Sunday, December 1, 2013

Walkergate 2: Michael Grebe and the Sockpuppets of Manipulation

Lisa Kaiser of the Shepherd Express has another must read installation of her ongoing series on the second John Doe investigation.  This week, Kaiser looks at the way the right wing groups would pump money into their front groups to come up with bogus studies and even more bogus reporting in order to further their agenda.

Per Kaiser, the largest of these malefactors is Michael Grebe and the Bradley Foundation:
With more than $550 million in assets, the Bradley Foundation sunk at least $31 million into its voucher studies and programs, according to a report by One Wisconsin Now (OWN). But its funding is sent to other conservative, free-market foundations and think tanks around the country.

“They are the biggest funder of right-wing causes in the nation,” said Mike Browne, OWN’s deputy director. “They spend more money than the Koch brothers.”

The Bradley Foundation is a huge supporter of members of the State Policy Network in Wisconsin and elsewhere. According to OWN’s research, the Bradley Foundation has given more than $16.5 million to the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and $635,000 to John K. McIver Institute for Public Policy. The two groups are SPN members that have provided voucher-supporting studies and analysis at the same time they attempt to pass themselves off as independent, straight-shooting think tanks.

WPRI, which bills itself as “Wisconsin’s Free Market Think Tank,” has precious few scholars on staff—none, in fact. Its president is former Journal Sentinel columnist Mike Nichols and its lead commentators are WTMJ’s Charlie Sykes (whose current wife works for the Bradley Foundation), political consultant Deb Jordahl and former Department of Administration Secretary George Lightbourn.

WPRI’s board is dominated by the state’s corporate chiefs, including Tom Howatt, chair of Wausau Paper Corp.; Bank Mutual President David Baumgarten; ex-MillerCoors Vice President Michael Jones; former Thompson administration official and We Energies Senior Vice President James Klauser; Milwaukee investor David Lubar; and Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) President Tim Sheehy.

So it’s no wonder why WPRI has churned out studies supporting the agenda shared by Walker and the Bradley Foundation, including attacks on public schools, climate change, public employee benefits and the state’s renewable energy targets while promoting highway expansion, commercial bail bonds and fracking.

The board of directors of MacIver Institute includes Milwaukee businessman Fred Luber; Michael, Best and Friedrich attorney James Troupis; and former Republican First Lady Laurie McCallum. Its president is Brett Healy, a former aide to disgraced Republican Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, now a school voucher lobbyist.

Other Wisconsin partners of SPN are the Lucy Burns Institute, Bradley Foundation-funded Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin, the Dick Armey-led FreedomWorks-Wisconsin, the Taxpayers Network Incorporated and the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.
Then again, not much of this should surprise the gentle reader. I've been writing about this for years, both at this here blog and even once for the Shepherd Express.

Here's how it works:

One of the right wing "think tanks" would come up with some cockamamie, convoluted study that will support one of the maleficent schemes, such as privatizing education is actually good for the kids and the taxpayers.  Then one of the right wing propagandist groups would "report" on the story.  This would give it enough faux credibility for the mainstream corporate media to run with the story  The story would be echoed by other propagandists, right wing bloggers (many of whom have suddenly, mysteriously and suspiciously shut down their sites)  and squawk radio..  The average consumer of the corporate media wouldn't know of the falseness of the reporting and would just accept it as truth.

By adding all the layers and multiple front groups, it was easier for the money machines, like the Bradley Foundation and the Koch Brothers, to keep things churning and to cover up their finger prints in the whole sordid mess.

And for the skeptics on whether this kind of manipulation occurs, I can assure you it does, as I reported on during the 2011 recalls, when these front groups used it to attack former Senator Jessica King:
Greg Sargent tripped the whole thing with this article showing that John Buckstaff, the fake Democrat in the race is actually a Republican backer and has donated money to Randy Randy "Bed" Hopper.  Furthermore, Sargent tells us that a flyer that they've been distributing telling people to vote for Buckstaff is aimed at getting Republican voters to cross over in the primary and shut the real Democrat, Jessica King, out of the race immediately. 

Also remarkable about Sargent's findings is that the flyer is paid for by a group called "Patriot Advisors."

And this is where we go into the same sordid incestuous intermingling that the Koch Brothers are known for.

Patriot Advisors is headed up by Tim Dunn and Denis Calabrese.

Calabrese, the former Chief of Staff for Dick Armey, is also on the director of the Sam Adams Alliance, yet another Koch Brother front group and money chute. This Sam Adams Alliance also funnels the Koch dollars to other groups like Americans For Prosperity and the Franklin Center for Public and Government Integrity*.

The sharp-eyed reader might have already noticed, but it was the Franklin Center which is quoted in the anti-King flyer.

Just to be clear, the Sam Adams Alliance, Patriot Advisors and Franklin Center are all Koch-funded groups with incestuous ties to each other. One of them is using the other to justify voting for the fake Democrat instead of trying to defend the Republican and his boorish behavior or facing the consequences for his actions.

Or in other words, the sock puppet on the Kochs' right and hand makes some statement, regardless of the whether it's true, half-true or a bold faced lie, and then they have the sock puppet on the left hand repeat the lie in order to reinforce it and give it false credibility.

And I'm sure this scenario is being played out in the other races as well. 
Short of the John Doe investigation being successful, there isn't really any way to shut down these groups. And even if the Son of Doe is successful, the Kochs and Bradley Foundation will only create new front groups and start their operations all over again.

But there are things that we can do to help control the damage done by these groups, such as putting pressure on the corporate media who regurgitate this foul propaganda as legitimate news.

But the more important thing we can do is to keep ourselves educated and organized.  Learn the truth of what is happening, the lies behind their deceitful stories and the consequences of what would happen if these would be corporate overlords would get their way.  Then share this knowledge with your family, your neighbors, your friends and your coworkers.  Politely but firmly confront the falsehoods and back them up with the hard truth.

The most important thing we can do is not give up.


  1. Ya like that they're trotting out Hans von Spakosky in the Journal article? After Wisconsin Reporter trotted him out. If you're hitting him for quotes on election fairness, you're desperate. You'd think that his history would preclude him from being used as a reliable source- not a mention of it in the Journal article. Sounds like money isn't the only thing being laundered.

  2. What blogs have shut down?

    1. Boots & Sabers and Badger Blogger to name a couple.

  3. The vast right-wing conspiracy is very real. And there are plenty if ways to take them down, but not all of them are nice and clean

  4. Why does Mike Grebe (West Point Cadet, partner at Foley Lardner) have to hide his and the Foundation's decisions? Why not directly fund causes you support?

  5. My nomination for the most unreported story by our cracker-jack Wisconsin media:

    1. It seems there is no end to the corruption in the Scott Walker administration.

    2. Yes, but the great thing is that "Chokehold" Prosser can't spike a Federal investigation and I'm betting this leads right to Scotty's desk or his personal mouthpiece.

    3. Gareth- I'm with you. Interstate donations and tax evasion takes it out of state jurisdiction. Sorry Dave.

  6. Kaiser is just cribbing Wall Street Journal and Dan Bice who are repeating Wisconsin Reporter!

    Capper -- you have a very strange interpretation of journalism and obviously know little or nothing about information literacy.

    But keep promoting the circle jerk -- especially when they are actually just repeating McIver's Wisconsin Reporter!

  7. ...just repeating McIver's Wisconsin Reporter!

    That alone proves that you don't know what the hell you're talking about.