An email obtained by Badger Democracy through Open Records Request from Assembly Representative Robin Vos reveals the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s signature ”Make It Your Milwaukee County Initiative” was actually written by Smart Government, Inc., a group with direct lobbyist ties to Koch Industries Lobby, LLC.
On May 6, 2011 Badger Democracy submitted an open records request to Rep. Robin Vos for communications regarding lobbyist activity. On May 25, documents pertaining to the request were picked up at the Assembly Chief Clerk’s office. One of the emails is from Kathleen Walby, an attorney at Foley&Lardner in Madison. Walby is also a lobbyist with Smart Government, Inc. (The lobbying arm of the Greater Milwaukee Committee) in Milwaukee. During a highly publicized annual meeting, the “Make It Your Milwaukee County” Initiative was unveiled in February of 2011 by the Greater Milwaukee Committee. The GMC has heralded this initiative as a co-operative effort between public and private interests, and a “reasonable” course for saving the fiscally challenged Milwaukee County. The email to Robin Vos’ office, though only two sentences and one link long, speaks volumes as to the source and agenda of the “initiative.”
Smart Government, Inc., (SGI) as reported in previous blogs, is the lobbying arm of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. Three of the four lobbyists employed by SGI (Ray Carey, Jason Childress, and Kathleen Walby) are attorneys at Foley&Lardner in Madison, and are employed as lobbyists by Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC in Madison. The influence of Koch money and agenda in Wisconsin recently cannot be overstated. This brief email proves the corresponding agenda being pushed through this “Initiative” of The Greater Milwaukee Committee is inexorably linked to these lobbyists and their corporatic interests. The trail begins with the American Legislative Exchange Council.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been drafting “model legislation” for use by ultra-conservative legislators in semi-secret for decades. Although legislators like Robin Vos (current state ALEC “chair”) pay a modest fee for membership, a vast majority of ALEC’s operating funds come from corporate “grants” to this “non-profit educational” foundation. One of the largest contributors and influences in ALEC is Koch Industries. In December, 2010, ALEC released a “Budget Toolkit” for it’s legislative members. This “toolkit” created an agenda now being pushed in every Republican-controlled state in the nation, and cites biased, non-peer reviewed, ALEC-commissioned studies as rationale for radical legislative actions. It also includes recommendations for “model legislation” to combat the immenent fiscal disaster that surely awaits the United States. In essence, this “toolkit” takes advantage of the recent financial crisis. It promotes a corporatic agenda to legislators, more than willing to partake in the endless stream of campaign funds available from ALEC sponsors.
The “Make It Your Milwaukee County Initiative” released in February, 2011, cites three specific intiatives that mimic the policies presented in ALEC’s “toolkit.” In essence, this initiative is (using their own words) Smart Government Inc./Greater Milwaukee Committee’s “toolkit” for Wisconsin:
- Develop a statewide fiscal stress test through the State Department of Revenue to help local governments maintain fiscal health.
- Provide local governments with greater flexibility by ensuring that as labor contracts are crafted, they account for a broader range of considerations, including the fiscal challenges facing municipalities and counties.
- Consolidate Milwaukee County’s health care and pension plans into the state’s plans. Isolate the existing Milwaukee County legacy pension costs in a “lockbox” separate from the state’s plan.
- Reform the County’s mental health services for better outcomes, better quality of life and maximizing Medicaid reimbursement. Accomplish this by shifting from institutional models of care, focused on in-patient and crisis care, to a community care model that helps consumers maintain health and independence.
Corresponding ALEC policies can be found in the ALEC “Budget Toolkit” link above – “Fiscal Stress Tests” and “Transparency” language are discussed in Section III, page 20 (also noted in previous Badger Democracy blogs); Health Service policies, Labor Contracts, and Consolidation in Section IV C, J pages 24, 29(esp. Privatization section).
Initiative 2 :
- Significantly reduce the number of supervisory districts to reflect the reduced function and budget of the County. Ensure through redistricting that the new Supervisory districts reflect the diversity of Milwaukee County.
- Institute an elected Comptroller position by redefining the role of the County Treasurer to reflect the responsibilities and power of the City Elected Comptroller role.
- Develop and implement pension savings strategies to complement statewide legislation including implementing a defined contribution plan for new employees, requiring an employee contribution, reducing the multiplier and/or raising the retirement age for existing employees.
- Bring retiree health care expenditures in line with national and state standards, including crafting health care options that incentivize both active and retired employees to select plans that will reduce the county’s health care costs.
The corresponding ALEC policies can be found in ALEC’s budget toolkit (link above) in section IV, page 23-24 (pension, health care policies); page 28-29 (comptroller replacing Treasurer); Walker has long advocated reducing or even eliminating the County Board and redistricting.
- Spin-off the transit system to the Regional Transit Authority and include the airport.
- Establish a parks and county-owned cultural assets district governed by an independent, elected district board and funded with a dedicated share of property tax.
- Partner with municipalities to merge services where there is overlap (e.g., parks security, snow plowing, etc.). The state would assume additional Health and Human service functions.
- Develop a master plan for County assets. Use the proceeds from the sale or lease of any county assets to pay down pension or other health care liabilities or general obligation debt.
Corresponding ALEC “Budget Toolkit” section IV J,K,L on pages 29-37. This section encourages privatization, consolidation, and sale of municipal assets to raise funds to support privatized contracts.
Based on this simple email from Smart Government Inc/Koch Industries lobbyist and Foley&Lardner attorney Kathleen Walby, it is abundantly clear the influence of ALEC on the “Make It Your Milwaukee County” initiative. Nowhere in the public domain has “Make It Your Milwaukee County” been referred to as “Smart Government’s…initiative.” Released late in 2010, the ALEC “Budget Toolkit” was used as a template by SGI lobbyists to draft the “Make It Your Milwaukee County” initiative released in early 2011. To the public, this initiative has been presented as a cooperative effort by the Greater Milwaukee Committee. In reality, the Greater Milwaukee Committee has footed the bill and supported with open arms the Koch/ALEC agenda to be written by it’s Smart Government, Inc. lobby. Thanks to ALEC affiliated legislators like Vos and Darling, the agenda is now being pushed throughout the state. Mary Panzer, former Republican legislative leader, is also an ALEC alum and Smart Government Inc lobbyist (as of April 2011). The initiative is also being given a “locally driven” image, thanks to Smart Government Inc and the Greater Milwaukee Committee.
No more. The true nature of this initiative is public, and it is more of the corporatic agenda being driven at a national level. Welcome to the Wisconsin “Shock Doctrine.” These policy-pushing corporatists are taking advantage of the recent financial crisis to attempt systematic destruction of Progressive Wisconsin. Naomi Klein (“The Shock Doctrine”) names the three hallmarks of this type of “disaster capitalism” – privatization, government deregulation, and deep cuts to social spending. Sound familiar? It is no coincidence the parties pushing these policies have been warning of economic doom. No coincidence the policies listed above accomplish all three of the required hallmarks of corporatist agenda. No coincidence Kathleen Walby referred to the “Make It Your Milwaukee County Initiative” as Smart Government’s. They own it, along with Koch Industries and all the other Corporatists looking to plunder Wisconsin’s resources for their own profit. Spread the word – don’t believe the lie. We are not broke. We need to be progressive now more than ever to preserve and save the middle class in Wisconsin and America.
Postscript: For the record, Robin Vos, Kathleen Walby, Brian Schupper, and The Greater Milwaukee Committee were contacted for comment on record. All refused or did not respond.