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Friday, October 28, 2016

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) — the right-wing 501(c)(4) “dark money” group backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch — has singled out its latest target: Detroit, Michigan.

Specifically, the group is mobilizing opposition to the proposed settlement reached in the Detroit municipal bankruptcy case. The settlement, which is the only promising compromise after months of negotiation, now faces the wrath of the same group responsible for millions of dollars of anti-Obamacare propaganda. AFP now vows to spend millions on advertisements against the deal, and to pen threatening letters to lawmakers who vote in favor of the series of bills, which would limit the cuts that threatened over 300,000 workers’ pensions, and prevent the selling of artwork belonging to the city’s museum.

According to CNN, Michigan director of AFP Scott Hagerstrom claims the opposition stems from the deal’s resemblance to a “bailout” rather than an actual settlement.

“Detroit has behaved like this for 30 years. Politicians there won’t change their behavior if they keep getting bailouts from the hardworking taxpayers of Michigan,” Hagerstrom says, referencing Detroit’s long and well-known history of corrupt — and, as those on the right often note, primarily Democratic — rule.

Despite AFP’s opposition, state Republicans are leaning toward advancing the bills.

Republican governor Rick Snyder maintains the deal is a “settlement,” not a “bailout,” stressing: “I want to be very, very clear about that.”

Still, AFP has no plans of backing down, arguing that the “grand bargain” is unfair to the state’s residents, that its reliance on public money to achieve its goals is “very toxic…especially to out-state and Republican, conservative-leaning individuals.”

On AFP’s new website for the effort, the group assumes a “divide and conquer” approach, demanding Michigan voters “tell Lansing politicians that Detroit has gotten enough of our tax dollars.”

Because conservatives are still somewhat hesitant about the settlement, there’s a good chance that AFP could block the bills’ passage in the coming weeks.

Representative Robert VerHeulen (R) admits that he and many on the right worry that the legislation could set a negative precedent for future cities facing economic troubles, but concedes that it must still be considered. Even Snyder acknowledges the high costs, but tells AFP that “it would be more positive to get this behind us.”

The state’s Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger has also introduced a condition for the deal’s passage requiring that city workers’ unions agree to pour cash into the settlement.

Support for the deal from many of Michigan’s most powerful labor unions and retiree groups also complicates the situation, because AFP cites them as a major source of the bankruptcy in the first place, and therefore an illegitimate player in the negotiations.

With the bargain’s future already fogged by partisan fears in Michigan’s legislature — Democrats are wary of Snyder’s use of executive powers as a means of controlling Detroit’s finances — AFP has added further hurdles to the passage of the only serious legislation capable of helping and protecting Detroit’s families, workers, and even culture.

AFP’s alternatives are provisions already rejected by Michigan’s legislature: selling Detroit’s art and other assets, and ditching traditional pension plans in favor of 401(k)-type plans — even if it means risking hundreds of lawsuits against the embattled city. Though Republicans and Democrats voice different concerns over the proposed deal, members of both parties tend to agree on one thing: The AFP-backed measures are out of the question.

Photo: Ifmuth via Flickr

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  • sigrid28

    I didn’t hear AFP complaining when it came to bailing out banks that were too big to fail on Wall Street in 2007. The Koch brothers must only hate bailouts that help 300,000 desperate pensioners in Detroit, a city with a significant minority population (like others the Republican legislature of Michigan put in the hands of unelected “dictators”–I mean “city managers”). Though the Koch brothers think they deserve their inherited wealth, they think people who worked a lifetime for the city of Detroit don’t deserve anything to show for it. To many it may seem counter-intuitive that the Koch brothers would deny workers (not welfare recipients) with far fewer resources than they have even enough to get by. Apparently, the Koch brothers think that THEY are the only people who deserve to own anything. If they recognize the cognitive dissonance of their outrageous position, they are certain that their billions insulate them from the effects of any retaliation that might come their way. They are certain they can be as cruel as they want with complete impunity.

    Detroit’s art treasures are another story, though the Koch brothers’ attitude here also begins with their enormous sense of entitlement, the conviction that they are better than other people and that this is why they deserve their wealth. Like other billionaires, they may have been eager to add works to their own fine art collections, once the state of Michigan put Detroit’s art treasures up on the auction block. The current plan protects these priceless works of art as a pristine asset belonging to the citizens of Detroit. At first, the Koch brothers seem like garden variety pirates, rapacious for loot wherever it may be found. But this blatant grab after Detroit’s art works puts them in the special category of callous greed, reserved for religious fanatics that destroyed statues of Buddha in Iraq, or Latin American conquistadores melting down cultural icons that are lost forever, or Nazis burying precious works identified with Western Culture where they might never have been found. This move by the Koch brothers, hiding behind AFP, puts even piracy to shame, because they themselves have no need whatsoever for what they are attempting to steal. They think, if I do not like people who have some thing they want and need, I have the right to make them miserable by taking it from them, even though I don’t need it or want it, because I am more powerful and therefore more important than they are. The Koch brothers simply have no respect for people from whom they intend to steal–the people to whom these art works and these pensions rightfully belong.

  • charleo1

    So, exactly which American’s prosperity, are Americans For Prosperity for? I’m sure they are one of the many egalitarian grass roots organizations, that just cropped up organically, as a result of a myriad of economic threats facing Middle Class American’s salaries, benefits, and pensions, in the wake of the great recession. Oh, these Americans for Prosperity, are a dark money group, labeling themselves as Conservative. And, launched to make sure Charles, and David Koch, and other financially endangered billionaires, who’s personal fortunes have only tripled in size, since the bank bailout, and the anti business Socialist cabal, seized power in the hated Halls of Congress. By methods still being investigated furiously, by numerous House Committees, even as we speak. Now why would AFP care how Detroit was brought back to solvency? Well, it’s the taxpayer’s money AFP says it’s concerned about. And the awful precedent set when Michiganders money is used to save a major city in the State of Michigan. It just don’t seem right to billionaires who could scoop up millions of dollars worth of public assets for pennies on the dollar, screw hundreds of hated public sector workers out of their pensions, and save the hard working taxpayers of Michigan all that money. Where do we find such civic minded citizens? And where do we send them, once we find them?

    • Daniel Jones

      1) The Koch Bros., at everyone the expense of else.

  • tdm3624

    Please go away Koch brothers. Sure, Detroit is and has been a problem for us in Michigan for a while but we can handle it ourselves without any outside influence.