Wisconsin Republican state Senators, fresh from passing draconian anti-labor and privatization legislation, jetted into Washington, D.C., Wednesday night to collect tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from the one constituency group that approves of what Governor Scott Walker and his GOP allies are doing: corporate lobbyists.
But if Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Joint Finance Committee co-chair Alberta Darling thought they could get away from the mounting campaign to remove Republican state senators and shift control of the chamber to the Democrats -- creating a check and balance on Walker -- they were mistaken.
Outside the offices of the BGR Group -- the "B" stands for Barbour, as in Mississippi Governor and potential GOP presidential candidate Haley -- as many as 1,000 workers, students, union activists and allies filled the streets of downtown Washington. Many surged into the building where the senators met with lobbyists who paid as much a $5,000 to "host" the gathering to thank the Wisconsin Republicans.
They DC protesters chanted many of the same unions slogans that have been heard at mass protests in Wisconsin. And they picked up a political slogan as well: "Recall!"
Across Wisconsin, citizens are gathering petition signatures to force recall elections that could remove as many as eight GOP senators who backed the governor's anti-union bill. If just three seats (including Darling's) flip to the Democrats, Fitzgerald will no longer be majority leader and Walker's agenda will suddenly face serious legislative hurdles.
Mocking the Tea Party rhetoric about gunplay and "Second Amendment Solutions," one protester in DC held a sign that read: "We Don't Reload, We Recall!"
The fact that Fitzgerald has made the linkage between the Senate vote for Walker's bill and his party's corporate benefactors, was not lost of those who gathered outside the BGR offices.
Jonathan Backer, who came to Washington from Kenosha, Wisconsin, hailed the protests in DC, saying, “It’s such a good representation of what’s wrong with our democracy right now. There’s so much corporate power in our democracy where literally seconds after one of the worst anti-labor decisions that’s ever happened in the Midwest, you’ve got a big fundraiser going on here, right here in D.C. What we’re doing here is all about trying to fight for unions so there is a way to combat this corporate power going on in democracy right now.”
Former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold was blunter:
"Today, Wednesday March 16th, Republican state senators from Wisconsin are in Washington, D.C. attending a big fundraiser at the headquarters of a corporate lobbying firm. That's less than one week after Republicans rammed through an anti-worker bill that polls showed was heavily opposed by Wisconsinites -- but was heavily favored by corporate lobbyists," said Feingold. "If your senator is Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau, Glenn Grothman of West Bend, or Alberta Darling of River Hills, your senator is at the fundraiser. But no matter where you are in Wisconsin, your interests just got sold out to big corporate interests."