Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Republican Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker, who has an eye on the GOP nomination for president, has embarrassingly close ties to David and Charles Koch. (Photo: AP/Jim Cole)

Koch Brothers Declare Scott Walker Is Our Man

Has Scott Walker won the Koch primary?

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries, one of the largest privately-held companies in the world and the overseers of one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, told Republican donors in New York on April 19 that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is their man for President.

"We will support whoever the candidate is," David Koch said, "but it should be Scott Walker," according to an account in the New York Times

Koch, whose political network plans to spend an astonishing $1 billion in the 2016 presidential elections, said "Scott Walker is terrific and I really wish him all the best. He’s a tremendous candidate to be the nominee in my opinion" (although he later said "I am not endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point in time.")

The Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has been covering Walker--and his Koch backing--since 2011. CMD has identified at least $11.6 million in support for Walker from the Kochs and their affiliated groups, plus millions more in indirect funding.

CMD Executive Director Lisa Graves was spot-on back in February of 2011, when she reported that "Scott Walker Runs on Koch Money." KochPAC maxed-out on donations to Walker during his 2010 gubernatorial run, giving up to the $43,000 limit, and David Koch donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association that year, which spent $5 million on the Walker race.

In his first months after taking office, Walker--a star alumnus of the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)--signed 19 ALEC bills into law‬, which went after unions, enacted voter ID restrictions, and made it harder to hold corporations accountable in the courts. In many ways, the new pat-on-the-back by two of the biggest money men in the game is an astonishing affirmation of deep ties forged years ago at ALEC.

Walker's extreme ideological agenda prompted one million people in the state to sign petitions to recall him from office, and it was the Kochs who came to his rescue.

During the 2012 recall elections, David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity spent $10 million supporting Walker, which included at least 70 paid staffers flown into Wisconsin, plus bus tours, rallies, townhall meetings, phone banks, and canvassers, not to mention the months of TV ads.

But the kicker came in the final weeks before the recall elections. A mysterious group called "Coalition for American Values" poured $400,000 into a barrage of last-minute ads that made a unique appeal: instead of promoting Governor Scott Walker or attacking his opponent, the ads attacked the premise of the recall itself. Over pastoral images of Wisconsinites with fishing poles and tractors, viewers were told that "recall is not the Wisconsin way," and to "stop the recall madness" by voting to reelect Walker.

Despite the ads purporting to represent Wisconsin values, funding for the message came from well outside the Dairy State's borders. CMD discovered that all of Coalition for American Values' known contributions came the Koch-tied Freedom Partners.

And, the ads proved effective. Exit polls on June 5, 2012 showed that sixty percent of voters thought recalls were only appropriate for cases of official misconduct -- a complete reversal from polls conducted in November 2011, just as the recall was launched, when fifty-eight percent of voters supported Walker's recall.

“We're helping him, as we should. We've gotten pretty good at this over the years," David Koch told the Palm Beach Post in early 2012. "We've spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We're going to spend more . . . What Scott Walker is doing with the public unions in Wisconsin is critically important. He's an impressive guy and he's very courageous."

The same year as Walker's recall, David Koch gave $2 million to the Republican Governors Association, and Koch Industries gave $250,000 more. The RGA, in turn, spent $10 million supporting Walker during the recalls.

At a Koch donor summit in 2014, RGA Executive Director Phil Cox said that Kochs' Americans for Prosperity was a "tremendous partner" in Wisconsin and that the RGA had put $18 million into supporting Walker since 2010.

Wisconsin Club for Growth was also a major conduit for outside money during the recall elections, spending $9.1 million directly and funneling $10 million more to an array of outside groups. In 2011 they received $225,000 from the Kochs' Center to Protect Patient Rights. Its director Eric O'Keefe is a longtime Koch ally, going back to David Koch's 1980 VP run on the Libertarian ticket. 

Walker is accused of illegally coordinating with WiCFG during the recalls, in an investigation that will be decided by a highly-conflicted Wisconsin Supreme Court in coming weeks.

Walker has long been the Kochs' man. Will he be the first Koch president?


© 2019 Center for Media and Democracy

Brendan Fischer

Brendan Fischer is Director of Federal Reform at The Campaign Legal Center. Formerly with PR Watch, he graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Prior to law school, Brendan served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a rural community in Northeastern El Salvador. Twitter: @brendan_fischer

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Scientists Revive ‘Zombie’ Virus After 50,000 Years Trapped in Siberian Permafrost

Researchers documented 13 never-before-seen viruses that have been lying dormant, frozen in thick ice, over tens of thousands of years.

Common Dreams staff ·


'Cleaner Air Is Coming' as London Expands Vehicle Pollution Fee to Entire Metro Area

"Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year because of long-term exposure to air pollution, with the greatest number of deaths in outer London boroughs," noted Mayor Sadiq Khan in announcing the expansion.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Amazing News': Historic Shark Protections Approved at Global Wildlife Convention

Up to 90% of sharks targeted by the lucrative fin trade will now be protected, said one advocate.

Julia Conley ·


'The Nightmare Materializes': Far-Right Extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir to Be Israel's National Security Minister

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Palestinian Authority said Ben-Gvir's elevation to national security minister could have a "catastrophic impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Jake Johnson ·


Raging Wars, Soaring Hunger Put Women and Girls in Crosshairs, Warns UN

"A toxic mix of crises—conflicts, climate, skyrocketing costs, and the ripple effects of the Ukraine war—are inflicting a devastating toll on the forcibly displaced. This is being felt across the world, but women and girls are particularly suffering."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo