MADISON, Wis. — “S is For Shill,” a new report from One Wisconsin Now, in association with the ProgressNow network and the Center for Media and Democracy, exposes a web of right-wing funders advancing a radical privatization agenda through the use of Wisconsin-based front groups. In addition to support from the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, headed by Gov. Walker’s campaign co-chair Michael Grebe, innocuously named groups like the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) and the MacIver Institute are part of the larger State Policy Network (SPN), a right-wing, dark money funded pro-privatization propaganda effort.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “These Wisconsin groups pass themselves off as home grown research organizations commenting on the issues of the day, but in reality they are strands in a much larger right-wing web of money and organizations dedicated to advancing the agenda of multi-national corporations and billionaire ideologues.”
Among the key findings of the Wisconsin report, “S is for Shill”:
- MacIver and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute benefit financially from the nation’s pre-eminent anti-public education funding sources;
- On the boards of directors of both organizations are long-time established Republican donors and political operatives;
- While the Bradley Foundation provides substantial support to both groups, they are part of a coordinated, nationwide effort by the State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Council to advance anti-public education propaganda and promote privatization.
The results of the WPRI/MacIver campaign have proven extraordinarily deleterious for public education in Wisconsin. Public schools were subject to the largest cuts in state history in Gov. Walker’s 2011 state budget. These cuts were followed in the 2013 budget by a massive, statewide expansion of the private school voucher program. Based on data from the state Department of Public Instruction, 73% of students receiving a taxpayer funded voucher this year via the expanded program were already attending a private school last year.
Concurrent with the release of the Wisconsin state report, a national effort is shining light on the larger SPN network and the right-wing, dark money driving it. The report, available at stinktanks.org, uncovers many of the large multi-national corporations and right-wing billionaires behind an $83 million propaganda campaign to privatize education, block healthcare reform, restrict workers’ rights, roll back environmental protections, and create a tax system that benefits most those at the very top level of income.
Lisa Graves, Executive Director, Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), said in a release Wednesday, “While State Policy Network members go on television and represent themselves as nonpartisan, objective scholars on issues of public policy, in actuality SPN is a front for corporate interests with an extreme national policy agenda tied to some of the most retrograde groups in the country, including the billionaire Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Coors family.”
Ross concluded, “Wisconsin has been the ground zero of the right-wing’s pro-privatization propaganda campaign. ‘S is For Shill’ reveals that the state based groups advancing this agenda are simply pawns in a much larger, national campaign driven by multi-national corporations that seeks to loot public treasuries to benefit their bottom lines and right-wing billionaires determined to impose their ideological whims on the middle class and working families of America.”