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Koch Juice: MacIver Newservice Affiliated with Kochs and John Birchers

May 11, 2011

Misrepresentation in the legitimate news media is what I call a full on abuse of the First Amendment especially where it is being used to attack everyday working Americans and public education. McIver Newservice is a front group for the Kochs, John Birch Society, and Libertarian ideologues who push free market principles, corporatism, anti-collectivism (unions, Medicare, Medicaid, etc), and privatization of public services and public education via vouchers to cover the cost. Corporations would run education for our nation’s children. They would set the curriculum. To be sure, I am firmly 100% against privatization.

I have a few sources lined up to expose the underpinnings of McIver Newservice.

SourceWatch reports:

The MacIver Institute claims to be a news service, but it actually gathers– and in some cases seems to create– “news” footage designed to advance a conservative, anti-worker agenda.

The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy is a Wisconsin-based think tank that, according to its web site, promotes free markets, individual freedom, personal responsibility and limited government. According to One Wisconsin Now, the MacIver Institute is:

“a pro-corporate organization founded in 2009 to advance conservative ideas and values…Its top staff is long-time Republican campaign strategists and its board of directors includes leading Republicans, most notably Mark Block, the head of Americans for Prosperity-WI, Fred Lubar, deep-pocketed Republican donor and Jim Troupis, lawyer to leading Republicans such as Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen and ethically-challenged Supreme Court Justices Mike Gableman and Annette Ziegler.

The Institute operates the web site WisconsinOpenGov.org, which it says “provides you with one location for data on Wisconsin public employee salaries, benefits and labor contracts. We have worked hard to not just allow ‘access’ the way many government information sites do, but to give you all of the data in a format that allows you to select and sort the information as you see fit.”

Institute representatives claim to have caught doctors in white coats in February, 2011 directing Madison, Wisconsin protesters to places where they could obtain absentee excuses for the time they were out of work marching in protest of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s “budget repair” bill. However, irregularities were found in the report. The absentee letters listed the doctor as “Kathy Orton,” but no Kathy Orton was found to be listed as a Wisconsin doctor. Also, the contact listed on the doctors notes was “Badgerdoctors@gmail.com,” but there was no listing for “Badgerdoctors” which would presume would be the name of the medical group or association that the “doctors” were from.

ThinkProgress reports that the MacIver Institute has numerous ties to the billionaire Koch Brothers, billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries, which has numerous business interests in Wisconsin. ThinkProgress writes,

Mark Block, the Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin state director and a key figure in the alleged voter suppression plot, sits on MacIver’s board of directors. MacIver and AFP Wisconsin also share two other board members, David Fettig and Fred Luber. MacIver also works closely with AFP Wisconsin as part of the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, along with another group with ties to Koch funding, American Majority. The think tank also participates in the Koch-funded Institute for Humane Studies’ Koch Summer Fellows Program and is a member of the Koch-funded State Policy Network.

Scott Jensen Background
Cory Liebmann of the Eye on Wisconsin web site discovered that former Republican Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen writes press releases for the MacIver Institute, even though his name is not on the releases and the Institute has denied Jensen is formally involved with the organization. Jensen’s authorship of the releases, Liebmann instructs, can be discovered by accessing one of the organization’s press releases, right-clicking on it and observing the document properties (e.g. “Author:Scott Jensen”). Jensen also authored a PowerPoint presentation on the Institute’s web site.

Jensen is controversial because he was the subject of an eight-year criminal case for misconduct while he was in office in Wisconsin. The case concluded in December, 2010 after Jensen agreed to pay a $5,000 civil forfeiture fine and reimburse the state of Wisconsin $67,174 in legal fees initially borne by taxpayers, according to a plea deal. Waukesha County Circuit Judge Patrick L. Snyder found Jensen guilty of an ethics code violation related to his using his government position for illegal gain. Felony charges against Jensen were dropped under the deal. Jensen also has a 2006 misdemeanor conviction in Dane County for violating the public trust. In 2002, Jensen (along with other GOP leaders in the State Assembly) was charged with using taxpayer dollars to run a secret, illegal campaign machine out of the Capitol.

The Institute’s Educational Policy Analyst, Christian D’Andrea, was formerly a Policy Analyst and State Program Director with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which was named after free market economist Milton Friedman. That organization, which has since changed its name to the Foundation for Educational Choice, advocates the use of voucher systems for education, a system that allows taxpayer funds to flow to private schools.

Related from PR Watch: Consider the Source

The MacIver Institute, also known as the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, is a Wisconsin-based, free-market think tank formed in 2009 which also acts as a “news service,” supplying videos and reports to media outlets, like newspapers and television broadcasters. But just who is the MacIver Institute?

In the last three years, the MacIver Institute has gotten at least $300,000 in funding from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which advocates eliminating labor unions under the guise of “restoring worker rights” and “modernizing labor laws.” Harry Bradley, after whom the Foundation is named, was one of the original charter members of the 1960s right-wing extremist group, the John Birch Society, along with another Birch Society board member, Fred Koch, the father of Koch Industries’ billionaire brother-owners, Charles and David Koch.

The MacIver Institute’s treasurer, Mark Block, was State Director of the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity. As part of a settlement of charges of violating election laws, Block was exiled from political campaigns and fined $15,000 for allegations arising out of an illegal scheme in the campaign of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox. Block, who served as Wilcox’s campaign manager, was charged by the election board with illegally coordinated $200,000 worth of campaign activity with a group that pretended to be operating independently. The person who ran the purported “independent” group was fined $35,000 and banned from Wisconsin state politics for five years. Justice Wilcox — who, astonishingly, was running for the state’s Supreme Court — also paid a $10,000 fine. The fines were the largest ever assessed against a campaign in Wisconsin’s history.

The Institute’s Director of Communications is Brian Fraley, who served as the Senior Vice President for State Affairs at America’s Health Insurance Plans in Washington, D.C., a lobbying group that represents big insurance companies. Fraley was also the national Health and Human Services Task Force Private Sector Chairman for the American Legislative Exchange Council, an industry-funded front group that helps advance the legislative agenda of global corporations.

Read entire PR Watch article, click here

Related: Americans for Prosperity is a Koch funded front group.
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a group fronting special interests started by oil billionaire David Koch and Richard Fink (a member of the board of directors of Koch Industries). AFP has been accused of funding astroturf operations but also has been fueling the “Tea Party” efforts. Read more, click here

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