Rachel Maddow: Koch-Affiliated Group Pushes Welfare Drug Tests


RACHEL MADDOW: The Florida Foundation for Government Accountability, this Koch brothers-affiliated group that ran the Alaska "don't enroll" campaign, and then sent its experts traveling around not just to Florida but to Oklahoma and Idaho and Mississippi and New Hampshire and Virginia, telling all those state governments to make it as hard as possible for people to get health insurance in their states -- that group has also now just turned up as a loser in another big political fight in Florida.

Now, if you want to know what these Koch brothers-affiliated state groups are working on, other than telling people not to get health insurance, in Florida they, at least, have been promoting forced drug tests for people who are on welfare. Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott loved this idea when he first ran for Florida governor in 2010. After he signed it into law in 2011, the Koch brothers-connected Florida group helped champion and defend this policy as well worth the money. That law ultimately led the state of Florida to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, proving that, as it turns out, welfare recipients appear to use drugs at roughly one-fourth the rate of the general population.

Florida's "drug test to the poor" bill was initially proposed as a way that the state would save tons of money, but it ended up being a boondoggle, a hugely expensive way to discover almost no illegal drug use. And a series of court rulings has now found it to be wildly unconstitutional. A few months after the program was first implemented, a federal court ruling blocked it, and the court ruling, the judge in the court ruling went out of her way to basically laugh at the state for having cited one particular Florida think tank as their evidence for to why the law was such a good idea. Look at this, this is from the ruling. You almost never see anything this blunt in a court order. "The state offers, as evidence of the cost savings, a pamphlet from the Foundation for Government Accountability...the data contained in the pamphlet is not competent expert opinion nor is it offered as such, nor could it be reasonably be construed as such."

That's the Koch brothers group that has been promoting this idea, right? The same Koch brothers group that has been telling people not to get health insurance. They're the ones that came up with the idea that it's a great use of state funds. The court laughed out loud at that in their ruling. So that court ruling was from the fall of 2011, just a few months after the Florida "drug test the poor" policy went into effect. The policy got blocked by the courts. The state was mocked for having tried to pretend that this Koch brothers-affiliated group was some sort of expert think tank on the subject.

But even after that, that same group, the Koch brothers-affiliated group, they traveled around the country marketing Florida's great policy success as something that all the Republican-controlled states should try to do. Look, here's their press release about how they attended public hearings in Georgia to share Florida's "drug test the poor" success story. Here's the guy who was the author of that pamphlet that the court laughed at in its court ruling. Here's him being photographed with a Republican state senator from Wisconsin. We got to hear all about Florida's awesome new drug test to the poor law when this group presented it as a success story that other states should emulate at a conference hosted by ALEC, the conservative corporate funded policy group that markets model legislation for state lawmakers.

That process of taking a piece of legislation that Republicans managed to get passed somewhere and turning it into a national phenomenon, that is one thing that the right does really, really, really well right now. And so even as Florida's policy, this "drug test the poor policy", became a laughing stock in the state, even as it was declared unconstitutional as soon as they tried to put it into effect, even at it became a really obviously apparent boondoggle in the state that definitely wasn't going to save any money, that was going to cost a ton of money, and that was going to expose the opposite of the problem that it purported to solve, even as all of that was happening, in Florida, the place that came up with this law in the first place, these conservative groups, through networks like ALEC, they were able to convince other Republican-controlled states to try it as well.

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