Alliance, Koch Companies Public Sector, Kwik Trip, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, Midwest Food Processors Association, Wisconsin Beverage Association, National Federation of Independent Business, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Wisconsin Grocers Association , Wisconsin Independent Businesses Inc., Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Wisconsin Paper Council, Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Associates and Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

These groups that opposed the legislation: Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter, League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Dane County Cities and Villages Association, Clean Wisconsin, Dane County, the City of Milwaukee and the City of Madison.


Bag restrictions

More than 100 municipalities have enacted restrictions aimed at reducing or eliminating the use of single-use plastic bags. Hawaii and California have statewide restrictions, but California’s law is on hold.

Alaska: 2 municipalities

California: 88 municipalities

Colorado: 5 municipalities

Connecticut: 1 municipality

District of Columbia: 1 municipality

Hawaii: Statewide

Iowa: 1 municipality

Maine: 1 municipality

Maryland: 21 municipalities

Massachusetts: 8 municipalities

New Mexico: 1 municipality

New York: 5 municipalities

North Carolina: 9 municipalities

Oregon: 3 municipalities

Texas: 9 municipalities

Rhode Island: 1 municipality

Washington: 11 municipalities

Source: Surfrider Foundation

Did you know?

In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country to ban single-use plastic bags, which can exacerbate flooding.

Spring cleaning on the river

Milwaukee Riverkeeper is organizing clean up crews to remove litter and debris from 50 sites in the Milwaukee River basin. The annual Spring River Cleanup takes place April 23, the day after Earth Day.

Each year, thousands of volunteers remove tons of trash from the waterways in the Greater Milwaukee area. In 2015, about 3,500 volunteers hauled away 70,000 pounds of trash.

For more information or to register, go online to Milwaukee Riverkeeper at milwaukeeriverkeeper.org.

— L.N.

Right-wing money, politics at issue in Wisconsin Supreme Court race

The two rivals trying to unseat Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley, whom Gov. Scott Walker appointed to the court last October, warned of the influence of partisan politics on the state’s highest court at a candidate forum on Jan. 27.

Bradley and challengers JoAnne Kloppenburg and Joe Donald appeared together for the first time at a forum hosted by the Milwaukee Bar Association, three weeks ahead of the Feb. 16 primary that will narrow the field to two before the April 5 general election.

All three are seeking a 10-year term to replace Justice Patrick Crooks, who died in September. By appointing the relatively inexperienced Bradley, Walker ensured that she’d have the huge advantage of incumbency heading into the elections. Judicial incumbents nearly always win re-election, but some political observers say this appointment could backfire, given Walker’s low approval rating. It could turn the race into a referendum against the unpopular governor.

“It is unprecedented for a Wisconsin governor of any party to appoint a declared judicial candidate to the Supreme Court this close to an election,” said Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling at the time of the appointment. “This power grab sets a terrible precedent and doesn’t pass the smell test.”

“The fact that Walker twice named her to judgeships before makes her ‘Walker’s candidate,’ Kloppenburg said in a statement.

“The Bradley campaign and the Republican Party are essentially one and the same,” said a statement from Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Joe Donald’s campaign manager, Andy Suchorski, at the time of her appointment.

Neither Kloppenburg nor Donald applied for the vacancy, saying it’s unethical for an announced candidate to apply for a judicial seat while campaigning for it. Even though each is more qualified, they would never have been considered anyhow, given their lack of right-wing credentials.

Walker has appointed Bradley, who has only about four years of judicial experience, to every judicial position that she’s held.

Bradley was so certain he would appoint her to the high court that she registered a website as a Supreme Court justice before the applications were even due.

On Jan. 27, however, Bradley pledged to run “a positive and nonpartisan” campaign and said she welcomes support from anyone who offers it.

She’s a Walker donor, however, and her past support has come primarily from the Republican Party and the dark money groups that pile huge amounts of cash into the coffers of tea party political candidates.

Walker’s first appointment of Bradley helped her narrowly win her race to retain the circuit court job he gave her. But $167,000 from the Koch brother’s Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce also contributed to that victory. The Koch brothers and their corporate allies oppose all government regulations, all watchdog groups and limits on money in politics, and all government assistance programs, including college aid, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. Their ultimate goal is to sell off all public land to corporate interests and privatize all government functions except the military.

Bradley is their perfect candidate. A former president of the Milwaukee chapter of the Federalist Society, a far-right libertarian lawyers group, she’s also belonged to the Thomas Moore Society, a conservative Catholic legal group, and the Republican National Lawyers Association. She began her legal career protecting corporations from liability lawsuits and doctors from malpractice suits.

At the Jan. 27 forum, Kloppenburg, a state appellate judge who was elected to that position on her own, said she would accept campaign funds from any groups except political parties. She said her experience makes her best to do “justice without fear or favor” and to “stand up to special interests.”

Donald, a Milwaukee County Circuit judge, touted his independence. He said the election is important to restore integrity at the Supreme Court and that without a new independent, “we’re stuck with an ideologue on the court for the next 30 years,” referring to Bradley, who is only 44 years old.

Sanders: This is what oligarchy looks like

Earlier this year, a number of Republicans flew to California to make fundraising pitches to more than four hundred wealthy conservative donors attending a private conference hosted by the Koch brothers.

It’s worth taking a moment to ask the question, who are the Koch brothers, and what do they want?

The Koch brothers are the second-wealthiest family in America worth $82 billion. For the Koch brothers, $82 billion in wealth apparently is not good enough. Owning the second-largest private company in America is apparently not good enough. It doesn’t appear that they will be satisfied until they are able to control the entire political process.

This issue isn’t personal for me. I don’t know the Koch brothers, but I do know this. They have advocated for destroying the federal programs that are critical to the financial and personal health of middle class Americans.

Now, most Americans know that the Koch brothers are the primary source of funding for the Tea Party, and that’s fine. They know that they favor the outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and that’s their opinion. It’s wrong, but that’s fine as well.

But it is not widely known that David Koch once ran for Vice President of the United States of America on the Libertarian Party ticket because he believed Ronald Reagan was much too liberal. And he ran on a platform that included the following:

  • “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt and increasingly oppressive Social Security system.”
  • “We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
  • “We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws…”
  • “We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”

In 1980, David Koch’s presidential ticket received one percent of the vote from the American people. And rightly so. His views were so extreme they were rejected completely out of hand by the American people.

But fast forward almost thirty-six years, and one of the most significant realities of modern politics is just how successful David Koch and the like-minded billionaires attending his retreat have been at moving the Republican Party to the extreme right. The ideas above that were dismissed as downright crazy in 1980 are now part of today’s mainstream Republican thinking.

The Koch brothers, and billionaires like them, have bought up the private sector and now they’re buying up the government. It’s up to us to put a stop to them, but it will require all of us standing together with one voice on this issue. 

Here’s the truth: The economic and political systems of this country are stacked against ordinary Americans. The rich get richer and use their wealth to buy elections, and I believe that we cannot change this corrupt system by taking its money. If we’re serious about creating jobs, health care for all, climate change, and the needs of our children and the elderly, we must be serious about campaign finance reform.

So far in this election, less than four hundred families have contributed the majority of all the money raised by all the candidates and super PACs combined. According to media reports, one family will spend more money in this election than either the Democratic or Republican Parties.

This is not democracy. This is oligarchy.

Our job is not to think small in this moment. The current system of campaign finance in this country is utterly corrupt. That is one of the reasons I am so proud of how we have funded our campaign — over 2.5 million contributions from working Americans giving less than $30 at a time. But our campaign is unique.

We must pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and I will not nominate any justice to the Supreme Court who does not make it abundantly clear that she or he will overturn that decision. We need legislation that requires wealthy individuals and corporations who make large campaign contributions to disclose where their money is going. And more importantly, I believe we need to move towards the public funding of elections.

Our vision for American democracy should be a nation in which all people, regardless of their income, can participate in the political process, can run for office without begging for contributions from the wealthy and the powerful.

Tomorrow afternoon (Jan. 5) I’ll be in New York City to deliver a major speech about our need to create a financial system that works for all Americans, not just the few.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders


Koch brothers push Latinos to vote GOP

Charles and David Koch have launched a multimillion-dollar marketing effort aimed at persuading Latinos to vote Republican in 2016, and Milwaukee is high on their list of targeted cities. The Libre Initiative recently announced it’s in the process of hiring a state field director based in the Milwaukee area.

The director won’t have to travel far to coordinate with the group’s national spokeswoman — Rachel Campos-Duffy. She’s the wife of U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Hayward, a tea party leader.

Libre focuses mostly on swing states with significant Latino populations, such as Wisconsin. Last year, political analysts pinpointed the state as one of the top 10 where the Latino vote plays a major role in electoral results.

Wisconsin had about 135,000 eligible Latinos voters in the 2014 midterm elections, according to the Pew Research Center. Their vote played a role in President Barack Obama’s victory in Wisconsin in 2012.

An analysis by the Pew Latino Center found that Latinos nationally voted for Obama over Republican Mitt Romney by 71 percent to 27 percent.

Republicans want to put a halt to that.

Using Spanish-language radio and other targeted media, Libre stresses GOP message points framed to resonate with Latino voters, such as the party’s strong opposition to abortion and its embrace of school choice. Some commercials aired by the group have gone so far as to claim that Democrats want to abort Latino babies, according to Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of the Milwaukee-based immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera.

According to Libre’s marketing material, its goal is “to empower the U.S. Latino community so it can thrive and contribute to a more prosperous America.”

The Washington Post reported in May that Libre has quietly been building relationships with Latinos by providing them with such community services as driver’s license classes, tax preparation assistance, wellness checkups and food giveaways.

But along with the favors comes a heavy dose of right-wing ideology. Libre’s proselytizing is tailored to resonate with Latinos and overlooks the GOP’s demonization of immigrants and its opposition to immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the estimated 11.3 million undocumented workers currently living in the United States.

Instead, Libre’s messaging focuses on the Republican vision that an unfettered free-market system is the only way to lift people out of poverty.

Critics, including leading immigrant rights leaders, point out that the free-market system can only benefit people who are allowed to live here and receive equal treatment under the law. That’s something that’s glaringly missing from Libre’s agenda. The group, like the Republican Party as a whole, is more interested in keeping Latinos out of the country than letting them in, let alone helping them once they’re here.

The harsh rhetoric that GOP presidential contenders have leveled at Mexican immigrants is perhaps the most accurate barometer of how the party feels about Latino immigrants. It’s probably the single most difficult hurdle that Republicans must overcome in their campaign to win over Latinos.

GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “drug dealers” who must be deported to keep the nation safe. He wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and several other GOP candidates have declined to criticize that all-but-impossible proposal.

So it’s not surprising that Libre’s critics condemn its attempts to cultivate Latino voters as hypocritical trickery. After all, they say, Republicans have halted Obama’s deportation protection programs, which he issued through executive order.

In 2014, Obama issued the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, known as DAPA. It would have granted three-year exemptions from deportation to the undocumented parents of children born in the United States and of children with green cards.

But DAPA has been held up by a GOP lawsuit contending that the action exceeded presidential authority. The U.S. Supreme Court is likely to take up the case, which would affect more than 4 million people, in coming weeks.

Neumann-Ortiz and many other immigrant rights leaders say the Republican Party’s basic agenda also is detrimental to the working-class Latino immigrants currently living in the country. The GOP opposes raising the minimum wage, the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, for example — all programs that would give a leg-up to newly arrived immigrants. Republicans have also concocted a number of schemes to prevent poor people from access to voting.

Media Matters for Democracy looked at Libre’s policy positions and its leadership, composed entirely of GOP operatives, and concluded that the group urges Latinos to support policies that experts say go against their own interests and disenfranchise Latino voters.

Libre’s message aligns more with Republicans and with the principles and ideas of Charles and David Koch than the needs of Latinos.

But Libre plans to spend a lot of money to counter the hate talk of Trump and the hardline anti-immigrant positions of the Republican Party as a whole. Even Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, despite their Hispanic surnames, poll badly with Latinos due to their positions on immigration.

Libre has received at least $10 million  from the Koch brothers and an additional $15.8 million from Freedom Partners, a group that serves as the hub of Koch-backed political operations.

Libre’s other donors are unknown. As a 501(c)4 organization, it’s not required to disclose its donors, making it a dark money group.

Among Libre’s opponents is state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, who represents the largest Latino community in Wisconsin.

“I am committed to making sure my constituents are made aware that the primary goal of this right-wing organization is to get them to vote against their best interests by voting for Republican candidates who have consistently blocked my efforts to pass pro-Latino, pro-immigrant bills like drivers cards for undocumented immigrants (AB 343) and even symbolic efforts like a bill that would honor national civil rights leader, Cesar Chavez (AB 437),” Zamarripa said in a prepared statement.

Neumann-Ortiz said Libre will present obstacles to her efforts in 2016 to educate Latino voters about who is really on their side.

Most of the Latino voter education her group has done is “more nuanced” about the candidates than it will be in this election cycle, she said: “This time we’ve had to take a hard position against the Republican party.”

Neumann-Ortiz said poor Latinos are one of the least-informed groups politically. “For us, our program is not just going to be get out the vote, it’s going to have to be don’t be fooled by Libre.”

Another obstacle immigrant rights groups face in 2016 is the perception that Obama and the Democratic Party failed to live up to promises about immigration reform.

But Voces has proven up to the task. In 2014, when the Latino vote declined nationally, the 10 Milwaukee wards with the highest concentrations of Latino voters rose 25 percent over 2010. They went with the candidates favored by Voces.

What courts do next year with the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive actions could prove to be a major factor in the 2016 presidential election, said Neumann-Ortiz. If the president’s order is upheld, there will be a lot of goodwill toward Democrats among Latino voters.

Many people credit the president’s enormous success with Latino voters in 2012 to his adoption of the DACA policy that year. The policy gave work authorization to undocumented immigrants who came to the country before they were 16 and before July 2007, who were between 16 and 30 years of age, who had completed high school or received a GED and who had no criminal record.

Whatever ideology Libre plans to use to win Latino voters, nothing can compare with a progressive stance on immigration. Sixty-five percent of Latinos living in the United States have an undocumented relative living here as well.

“Immigration is a very important issue because it’s personal — it affects family, friends and neighbors,” Neumann-Ortiz says.

With the GOP’s current hardline stance on immigration, that should make her job easier, no matter what Libre does.

Poll: Veterans reject Koch brother’s push to privatize VA health care

A poll released just before Veterans Day shows veterans don’t support the push by Concerned Veterans for America, a Koch brothers front group, to private the VA health care.

CVA is pressing the Republican candidates for president to take up its call to replace the VA health care system with a voucher system.

The poll released on Nov. 10 and published in the Military Times shows two-thirds of veterans surveyed oppose a voucher system.

The poll also showed that 57 percent of veterans surveyed would be less likely to support a candidate who backed “privatizing the VA health care system.”

The poll was conducted for Vet Voice Foundation by Lake Research Partners and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, with a goal of having bipartisan results.

The survey found a majority of veterans opposed to privatization, regardless of party, age, or branch of military.