Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has a featured article today that examines the moneyed interests behind Scott Walker. The article starts with establishing the close relationship of Scott Walker and Michael W. Grebe who was Walker’s campaign chairman for governor of Wisconsin. Grebe is also president of the Bradley Foundation, a leading source of ideas and financing for American conservatives. While the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation could not endorse candidates outright, it provided more than $2 million in grants to think tanks that implicitly championed Mr. Walker’s small-government platform, and $520,000 to Americans for Prosperity, a national group that held Tea Party rallies at which Mr. Walker spoke. The article also mentions:
“Scott Walker didn’t have the stature, influence or money to become governor on his own or to end collective bargaining on his own,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin A.F.L.-C.I.O. “All of that flowed from Mike Grebe, the Bradley Foundation and a network of influential conservatives, including the Kochs.”
Mr. Neuenfeldt added: “He wouldn’t be running for president without these people. He would be their guy in Washington.”
… In the Wisconsin Legislature and as Milwaukee County executive, he always liked going to extremes and basking in his own brand of boldness. What he needed, as he climbed the political ladder, was the money and endorsements that Mr. Grebe and his conservative allies brought. As for the fight against the unions, it went far better than Mr. Walker, Mr. Grebe or anyone else could have expected…
“It made Scott Walker a national candidate,” said Tommy G. Thompson, a Republican who was governor of Wisconsin from 1987 to 2001.
…David Koch offered an opinion at a recent private gathering that Mr. Walker was the favorite for the Republican nomination. And Mr. Walker’s old allies are hungry once more for a leader who will go to extremes, this time as president.
Last week, Mr. Grebe and the board of the Bradley Foundation gathered again, this time at the Kennedy Center in Washington. “Strong American leadership will return,” said Jack Keane, a retired general and a recipient that night of a $250,000 Bradley Prize for innovative achievement. “We are one leader away.”
…in his speech, Mr. Grebe did not mention Mr. Walker, just the conservative forces that wanted big, bold change. “In recent years at the Bradley Foundation, we’ve placed even greater emphasis on collaboration with other like-minded foundations and donors,” Mr. Grebe said in a video presentation as symphonic music soared in a crescendo. “We believe that through that collaboration, together we can help change the world.”
We cannot underestimate the moneyed interests that are influencing our democratic system at all levels. The relationships of foundations to conservative think tanks to government officials is appalling but it is not going way. If anything, it is getting stronger.