Dear Koch Brothers,
My name is Pat and I’m a teacher in Iowa. I wanted to drop you guys a quick note and ask a favor of you. Can you guys stay out of my state this year? I don’t mean you can’t make a personal visit. I’d love to invite you and yours to come and hang out here. Musician David Byrne wrote a great piece about the appeal of my hometown of Des Moines (http://davidbyrne.com/journal/des-moines). There’s a growing Arts scene, more and more fantastic restaurants opening all the time, and we have become a hot new destination for young professionals to raise their families. While I would love to have you spend some of your billions of dollars actually spending some time in Iowa, what I am asking is that you stay out of Iowa politics.
Actually, I’m a little late in this request. Last year you successfully influenced Iowa’s Republican controlled statehouse to destroy collective bargaining in Iowa (https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/16/amid-marathon-debate-iowa-legislature-barrels-towards-passage-collective-bargaining-bill/97984338/). The funny thing is that Iowa’s Republican legislators don’t like to give you guys credit. Although you contribute tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans in Iowa, they sure don’t like to talk about you. While they deny that you fellows were the source of the legislation (that was eerily similar to the legislation you pushed through in Wisconsin a few years ago), when our former governor signed the bill there was only one guy present for the bill signing, Drew Klein from Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by…wait for it…you guys.
So, why don’t I want you guys monkeying around in Iowa politics? Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, and I say this with peace and love, the legislation you promote stinks. How do I know it stinks? Well, I’ve been watching what you guys are up to in Kansas and your policies have pretty much wrecked their economy (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/06/kansas-disastrous-experiment-in-trickle-down-economics-is-finally-over/). Policies enacted by Kansas Republicans that you put into office and that you promoted have left your state struggling to support schools, public safety, social services, highways, health care, and much more. The “Kansas Experiment”, which has your fingerprints all over it, has been a disaster. To be honest, Iowans can do better without your help.
While I am sure you will try in implement your failed trickle-down economic policies in Iowa, it seems obvious that you also hope to influence Iowa legislators to implement school vouchers in our state. Your people like to call them Educational Savings Accounts, but whatever you call them, they divert money from public schools to private schools and are particularly harmful to rural school districts. The notion that “choice” will result in better learning is rooted in a narrative that public schools are failing. Iowa is a state that is fiercely proud of our schools. Rather than simply pump dark money into the pockets of our state legislators, I invite you to come to Iowa and talk to Iowans about our schools. We are proud of our schools and in an era when bad tax legislation has led to already limited resources, now is not that time to institute policies that take money away from the schools that open their doors to every student in order to benefit schools that can pick and choose their student body and seek to make a profit.
Lastly, I want you guys to stay out of Iowa politics because you seem to like to operate under a cloak of darkness. In 2016 no Iowa Republican candidate ran on a platform that advocated for dismantling collective bargaining in our state, and yet over the course of three days last year, late in the evening, that’s what happened. There are no public opinion polls that show that Iowans are demanding school vouchers or for-profit charter schools to open in Iowa, but we all know that our legislators are going to get some marching orders in the back rooms of the Iowa Capitol to put that legislation on the floor. I also know that our Republican legislators won’t dare say the words “Koch Brothers” throughout the whole process, but amazingly at the next bill signing for one of these bills there will be a person who collects a Koch Brothers check smiling with the governor.
I promise that it’s nothing personal Chuck and Dave. I just believe that we Iowans can take care of ourselves. There was an era in Iowa politics where moderates like Republican Governor Robert Ray were able to reach across party lines and keep our economy healthy without putting our public schools, social services, or our environment at risk. It seems obvious to me that your influence isn’t bringing us any closer to that era. Iowans can do better than what you have done to our friends in Kansas (and Wisconsin, and Arizona, and Colorado, and…well, you get the idea).