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“The Libre Initiative”: The Koch Brothers Are Spending Big Bucks To Win Over Latinos. Here’s Why It Probably Won’t Work

The Koch brothers are sinking big money into an expanding effort to win over Latino voters in the 2016 cycle with a simple message: Don’t go with the party that will make you reliant on government. Vote Republican instead.Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But it’s intended to make a broader point that I hope to illustrate below.

Ashley Parker of the New York Times reports that the conservative billionaire Kochs are helping to bankroll a multi-million-dollar effort to reach out to Latino voters, called the Libre Initiative, that is meant to fill a vacuum left by the Republican Party, which the group thinks has failed miserably in this outreach mission. The Times sums up the group’s message this way: “economic freedom and smaller-government principles will yield opportunity and prosperity.”

The Libre Initiative, which is wooing Latino voters in part by giving them Thanksgiving turkeys and an array of community services, seems to be evolving into a substantial presence. The Times reports that it has as many as 70 employees in nine swing states, is funded in part by an organization of Koch network donors, and is expected to spend over $9 million in this cycle.

The group supports comprehensive immigration reform, putting it at odds with the overall posture of the Republican Party, not to mention the GOP presidential candidates, who have lurched so far to the right on immigration that the RNC’s 2012 autopsy counseling a more welcoming posture towards Latinos is nothing but a dim, distant memory. However, suggests the Times, support for immigration reform might not be enough to win over Latinos, who could be alienated by the group’s — and the GOP’s — position on the Affordable Care Act and other issues:

The group has also drawn the ire of some Hispanic and immigration advocacy groups by raising concerns about some of President Obama’s more sweeping executive actions on immigration, and by pouring money into House races to help defeat two Hispanic lawmakers — Pete P. Gallego of Texas and Joe Garcia of Florida, both Democrats — because they supported the president’s health care plan, among other issues Libre opposes.

But the group, in providing services to Latinos, hopes to get them to abandon their support for the Democratic Party by persuading them to embrace a limited government vision instead:

These community services speak to what the group says is its core mission — to provide Hispanics with the tools to lift themselves toward the American dream of economic freedom and success, while also showing them that they do not need to rely on the government to succeed.

“At the end of the day, we want Hispanics to prosper, to be self-reliant, to achieve their full potential,” said Ivette Fernandez, national director of the Libre Institute, which is running a pilot program to help people study for and pass G.E.D. exams. “So we felt it was very important to be able to educate them on those principles the country is based on.”

The trouble with all this is that Latinos tend to support the overall Democratic governing vision — and not the Republican one — when it comes to economic issues and health care, too.

A major survey of 1,400 Hispanic voters conducted last spring by Bendixen & Amandi International with the Tarrance Group found:

— 56 percent of Hispanics polled said the Democratic Party is more in line with their views on economic policy and job creation. Only 22 percent said that of the GOP.

— 64 percent of Hispanics polled viewed Obama favorably, and 59 percent said they were satisfied with his presidency.

— Only 36 percent of Hispanics polled viewed the GOP favorably. By contrast, 68 percent viewed the Democratic Party favorably.

What’s more, the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll has consistently found that a majority of Hispanics view the Affordable Care Act favorably. While there may be a downswing right now in favorable Latino views of the ACA, previous downswings have been regularly followed by subsequent upswings. The point is that Latinos have consistently viewed the health law more favorably than the overall American public has — for years now.

This has historically proven frustrating for Republicans. After the 2012 election, Mitt Romney complained that Barack Obama had beaten him in part with “free” government giveaways to core constituencies, including “free health care” to Hispanics in the form of Obamacare, as if Dem policies are little more than dependence-fostering government handouts designed to buy voter loyalty. Romney had used similar “free stuff” rhetoric during the campaign, and ended up performing abysmally among Latino voters.

If the Koch-funded group’s core message is that Democratic economic and health care policies produce an over-reliance on government — whereas scaling back government and unleashing the power of free enterprise are the only true solutions to maximizing opportunity and self-realization for Latinos — it would not be surprising if many of them end up rejecting its fundamental animating principles this time around, too.


By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, November 27, 2015

November 28, 2015 Posted by | Hispanics, Koch Brothers, Latinos | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Koch Spy Agency Led By Voter Fraud Huckster”: Clandestine Surveillance Operation Focused On Perceived Political Enemies

The Kochs have been complaining about a “lack of civility in politics” as they seek to boost their public image–but one of their top operatives helped propel perhaps the most egregious case of race-baiting voter fraud hucksterism in recent years.

At the same time that the Kochs have been on a PR blitz, publicly spinning an image of themselves as well-intentioned patriots trying to make the world a better place and decrying “character assasination,” they’ve been quietly ramping up a clandestine surveillance and intelligence gathering operation focused on their perceived political enemies, Ken Vogel reports at Politico.

At the helm of this “competitive intelligence” operation is a man named Mike Roman, Vice President of Research for Kochs’ Freedom Partners and who was paid $265,000 last year, according to Freedom Partners’ recent tax filing.

But who is Mike Roman? He’s been described generally as a longtime GOP operative. However, he’s also the guy who was behind the release of the 2008 “New Black Panthers scaring old white ladies at the polls” video. The clip dominated Fox News for months and went on to fuel unfounded allegations that the Obama administration’s Department of Justice was biased against white people.

Roman made a name for himself by releasing the video, which showed a New Black Panther Party (NBPP) member holding a billy club outside a Philadelphia polling place, on his voter fraud-peddling “Election Journal” website. He then worked with Republican vote fraud conspiracist J. Christian Adams to try uncovering evidence that voters were intimidated–which they could not find. But that didn’t stop Roman, along with Fox News and the conservative echo chamber, from conjuring up a vast racist conspiracy inside the Obama administration, a theme that continues today.

As the conspiracy theories grew, Roman was given a column at, where he continued to push a “scandal” narrative and to suggest a wide-ranging conspiracy involving ACORN, NBPP, and the Obama administration to steal elections. (Roman even launched a voter fraud app.)

In 2010, another vote fraud conspiracy theorist, the Wall Street Journal‘s John Fund, put right-wing video hitman James O’Keefe in touch with Roman for intel about a purported SEIU voter fraud scheme in Boston, which turned out to be bunk.

During this same period, the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was similarly targeting ACORN and pushing a model “Voter ID Act” to combat the nonexistent scourge of voter fraud–but which had the documented impact of disenfranchising potentially millions of students and voters of color who do not have the limited forms of IDs required under the law.

In 2010, Roman was named chief of staff to Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-IL) when he was elected to Congress for one term. Koch Industries and John Fund were among Schilling’s top donors.

It is not clear when Roman was formally folded-in to the Koch network. Freedom Partners’ new tax filing for 2014 is the first where he appeared as Vice President of Research. But tax filings as far back as 2012 describe Roman as the trustee of the mysterious “Public Engagement Group Trust,” which has the same address and suite number as another Koch group, the Center for Shared Services Trust.

Apparently Roman’s years of stoking unfounded paranoia about stolen elections prepared him for a high-ranking position in the Koch operation.

In his role as the Kochs’ top spy, Vogel reported, Roman has “worked to keep himself and his activity low-profile even within the discreet Koch operation.”

“They act all cloak and dagger–like the CIA,” one source told Vogel. “There was a joke about how hardly anyone ever met Mike Roman. It was like, if you wanted to find him, he’d be in a trench coat on the National Mall.”

Roman’s GoodReads profile fits his carefully-cultivated cloak-and-dagger persona.

His favorite reads include books like “Data Mining and Analysis” and “Intelligence Analysis: a Target-Centric Approach,” as well as Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, the left-wing organizer’s manual that has gained traction on the right in recent years.

Mike Roman’s favorite author? Charles Koch.


By: Brendan Fisher, Center for Media and Democracy; CMD Executive Director Lisa Graves contributed research to this article; November 19, 2015

November 23, 2015 Posted by | ALEC, Koch Brothers, Mike Roman, Racism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Koch Zero”: Is The Fall Of Scott Walker A Sign That The Kochs Are Not As Powerful As They Want Progressives To Think They Are?

With big money in American politics remaining a clear and present threat, and the odds of adding a 28th amendment to the United States Constitution specifically stating that money is not speech and corporations are not people still a bit limited, it’s nice to see that there are still times when big money comes up a bit short, especially as it pertains to a certain wingnut from Wisconsin:

A [recent] poll out of Iowa shows most of what we’ve been seeing in recent weeks with Donald Trump at the top of the pack followed by Ben Carson and none of the other candidates in double digits. The real headline out of the poll, though is the seeming collapse of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s Presidential campaign…

It’s been quite a collapse for Walker over the past two months. Not only was he leading in Iowa and performing strongly in both nationally and in New Hampshire, but he was widely seen as a candidate that could appeal to both the conservative base of the Republican Party and the more moderate “establishment” and business wings. His rise to national prominence due to the showdown over public employee unions in Wisconsin, and his subsequent victories in not only getting his favored legislation passed but also pushing back against a recall effort that resulted from the union showdown and then wining re-election last years made him something of a national hero among Republicans and the calls for him to run for President began long before his re-election as Governor last November. Before the race for the Republican nomination really began, many analysts foresaw that Walker could be a strong competitor to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, especially if he managed to do as well in the Iowa Caucuses as the early polls were indicating.

As time went on, though, it became clear that Walker was not as good a candidate as his Wisconsin experience and press clippings made it seem. Early on even before he got into the race, Walker got into hot water with conservatives over his hiring of Republican strategist Liz Mair to run his campaign’s social media operation because, among other things, Mair had made comments on Twitter before being hired that were critical of the Iowa Caucuses as well as her personal position on immigration reform. Mair ended up resigning, but it was Walker who ended up coming out of the whole incident looking like someone who would cave to pressure over something as silly as a couple inoffensive tweets. Immigration quickly became the source of another problem for Walker when, although he had once supported immigration reform that included some form of what conservatives call “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, he was caught flip-flopping on the issue when campaigning in Iowa. Later, it was reported that Walker had told high level donors in a private meeting that he actually still did support some form of “amnesty” as party of an immigration reform effort. Walker’s effort to get in the good graces of the hard right base of the party has extended to even making statements critical of legal immigration. More recently, he has been caught taking our different positions on the issue of birthright citizenship over the course of seven days in the wake of Donald Trump’s introduction of his immigration plan. All of this has led to the impression that Walker will say whatever he needs to whichever audience he is talking to, which is obviously a much harder thing to do in the era of the Internet and the ease with which someone can record a campaign appearance with their phone.

It’s amazing, and amusing, to bear witness to Walker’s collapse—and the reality that his notorious alliance with Charles and David Koch is seemingly providing no tangible benefit whatsoever to his campaign. Could this be a sign that the Kochs are not nearly as powerful as they want progressives to think they are?

If Walker soon joins Rick Perry as a former Republican presidential candidate, it will be a fitting comeuppance for a man who, like Chris Christie, thought aligning himself with the Kochs would clear a path to the White House. Who would have thought that both men would end up in a political outhouse?

UPDATE: More from Ed Kilgore, Vox and Think Progress. Also, from 2011, Rachel Maddow on the beginning of Walker’s war on labor and his unholy alliance with the Kochs. Plus, from the June/July/August 2015 issue of the Washington Monthly, Donald F. Kettl on Walker’s dark legacy.


By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 19, 2015

September 20, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, Koch Brothers, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“More Socialism For White People”: Why Donald Trump Will Defeat The Koch Brothers For The Soul Of The GOP

In order to understand how Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican field despite openly promoting tax hikes on wealth hedge fund managers, hedging support for universal healthcare and other wildly iconoclastic positions hostile to decades of Republican dogma, it’s important to note that the Republican Party was teetering on the edge of a dramatic change no matter whether Trump had entered the race or not.

Demographers and political scientists have long been predicting that the Republican Party is due for a realignment–the sort of tectonic political shift that occurs when one of the two parties either take a courageous political stand or falls into danger of becoming a permanent minority, shifting the demographics and constituencies that sort each party. The last big realignment in American politics is generally considered to to have occurred in the wake of the Civil Rights Act, when Democratic support for civil rights legislation moved racially resentful, mostly Southern whites into the arms of the Republicans while picking up support from women and minorities. Republicans, of course, hastened this process through their use of the Southern strategy to maximize conservative white fears and resentments. It is arguable that the Democratic shift toward the conservative and neoliberal economics beginning the late 1970s as a response to the increasing power of money in elections and the rise of Reagan was also a minor realignment that moved many wealthy social liberals out of the Republican fold at the expense of blue-collar Democratic workers.

Conventional wisdom has argued that demographic trends showing the rise of Latino and Asian voters would spell the need for another GOP realignment–this time away from minority-bashing Southern Strategy politics, toward a more ecumenical, corporate-friendly fiscal libertarianism and militaristic foreign policy that would in theory attract conservative-leaning voters across the racial spectrum who had previously felt unwelcome in the Republican fold due to its racial politics. Republican leaders are well aware that every election year the voting public becomes more diverse, and that permanently losing the Latino and Asian votes the way Republicans have the African-American vote would mean a permanent disaster for their party. The Blue Wall becomes more formidable for the GOP with every presidential election cycle, largely due to demographic change.

At no point did this become more clear than after the 2012 election. Most Republicans insiders had expected an easy Romney victory based on the standard indicators. But when the strength of the Democratic constituency became apparent, GOP leaders knew they had to act to pass immigration reform and begin the hard work of appealing to minority voters. This is the Koch Brothers agenda: the corporate agenda with a diverse, smiling face.

But then something interesting happened: base Republican voters said no. Tea Partiers continued to sweep establishment Republicans out of office. Eric Cantor, once considered heir apparent to Speaker John Boehner, suddenly found himself toss out of Congress on the strength of an anti-immigrant intra-party challenge. Immigration reform stalled due to a near revolt by the conservative base. Meanwhile, the continued ability of Republicans to make gains in midterm elections due to weak Democratic turnout, and to lock down the House of Representatives due to the Big Sort and intentional gerrymandering, meant that Republican legislators saw no upside in enraging their base.

The rise of Donald Trump should come as no surprise in this context: it was presaged well in advance. Pundits who assumed Trump would flame out quickly were as misguided as those who assumed that Eric Cantor would safely hold his seat. After decades of stirring up their primary voters into a froth of paranoia and hatred of various “others” in society, Republican voters were not about to be led by the nose to a multi-racial corporatist utopia. After telling the religious right for decades that they would ban abortion and force women back into traditional gender roles, it’s no surprise that those voters continued to chose candidates like Todd Akin who could not stop themselves from angering most women voters.

But the Republican Party does have to change. After all, it cannot continue to survive on its present course. Presidential elections are only getting tougher, and the GOP lock on the House will not survive the 2020 census if all else remains unchanged.

That’s where Donald Trump’s brand of politics comes in. Reminiscent of European far right parties that meld anti-immigrant furor with a broader anti-elite sentiment and greater favor to the welfare state, Donald Trump does away with sops to diversity and polite niceties in the service of unfaltering plutocratic agenda. He does the exact opposite–openly bashing women and minorities in the sort of rude way that millions of Republican voters do behind closed doors but not in polite society, while also giving them hope that they can keep their healthcare and social security in the bargain.

After all, it’s important to remember that hardcore conservative Republican voters of today are only a generation removed from the coalition that supported FDR. These are voters who, despite having been hardened against socialist appeals by decades of Fox News style propaganda, nevertheless supported FDR and other Democrats well into the Reagan era. These are voters who don’t actually hate the welfare state and social spending, so much as they hate the idea that their tax dollars are going to social spending for the wrong people. It’s not so much that they don’t like government heatlhcare: after all, in many poor Republican counties most conservative voters are being taken care of by Medicaid, Medicare and the VA. It’s that they don’t like the idea that poor minorities and “loose” women might be getting free healthcare “on their backs.” And as for Wall Street, most Republican voters can’t stand them: they see them as crony capitalist, corrupt liberal New Yorkers who got a bailout. Most GOP voters won’t shed a tear if Trump raises taxes on the hedge fund crowd.

Donald Trump reassures these voters that the “wrong kind of people” won’t be getting any freebies on his watch. That’s all they really care about–so if Trump supports universal healthcare it’s simply not that big a deal.

And this ultimately is what the real GOP realignment is going to look like: less racially diverse corporatism, and more socialism for white people. It stands to reason. Blue-collar white GOP voters aren’t about to forget decades of fear-based propaganda, and their economic position remains precarious enough that they still need the welfare state help.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 5, 2015

September 7, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Koch Brothers, Socialism | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“It’s Increasingly Obvious That Scott Walker Sucks”: When You’re As Bad At Campaigns As Scott Walker, You Should Just Give Up

Scott Walker’s presidential campaign is only a little over 50 days old, and it’s increasingly obvious that Scott Walker sucks. Not for his record or what he believes, although both of those are – to borrow a phrase from William Safire – extremely sucky. But Scott Walker is not good at this campaign thing.

A good campaign introduces a candidate and his best ideas to sympathetic and like-minded voters through a combination of events, press coverage and paid outreach, allowing him or her to attract campaign donations and new supporters alike. A bad campaign forces a candidate to get on the phone to reassure his existing donors that he exists and is going to abandon the “sinking into obscurity” tactic that hadn’t been working. A truly terrible campaign is at hand when the most widely-reported news story is the candidate’s old claim that his bald spot totally isn’t genetic but comes from banging his head against the underside of a cabinet.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way: one of Walker’s selling points was winning three elections in five years (the first one, the recall, then the reelection). In theory, Walker should have been the most experienced, most natural and most effortless Republican candidate. Jeb Bush hasn’t run this decade; Ted Cruz only ran once; Chris Christie is dogged by corruption allegations; Rick Perry has the mental aptitude of two dogs in an overcoat; and Rand Paul was gifted his father’s movement and all his out-of-state donors but none of his charisma at talking about basing an international currency on stuff you dig out of the ground.

Walker should have been able to campaign circles around everyone else in the race. Instead, he’s getting his rear end handed to him by a meringue-haired hotelier and a political neophyte surgeon who speaks with the dizzy wonderment of someone trying to describe their dream from last night while taking mushrooms for the first time.

Donald Trump’s existence in the race actually seems to be goading Walker into looking worse, when you’d think that The Donald’s hogging all the attention might have helped Walker avoid embarrassing revelations. After all, Walker’s political record basically involves refusing to tell anyone what his plans are and then doing something politically craven: he first campaigned on fixing Wisconsin’s budget, then once elected decided that it was public-sector unions’ fault and used a short-term crisis as an excuse to gut them; he evaded discussion about potential anti-union “right-to-work” legislation by calling it a distraction, then signed a right-to-work bill; he ducked questions about legislating more abortion restrictions, then signed a 20-week abortion ban.

And that doesn’t even get into the hail of convictions and indictments in his administration and the campaign finance investigation that suddenly stopped thanks to Wisconsin Supreme Court justices who received donations from many of the same groups being investigated. Walker was always going to have trouble with the scrutiny of a national campaign, outside those justices’ reach and outside the demographics of an overwhelmingly white state whose racial divisions he heightened with the help of a sycophantic right-wing media.

Instead, Walker seems to have felt that any gap in his coverage should have an unforced error hurled through it. He’s blamed cop-shootings (which are down since the Bush Administration) on President Obama and declared himself the candidate who can heal racial divides by getting black people to forgive, instead of protest, racists and racist violence. Instead of just mouthing the Republican repeal-and-replace Obamacare mantra, he came up with an actual replacement plan for the other candidates to criticize – a medley of conservative ideas so old they’ve got whiskers – while his competitors simply promise to deregulate the sucker and tell poor people they can pay for healthcare with trickling-down Ayn Rand fun-bucks. Walker even unsuccessfully tried his hand at xenophobic Trumpism, calling out Barack Obama for meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping – the same Chinese president that Walker himself flew to China to meet.

And, most incredibly, last weekend Walker started talking about the need to secure the border with Canada: not only securing it, but building a wall, never mind the fact that the border is 3,500 miles longer than the US-Mexico border and goes through four of the Great Lakes. When you start speculating about a US-Canada wall, maybe you should be doing literally anything else; this gig is probably just not for you when your most recent big idea is seeing what happens when you confront a wholly unnecessary problem with a solution that’s completely insane.

Still, Walker soldiers on, trying to get political mileage out of being a Harley Davidson owner, a problematic and confused form of symbolism at best. It’s not like you have to do or be anyone to buy a Harley – they sell bikes on the basis of currency, not biker credibility. Harley Davidson is, however, a union company that has benefited from millions in state subsidies and government assistance during the 2007-8 financial crisis – not quite the right fit for an anti-union, anti-government assistance poster boy.

Walker, touring New Hampshire on said Harley, seems to love any photo op when he’s in his leather jacket, though it does nothing to obscure the fact that he looks like he wakes up every morning and frowns at 30 identical chambray button-downs before picking one to tuck into one of 30 identical flat-front chinos. Scott Walker looks like every dad who is trying too hard to look cool during his Saturday afternoon trip to Home Depot to buy an Allen wrench because he lost the one that came with his wife’s Ikea Hemnes dressing table.

But trying and failing to look hardcore is sort of a thing with Walker. On the debate stage near a one-man burn unit like Donald Trump, Walker did everything short of vanish into the background. At CPAC, he burnished his credibility as someone who can stop Isis by saying, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world. But he didn’t take on 100,000 protesters. During the protests, he slunk to and from the Wisconsin state capitol via underground tunnels and his legislature hasrepeatedly revised rules to restrict capitol protests. He even lied about having his car threatened.

On Tuesday, a benighted Walker told CNBC that he doesn’t think he’s a career politician: “A career politician, in my mind, is somebody who’s been in Congress for 25 years,” he said. Walker, who is 47, first ran for office at age 22, and finally did so successfully at age 25. That was 22 years ago. When you have negligible work experience outside your current field, which you’ve been in for nearly half your time on this earth, sorry, it’s your career. It’s like someone who just drank a case of 3.2% beer claiming he’s sober because he didn’t touch any hard liquor. Sure, pal, take the keys and fire up the road beast and try to peel out of here.

The longer a presidential campaign goes on, the more fundamental truths you inevitably encounter, usually things the candidates and their handlers labor tirelessly to obscure. But sometimes the revelations come fast, and when they do, they are usually particularly unkind.

Scott Walker should’ve been the Republicans’ – or at least the Koch Brothers’ – Dark Money Knight, riding manfully to Washington on his union-busting, climate-change-denying Harley, driving the real career politicians from the city like Sobieski lifting the siege of Vienna. Instead, he’s looking more like a man destined to return to Madison with a wad of Delta Sky Miles to haunt the capitol tunnels, a wraith occasionally seizing hapless passersby at underground crossroads and demanding they tell him if they’ve seen Ronald Reagan, what causes male-pattern baldness and how big Canada is.


By: Jeb Lund, The Guardian, September 3, 2015

September 6, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Koch Brothers, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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