Following the money behind ‘right-to-work’

The Wisconsin Gazette

With hearings and protests taking place on “right-to-work” legislation, the watchdog group One Wisconsin Now released research on the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, headed by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign co-chair. That research revealed “the stage has been set for Walker’s latest assault on Wisconsin’s middle class for his personal political benefit with a well-financed propaganda campaign utilizing a nationwide web of front groups.” 

“Once again we see the ‘Wisconsin Money Badger’ Michael Grebe and his Bradley Foundation paving the way for Gov. Walker’s right-wing, tea party agenda with a massive propaganda campaign,” said One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross. “This time it’s the wrong-for-Wisconsin right-to-work law that cuts wages and benefits not just for union members but all Wisconsin workers.” 

One Wisconsin Now, in a statement released on Feb. 23, said it reviewed federal tax records and found the Bradley Foundation handed out more than $8 million in 2012 and 2013, the latest years for which information available, to support the operations of about three dozen groups promoting “right-to-work” bills and “privatization policies that empower the wealthy and corporate CEOs at the expense of the middle class.”

The Bradley Foundation, with nearly half a billion dollars in assets, dispenses some $30 million to $40 million a year. The organization is among the largest right-wing funding foundations in the country.

Foundation-funded groups operating in Wisconsin, including the MacIver Institute, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, Media Trackers and the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Foundation, took in excess of $2.9 million, according to One Wisconsin.

Additionally, the American Legislative Exchange Council and the State Policy Network took in more than $200,000 in 2011 and 2012 from the effort. Nearly $500,000 went to the anti-organized-labor Center for Union Facts and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund.

Bradley also gave $140,000 to the Koch brothers-aligned Americans for Prosperity Foundation that partnered with the MacIver Institute to run a multimillion dollar ad campaign that declared “it’s working,” in references to Walker’s jobs and economic policies.

In the Michigan effort to enact right-to-work legislation, the Bradley-funded Education Action Group and the Mackinac Foundation were active. The groups took in $230,000 over two years from the Bradley Foundation. One Wisconsin, in its analysis, said, “Michigan’s passage of the its right to work law is being used justify the GOP led effort to reduce wages, health care and education funding in Wisconsin.”

The Bradley Foundation also has funded a propaganda campaign in support of the privatization of public education and an effort at intimidating minority voters.

The watchdog group stated, “With Gov. Walker now auditioning for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, expect his talking points to mirror the Bradley Foundation’s, including their funding of a network of Islamophobic foreign policy advocates.”

Ross said, “This latest episode is another warning to the nation about what you get with Scott Walker, a person who is politics incarnate and willing to do or say anything to get elected with a campaign co-chair heading a right wing foundation spending hundreds of millions of dollars on propaganda to advance their agenda.”