Shouldn’t America have at least one major party that isn’t beholden to the corporate elite?
Well don’t look now, but such a party has recently popped up, raring to roar into the 2016 presidential race. Called the KB-Party, it has the funding, political network, and expertise needed to bypass the establishment’s control of the election system. But don’t rush to sign up: KB stands for Koch Brothers.
Yes, Charlie and David — the multimillionaire, far-out, right-wing industrial barons who already own several congresscritters, governors, political think tanks, PR outfits, academics, astroturf campaign machines, front groups, etc. — now have the equivalent of their very own private political party. And their party is not beholden to the corporate elite, since it is the elite. The Koch boys have rallied roughly 300 like-minded, super-rich corporate oligarchs to their brotherhood of plutocrats, and this clique is intent on purchasing a president and congressional majority to impose their version of corporate rule over America.
Won’t that be awfully pricey, you ask? Ha — that’s not a question that acquisitive billionaires ever ask. For starters, at a secretive retreat in January for KB-Party funders, the 300 barons ponied up some $900 million for the campaign they are launching. That’s nearly $200 million more than the combined expenditures of the Republican and Democratic parties in last year’s elections, and it’s way more than either of those parties will have for 2016.
This means that in our nation of 350 million people, a cabal of only 300 of America’s wealthiest, self-serving corporatists will wield predominant power over the elections. This tiny club will have the wherewithal to narrow the choice of candidates presented to the rest of us, the range of policy ideas that are proposed to voters, the overall tone of the campaign year, and — most important — the governing agenda of those who get elected.
The KB-Party of Plutocratic Rule is brought to you by the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United edict. After the Court’s 2010 democracy-mugging decree that corporations would henceforth be allowed to dump unlimited amounts of their shareholders’ money into our election campaigns, a guy named Larry sent a hot email to me that perfectly summed up what had just been done to us: “Big money has plucked our eagle!”
The black-robed corporatists’ freakish Citizens United ruling has already let the KB-Party amass their unprecedented electioneering fund, setting them up as the Godfathers of Tea Party Republicanism. Supposedly proud candidates for governor, Congress and even such presidential wannabes as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker are shamelessly scurrying to the money throne to kiss the Koch ring, do a song and dance, grovel, and pledge fealty to the brotherhood’s extremist plutocratic agenda.
But big money is plucking our eagle not only because it corrupts candidates, but also because it is used to deny crucial information to voters and greatly diminish their participation in what has become a farce. First of all, the biggest chunk of cash spent by the KB-Party will go right into a mindboggling squall of television ads, none of which will explain who they’re for and why. Rather, they will be nauseatingly negative attack ads, brimming with optical trickery and outright lies to trash the candidates they’re against. Worse, voters will not even be informed that the garbage they’re watching is paid for by the Koch cabal, since another little favor the Supreme Court granted to the corporate plutocrats is that they can run secret campaigns, using their front groups as screens to keep voters from knowing what special interests are behind the ads — and why.
We saw the impact of secret, unrestricted corporate money in last year’s midterm elections. It produced a blight of negativity, a failure of the system to address the people’s real needs, an upchuck factor that kept nearly two-thirds of the people from voting, and a rising alienation of the many from the political process and government owned by the few. The Koch machine spent about $400 million to get those results. This time, they’ll spend more than twice that.
To help ban the corporate cash that’s clogging America’s democratic process and killing our people’s right to self-government, go to www.DemocracyIsForPeople.org.
By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, February 25, 2015
One reason Jeb Bush probably won’t raise all the money in 2016 is the existence of very large conservative donor networks that exist beyond the familiar clubby atmosphere of the former 2004 W. rain-makers who seem to dominate “Establishment” circles. The largest and most conspicuous, of course, is the Koch Donor Network, which reportedly aims at raising $900 million towards placing a special friend in the White House.
It’s not clear at this point if the Kochs and their allies intend to spend much of that money during the nomination contest. But if they do, reports Bloomberg Politics‘ Julie Bykowicz, Scott Walker’s probably first in line to become the beneficiary.
Charles Koch, she says, is personally very fond of Rand Paul, but he’s not, as events at the Koch Donor Network’s annual Palm Springs gathering this year indicated, very popular in KochWorld write large. But these folk have a visceral bond with Walker that was forged by Americans for Prosperity’s very direct involvement in his political career, even before his first election as governor:
On a sunny Saturday in September 2009, with Wisconsin in the throes of Tea Party fervor, conservative starlet Michelle Malkin fired up a crowd of thousands at a lakefront park in Milwaukee with rhetoric about White House czars and union thugs and the “culture of dependency that they have rammed down our throats.”
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, a Republican candidate for governor, casually attired in a red University of Wisconsin Badgers sweatshirt, stepped to the podium to amplify the message. “We’re going to take back our government,” he shouted, jabbing the air with a finger. The attendees whooped and clapped. “We’ve done it here, we can do it in Wisconsin and, by God, we’re going to do it all across America.”
In a way, the event was Scott Walker’s graduation to the political major leagues. The audience had been delivered up by Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party organizing group founded by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire energy executives whose fortune helps shape Republican politics.
The connection became even more intense during the initial wave of demonstrations against Walker’s proposals to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees:
Walker began battling with public employees soon after he was elected, submitting a budget in February 2011 that cut public pensions and sharply limited the collective bargaining rights of many state employees. Koch reinforcements quickly arrived.
A bus caravan of Walker’s friends at Americans for Prosperity disgorged thousands of supporters, carrying signs saying “Your Gravy Train Is Over … Welcome to the Recession” and “Sorry We’re Late Scott. We Work for a Living” into the mass of union activists gathered at the steps of the capitol. It all played out for a cable network audience, with pundits pointing to Walker as the new tip of the spear in a long Republican fight against the labor unions that have helped elect Democrats over the decades.
The AFP’s support wasn’t just a big pep rally. After the governor won the budget battle and his opponents began their effort to recall him, the group deployed hundreds of volunteers to knock on doors and call into voters’ homes to spread Walker’s message that his pension cuts and union reforms were helping solve the state’s budget crisis. The group bought television and digital ads echoing the “It’s Working!” theme—a phrase Walker also frequently used.
Nobody knows right now if these connections will pay off big for Walker in a highly contested nomination battle with so many different players. But he’s certainly got the emotional connection to the money people, and if he can continue to burnish his “electability” credentials, the money spigots will almost certainly be opened for him.
By Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, TheWashington Post, February 17, 2015
“New Report Details Kochs’ Plan To Target Latino Voters”: Just Another Flashy Way For The Koch Brothers To Try To Con Latinos
Late last month, news broke that the network of political organizations tied to Charles and David Koch was developing plans to spend nearly a billion dollars in the 2016 elections.
Given that unprecedented investment, it’s essential to understand precisely what the Kochs and their front groups are doing. Yesterday, People for the American Way released a new report exploring one of these groups: the Libre Initiative, which aims to win over Latino voters for Republicans.
With much of its funding coming from the Kochs, Libre has the resources it needs to try to run an aggressive campaign aimed at making inroads in the Latino community. As Politico reported recently, “Libre, which already has a presence in eight states, plans to expand to Wisconsin and North Carolina this year and increase its staff by about 30 percent ahead of 2016.”
The group’s millions go to promoting conservative causes to the Latino community and using deceptive ads to attack Democrats. Civil rights leader and People for the American Way board member Dolores Huerta described Libre best: “This is just another flashy way for the Koch brothers to try to con Latinos into supporting a party that’s run by anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, anti-environmental extremists. We won’t be fooled; the group has the wrong priorities on the issues that matter most to us.” Though the group is doing all it can to push GOP priorities like blocking an increase in the minimum wage and rallying against clean energy development, poll after poll has shown that the majority of Latinos and Libre aren’t on the same page when it comes to these and other issues.
If Libre stuck to debating the issues, that would be one thing. Libre’s real threat — both to Democrats and to the Latino community — is that it uses its considerable financial resources to say one thing and do another.
In typical Koch fashion, Libre has made vicious, often dishonest attacks against Democrats. It’s ironic, albeit unsurprising, that the Democrats Libre attacked in 2014 included some of the strongest Latino voices in Congress, like former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Texas). And based on Libre’s actions in the past, we can count on Libre to pay only lip service to supporting immigration reform. So far, the Libre playbook has gone like this: Claim to support immigration reform, applaud Speaker Boehner for making vague remarks somewhat supportive of immigration reform, and — here’s the kicker — run attack ads against Democrats who actually vote in favor of immigration reform.
Activists shouldn’t hold our breath hoping that the Kochs and other deep-pocketed conservatives will stop their lies. Instead, it’s up to us to push back. PFAW’s doing that by reaching out to Latino voters with a focus on the issues that matter and calling out Republicans when their promises just don’t match up with their votes.
Despite Libre’s deep coffers and its apparent desire to win over Latino voters to the GOP, that party’s offensive anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions continue. Just look at the current Congress, where Republicans are hijacking funding for the Department of Homeland Security to block the president’s executive actions on immigration even though, as Ted Hesson wrote at Fusion, “only a small minority of Americans think that’s the best way to approach the issue” in Congress.
As long as Republicans keep opposing policies that most Latinos and Americans as a whole support, it’s unlikely the Libre Initiative will have much success. But given the deep support and huge bank accounts of its two most important funders, the threat posed by Libre is one that we should all take seriously.
By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way, The Blog, The Huffington Post, February 19, 2015
“The Plutocrat Politburo”: The Koch Brothers Don’t Care If You Care About Their Plans To Buy 2016 Election
The Koch brothers are done being shy. That’s the conclusion one would have to draw from the fact that they just announced that they hope to spend $889 million on the 2016 election, an unprecedented amount of outside money. It won’t all be theirs — they’re assembling a kind of Plutocrat Politburo, a group of billionaires and zillionaires who will contribute to the cause — but with a combined worth of over $80 billion, they’ll surely be the ones opening their ample wallets the widest and determining the strategy and the agenda.
But unlike some previous reporting on Charles and David’s political efforts, this revelation — which comes from a gathering in beautiful Rancho Mirage of Freedom Partners, the organization through which the Kochs and their allies will distribute all these millions — didn’t require any secret meetings with anonymous sources to unearth. They just told everyone. Here’s the Post’s story on it, here’s the New York Times’ story on it, and here’s Politico’s story on it, all complete with ample details and on-the-record quotes. Reporters may not have been invited into the private meetings at the gathering, but they were allowed to hang around and talk to the participants. And no fewer than four potential GOP presidential candidates (Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz) showed up as well, obviously unconcerned about any charge that they’re kowtowing to the uber-rich.
So the Kochs appear to have concluded that the efforts by Democrats (especially Harry Reid) to turn the Koch name into a symbol of everything that’s wrong in American politics have failed. No longer must they cower in their mansions and take pains to conceal their political spending, fearful of the piercing barbs aimed by liberal politicians and commentators, when all they want is for Americans to fully appreciate the majesty of laissez-faire economics. Free at last, free at last, thank Citizens United, they’re free at last.
If you were expecting journalists to express much consternation at the idea that a group of the super-wealthy are openly announcing their intention to buy the next election, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, the news is being reported more like that of a record-breaking contract for a professional athlete: wonder at the sums involved, but precious little moral outrage. That’s mostly because political reporters tend to believe that election campaigns are already nothing but a parade of deception and manipulation, an enterprise that’s inherently corrupt. So what’s a little more corruption?
There’s no doubt that the behind-the-scenes machinations are fascinating to anyone interested in politics. By putting themselves on par with or even above the parties, the Kochs will make the conflict within the Republican Party even more complex, and potentially vicious, than it already was. Ken Vogel of Politico described the move as “a show of dominance to rival factions on the right, including the Republican National Committee.” What happens when the insurgents are even better funded than what we’ve taken to calling the establishment? It will certainly be interesting to find out.
In any case, the Kochs are probably right that they have little to lose by being public about their plans. Yes, they’ll have to absorb some stern editorials, and maybe even some ads from the DNC criticizing Republican politicians for associating with them. But weighed against what they have to gain by putting nearly a billion dollars into the next presidential campaign — more than the two parties spent, combined, in 2012 — that’s a price so small it’s barely worth worrying about.
In his 2003 novel Jennifer Government, Max Barry imagines a future in which the penetration of capitalism and marketing has become so total that people take the names of their corporate employers as their own last names; characters are called things like John Nike, Nathaniel ExxonMobil, and Calvin McDonalds.
We may not have gotten quite that far yet, but the next Republican president — whether that person is elected in 2016 or after — will have been sponsored, supported, elevated, and outfitted by the Koch brothers and their friends. Should a Republican candidate they don’t like show promise in the primaries, he will surely be crushed by the awesome machine they’re building. The winner may not take their name (Scott Walker-Koch, perhaps?), but he or she will be in their debt to a degree we have not previously contemplated. And the consensus will be that that’s just how things work now.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, January 27, 2015
“Calling In Their Chips”: Americans For Prosperity Announces Legislative Agenda, Mirrors Koch Industries’ Corporate Wishlist
Americans for Prosperity, the grassroots organizing group founded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, spent $125 million in the midterm elections last year. Now, they’re calling in their chips.
At the National Press Club yesterday, AFP president Tim Phillips and several officers with the group laid out their agenda. The group is calling for legalizing crude oil exports, a repeal of the estate tax, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, blocking any hike in the gas tax, a tax holiday on corporate profits earned overseas, blocking the EPA’s new rules on carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants, and a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, along with a specific focus on the medical device tax.
The announcement was touted by NPR as a “conservative agenda for Congress.” But it’s also a near-mirror image of Koch Industries’ lobbying agenda. Koch Industries — the petrochemical, manufacturing and commodity speculating conglomerate owned by David and Charles — is not only a financier of political campaigns, but leads one of the most active lobbying teams in Washington, a big part of why the company has been such a financial success.
Koch Industries transports both crude oil and coal, making the AFP’s work to legalize crude oil exports and to block the EPA from rules that would diminish the coal market in the U.S. particularly important to Koch Industries’ bottom line. As multiple news outlets have reported, Koch also owns a substantial stake of Canadian tar sands, positioning the company to benefit from approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Indeed, on EPA and other issues, Koch Industries’ lobbying office in D.C. has instructed its influence peddlers to work many of the same issues as AFP.
And what makes the AFP agenda almost a self-parody is its focus on the estate tax, which it called the “death tax” during the press event yesterday. In reality, this tax only affects the wealthiest 0.15 percent of Americans because only those who stand to inherit from family members with $5.43 million in wealth are impacted. Couple this with AFP’s focus on a corporate overseas tax holiday, again only an issue that impacts wealthy global companies, and AFP’s purported goal of helping regular Americans loses all credibility.
Charles Koch has made headlines in recent weeks over his claim that he will devote significant energy to criminal justice reform. But curiously, no issues relating to such reforms — even though over-prosecution of petty crimes and abuses such as asset forfeiture clearly fall under the umbrella of economic concerns AFP purports to champion — will be addressed by Charles Koch’s marquee advocacy group, AFP. The issues that are part and parcel of Koch’s bottom line, however, appear to take priority.
By: Lee Fang, Republic Report, January 19, 2015