February 24, 2011- A large rally in front of a building where Koch Industries recently set up a lobbying shop attracted close to a thousand protesters this afternoon. The Koch Brothers have quickly become the outside villain of these labor protests, particularly after yesterday’s prank phone call between Governor Scott Walker and a writer claiming to be David Koch. The office building blocked access to the building, putting up a big sign that read “No Trespassing.” The usual assortment of chants and slogans accompanied the rally. I put a number of photos and other comments on my Twitter feed.
This lobbying operation, called Koch Companies Public Sector — Legal, Government, Public Affairs, is just a couple blocks from the Capitol. It opened the week Walker was inaugurated. The Center for Media and Democracy, a Madison-based progressive group, raised questions about the lobby shop, put in place just as Walker got sworn in. Many have also looked askance at Section 16.896 of the budget repair bill, which would allow the Walker Administration to sell off state-owned power, heating and cooling plants with no-bid contracts. This privatization could potentially benefit the Kochs, who own several power plants.
One activist at the rally floated a rumor that the Capitol police or some outside security group would try to clear the Rotunda either right before or right after what are expected to be large protests on Saturday. But sitting in the Rotunda right now, I can’t possibly imagine how that would work. The protesters have basically taken over the Capitol, and this being the most liberal state capital in America, I see a virtually endless supply of reinforcements. There was a 91 year-old woman in a wheelchair in the Capital today, with a sign that read “Old enough to vote, young enough to kick butt.” Nobody’s going anywhere without a fight.
It is incredible how the Koch Brothers have become a key element of this protest movement, and also the larger progressive backlash. This is the second large rally I’ve witnessed against the Koch Brothers this month, the other being the “Uncloak the Kochs” rally in Rancho Mirage, CA, at their annual meeting of conservative activists. While the Kochs certainly fund a portion of the conservative movement, they aren’t the sole operator here. Nobody must be smiling more at this turn of events than Karl Rove and his Crossroads GPS group, which was just as active in amassing corporate money for independent expenditure campaigns during the 2010 elections. But the right in recent years has become skillful at picking a target and naming it and marginalizing it. And so you’re starting to see that on the left as well. The Koch Brothers have gone from largely unknown to toxic in the space of a few months.