Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Campus speech" bill just more anti-UW crap from Vos, Kochs and Bradleys

One of the big stories up at the Capitol today was a public hearing for a GOP bill intended to protect right-wing speakers from being called out on their bullshit harassed by people with opposing viewpoints.
Assembly bill 299, which is based on model legislation from the conservative Goldwater Institute, would require the UW System Board of Regents to draft a policy committing campuses to the free and open exchange of ideas. It has 33 co-sponsors in the Assembly and Senate, all of them Republicans.

Along with its restrictions on disruptive protests, another source of controversy in the bill is its requirement that any student twice found responsible for interfering with the First Amendment rights of others receive a semester-long suspension at minimum. It would also mandate that UW "strive to remain neutral" as an institution on political controversies.
And Stanley Kurtz from the Goldwater Institute flew all the way from Phoenix to be one of the lead speakers in favor of this absurd “campus speech” bill was (feel free to read the model “legislative proposal” here.)

Now let’s go back to the handy database from Sunday’s Journal-Sentinel expose on the anti-public education Bradley Foundation.

Bradley Foundation funding, 2011-2016
Goldwater Institute $675,000

With that in mind, One Wisconsin Now used the state's open records law to connect the dots back to the WisGOP State Legislature. One Wisconsin Now pointed out that Assembly Speaker and ALEC cabin boy Robbin’ Vos worked with the Goldwater Institute to try to put this anti-UW bill together.
According to an email the Vos office requested a bill be “drafted as is stated in the attachment.” The “Campus Free Speech Act” was produced by the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona based think tank whose operations are underwritten by some of the largest right wing funders including the Bradley, Koch and Walton foundations.

A Vos staffer also added a provision requiring a policy to sanction students for engaging in protests judged to be “indecent, profane or boisterous,” despite concerns raised by the drafting attorney that the language was problematic due to the terms being broad and ambiguous.

In addition to the threats to students, the bill includes a provision requiring institutions to remain “neutral on public policy controversies” that could restrict faculty from doing research or commenting on public policy issues facing the state and the nation.
Guess we know why Vos wanted to get gut the state’s open records law and keep individuals from being able to see information on drafting records, don’t we?

This is far from the first time Robbin’ Vos has wanted to limit and control what UW campuses could teach and discover. Remember this beauty from 2014, where Vos he wanted to (ab)use his power as Assembly Speaker to adjust funding to the UW based on its curriculum?
“Of course I want research, but I want to have research done in a way that focuses on growing our economy, not on ancient mating habits of whatever,” said Vos. “So we want to try to have priorities that are focused on growing our economy.”
Also note that the Bradley Foundation database includes donations of $777,000 to UW-Milwaukee and $700,000 to UW-Madison, and I have to wonder if that helps to explain why right-wing hacks like Noah (Under Scott Walker, Wisconsin Has Prospered) Williams can get appointments courtesy of the Juli Plant Grainger Institute at the UW-Madison College of Economics. (she was the wife of the longtime CEO at W.W. Grainger).

Getting clowns like Williams onto campus at a school like UW is a way to legitimize their right-wing crap “research” and opinions (Urban Milwaukee’s Bruce Thompson is the latest to shred Williams’ absurd paper that tried to justify Wisconsin’s corporate tax giveaway), and also serves to muddy the waters to the average non-academic, preventing them from having a clear idea about what the actual facts and findings are, and making them more susceptible to right-wing GOPper-ganda.

Now let’s take a look at what happened at UW-Stout, where the campus got a big gift this week from an interesting source.
University of Wisconsin-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer is defending a recent high-dollar donation from the Charles Koch Foundation.

Koch — a billionaire who often donates to Republican political candidates and libertarian causes — is known, along with his brother David, for financing conservative causes across the country.

The foundation awarded an initial grant totaling $425,000, which the school is using to create The Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation. In a press release Tuesday, UW-Stout described the center, which will host various speakers, as a place to facilitate "civil and rational debate" on civil liberties issues. (sound familiar?)

According to the university, the grant is renewable for up to three years, bringing the potential total amount awarded over that period to $1.7 million.
Meyer claims the money is coming with “no strings attached,” but let’s be real. If a grant is renewable and is for that much money, the campus officials will listen to what the Koch Foundation has to say about what that program does and who will or will not be paid through that grant.

Oh, hey! What a coincidence! The Kochs' biggest front group likes this "protect right-wing snowflakes on campus" bill!

Let me also go back 4 years to this article from Dark Money author Jane Mayer, where the Kochs expressed their displeasure at how they were portrayed in PBS’s documentary “Park Avenue.” Soon after, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal planned to show a Wisconsin-centered film named Citizen Koch on PBS, until a certain PBS benefactor stepped up to say “NO.”
David Koch is a major philanthropist, contributing to cultural and medical institutions that include Lincoln Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital. In the nineteen-eighties, he began expanding his charitable contributions to the media, donating twenty-three million dollars to public television over the years. In 1997, he began serving as a trustee of Boston’s public-broadcasting operation, WGBH, and in 2006 he joined the board of New York’s public-television outlet, WNET. Recent news reports have suggested that the Koch brothers are considering buying eight daily newspapers owned by the Tribune Company, one of the country’s largest media empires, raising concerns that its publications—which include the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times—might slant news coverage to serve the interests of their new owners, either through executive mandates or through self-censorship. Clarence Page, a liberal Tribune columnist, recently said that the Kochs appeared intent on using a media company “as a vehicle for their political voice.”…

Claire Aguilar, then the vice-president of programming at ITVS, was similarly encouraging after watching a two-and-a-half-hour rough cut bearing the title “Citizen Koch.” She sent the filmmakers an e-mail that said, “Great rough cut—thank you for sharing it.” She said that she wasn’t crazy about the new title, but she wasn’t adamantly opposed to it, either.

A television producer knowledgeable about ITVS said that “there had been no concern” until the Gibney documentary aired, and that few executives there had watched the rough cut. Suddenly, many ITVS officials seemed desperate to see it. Lessin and Deal were told to send a password-protected video link of the unfinished film to ITVS. Within days, the video had been played almost thirty times. “It was a real problem, because of ‘Park Avenue,’ ” a public-television official aware of the situation said. “Because of the whole thing with the Koch brothers, ITVS knew WNET would never air it. Never.”…

Lessin and Deal took notes on their phone conversations with ITVS officials, which show that they were pushed to drop the Koch name from the title and to place less emphasis on the brothers’ political influence. On December 7th, the filmmakers’ notes indicate, Lois Vossen, the vice-president and senior series producer at ITVS, warned Lessin and Deal that the title “Citizen Koch” was “extraordinarily problematic.” Vossen’s job is to select films for “Independent Lens” and then pitch the programs to PBS. She told Lessin and Deal that the new title would make it exceedingly hard for her to champion the film at PBS, saying, “I would say I feel as though I would have both hands tied behind my back, and probably duct tape over my mouth.” (Vossen, reached for comment, said that she was just getting off a plane and would try to call back. She never did.)
This hits at the two-pronged goal of these right-wing attempts to shape debate at large public research schools like the UW. One is to be able to buy influence on campus and try to have dishonest, slanted and substandard research and writings be given equal credence to legitimate thought and research. Just because someone has the right to an opinion, it doesn’t mean that those opinions are of equal value or legitimacy, but these “campus speech” bills try to make it so, by muzzling UW administration and basically serving as an affirmative action program for right-wingers where they get spots they may not have earned, and are sheltered from the criticism they deserve.

The other part of this “campus speech” initiative is political. Right-wing speakers and academics can play victim and claim their voices are being suppressed to try to play up resentment to rube voters, which can be used as an AM radio/Facebook distraction from the real screwjobs that are being handed out by right-wing politicians. Then those less-educated, misinformed people might vote GOP to “show those lib’rul elitists,” which allows GOP politicians can continue with failed, regressive legislation that slants the field more for the rich benefactors, and less for the taxpaying everyday public.

Make no mistake, there is no legitimate "free speech" or campus safety concern with the BS bill that got a hearing today. It is nothing more than RW oligarchs trying to hurt the UW System because they fear what a well-informed, fact-filled society would do if enough people found out what they were really up to. As usual, just FOLOW THE DAMN MONEY.


  1. Though aspects like exactly what constitutes “indecent, profane or boisterous,” should be challenged in court, I think we're screwed on this one and will have to wait for a significant change in representation to rectify it.

    In the main, I agree with you, but some of the campus clashes that have gone on recently have lent credence to the notion that right leaning voices are being suppressed. In that way, I think protesters have led into their trump suit and laid the groundwork for this sort of bullshit bill.

    The focus needs to change from defeating people like Milo and Coulter as individuals to a thorough defeat of their ideology. Fighting against their appearances only strengthens their hand.

    Protest. Mock. Explain. Write. Put on the pink bunny costumes. Show people these RW tools are badly misguided and misguiding. We can win the argument, but if we allow them to goad us into behavior that boosts their cred, we're just being suckers.

  2. Thanks Jake for an informative post on the cancerous assault all this money has on our democracy and economic well-being. UnKochMyCampus recently put out a report on this "Free-Speech" initiative (, which portrays Milo Yiannopoulos as their conservative martyr.

    Leah Vukmir apparently has a companion Senate bill, which Kurtz complains is too watered-down compared with the Goldwater model, which he helped write.

    Stanley Kurtz is the latest conservative star paid for by the likes of the Bradleys and Kochs. Lewis Powell was the germ of it. Bradley paid for Charles Murray's "The Bell Curve," as well as Dinesh D'Souza's "Illiberal Education," which started the culture war on "political correctness" (

  3. Good points from both of you, and for the UnKoch My Campus link. I think this effort by outside oligarchs to co-opt the UW explains why there has to be adequate TAXPAYER FUNDING of the schools, so they can be independent of big-donor pressure. Which is a big reason why WisGOP doesn't like funding research and the UW

    1. And as Jeff indicates, these wingnut welfare cases like Shapiro and Coulter are playing a game, trying to bait "liberal college students" to try to gain support through resentment. They should be mocked and ignored, and we should instead draw attention to the Koch/Bradley front groups that are paying them to speak to Young Fascists for Freedum or whatever RW groups call themselves today.

      Not that they don't deserve to be smashed in the face, but I think mockery and demanding that universities to not lower theor standards by inviting unqualified RW speakers for "balance" is the way to go.

      Plus, it shows that it's REPUBLICANS who are the real supporters of quotas. Which is exactly what this bill wants to do