Yesterday morning, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa invited Wisconsin Gov. Walker to testify to the committee about fixing state and municipal budgets. It was an interesting choice of witness.
Walker has, in recent weeks, become a walking symbol of exactly the way Americans don't want to solve government budget crises. He caused a national uproar when he proposed taking away the collective bargaining rights of public workers...and then snuck his union-busting bill through the state legislature in the middle of the night. He's since come under fire for handing out jobs to the friends and families of wealthy donors and political allies, and handing out massive tax breaks to his buddies in big business.
It's no surprise that Issa called Walker to lend his expertise to the committee. The two have similar fiscal priorities, and some important friends in common. Most notable among these friends are the Koch brothers, the billionaire duo who have made themselves into political spending powerhouses in their efforts to push extreme pro-corporate policies at the state and federal level.
The Koch brothers, through their company's political action committee, have contributed to thirteen Republican members of the Oversight Committee. Last year, they spent $10,000 to help elect Issa to a seat he was set to win in a cake-walk, and contributed an extra $5,000 to his PAC. Issa has a history of being pretty friendly to the corporate world, which in turn generously backs his campaigns. Earlier this year, when he took over the Oversight committee, he sent a letter to 150 corporations, trade associations, and conservative think tanks asking them which proposed regulations he should attack in hearings.
And corporations' allegiances with Issa have paid off nicely. As his first act as committee chair, he appointed subcommittee chairs whose campaigns were bankrolled by the special interests under their committees' jurisdictions. The second hearing he convened in his new post was a two-hour extravaganza of congressional Republicans and corporate executives blasting EPA regulations, which he labeled "Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation."
The Kochs and their kind get access to Walker in part because they give money, and lots of it. The Koch PAC contributed $43,000 to Walker's 2010 election bid, and another $1.2 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn helped out Walker.
It's no coincidence that the Koch's fingerprints were all over yesterday's hearing. In a political system where clean elections laws are steadily being swept away, wealthy advocates for corporate welfare have the ability to buy unprecedented influence on decision makers. While millions of Americans struggle with unemployment, lose their insurance, and try to get by on less, it's the Koch agenda that gets a hearing in Washington.
At the House hearing, Walker called his budget strategies "progressive." But it should be clear to anyone watching what has been going on in Wisconsin that Walker's policies are exactly the opposite: he has been a leader at the state level in walking back our progressive social contract. A real progressive budget strategy ensures that everybody pays their fair share and that nobody is left without basic necessities. The budgets that Walker and his allies in the U.S. Congress are pressing for make the middle class and the poor pay for tax breaks for multibillion dollar corporations.
Gov. Walker has come to represent the kind of politics where the requests of the moneyed trump the needs of the needs of the middle class. It's awfully telling that this is who the House GOP is looking to for advice.