Image by Jem Sullivan
The best political party in America is neither Democratic nor Republican. By far, the best political party is a real party named “Fighting Bob Fest.”
It’s a daylong, outdoor political festival run by a coalition of Wisconsin progressives who believe in putting the party back in politics. Held in Madison every September, Fighting Bob Fest is like a state fair of politics, featuring give-’em-hell speechifying, hot populist issues, terrific edibles and great local beers, lively music, dozens of activist booths, games, political humor, and . . . well, fun!
The idea behind Fighting Bob Fest is to have a political event that people actually want to attend. The festival, sponsored by The Progressive and The Capital Times, is admission-free, run by and for regular people, funded largely each year by passing the bucket.
Fighting Bob Fest is named for Robert M. La Follette, the founder of The Progressive and a truly great U.S. Senator who was renowned for battling the corruption of American politics. In fact, when he was Wisconsin’s governor a century ago, La Follette passed a law banning corporations from making donations to political candidates—a law that is still in effect.
However, corporate interests today have learned to use front groups to bypass the ban and dump millions of dollars into supporting their chosen candidates—including Wisconsin’s current governor, Scott Walker.
Elected in 2010, Walker became so unpopular that he faced a recall election in 2012. Nearly a million people signed petitions to force this election. Yet Walker seemed to rise in front of our very eyes, magically lifting himself above the public’s anger to avoid defeat. How’d he do that?
As reported by The Guardian newspaper, some 1,500 pages of secret emails, court testimony, and financial records were recently uncovered, revealing that Walker had a hidden lifeline of corporate and special-interest cash hoisting him up. Despite a Wisconsin law specifically prohibiting corporations from funding political candidates, millions of those banned dollars were raised by Walker to support his own campaign and those of other targeted Republicans in the state legislature. (See “Smoking Gun,” page 12.)
The trick was that the corporate checks were sent to supposedly independent political outfits that, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ridiculous Citizens United decision, are allowed to take unlimited campaign funds without disclosing the names of the corporate donors—provided that the independent groups do not in any way coordinate their electoral efforts with the campaigns of the candidates they want to elect.
Even if obeyed, this farcical rule essentially sanctions organized corporate corruption, but Walker & Company didn’t even try to obey it. Rather, the governor asked everyone from the Koch brothers to Donnie Trump to funnel checks to the “independent” political groups backing him. He wrote personal thank-you notes to the donors, and even had his media strategist handle the ads for both his campaign and the groups.
Scott Walker, his front groups, and his corporate donors aren’t a magic act—they’re debauched thieves, stealing our democracy to impose their plutocracy on us. They’re mocking the law and the people. That’s why it’s important that us “mockees” come together for events like Fighting Bob Fest, to reaffirm our values and recommit to stopping people like Scott Walker. w
Jim Hightower produces The Hightower Lowdown newsletter and is the author, with Susan DeMarco, of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow.