The other week I wrote about the increasing popularity that marijuana legalization enjoys in Wisconsin. In a recent poll, half of registered voters in the Badger State voiced support for allowing people to buy pot as they now can in Colorado and the state of Washington.

And yet, as the article noted, the prospect of legally buying a bag of professionally grown reefer remains a frustratingly out of reach for legalization activists in the state. The Democratic candidate for governor bluntly dismissed the idea and Republican lawmakers in the Legislature are actually pushing a bill that would give municipalities more power to crack down on pot smokers.

The imagery of a legalization rally — beards, Birkenstocks, bongos — is indeed inconsistent with conventional perceptions of political power.

But if money matters in politics, there's actually a lot of fat wallets behind reforming drug laws.

The Koch Brothers, for instance. Yes, the same Kochs whose company and nonprofit spent millions of dollars to elect Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans to the state Legislature.

The billionaire industrialists are major financial backers of a number of groups that advocate for decriminalization or legalization of drugs. Influential libertarian groups, such as the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation, are some of their biggest beneficiaries. David Koch is a trustee of the Reason Foundation and sits on the board of Cato. And Charles Koch finances annual summer internships for young activists to work at a variety of nonprofits, including the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance.

So if we have a state government run by those closely allied with the Kochs — including a governor who eagerly took a phone call from a man posing as David Koch — then why isn't the liberalization of drug policy on the horizon?

The easy answer seems to be that while the Kochs and other influential players pour money into anti-drug-war think tanks, they are not yet willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on TV ads attacking politicians who oppose drug reform.

"Considering the manner in which the Kochs deploy their resources, if it were a major goal, I think there would be more examples of actual law changes, unless I've missed seeing them," responded Gary Storck, executive director of the Madison chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, in an email. "Perhaps drug policy reform is just a bit player in their larger agenda, a way to network with folks who might have similar philosophies on non drug policy related items?"

In fact, in a public battle over control of Cato that pitted the Kochs against other leaders in the group last year, some libertarians voiced concern that issues that are not priorities to Republicans, including drug policy, would be shoved aside if the Kochs were calling the shots.

"If Charles Koch, the CEO of Koch Industries, gets his way, the independence that has allowed Cato scholars to focus on smart policies rather than electoral politics will come to an end," wrote Robert Levy, the chairman of Cato's board of directors last year.

In a blog he dedicated to the feud over control of Cato, one of the group's leaders, Joey Coon, cited drug policy as an area that the Kochs' philosophy of "market-based management," which emphasizes rewarding those who bring in profits, would not nurture.

He explains:

"Several colleagues and I have labored ... to make the case against the futile, counterproductive war on drugs. Change on that front has been agonizingly slow. But in the mid and late 1990s, states began to pass medical marijuana laws and decriminalize possession of small quantities of drugs.

"It would have been difficult to justify such a long-term commitment (with few visible signs of success in the early years) under the concept of market-based management. "

Cato and the Kochs finally reached an agreement that the organization said allowed it to maintain its independence. It and other organizations that support legalization will have to continue to gradually imprint their philosophy into the consciousness of Americans. But until we see 30-second attack ads on the subject, don't expect big change from elected officials.

Jack Craver is the Capital Times political reporter, focusing on elections, candidates and campaign finance.

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(23) comments

Migraine
Migraine

Koch's are not in favor of legalized marijuana. They are in favor of selecting from a carefully researched study groups the pivotal issue with which to swing an election so they can continue to reign power in areas un-endorsed by voters.

Marijuana does suit their need to keep the populace dim.

Walker is an unholy fraud who seeks self righteous power. Condemning drug users fuels his superiority complex.

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

A pure democracy is where the will of the people, and nothing else, runs the government.

A republic is a democracy tempered by serious protections for individual rights, so they can't be taken away by a hostile majority.

So what do you call the United States, where the will of the people ls for legal marijuana, and the right to have it has been taken away?

bdholmes
bdholmes

There...where's that stupid paper clip when I need him?

bdholmes
bdholmes

Legalizing mary jane might create some jobs their Einstein...

mollyr
mollyr

For the record I'm not a fan of Soros or Obama. I like honesty and doing what's right for our country. Walker scares me....seriously scares me. Pushed me away from the GOP.....

mollyr
mollyr

I recently watched a documentary that came to the conclusion that Bush 41 had helped conspire to kill JFK.....I don't believe that's true, but I'm sure there are some that may and they will tell you that its surely a fact.
Are there recorded phone call(s) between Soros and Obama? I'm sure if you search theb internet you'll find it.....

mollyr
mollyr

If there's proof that George Soros has a direct line to Obama, I'd like to see it. By saying "everyone does it" only shows your inability to try to defend the indefensible. I'm a Reagan republican and Walker makes me cringe....

Ego Vigilabo Vigilum
Ego Vigilabo Vigilum

mollyr;

"If there's proof that George Soros has a direct line to Obama, I'd like to see it."

Could be the marionette strings have been airbrushed out by the State?

A number of outlets have had the audacious temerity to oppose Dear Leader by refusing to print preapproved, scripted photos that are carefully released by the most transparent Administration ever.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/25/usa-today-white-house-photos-handout-newspapers_n_4338403.html

Surely they have our best interests in mind. They must; right?

Joseph_B_Starck
Joseph_B_Starck

To contribute money in support of a think tank is not the same as to agree or to be persuaded by the thinking of the tank. If Charles or David Koch have ever publicly stated a position regarding marijuana, then those statements could surely be quoted to justify the headline of Jack Craver's story.

mollyr
mollyr

Walker not a Koch brother hack? Really? If you called Walker, do youb think he'd take YOUR phone call? Wow....

Republicat
Republicat

Part of running for office consists of tapping donors, it happens on both sides. It's part of campaigning. Something you obviously know nothing about. Do you think if George Soros called Barrack Obama in an election year he would pick up the phone? Probably, and guess what Obama probably wouldn't take your call either.

Comment deleted.
Ego Vigilabo Vigilum
Ego Vigilabo Vigilum

legalizeit;

A little off topic, but what do you think Tammy Baldwin thinks about her recently-furloughed-from-MSNBC brother from another mother, Alec.

Would she, considering Alec's exemplary record of energetically putting the issue of Gay slurs in the headlines, accept campaign $ from him? Has she? And if she has, will she return it?

My guess would be no. Alec has shown genuine contrition by boldly proclaiming he didn't know "c*********g **g" was a slur at all. Said it with a straight face too; that good enough for you?

Smileyguy4
Smileyguy4

The "grown up mic-check" comment made me laugh

Republicat
Republicat

1st and foremost even if Wisconsin legalized marijuana they would be running into the same problem all the other states that have it are facing the Federal Government. When Barrack Obama, Eric Holder, and the DEA take it off of the Schedule One Drug List then you can have a real conversation about legalization. Until then the Feds will shut down any group that starts to open these shops.

2nd Scott Walker isn't the Koch Bros puppet. He can have whatever policy views that he wants. Just because you agree with someone on one issue doesn't mean you agree with them on everything.

Stay stupid Jack.

spooky tooth
spooky tooth

Scott Walker and 99% of republicans are Koch puppets, they control the money. Lesson # 1 always follow the money.

persia
persia

Marijuana laws are basically tools that tag Black people ( who can't be legally discriminated against) as felons (who can). It keeps the prison population high and keeps Black people from voting (largely Democratic). It simply is against Walker's interest to change this.

Crow Barr
Crow Barr

Plus, Persia, the prisons are becoming more "privatized" and they need "revenue generating units" in their cells, thus, Walker and keeping it illegal!

eggbert
eggbert

I'm always pleased when I seesomeone , who's been brainwashed to loathe whoever they're told to (lately the Koch brothers), manage to assemble a thought of their own. Sometimes, even a left leaner can recognize that a strawman isn't a real person. The Koch brothers are not monsters, they're just adept at speaking loudly (like a grown up Mic-check).

legalizeit
legalizeit

Well put.

Mike123
Mike123

this is really not so strange...the Koch brothers are silent partners in the development of marijuana crops because it will be a truly large cash cow, and because it keeps the voting masses docile and less likely to vote...Walker simply did not have the bucks to buy in...

nan3
nan3

Because Scooter is an all around buzz-kill, dude...

Ignatius J Reilly
Ignatius J Reilly

"Bluntly." Hehe.

spooky tooth
spooky tooth

Are you saying he's more than a one hitter?

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