Center for American Progress Action

RELEASE: Koch Brothers in Wisconsin Neighborhoods: How the Koch Brothers Are Rigging Policy at the Local Level
Press Release

New CAP Action report shows Koch brothers’ network attacking government in cities and towns in Wisconsin and across the country, forcing cuts and hurting local residents. 

Washington, D.C. — For years, Charles and David Koch, working with their well-funded front groups, have spent millions to exert their influence in Washington, D.C. They’ve sought to severely limit the scope of government in ways that could render it ineffective, but which often also help them pad their bottom line as the heads of one of America’s largest privately held companies. While they’ve received attention for their national activities, a new CAP Action report, titled “Kochonomics: Rigging the System at the Local Level,” shows how Koch-affiliated organizations have spent a minimum of hundreds of thousands of dollars all across the country to block initiatives that would fund schools, support public education, and construct mass transit infrastructure.

In Wisconsin, Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity invested in a local board election in Iron County to expand mining operations, ignoring the environmental consequences. They did the same in Kenosha County’s school board elections, undermining public education by promoting school privatization and attacking teachers unions.

“We have already seen the impact of letting two billionaires buy our politics at the federal level,” said former Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH), President of CAP Action. “Now the Koch brothers are reaching into school board races and local initiatives that fund our schools, infrastructure, and communities in a way that hurts local residents. The Koch brothers should tell us how much they’ve spent to interfere in local communities, and should leave important decisions up to the residents themselves.”

In addition to Wisconsin, the report highlights examples in Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee, where the Koch brothers have used front groups such as Americans for Prosperity, or AFP, to weaken government at all levels. And there does not appear to be limit to their reach, as AFP Ohio Director Eli Miller said: “There is no issue we won’t get involved in.”

In a small Nebraska town, a food and beverage tax that aimed to fund “emergency” capital improvements was blocked by Koch interests. The same happened in Columbus, Ohio, where the zoo was left without a stable source of revenue. School districts in Illinois will be left without improvements and some staff because of a Koch-backed campaign against a funding initiative. Examples like these exist across the country, where the Koch brothers have put their bottom line and disdain of any type of government ahead of the needs of local communities.

While the Koch brothers reportedly plan to spend nearly $300 million on the 2014 midterm elections, the investment they are making in local initiatives, which they have yet to disclose, is already hitting communities hard.

Click here to read the report.

For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Benton Strong at 202.481.8142 or [email protected].