The latest policy announcement from the Republican candidate’s faltering campaign has been pushed by the corporate lobbyists since at least 1998
Six weeks ago, the Guardian asked whether Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, could become the first Alec president of the United States – a reference to the controversial corporate lobbying network with which he has close ties.
Six weeks is a long time in politics – particularly with Donald Trump on the scene. Walker’s presidential star, which was ascendant in July, is now barely flickering. In the latest tracking polls he came in a miserable seventh place, with 5% of probable Republican voters’ support to Trump’s 30%.
In an attempt to kickstart his flagging campaign, Walker, who made his name nationally by taking on Wisconsin’s public sector unions , has come up with a new union-bashing ruse. In a speech on Thursday at the alma mater of his hero Ronald Reagan, Eureka College in Illinois, he pledged to destroy the political activities of federal employee unions by blocking their political funding.
Vowing to “wreak havoc on Washington” – his new campaign mantra – Walker said that on his first day in the White House he would force the unions to disclose how much of their dues they were spending on political activities.
He would also put an end to the federal government practice of holding back a portion of union dues from workers’ paychecks for that purpose.
An interesting though largely overlooked feature of Walker’s bid for survival is that it is not new at all. In fact, the idea of hitting public unions by cutting off their political funding has been promoted by none other than the American Legislative Exchange Council, Alec, since at least 1998 .
In that year, Alec released the Paycheck Protection Act as a model bill that it began disseminating among Republican-controlled state legislatures.
In subsequent years, it has pushed similar legislation under slightly different titles – Public Employee Paycheck Protection Act, Public Employer Payroll Deduction Policy Act – in each case seeking to push back the political influence of public unions by cutting off their supplies of political cash.
Brendan Fischer of the Center for Media and Democracy, which monitors Alec, said the legislation was billed as protecting workers’ freedom.
“But really it is about defunding unions and tilting the playing field in favour of corporate interests like Koch Industries, the energy empire of the Koch brothers who are among Alec’s biggest funders,” he said.
That the Wisconsin governor should in a time of trouble reach out for a longstanding Alec bill, and repackage it to sit as top priority of a Scott Walker presidency, further underlines his fondness for the lobbying network. Whether it will be enough to revive his sinking fortunes, time will tell.
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