From this morning’s Wisconsin State Journal story on the Republican effort to reduce taxes in Wisconsin’s biennial budget (Paul Soglin has more).
Bill McCoshen, a lobbyist and former Commerce secretary under Gov. Tommy Thompson, said the [Republican controlled] Assembly could be forced into making it harder for the needy to qualify for Medicaid health coverage or not increasing state money to schools.
You’ve got to love the language: “forced.” Yep, the Republicans don’t want to reduce the level of school aid below the already inadequate formula or take healthcare away from the neediest, they are being “forced” to. Who is doing the forcing? McCoshen isn’t saying, but two answers suggest themselves. Either it is the Republican themselves, which brings to mind the image of Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles holding a gun to his own head and threatening to kill himself.
Or is it Republican lobbyists and strategists, like Bill McCoshen, and the donors they represent who are doing the “forcing”?
A closer look at McCoshen’s ties gives some clues as to why he might want to obscure the “forces” who value tax reductions more than providing essential state services. His current lobbying client list is here but at this point in the session it lacks the dollars and hours details. The list from the last session is much the same and includes links to that information. Previous sessions can be accessed here. Interestingly, the 2003 reports do not list McCoshen’s efforts on behalf of the Dairy Business Association to secure passage of Assembly Bill 466 and thereby further limit the taxing power of local entities, including school boards. Reduce state taxes, reduce local taxes, reduce them both, and don’t worry about the consequences for schools or those needing healthcare.
Also of interest in understanding how McCoshen does business and whose interests he looks after (hint, it isn’t the children of Wisconsin and those in need of healthcare) are the $46.5 million his firm was to “earn” lobbying for Dennis Troha’s failed, tainted casino bid, but that’s another story; this is about public school funding.
One McCoshen Client, is K12 Inc., a firm specializing in homeschooling and distance learning software (founded by William Bennett, who resigned after his “abort every black baby” to reduce crime remarks, but not before his use of influence to to gain profits from the company’s relationship to an Arkansas virtual charter school via a misapplied Education Department grant subsidizing homeschoolers were raised). In Wisconsin McCoshen, on K12’s behalf to the tune of over $160,000, sought an expansion of and easing of rules for virtual charter schools, while increasing state fiscal obligations.
Wal-Mart is on the list of McCoshen’s clients. See here for their contributions to education.
McCoshen’s firm also collected over $10,000 by consulting on the recent Janesville school referendum campaign. Small change in McCoshen’s world, but small change that depends on the continued existence of a state finance system that requires referenda to meet the needs of the state’s students.
What I see are new twists on the “starve the beast” game that the GOP has played for years. The idea is to deny the schools the money they need to do their job and then point out how they are failing to do their job in order to further defund them or eliminate public education altogether. The new twists involve deviating from the anti-tax stance when there are profits to be made, either via charter schools or by consulting with referenda campaigns.
May the force desert McCoshen and the Assembly Republicans.
(revised 6:13 PM, 6-15-07)
Thomas J. Mertz