Pennsylvania State Senator Scott Wagner is preparing to bring the conservative takeovers of Wisconsin and Michigan to Pennsylvania by hiring a campaign chair that has connections to Betsy and Dick DeVos dark money. The Post Gazette reports that Senator Wagner has hired John Kennedy from the Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania as chair for the “Scott Wagner for Governor” committee.
The Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania has been influential in getting anti-tax, anti-union and anti-education conservatives elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly since 2010. In 2010, the group ran 12 candidates and 9 of the candidates won. Six of those who won decided not to take a defined benefits pension plan. They include Representatives Justin Simmons, Stephen Bloom, George Dunbar, Rick Saccone, Dan Truitt (no longer in the House) and Senator Mike Folmer. CAP has also been effective in forcing moderate Republicans into early retirement by running primary candidates who are more conservative. In 2014, CAP took credit for former House Speaker Sam Smith’s retirement after the former speaker was challenged in a primary.
The Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania is not a part of the Koch Brother’s State Policy Network, but they are aligned with the Dark Money forces that operates within that network of billionaires. The organization’s key legislative priorities include making Pennsylvania a “right to work” state, going after public pensions and privatizing public education via charter schools and school vouchers. A 2014 report published by the Center for Media and Democracy examining the “corporate takeover of Pennsylvania schools” shows that CAP received 70 percent of its 2011-2012 funding from Students First. Students First gave CAP $525,000 in 2011 and 2012 and then gave CAP $265,000 in 2014 and $300,000 in 2016. Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania has received a total of $1.09 million from Students First since 2011.
In 2012, Philadelphia City Paper journalist Daniel Denvir reported that Students First was funded by three Pennsylvania hedge fund managers from the Susquehanna International Group and the American Federation of Children, an organization funded by Donald Trump’s Department of Education Secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos. Sourcewatch reports that the American Federation of Children spent $500,000 defending Wisconsin Senate Republicans during the 2011 recall and spent an additional $345,000 the following year on 3 Senators and 6 Representatives. Then in Michigan in 2012 Dick DeVos gave $1.75 million to an organization that $23 million on a campaign to pass right to work legislation.
The rust belt states where Betsy and Dick DeVos’ money has had the most influence were once strongholds for organized labor and Democrats. Both of these states were influential in the modern labor movement. Madison, Wisconsin was the birthplace of public sector unionism in the late 1950’s, and Flint, Michigan saw the formation of the United Auto Workers union via sit down strikes in 1936 and 1937. Over the past six years, both of these states have had their legislatures and governor’s mansions overran by conservatives, and they were quickly turned into right-to-work states. Now, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have become Republican strongholds that helped elect Donald Trump to office.
We are only twenty-two months away from the 2018 election, but the Pennsylvania governor’s race is going to be one of the most important political stories across the country. State Senator Scott Wagner may possibly be one of the most dangerous Republicans running for higher office across the country, and he is getting ready to tap into some serious dark money. Right now, Governor Tom Wolf is all that stands between Senator Scott Wagner and a General Assembly that is primed to turn the state into a Wisconsin or Michigan.