“Recall Walker” bumper stickers dotted the workers’ parking lot at the Georgia Pacific paper mill on Day Street here one recent afternoon, proof of their union’s role in the effort to oust Gov. Scott Walker from office early for his legislation limiting public employees’ bargaining rights. But among the largest donors to Mr. Walker and his cause are the plant’s owners, the billionaire industrialists Charles G. and David H. Koch, the latter of whom has said of the recall election to be held in June, “If the unions win the recall, there will be no stopping union power.” The recall vote here has been billed as a critical test of labor muscle versus corporate money. But it is only a warm-up for a confrontation that will play out during the presidential election, which both sides view as the biggest political showdown in at least 30 years between pro- and anti-union forces — a labor-management fight writ large.
The same national groups flooding the streets and the airwaves in Wisconsin — the Koch-supported group Americans for Prosperity on the right, the A.F.L.-C.I.O., teachers unions and the United Steelworkers on the left — are emerging as important outside supporters of President Obama and Mitt Romney, each side empowered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
That ruling is not only giving wealthy donors like the Kochs greater options for pouring tens of millions of dollars into the presidential election. It is also giving unions — many of them representing workers in some of the major donors’ own factories — the ability for the first time ever to spend money from union treasuries for campaigning among nonunion voters.