We’ve all been justifiably focused on the clamor in the streets and government buildings of Madison, and have thus missed something fascinating in the fine print of the bill that Governor Walker is so eager to have passed. Richard Eskow explains it in his excellent article, “The War Against The Republic: The Battle Of Madison” (from the Campaign for America’s Future website):
At the risk of sounding disagreeable, it’s hard to find an “honest difference of opinion” on ideology that explains a paragraph like this one in Gov. Walker’s new bill, spotted by my eagle-eyed pal Mike Konczal: “… the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount … no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant …”
This allows the governor to bypass regulators and legislators and sell the state’s power plants, built with millions in taxpayer money to anybody he likes. This paragraph goes on to say that ” any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project.” The governor can give these plants away if he wants, and nobody can stop him.
Cui bono? Who could possibly benefit from giving the governor the ability to sell the state’s “heating, cooling, and power plants” (there are 32 of them), or “contract with a private entity” to operate them, without a bid process or any regulatory oversight?
Let’s see now: Wisconsin has nearly one million natural gas customers, so it would presumably be a company that “provides consulting, engineering, design, procurement, fabrication and construction services for the natural gas and gas processing industries worldwide” and has “been the general contractor on some of the largest natural gas plants built in the U.S.” And since there are a number of coal-fired plants on the state’s list, our corporation would need to be a “leading supplier of coal and related products typically used in industrial applications or to generate electricity.”
Those quotes were taken from the website of Koch Industries, the company whose owners are bankrolling a little-known group that’s behind initiatives like Walker’s budget proposal.
Of course, the winning candidate doesn’t have to be Koch Industries. Kris Broughton at BigThink found anothe candidate. ThinkEnergy says it “eliminates the waste of energy and money in facilities through a blend of Supply-Side and Demand-Side energy management measures,” and they’ve placed a hiring ad that reads “Energy client is looking for experienced Plant Managers for multiple power plants located in Wisconsin.”
The real issue isn’t whether Koch Industries gets the deal to operate Wisconsin’s power plants. Somebody will – and the assets built by Wisconsin taxpayers (including the public employees now under assault) will undoubtedly be given to the private sector at very favorable rates. It will be one more step in the Great American Giveaway — the seizure of public resources by the private sector.