Joe the Plumber playing small markets now…
Joe the Plumber will be appearing at the Plaza Hotel in Wausau for “Pints & Politics” on Thursday from 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. When the local paper pretty much went with the press release, there was plenty of discussion about Joe, who has managed to parlay his 15 minutes of fame into about eight months and counting, so far.
I talked with Joe in Milwaukee several months back and while I doubt that people will have to worry much about a meaty discussion with details, he’s really not the story here. What people should really be paying attention to is the proverbial “man behind the curtain” who is bankrolling Joe’s appearance here and elsewhere. It’s Americans for Prosperity and while they like to bill themselves as a grassroots movement, they’ve been called Astroturf more than once.
David and Charles Koch are billionaire brothers who made their money in the oil industry. There is a Koch pipeline that runs through Portage County and you don’t hear all that much about it except when it occasionally springs a leak, but that’s small potatoes compared to some of the more prominent environmental incidents that the company finds itself involved in from time to time. Koch Industries is privately held and the Koch brothers took Georgia-Pacific Corporation private in 2005. Their father, Fred Koch, was an ultra conservative and a member of the John Birch Society. It seems that the acorns didn’t fall far from the tree.
Charles founded the Cato Institute, a prominent right wing think tank. David co-founded Citizens for a Sound Economy, which later morphed into two organizations: FreedomWorks (headed by ex-House Majority Leader Dick Armey of “Barney Fag” fame) and an organization known as Americans for Prosperity. The president of AFP is Tim Phillips, who co-founded the political consulting firm Century Strategies with Ralph Reed (former wunderkind of the Christian Coalition.) It’s difficult to tell how many bonafide members these groups really have. A few years back, people discovered they had “joined” by signing up for tax-free medical savings accounts:
The “charitable giving” to conservative think tanks, media efforts, research and activities by the Koch brothers foundations is truly monumental, running many, many millions of dollars. What generous fellows they really are – (and they work on things that REAL Americans truly value, like trying to find the Clean Air Act unconstitutional.)
The state director for AFP is Mark Block. Block has the distinction of having paid one of the larger settlements in state election history after violations in the 1997 campaign of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justic Jon Wilcox: $15,000, plus being barred from participation in Wisconsin campaigns for five years. Well, the time’s been up for awhile and so this week, I’m guessing you’ll be able to see him with Joe.