by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director
February 26, 2018
(This text is an expanded version of the speech that Rothschild delivered at the Wisconsin Capitol on February 24, 2018, at an event sponsored by AFSCME.)
I’m Matt Rothschild from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, and we focus on money in politics right here in this state.
And when you follow the money, you get a clear picture of who actually rules Wisconsin.
I got news for you.
It’s not Governor Walker.
It’s not Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
It’s not Speaker Robin Vos.
No, they’re just water boys for the actual folks who rule Wisconsin.
So let me tell you who some of those folks are.
The Koch Brothers rule Wisconsin, especially through their group, Americans for Prosperity, which has spent $5.7 million since January 2010 to keep conservatives in power here. The Koch Brothers also support ALEC, that national group of businesspeople and rightwing pro-business legislators who get together and come up with so-called model bills that they’ve been ramming through this building.
Betsy DeVos rules Wisconsin, through her so-called American Federation for Children. She’s Trump’s Secretary of Education, and a billionaire, and she’s done more to decimate our public schools than anyone else in the country. Here in Wisconsin, the American Federation for Children has spent more than $5 million in Wisconsin over the past seven years to help elect people who will vote in favor of private voucher schools. And it’s led in this state by none other than Scott Jensen, the former disgraced Speaker of the Assembly, who is more powerful today than when he was Speaker because he has Betsy DeVos’s saddlebags full of cash when he walks down the corridors of the State Capitol.
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce rules Wisconsin. It’s the leading lobbyist in the state and the top spender on elections in our state. It has spent about $18 million in the last seven years to keep Walker, Fitzgerald, and Vos in power and to keep conservatives in control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The Bradley Foundation rules Wisconsin, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to set up the rightwing infrastructure here.
There’s also the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which spent millions to help the Republicans fend off the recalls with a dubious fundraising scheme headed by Scott Walker.
Richard Uihlein rules Wisconsin, though he doesn’t live here. He lives in Illinois, but he’s one of the biggest donors to Walker and the Republican Party here.
Sheldon Adelson rules Wisconsin, though he doesn’t live here, either. He lives in Las Vegas, where he owns some casinos. When Walker was hit with the recalls, the first thing his staffer told him to do was fly to Las Vegas and ask Sheldon for a million dollars. And Walker did fly out there. And just a couple weeks ago, Walker was back in Las Vegas for another sit-down with Sheldon.
Then there’s Diane Hendricks. She rules Wisconsin. You remember Diane Hendricks. She’s the richest woman n Wisconsin, and she’s given Walker more than $500,000. And it’s been a good investment for her. She’s the one who asked Walker, “When are you going to make Wisconsin a red state? When are you going to make Wisconsin a right to work state?” And Walker notoriously responded, “First, we’re going to divide and conquer.”
Well, he can’t divide and conquer anymore! We’re united now as never before.
But our unity is not enough. We also need to exercise our right to vote, and to get everyone we know to vote on April 3 and in November: our friends, our family members, our neighbors, the people we exercise with or worship with or drink coffee with, our book club members, our poker buddies, everybody!
We’re supposed to be a democracy here in Wisconsin, and here in America. We’re supposed to be the rulers – not Charles Koch, not Betsy DeVos, not Sheldon Adelson, not Richard Uihlein, not Diane Hendricks, not the Bradley Foundation, not Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, not the NRA but you and me.
But as Jimmy Carter said a couple years ago, “We don’t have a democracy in America anymore. We have an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.”
We’ve got to outlaw that bribery and give democracy a chance.
And you know, there is only one day in America where each one of us has the same power as Charles Koch, the same power as Betsy DeVos, the same power as Sheldon Adelson, the same power as Richard Uihlein, the same power as Diane Hendricks.
And that day is Election Day.
So let’s not squander that power.
Let’s not sleep through that day.
Let’s seize the day!
Let’s seize the power!
Let’s go out and vote on April 3!
Let’s go out and vote in November!
And let’s show ’em who’s boss!