Charles and David Koch made Scott Walker the governor of Wisconsin, and they have sustained Walker in that position. These rigidly right-wing billionaires have provided essential funding for Walker’s campaigns, for so-called “independent expenditures” on his behalf, and for the legislative allies who have provided the governor of Wisconsin with the state Assembly and state Senate majorities that have allowed him to govern without checks or balances.
So no one seriously expects Walker to say “no” to the Kochs.
Not even when they ask too much.
Such a moment came late last month, when Walker signed legislation that established the standards for appointing Wisconsin’s delegates to the so-called “Convention of States” that could outline amendments to the United States Constitution.
The Koch brothers have for years funded a faked-up “movement” to demand that state officials take advantage of an obscure (and never previously used) subsection of Article V of the Constitution, which allows two-thirds of the states to call a convention that might propose amendments to the founding document. The Kochs and their allies want to use the “Convention of States” to propose a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. More than two dozen states have made the call.
“All of the bills (enacted by those states) are closely tailored to model measures being promoted by the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force,” reported the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy. “Funded and controlled by large corporations, including Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, telecom, and tobacco companies, ALEC has supported a balanced budget amendment since 1995 and renewed its push for a constitutional convention in recent years, publishing an Article V convention handbook for legislators and hosting numerous strategy sessions.”
When the Kochs say “Jump!” Scott Walker asks “How high?” So it came as no surprise that the governor of Wisconsin and his legislative allies moved this fall to make Wisconsin the 28th state to support the convention call.
What was surprising was Walker’s embrace of a blatant strategy to exclude the people of Wisconsin from the process.
The measure signed by the governor sets up a system for selecting delegates to such a convention. Under the plan Wisconsin Republicans have put together, if a convention is held, the delegates will all be politicians appointed by politicians. To wit:
1. The state Assembly speaker will appoint three state representatives to serve as delegates.
2. The Senate president will appoint three senators.
3. The Assembly minority leader will appoint one representative.
4. The Senate minority leader will appoint one senator.
5. The governor will appoint one more delegate — from either the Assembly or the Senate.
If a convention were held next year, for instance, the leaders of the Republican-controlled legislative chambers and the Republican governor would appoint seven delegates while the Democratic minority leaders of the Assembly and Senate would appoint two delegates.
For those doing the math, this means the Wisconsin delegation to a convention held next year would have a 7-2 Republican bias toward the position advanced by the Koch brothers. Yet Wisconsin is a closely divided state — where barely 22,000 votes separated Republican Donald Trump from Democrat Hillary Clinton last year, and where one U.S. senator is a Republican and one is a Democrat.
The delegates should not be politicians appointed by politicians. They should be representatives of the people of Wisconsin, elected in statewide voting on a high-turnout election day. Ideally, such voting would be on an officially nonpartisan basis — even though we well understand that big money now seeks to influence nonpartisan voting just as aggressively as it seeks to influence partisan balloting.
A task as vital as the development of an amendment — or amendments — to the U.S. Constitution ought to be steeped in democracy. Instead, Walker and his allies have arranged for it to be carried out by partisans operating behind closed doors and without any input from the voters of Wisconsin.
Equally absurd is a strategy to thwart dissent that was included in the legislation signed by Walker. The measure allows the state delegation to remove any delegate who works on an unauthorized amendment — i.e., an amendment that is not approved by the Koch brothers and the other billionaire donors and corporate interests that have used the “Convention of States” scheme to advance a single balanced budget amendment.
What that means is that if Wisconsin voters presented the delegates with a position asking them to develop amendments to get big money out of politics, or to eliminate gerrymandering, or to do away with the Electoral College, any delegate who respected the will of the people could be removed.
Translation: Walker and his legislative allies have outlined, approved and signed legislation that gives the Koch brothers more say over constitutional reform than the people of Wisconsin.
That’s not what democracy looks like.
That’s what the rank corruption of money-powered politics looks like.
The Koch brothers will, surely, be pleased.
The voters of Wisconsin will be left to ask whether they have any say whatsoever regarding what is done in their name at a “Convention of States.” The answer is that they will have no say because Scott Walker was more concerned with doing the bidding of his billionaire masters than standing up for democracy — and carrying out the will of the people that is expressed via the ballot box.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. email@example.com and @NicholsUprising
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