Koch brothers quietly open lobbying office in downtown Madison
The billionaire brothers whose political action committee gave Gov. Scott Walker $43,000 and helped fund a multi-million-dollar attack ad campaign against his opponent during the 2010 gubernatorial election have quietly opened a lobbying office in Madison just off the Capitol Square.
Charles and David Koch, who co-own Koch Industries Inc. and whose combined worth is estimated at $43 billion, have been recently tied by many media outlets to Walker’s push to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers. The two have long backed conservative causes and groups including Americans for Prosperity, which organized the tea party rally Saturday in support of Walker’s plan to strip public workers of collective bargaining rights and recently launched the Stand with Scott Walker website.
Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, acknowledged in a New York Times story Tuesday that he had encouraged Walker even before the election to mount a showdown with labor groups.
Koch Industries, which owns Georgia-Pacific Corp. and the Koch Pipeline Co., operates a coal company and toilet paper factory in Wisconsin as well as gasoline supply terminals.
The expanded lobbying effort by the Koch brothers in Wisconsin raises questions for some in particular because of a little discussed provision in Walker’s repair bill that would allow Koch Industries and other private companies to purchase state-owned power plants in no-bid contracts.
“It’s curious that the Kochs have apparently expanded their lobbying presence just as Walker was sworn into office and immediately before a budget was unveiled that would allow the executive branch unilateral power to sell off public utilities in this state in no-bid contracts,” says Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, a watchdog group that focuses on corporate power.
Koch Companies Public Sector LLC occupies a seventh-floor suite at 10 E. Doty St., one block off the Capitol Square. According to a tenant who requested anonymity, the lobbying group moved in two weeks before Walker was elected governor on November 2. When contacted for confirmation, Jeffrey Schoepke, the company’s regional manager, said through a receptionist that he could not answer any questions and would have to forward them to other company officials.
According to the Government Accountability Board’s website, the firm has seven lobbyists who “represent various Koch Industries Inc. companies on public affairs matters, including Flint Hills Resources, LP, an energy purchaser and refiner & transporter of petroleum and Georgia-Pacific, LLC a manufacturer of paper, wood products and building materials.” The group’s lobbying interests are listed as “the environment, energy, taxation, business, policy and other areas affecting Koch Industries, Inc. companies.”
The group has had a lobbying presence in the state before, with four contracted lobbyists from Hamilton Consulting, located in a separate office at 10 E. Doty St., billing just over $97,000 for services during the 2009-11 legislative session, according to the GAB. Three of these lobbyists — Amy Boyer, Andrew Engel and Robert Fassbender — continue to be listed as lobbyists for the firm along with Ray Carey, Jason Childress, Kathleen Walby and Schoepke.
The lobbyists for Koch Companies Public Sector registered with the state on January 5, two days after Walker’s inauguration.