To Represent Their Party Tonight, GOP Chooses ALEC Alum and Koch Ally

Who did the Republican Party choose to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union tonight? Someone who represents the anti-worker, corporate-influenced, Koch-dominated wing of their party: newly-elected Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA).

The network of organizations affiliated with oil billionaires David and Charles Koch spent about $300 million on the 2014 elections. This network includes Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners, Donors Trust, and a dizzying array of think tanks and astroturf organizations.

The Kochs also heavily fund ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the “” nonprofit that brings together state legislators and corporate lobbyists to write “model bills” which are then distributed to pass in state houses. ALEC “model bills” that became law include Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070, Michigan’s union-busting “right to work” law, and Florida’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” gun law.

Ernst was one of those state legislators who joined ALEC after her election to the Iowa Senate in 2011. In June 2014, Ernst told a group of Koch-affiliated donors at a closed-door meeting in California: “the exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you, that really started my trajectory.”

She wasn’t wrong. Ernst was enormous beneficiary of the Koch network from day one of her campaign, as PR Watch reports:

In her campaign for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat, Ernst was the underdog early in the crowded Republican primary, but soon became the darling of outside spending groups, maintaining a $12 million lead in outside spending over her Democratic opponent into the final weeks of the race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A few days after Ernst’s appearance at the Dana Point summit, Charles Koch and his wife, son, and daughter-in-law maxed-out on donations to Ernst, and much of the outside spending supporting Ernst or attacking her opponent came from Koch-tied groups like the 60 Plus Association, American Future Fund, Freedom Partners Action Fund, the National Federation of Independent Business, and Americans for Prosperity.

During the campaign, Ernst’s spokeswoman was Gretchen Hamel, who led the Koch-backed group Public Notice. Once elected, Ernst hired as her Chief of Staff Lisa Goes, a former VP at the Koch-backed National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), a group which, not coincidentally, ran radio and online ads on behalf of Ernst during the campaign.

So what do the Kochs and their network get for all this support? As a candidate, Joni Ernst opposed raising the minimum wage, and said she considered privatizing Social Security an “option.” She also signed the pledge from super-lobbyist Grover Norquist saying that she would oppose the elimination of tax breaks, including those for companies that ship jobs overseas. In fact, we found it difficult to identify a single policy difference between her campaign rhetoric and the ideas advanced by the Koch brothers’ network.

The selection of Senator Ernst to respond to President Obama on behalf of the Republican Party comes at a time when the Koch network’s political operation is beginning to rival that of the GOP itself. Americans tuning in tonight would be fair in questioning whether Ernst will be representing an opposition political party or the network of donors that, by her own admission, propelled her into the U.S. Senate.

Read more from PR Watch.

Learn more about the Koch network, aka “The Kochtopus.

Learn more about ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Photo by areflaten on Flickr

Tags: , , , ,

Zara Caves to Pressure from Workers, Offers Raises and Better Schedules: Punching In


“Donors understand that if we want to get something done in this country, we have to go to the states, because it’s not happening in D.C.”

“Shellacked on the state level, Democrats chart a way out of the wilderness,” Washington Post


A single mom making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour must work 125 hours a week to afford food, shelter and child care for two kids, according to MIT’s Living Wage calculator.

“Meet Four Working Moms Who Fought For Higher Wages In 2014,” Huffington Post


But to Ms. Jourdan’s amazement, she learned that she would be getting a raise of $2.50 an hour. And that’s not all: Zara is also increasing the number of full-time positions in its stores, handing a victory to Ms. Jourdan and other Zara workers who have demanded better pay and more opportunities…

“Signs of Economic Promise Are Offering Some Hope for the New Year,” New York Times


For Signs of Real GOP Agenda, Don’t Look at Washington–Look to the States: Punching In

“Before Election Day, the GOP controlled 59 partisan legislative chambers across the country. The increase to 68 gives Republicans six more chambers than their previous record in the modern era, set after special elections in 2011 and 2012.”

“Republicans in state governments plan juggernaut of conservative legislation,” Washington Post


“In 2014, charter schools, which had always been marketed for a legendary ability to deliver promising new innovations for education, became known primarily for their ability to concoct innovative new scams.”

“Exposing the charter school lie: Michelle Rhee, Louis C.K. and the year phony education reform revealed its true colors,” Salon


“This video doesn’t need many words to be a beautiful and powerful picture of Nashville fast food workers’ fight for justice—economic justice in the form of fair pay for their work, and racial justice as they link their fight to the failure to prosecute the killers of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.”

Nashville fast food workers fight for justice, and it is beautiful, Daily Kos

Why You Should Pay Attention to Qatar’s World Cup Preparations: Punching In

Workers and businesses team up to fight Wisconsin “right to work” push

“The formation of the Wisconsin Contractor Coalition highlights a split in the business community in the state, where manufacturers appear poised to push the labor measure through the Legislature and builders and unions are scrambling to try to stop it.”

New cuts to United States Postal Service hurt rural America the most

Ed Schultz and Mark Dimondstein discussed the future of the post office on MSNBC.

Louisville lawmakers approve minimum wage increase to $9 by 2017

“Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer had said earlier he would veto the council’s original proposal, which would have raised pay to $10.10…However, Fischer said in a statement released after the vote he was pleased with the amended ordinance.”

Qatar’s World Cup preparations are dangerous for workers, say human rights groups

“Hundreds of worker deaths, many apparently from cardiac arrests, have also fueled concerns that laborers are being overworked in desert conditions and shoddily treated.”

2,000 Minneapolis Airport Workers Get New Sick Leave Policy: Punching In

2,000 workers at Minneapolis airport get new sick leave policy

“The new policy, which was unanimously approved by the board on Monday, calls for companies with 21 or more employees to provide at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked.”

More than 60 million households rely on the earnings of a low-wage worker

“There are 25 million low-wage workers in the country, but the figure balloons to 60.6 million by adding the number of people living in their households, including more than 15 million children.”

Good thing Obama had the past five weeks

“Obama feels liberated, aides say, and sees the recent flurry of aggressive executive action and deal-making as a pivot for him to spend his final two years in office being more the president he always wanted to be.”

Chris Christie’s wife is making bank off of management of NJ pension funds

“Angelo Gordon made a prominent hire: Mary Pat Christie, wife of Gov. Chris Christie, who joined the company in 2012 as a managing director and now earns $475,000 annually, according to the governor’s most recent tax return.”

Is Wall Street A Black Hole for Our Best and Brightest? Punching In

Michigan on track to ban student-athlete unionization

“This is not the first time Michigan lawmakers have moved to stifle organized labor on college campuses. University of Michigan graduate research assistants attempted to unionize, but that effort was chilled by a 2012 law signed by [Governor] Snyder.”

Wall Street is a black hole for our best and brightest

“The financial industry has doubled in size as a share of the economy in the past 50 years, but it hasn’t gotten any better at its core job: getting money from investors who have it to companies that will use it to generate growth, profit and jobs.”

New York’s Democratic Gov. Cuomo to kick 1,000 state workers out of unions

“An estimated one thousand New York state government employees received notices Monday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration aims to reclassify their jobs as non-union, a move that could weaken a federation that has previously butted heads with the centrist Democratic governor.”

Another domino falls? Tennessee considers Medicaid expansion compromise

“[Gov.] Haslam, who recently took over as the chair of the Republican Governors Association, will reportedly call a special session of Tennessee’s legislature to consider the package he’s worked out with the Obama administration.”

Democratic Mayor of Louisville Intends to Block Minimum Wage Increase: Punching In

Full-time faculty at Boston area colleges seeking to unionize

“As full-time lecturers, we remain the only group of instructors on campus who don’t have a voice. Tenured faculty have a voice. Part-timers have established their voice. We feel like we need to have the opportunity to be involved.”

Despite election loss, UAW could soon become the union at the VW Chattanooga plant

“If successful, the UAW would achieve its longstanding goal of organizing a foreign-owned automotive manufacturer in the South.”

Democratic Mayor of Louisville, KY wants to veto minimum wage increase

“There are nine sponsors of the increase. Democrats have a 17-9 majority on the council and do not expect any support from Republicans. Supporters do not appear to have the 18 votes needed to override a veto”

Steelworkers President: stop bad trade deals like the TPP

“American workers aren’t whining. They can compete with anyone in the world on an even playing field. But when foreign countries provide illegal subsidies, manipulate their currency, and hand no-cost land, no-interest loans and tax breaks to producers, then it’s bad trade.”

New Ruling from NLRB Could Speed Up Future Organizing Campaigns: Punching In

NLRB decision takes away common management stall tactic

“The rule will require businesses to postpone virtually all litigation over eligibility issues until after workers vote on whether to join the union, thereby depriving management of a stall tactic that unions widely claim benefits the employer.”

Labor unions saved Ford Motor Company “in our darkest hour,” says executive

“Ford, the executive chairman of the Detroit automaker, said in an interview on CNBC’s ‘Squawk Box’ that former UAW President Ron Gettelfinger doesn’t get enough credit for helping to shore up the books during Ford’s ‘darkest hour.’”

Study confirms that the seeds of the Tea Party were planted by Big Tobacco and Koch Brothers

“This report might serve as a wake-up call to some people in the Tea Party itself, who would find it a little disturbing that the “grassroots” movement they are so emotionally attached to, is in fact a pawn created by billionaires and large corporations with little interest in fighting for the rights of the common person, but instead using the common person to fight for their own unfettered profits. ”

Elizbaeth Warren’s anti-Wall Street speech leaves some Republican Senators sore

“There is a lot of talk coming from CitiGroup about how Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. So let me say this to anyone listening at Citi —I agree with you. Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. It should have broken you into pieces.”

News Out of Congress Is Bleak, But News Out of New Orleans Is Incredible: Punching In

San Francisco airport food workers on strike

“‘Travelers – bring your own food if you’re flying out of the San Francisco International Airport!’ Unite Here Local 2, a hospitality workers’ union, said in a statement posted on its website.”

Harold Meyerson: the labor movement is reinventing itself

“Blocked from unionizing workplaces by ferocious management opposition and laws that fail to keep union activists from being fired, unions have begun to focus on raising wages and benefits for many more workers than they can ever expect to claim as their own.”

Progressive Democrats revolt against Wall Street giveaways in last minute budget deal

Elizabeth Warren urged her colleagues in the House not to support a “deal negotiated behind closed doors that slips in a provision that would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.”

New Orleans might eliminate homelessness among veterans in the next three weeks

“There is a sense of urgency here that you don’t find in other communities just because we’ve all been homeless. We’ve all tasted maybe a tiny slice of it, maybe a huge slice of it. Some of our outreach workers have been literally homeless while they were housing homeless people because of Katrina.”

Some Things to Remember Now That Santorum Is Running for President Again: Punching In

Pregnancy shouldn’t disqualify women from getting paychecks

“Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, UPS permits light duty for drivers injured on the job or who have a qualifying disability. Even drivers who lose their licenses after a DUI offense are given alternative work to do. But women who get pregnant? You’re too big of a risk for a company that puts more than 96,000 vehicles on the road each year.”

Minimum wage will go up in Florida and other states, but it’s still not enough

“Something will be done in the next few years. Every year that we wait there are more states that are moving to a higher increase and we’ll find ourselves as a state on the low end of the minimum wage scale.”

Rick Santorum wants to run for President again, so let’s remember his stance on unions

“There is no tougher bullies than the public employee unions,” said the former Pennsylvania Senator and presidential candidate in March 2012.

Enrollments on health care exchanges surge in December

“Obamacare customers shook off their Thanksgiving food comas last week and began signing up at a much quicker pace on, which has now sold 1.38 million insurance plans.”