We have all seen the misleading smear ads Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce runs each election cycle, and WMC consistently ranks at or near the top in lobbying expenditures each legislative session.
But what does WMC get in return?
The short answer: anything it wants from the corporate-lapdog Republicans it helps elect to the Wisconsin Legislature.
The long answer? After the jump.
At the end of each legislative session, WMC compiles a scorecard for legislators. In it, WMC lists the bills it considered priorities for advancing its pro-corporate agenda along with WMC’s position on each. Every legislator in both houses is then given a percentage grade based on the number of votes he or she took that mirrored WMC’s extreme corporate agenda.
A look at the most recent WMC scorecard for the 2007-08 session reveals a few startling statistics.
First, a whopping 32 out of 130 legislators scored 100% with WMC ‘ meaning they supported huge tax breaks for corporate interest, less regulation for polluters, and less accountability to consumers for companies that make dangerous products, every time, all the time. All 32 legislators that got a perfect score from WMC were Republicans. All in all, 49% of all elected Republicans in Wisconsin supported the corporate agenda of WMC 100% of the time. [Sens. Roger Breske and Carol Roessler, who received gubernatorial appointments, weren’t scored by WMC]
This absolute devotion to WMC’s agenda is particularly troubling and demonstrates the iron-fisted stranglehold the corporate interests have over our state government. How can a legislator so busy carrying the water for corporate special interest have time to listen to regular folks who don’t have a multi-million dollar lobbying operation at their disposal? Another short answer: they don’t.
Expanding the criteria further shows just how far WMC’s corporate tentacles have slithered into the halls and offices of the State Capitol. All 51 Republican members of the Assembly supported the WMC agenda 90% of the time or more; 12 of 14 Republicans in the Senate voted with WMC 8 out of 10 times. Out of 65 total elected Republicans, 63 were scored 80% or higher by WMC ‘ meaning 97% of elected Republicans in the State Legislature are loyal lapdogs for corporate special interests.
All this fealty to the corporations by conservatives in the Assembly comes at the expense of Wisconsin’s working families. After all, when WMC demands a huge corporate tax break, like 2007 AB 671 which would ‘[exclude] from taxable income gains from a Wisconsin business,’ who has to pay?
AB 671 was estimated to cost the state over $44 million annually, meaning if it passed, cuts from education, health care or social services, or a tax increase on working families would be needed to cover the difference. And who would get the $44 million? The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated the $44 million would go to approximately 2,500 of the wealthiest in Wisconsin, the investor class ‘ meaning the richest Wisconsinites would get $17,600 each, while the working families would just have to suffer with less funding for schools or higher taxes to fund the handout to the rich. The plight of the working man or woman in Wisconsin meant nothing to WMC, who lobbied for the bill, or the Republican-controlled Assembly who gave the finger to the middle class while voting yes for that gift to corporate Wisconsin.
Thankfully, 2007 AB 671 never saw the light of day in the Senate and didn’t become law. But the bill still stands as an example of the kind of return WMC can expect when it invests million electing conservatives to state government.
There’s plenty more investigation about WMC’s spending and its pro-corporate agenda over at the newly-redesigned WMCWatch.org. One Wisconsin Now has expanded the site to include information about the issue-specific agenda WMC pushes and the its obscene spending on issue ads to elect corporate-friendly candidates all across the state. Check it out!