Political Animal


December 09, 2012 10:49 AM In Michigan: Revenge of the Kochs?

By Adele Stan

Let’s say you and your brother are a pair of billionaires who reap your profits from the poisoning of the earth and whose daddy co-founded the John Birch Society — and you poured millions into the 2012 elections, only to see your candidates felled by a party led by a black guy who’s big on green energy, and who bailed out the U.S. auto industry in a way that voters seemed to like.

Wow. You must be feeling pretty powerless, especially after all of that press about how you’re the mighty and nefarious force behind the Tea Party, whose brew has suddenly gone a bit tepid. So whattaya gonna do?

Why, find a way to crush those pesky labor unions in a place that will hurt them badly. Say, the auto capital of the world, where an entire industry (and consequently, its unions) was saved through government intervention by that integrationist tree-hugger: Michigan. You’ll show those “urban” voters who liked that stinkin’ bailout!

So, in a lame-duck legislative session last week, the Republican majority rammed through a destructively anti-union bill, which the governor — in contradiction of his previous policy — has pledged to sign. (Brother Kilgore has the deets here.) And the Koch-founded group, Americans For Prosperity, gave the governor a big high-five.

Local analysts chalk it all up to payback by Michigan legislators for the unions’ attempt to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution via a referendum known as Proposal 2, which failed at the ballot box on November 6, and for the repeal of Snyder’s “emergency manager” law, which succeeded. But from where I sit, in the nation’s capital city, I see something bigger, something national in character.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, has always tried to present himself as a breed apart from Kochbot governors of Wisconsin and Ohio, even as he grabbed for power with an “emergency manager” law that allowed him to appoint operatives to run failing cities and break labor agreements with public employees in those towns. But other anti-union measures, such as those forced through in Wisconsin, were deemed to be off the table by Snyder, as was the onerous proposition that workers in closed union shops should be allowed to opt out of paying dues. (Proponents call this sort of thing “right to work”; unions call it “right to work for less”.)

But last week, as David Koch presumably sat stewing in the pot of wholesale defeats, Snyder had a sudden change of heart, promising to sign a bill that was rammed through both houses of a lame-duck legislature last week, a bill that would do just that, conveniently drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, and organization funded by Koch and his brother, Charles.

Americans For Prosperity, the astroturf group founded by the Kochs, led the charge, as state police maced union protesters and locked them out of the state capitol building.

It was so ugly that even the editorial board of the Detroit Free Press, which once cheer-led for Snyder, basically called him, in not so many words, a duplicitous, overstepping liar.

From this morning’s Detroit Free Press editorial page:

In short, we trusted Snyder’s judgment.
That trust has now been betrayed — for us, and for the hundreds of thousand of independents who voted for Snyder with the conviction that they were electing someone more independent, and more visionary, than partisan apparatchiks like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker or Florida’s Rick Scott.

As the AFL-CIO’s Kenneth Quinnell notes, Snyder has some plausible deniability against accusations of obeisance to the Kochs, not having received direct campaign contributions from the brothers. But, writes Quinnell, Snyder was aided in his 2010 election effort by the Republican Governors Association, the recipient of $1 million in Koch largess that year, and the Michigan Republican Party, which received more than $5 million from the RGA.

Snyder is up for re-election in 2014, which means his campaign begins, like, now. Apparently, he sees the need for a little help from the Kochs — or at least the need not to have their phalanx of think tanks and ground-army groups arrayed against him.


  • c u n d gulag on December 09, 2012 11:39 AM:

    "The Revenge of the Koch-sucker Brothers," indeed!

    And they did this in the most democratic way possible - in the middle of a lame duck session! With no way around this for at least 2 years.

    The great state of Michigan needs to realize that stuff like this is what happens when they elect a Republican Governor, and Republican State Legislature.

    May I suggest that all unions in that state band together, and have a general strike, starting tomorrow - if not sooner!

    My understanding is that the bill won't be either finalized or signed until Tuesday, so, the only pressure to put on the legislature an Governor Snyder is that general strike beginning tomorrow, and hope that other people honor their picket lines (BOY - in just mentioning picket lines, I'm sure showing my age!).

    Either that, or head off to their local hardware stores and department stores and buy some tar and feathers. The rails can be chopped and whittled down from all of the 'trees of just the right height' growing in that state.

  • Tigershark on December 09, 2012 11:45 AM:

    I thought doing stuff in lame duck sessions was un-democratic? Or is that only on the Federal level, or when Democrats do it?

    And I remember picket lines, and I still don't cross.

  • Dmh on December 09, 2012 12:17 PM:

    It matters not at all if this is Koch legislation or not. It is simply terrible economics and worse social policy even if it arose out of snyder's own fevered brain. Busting unions is a staple of the Republican Party and they now feel emboldened to act on that policy. They don't need the Kochs to urge them on. What Michigan needs is a political backlash from independent voters to say No in no uncertain terms.

  • Celui on December 09, 2012 12:21 PM:

    I'm with gulag: statewide general strikes, especially from public sector workers who have now lost their bargaining rights. Just simply gum up the works dramatically before this law can be enacted. And, yes, I don't cross the lines, either, and respect those who are on strike as well as those who don't cross those lines. What is this coming to?? Ed Asner's recent animation will 'splain what's going on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player embedded&v=S6ZsXrzF8Cc Share at will. Fire at whomever deserves it. Good post, Adele.

  • William Barido on December 09, 2012 12:58 PM:

    God help the citizens of Michigan. Governor Snyder has betrayed evertone who thought he was not a Kochbot, and in the process he has destroyed the balance between workers and bosses.
    What a disgusting person he has turned out to be.

  • Altoid on December 09, 2012 1:14 PM:

    Adele: It is national but in ways not so easily seen. What we really have is several gop governors/legislatures taking different approaches in order to achieve the same ends; they're kind of laboratories of despotism, trying out different lines of action. They include at least Snyder (MI), Kasich (OH), Scott (FL), Walker (WI), and Corbett (PA).

    One goal clearly is to destroy unions where they're supported by state laws, and especially public-service worker unions, and most especially teachers. Corbett's tactic, which I know about because I live in PA, was very sneaky and indirect and technical (which is the way he's always operated-- no fingerprints).

    Essentially what he did was to redefine federal stimulus money earmarked for 2011-12 as having already been spent, causing an immediate billion-dollar shortfall in state money for local districts. The districts had only a few weeks to deal with it before preparing their budgets for this year.

    The whole point of it was to have the districts do the dirty work of negotiating more give-backs and putting teachers' unions on the road to dissolution. Kasich and Walker famously tried a more direct approach, but the goal was the same. The point, again, is that I think we have a coordinated effort that has been encouraged to follow a range of means.

    Further, it's always been stealth. Most of these governors had no track record as nuts. They were mostly positioned as can-do moderates-- Kasich, Corbett, even Walker at the start, and even Snyder-- who suddenly turned around and became fire-breathing soldiers of ALEC or whatever it is. This betrayal of their campaign and career positioning is one reason so many of their measures were defeated.

    Further yet, I don't believe Snyder reacted to November's election. I think this was always planned. Think about it-- if romney won, which was the expectation in those circles, this move would have been the logical follow-on, in tune with and enacting the national opinion. It now looks vindictive and reactive, but that's only because romney and the emergency-manager law both lost.

    In their original actions last year and earlier this year they all took advantage of gop majorities and moved as drastically as they could as soon as they could. This took people by surprise and kept opponents off balance. Now, in MI, they're taking advantage of the situation again, and it seems to me in a way that was baked into the cake from the start.

  • SteveT on December 09, 2012 1:17 PM:

    Congratulations Gov. Snyder, you've just become one of the plutocrats' minions.

    I'm not talking about the voiceless, faceless, interchangeable and disposable members of the servant class. No, you're one of the officers on the Death Star whose face we get to see, and whose voice we get to hear.

    You may feel like you're in charge when you get to say, "I have chosen to test this station's destructive power on the unions." You may feel you're important when you hear the rightwing media praise your "courage" and "leadership". You may start to think that you're one of the elite when you contemplate which of seven-figure, wingnut welfare jobs you will accept once you leave the governor's mansion.

    But you will never be one of the Elites. Your children will never be allowed to marry their "betters". You should have realized that when the Koch Brothers instructed you to address them as "My Lords".

    And Michigan isn't Indiana. There aren't enough people in Michigan's rural areas who bitterly cling to their guns and religion to protect you from the backlash by working people. Michigan's workers have spent too much time working side-by-side long with the dark-skinned people who will send the Republican party the way of the Whigs to join in the scapegoating of "those people".

    So when the backlash comes and you watch the impending destruction of your party's control, all you will be able to do is put on a brave face and deny that it is happening.

    You won't like what would happen if your masters "find your lack of faith disturbing".

  • SteveT on December 09, 2012 1:21 PM:

    Altoid, I love your description -- "laboratories of despotism".

    It is a line that needs to be widely repeated.

  • Adele Stan on December 09, 2012 1:30 PM:

    Seconding Steve T on Altoid's use of "laboratories of despotism." Genius. And thank you both for your analysis -- Steve T on the difference demographics makes, and Altoid for causing my present rumination on how far in advance the Michigan assault may have been planned.

  • mudwall jackson on December 09, 2012 1:38 PM:

    i don't think we should be so harsh on snyder. he's done a great thing. he's reminded everyone in his state about the importance of mid-year elections. and he's provided dems an issue behind which they can unite in their endeavor to send him back to the private sector.

    if he had stuck to moderate republicanism, or at least what passes for moderate republicanism these days, he would have been almost guaranteed a second term.

  • jcricket on December 09, 2012 1:42 PM:

    This trend of betrayal of draconian proportions by Republican governors does more than cause harm that will take decades to undo. It also gives evidence that Republicans know that without stacking the deck heavily in their own favor, they can no longer win elections. The last election proved that suppression efforts are met with greater urgency from their opponents to GOTV.

    Their time to pursue their plutocrat friendly agenda is coming to an end. Therefore, they are getting as much done for the plutocrats as possible in the shortest amount of time. Even as there are fewer Republican wins in the future, those at the top of their cannibalistic food chain will have cushy jobs from their sponsors for their loyalty in changing the landscape for the plutocracy.

    It's the 21st century version of the Robber Barons taking advantage of the challenges the rest of the population faces while coming out of economic calamity. After the civil war, after the great depression, etc. This century we have been referring to it as the Shock Doctrine, but make no mistake: the Republicans see that their time to take advantage for their sponsors, the Robber Barons, is now very short.

    They will continue to put forth their egregious laws until they are thrown out. Then, it will take years to clean up after them.

  • schtick on December 09, 2012 2:36 PM:

    Everyone was paying attention to the federal elections and not so much the state elections. Now everyone is seeing the results of our Anti-American teapubs. The right to work crap is only one small thing they are shoving down the throats of the state. We should all be watching closely and support whatever their citizens do to fight this crap. Other states are watching and are getting ready to blindside the citizens of their states, too.

    What is the difference between what dictators do and the teapub party? Nothing that I see.

    crapcha....nonmothers....that, too.

  • suekzoo on December 09, 2012 2:39 PM:

    There is another aspect to the Koch Bros./Snyder conundrum that as a Michigan resident, I wonder about.

    Snyder famously bucked his party to advocate for a new international crossing bridge from Detroit to Windsor, going so far as to bypass the congress and cut a deal with the Canadians and the Obama administration to allow Canadian funding and using that to get federal match funds.

    To counter that, Americans for Prosperity helped support a ballot initiative that would have prevented the bridge from being built without a direct vote by residents. They lost.

    I can't help but wonder if AFP is now trying to extract a pound of flesh from Snyder. Rumors here have it that he is fighting against a threat of a primary challenge from the right when he runs for reelection. This may be his way to stave it off. Sad, though, he was elected because of centrist and Dem support, which he may have just lost.

  • KarenJG on December 09, 2012 5:43 PM:

    Altoid - "Laboratories of Despotism" - Genius. Pure genius. I'm going to "steal" it, and encourage everyone I know to "steal" it too (but with proper credit!).

  • beb on December 09, 2012 6:45 PM:

    The moral to this is that Republicans lie.
    They lie all the time.
    They lie about big times.
    They lie about small things.
    They lie about what they believe in.
    They lie about that they will do.
    They lie about lying.
    Listening to a Republican lie will lower your IQ.
    There is no excuse for someone being a Republican.

  • martin on December 09, 2012 6:51 PM:

    In short, we trusted Snyder’s judgment.

    Well, there's one born every minute. Now, what are you going to do about it?

  • Jimo on December 09, 2012 7:37 PM:

    I suppose Labor could focus its energy on the White House and insist that there be no "cliff" deal that does not involve a vote in Congress for "card check".

  • majun on December 09, 2012 9:04 PM:

    I suppose it is possible for Snyder to win re-election in 2014, but I don't really see how. If he does win re-election than it is time to bury unionism in the United States. A quiet and dignified service, but a funeral none-the-less.

    The way things are shaping up, the whole Mayan calendar thing this year will have nothing in 2014, when the dark forces and the forces for good will meet out on the electoral battlefield. A war that only Marvel Comics could do justice too.

  • the Smell Test on December 09, 2012 11:08 PM:

    Did Snyder not understand the results of the General Election, that the Koch's money didn't win, the voters did?

    So he let down his constituency to side with the Koch's?

  • Dredd on December 10, 2012 11:21 AM:

    "Revenge of the Kochs" is likely to become revenge on the Kochs and their ilk in the years ahead.

  • Anonymous on December 10, 2012 9:59 PM:

    Unions can be a pain but it is the only voice workers have. Once again the famous Koch brothers are at it trying to control our country.

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