Was Scott Walker Chosen to Headline Heartland Institute Gala Due to His Bradley Foundation Ties?

Thu, 2012-08-09 15:37Steve Horn
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Was Scott Walker Chosen to Headline Heartland Institute Gala Due to His Bradley Foundation Ties?

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker will keynote the Heartland Institute's 28th Anniversary Benefit Dinner this evening at Navy Pier in Chicago, IL

Walker recently won the Kochtopus-funded Americans for Prosperity George Washington Award. Now, two months after his recall election steamrolling of Democrat Tom Barrett, the climate change denying group famous for its Unabomber billboard will embrace Walker with much fanfare

Heartland, whose internal documents were published this past spring by DeSmogBlog, sings praises for Walker's union-busting agenda and his recent recall victory in promoting the event

This year’s keynote speaker, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, is the nation’s most influential and successful governor. Elected in 2010 to balance a budget that was billions of dollars in deficit without raising taxes, he did exactly that, winning the passionate support of taxpayers, business owners, and consumers across the state. After years of economic stagnation caused by high taxes and excessive regulation, Wisconsin is growing again.

To balance the state’s budget, Gov. Walker took on powerful public sector unions, reining in their collective bargaining privileges and requiring that public-sector workers start to contribute toward their retirement and health care benefits. Unions fought back, and after they failed to block legislation implementing Walker’s plan, they tried to recall him in a special election. On June 5, 2012, they failed, as Walker won reelection and a solid mandate to stay his course.

The trove of leaked Heartland documents exposed the Institute's current climate change denying agenda and revealed whose money supports this reality-denying agenda. But DeSmogBlog neglected to talk about the details of “Operation Angry Badger” in the documents, as at the time, we thought it was outside the scope of our mission.

Turns out, we were wrong.

The WI-Bradley Foundation-Heartland Institute Nexus

A significant chunk of the Heartland Exposed documents discussed the Heartland Institute's “Operation Angry Badger.” These documents laid out the role Heartland would play in serving as a messaging machine for the forthcoming Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election. 

The Center for Media and Democracy's Brendan Fischer broke down the “Angry Badger” details (emphasis mine):

Leaked documents show that the Chicago-based Heartland Institute is planning to spend $612,000 supporting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

(Snip)

The leaked documents propose a $612,000 campaign to include print ads, mailers, web ads, and blog posts that would promote the “successes” of Wisconsin Act 10 and portray Wisconsin teachers as overpaid and schools as underperforming. Act 10 – also known as the “budget repair bill” – included Governor Walker's plan to curtail collective bargaining for public employees, which its proponents said would result in cost-savings for school districts and make it easier to fire bad teachers. 

Why was Heartland - a 'free-market' think tank most well-known for its role in peddling climate change denial - so invested in supporting Walker in the recall election? And given the controversy surrounding Heartland's Unabomber billboard failure, why is Walker - who is also set to keynote the Republican National Convention later this month - interested in associating with such an extreme group by serving as the keynote speaker at Heartland's Annual Dinner?

Just follow the money and the personnel for some indications. 

Milwaukee, WI-Based Bradley Foundation Gives Big Bucks to Heartland

The Milwaukee, WI-based conservative Bradley Foundation gave $648,000 to Heartland between 1986-2009, according to Media Matters.

The Foundation's President and CEO, Michael Grebe, served as Chairman for Walker's 2010 gubernatorial race, in which Walker handily dispatched his challenger, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett.

Grebe is also the Chairman of the Board of Philanthropy Roundtable, which, according to the Center for Media and Democracy's Sourcewatch, “was established by the Bradley Foundation to help facilitate conservative grantmaking.” 

Bradley gave Philanthropy Roundable $2,585,000 between 1993-2009, according to Media Matters.

Compared to its close allies, the Koch Family Foundations - the funding epicenter of the Kochtopus empire and another Heartland funder - the Bradley Foundation has largely operated beneath the public's radar, particularly in the national media. The veil of secrecy Bradley enjoys was lifted when Wisconsin's biggest daily newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, published a lengthy investigation in November 2011, “From local roots, Bradley Foundation builds conservative empire.” 

Walker's first meeting as Governor-Elect was not with the Koch Brothers, but with upper-level management of Bradley, explained the Sentinel:

Less than a week after being elected governor, Scott Walker and his wife met privately with one of the most powerful philanthropic forces behind America's conservative movement.

It wasn't the Koch brothers - the bogeymen for the American left.

On Nov. 8, 2010, the Walkers broke bread at the upscale Bacchus restaurant in the Cudahy Tower with the board and senior staff of the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

The Bradley Empire has actually doled out far more money to conservative causes (not including electoral efforts) in the past decade than has the Koch Empire.

It receives a fraction of the attention given the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch and the Scaife family,” wrote the Sentinel. “But the Bradley Foundation is in a different league: From 2001 to 2009, it doled out nearly as much money as the seven Koch and Scaife foundations combined.”

The Bradley Empire Uses Walker to Push Post-Recall Agenda

Foundation money doesn't grow on trees. It comes from various donors who share mutual ideological and fiduciary interests. In the case of the Bradley Empire, these interests are multi-tentacled, but the thread that ties the interests together is that they're always in the interest of corporations.

The $612,000 funneled to Heartland to work the “Operation Angry Badger” Walker recall effort could be looked at as a small down payment investment. Walker's victory now gives him the mandate to push the corporate agenda full-steam ahead - and push this agenda he has.

With the recall complete, and the national spotlight shifting away from Walker, he got to work creating numerous committees and working groups to service private interests ahead of the public interest, both now and long into the future. This is best highlighted in an ongoing investigative series by The Progressive magazine's Rebecca Kemble.

Two of the key working groups, The Council on Workforce Investment and the College and Workforce Readiness Council, “are working closely with Competitive Wisconsin, an alliance of politically connected businesses organized by Jim Wood, president of their family PR firm Wood Communications,” according to Kemble's reporting.

Competitive Wisconsin, Kemble went onto to explain, launched something called the “Be Bold Campaign” in 2010. This campaign called for the creation of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), a public-private partnership that eventually was turned into reality as WI Act 7 (also known as Special Session SB 6 and Special Session AB 6) on February 9, 2011. This was merely two days before Walker announced he would be pushing the union-busting “Budget Repair Bill.” 

Competitive Wisconsin spent 95% of its lobbying time in the first half of 2011 making the case for Act 7, according to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. This ran at a cost of $3,750 - or roughly three-fifths of the money ($4,875) it spent on lobbying for the half-year period. 

The WEDC, in turn, is currently putting together an influential study set to be released after Labor Day, according to a press release. ”The $300,000 study is being funded by grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the Bradley Foundation, and corporate donations,” wrote The Wisconsin State Journal

The study is titled “Be Bold 2,” a sequel to the study that created the WEDC to begin with.

A “Bold” Push For Jobs in Wisconsin's Growing Oil and Gas Industry?

“Be Bold 2” will be released under the auspices of Competitive Wisconsin, though it is co-funded by the WEDC and the Bradley Foundation. Competitive Wisconsin's “strategic counsel” is Jim Wood, President of Wood Communications Group

Wood Communications Group is a self-described “full-service public relations firm, providing problem solving and communication tools that work in the real world.” Importantly, one of its clients is Murphy Oil Corporation

Murphy has a refinery in Superior, WI, which is refining tar sands crude that makes its way into the state via the Enbridge Alberta Clipper Pipeline, approved by the Obama Administration in August 2009.

In late July, the Alberta Clipper Pipeline spilled 1,200 barrels of oil near Grand Marsh, WI, according to Enbridge. Not even two weeks after the spill, Enbridge was given the go-ahead to restart pipeline operations

Wisconsin is also home to four Koch Industries tar sands refineries, owned by its subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources. Koch PAC donated $43,000 to the Walker campaign in 2010, while James Kowitz, Manager of the Murphy Oil Superior refinery gave Walker $800 prior to his 2010 victory.   

“Operation Angry Badger” A Wild Success

Of course the fossil fuel industry-funded Heartland Institute doesn't want Wisconsin citizens to think about how the tar sands crude that flows through the pipelines and refineries in their state causes climate change. 

After a close look at the tight ties that bind Walker to the Bradley Empire, its anti-union initiatives in Wisconsin, and Bradley's ties to the Heartland Institute, one can see that Walker's speaking gig at Heartland's 28th Annual Dinner actually makes perfect sense. 

And coming full circle, by the looks of it, “Operation Angry Badger” has been nothing short of a wild success for its special interest backers.

Photo CreditMegan McCormick | WikiMedia

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