While hundreds of people protested on the sidewalk, a maintenance worker with Urban Land Interests stood Thursday outside the building housing the lobbying offices of Koch Industries, Inc. A security guard stood inside.
"We're watching out for our tenants," said the maintenance worker, who declined to be identified. "He is hired by us to keep people out of our building and to protect the privacy of our tenants - not necessarily for Koch, but our tenants in general," he added, of the security guard. "We can't have people walking through who don't belong there."
Which is apparently what started happening after it was reported that Koch Companies Public Sector Inc. had opened a lobbying office at 10 E. Doty St. (the actual entrance is at 119 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.) two weeks before Scott Walker was elected governor.
When fliers went up at the Capitol Wednesday about Thursday's rally, the building's office manager alerted tenants in a memo that it might not be a good idea to schedule meetings at the office on Thursday afternoon.
Now the doors to the lobby at both entrances are closed and only tenants and their guests are allowed in the building.
David and Charles Koch, co-owners of Koch Industries, have extensive business interests in the state, including the Koch Pipeline Company, Flint Hill Resources, which distributes refined oil through pipelines and terminals and the C. Reiss Coal Company.
Their political action committee contributed $43,000 to Walker's election campaign and gave more than $1 million to the Republican Governor's Association, which in turn paid for $3.4 million in attack ads against Walker's opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
A prank call to Walker by a blogger claiming to be David Koch provided more ammunition to the claims that the Koch brothers, and one of the groups they generously fund, Americans for Prosperity, are major players in Walker's plan to end collective bargaining for state workers. On Wednesday, Americans for Prosperity began running pro-Walker ads across the state that defend the governor's plan to end collective bargaining for public workers.
In an interview posted Thursday night on National Review Online, Koch executives told political reporter Robert Costa that the Koch brothers will ‘not stop' supporting free-enterprise initiatives, even in the face of intimidation from "the Left." They also said that David Koch and Walker have never met or spoken.
"With the Left trying to intimidate the Koch brothers to back off of their support for freedom and signaling to others that this is what happens if you oppose the administration and its allies, we have no choice but to continue to fight," Richard Fink, the executive vice president of Koch Industries, told Costa. "We will not step back at all. We firmly believe that economic freedom has benefited the overwhelming majority of society, including workers, who earn higher wages when you have open and free markets. When government grows as it has with the Bush and Obama administrations, that is what destroys prosperity."
On Thursday, protesters filled both sides of Doty Street, with more than 30 police officers stationed at the curbs to keep traffic flowing at rush hour.
Jane Pedersen, one of the protesters, had traveled to Madison from Menominee three days ago with a handmade sign reading, "Walker: Bought by Koch brothers ???"
Thursday she had her poster in hand. The questions marks had been crossed through with a black marker. For her, the minor change held major significance.
"Now, it's a fact," she said, noting the prank call between Walker and blogger Ian Murphy and the new lobbying office. "There's a connection between Walker and the Koch brothers."
That bothers her. The connection between politicians and lobbyists is too great in most cases, she said, but in this case it seems extreme.
Aleia Mason was wearing a sandwich board sign made of cardboard and packing tape. She said even a week ago she got questions about her sign, which reads, "Koch Party, I want my country back." Now, she says, everyone knows who David and Charles Koch are.
"Its seems like it's reached critical mass," she says.Wisconsin WaveWisconsin WaveWisconsin Wave