The conspiracy theories run deep at Think Progress when it comes to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Koch Industries.
The latest post by Lee Fang, the designated Koch investigator at Think Progress, attempts to bring David Prosser into the conspiracy as well, by claiming that recent environmental regulations and court rulings are payback to Koch for supporting Walker’s fight with the unions and Prosser’s campaign.
The problem is, as with so much of what Fang writes, the conclusions are not supported by the evidence Fang cites or other publicly available information.
Fang’s post is titled Walker And Prosser Crushed Regulations On Koch Industry’s Phosphorus Pollution In Wisconsin (italics mine):
Shortly after helping to elect Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Koch Industries opened a new lobbying office in Madison near the state capitol. However, little has been disclosed about the Koch lobbying agenda in Madison. The New York Times reported that Koch political operatives privately pressured Walker to crush public employee unions. But Walker’s major payback to Koch relates to environmental deregulation.
ThinkProgress has learned that the Walker administration, along with state Supreme Court judge David Prosser, has quietly worked to allow Koch’s many Georgia Pacific paper plants to pollute Wisconsin by pouring thousands of pounds of phosphorus into the water.
Fang goes on to cite three examples, which I will address one at a time.
First, Fang writes (bold in original, italics mine):
Rewriting Environmental Regulations For Koch: Last year, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board called for strict numeric limits on phosphorus pollution. The regulations, which were supposed to be implemented in January, were delayed by Walker’s administration. Hidden inside his infamous budget bill passed in March, Walker then inserted a provision to revise and reduce the phosphorus limits proposed by the Natural Resources Board. Walker’s budget bill was rushed through the legislative process without public hearings.
The link in Fang’s paragraph goes to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article which notes that the regulations were proposed last summer, and that Walker campaigned on the issue last fall, “[d]uring the gubernatorial campaign, he cited phosphorus regulations as a prime example of overreach by the DNR.” Whatever one thinks about the regulations (and if you read the Journal Sentinel article you will see that Walker merely wanted to keep regulations consistent with surrounding states), there was nothing “quiet” about Walker’s position and the voters knew of that position at the time of the election. Moreover, there certainly was no connection to recent events, as Walker laid out his position prior to the election.
Next, Fang tries to tie Prosser to the conspiracy by claiming that Prosser was influenced in a recent Supreme Court ruling which went against environmental groups (bold in original, italics mine):
Ruling In Favor Of Koch And Other Polluters: In March, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, with Justice David Prosser voting with the majority, overturned the lower court decision allowing a public challenge to the permit giving Koch’s Georgia Pacific plants more leeway in dumping phosphorus into waterways.
Fang does not properly describe the case. The link in Fang’s paragraph makes clear that the ruling was not as to substantive pollution standards, but what type of procedures had to be followed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The only defendant in the case was the DNR; Georgia-Pacific merely filed an amicus brief in support of DNR. Moreover, the case is available at the Supreme Court website, and in fact the court was not split on liberal/conservative lines. Five of the seven justices voted the way Prosser voted, and guess who was the lawyer arguing for the state against the environmental groups; none other than JoAnne Kloppenburg. Hey, maybe she’s in on the conspiracy too.
Last, Fang asserts that Walker is delaying new regulations to help Georgia-Pacific (bold in original, italics mine):
Delaying Environmental Regulations For Koch: Earlier this month, the Walker administration announced a two year delay of all phosphorus regulations passed last year. Not only has Walker’s administration called for reduced phosphorus dumping rules, they now have made it clear that no rules will be implemented until 2013.
Once again, Fang has misrepresented what is happening. As the link in the paragraph makes clear, the delay in implementation took place only because Walker “has abandoned plans to scale back Wisconsin’s new phosphorus pollution limits, opting instead to delay putting them in effect for two years.” So Walker recently agreed to implement the rules against which he campaigned, addressed in the first paragraph above and which Fang supports, but merely delayed the new regulations. This change by Walker actually works against Georgia-Pacific because while Walker campaigned against the new regulations completely, he now is willling to implement them. Thus, the conclusion that Walker was influenced by Koch’s support is contrary to what actually happened.
As John Hinderaker has found when examining the details of Fang’s conspiracy theories, the theories do not hold up to scrutiny, but they do make good headlines; misleading accusations contradicted by the evidence relied upon in the body of the article, which then become anti-Koch talking points at other left-wing blogs.
Here, Fang disingenuously has created another unsubstantiated talking point purporting to show Koch influence over Walker, and now Prosser too. Not only were the allegations wrong, the notion of some sort of “quiet” conspiracy is debunked by the fact that everything took place in public, and was reported on by the press and in published cases.
The false allegations are so easy to make, but debunking them takes time. That’s the way it works.
[Note to Eric Boehlert - if you are proofreading this post, please go easy on my speling, it's been a long day.]