A national conservative network (whose backers include the Koch brothers, event sponsors include Facebook, and alumni include Ted Cruz) misrepresented its agenda and activities, and reaped the benefits of mainstream respectability and nonprofit status — while coordinating across states to push a hard-right agenda and enrich its corporate backers — a new report alleges.
Specifically, the report by the Center for Media and Democracy focuses on the State Policy Network, a little-known network. “What we uncovered through our investigation is that SPN along with its affiliates amount to $83 million just flooding into the states to push and promote this agenda …,” CMD director Lisa Graves told reporters on a Wednesday call. “And that money is on the rise.” The paper was released Wednesday along with a set of state-level reports on SPN affiliates, authored by affiliates of the progressive network ProgressNow.
The CMD report accuses SPN affiliates of mounting “coordinated efforts to push their agenda, often using the same cookie-cutter research and reports, all while claiming to be independent and creating state-focused solutions …” It charges that, “Although SPN think tanks are registered as educational nonprofits, several appear to orchestrate extensive lobbying and political operations to peddle their legislative agenda to state legislators, despite the IRS’ regulations on nonprofit political and lobbying activities.”
Asked about the CMD report, SPN emailed a statement from its president, Tracie Sharp, saying, “Because we are legally and practically organized as a service organization (not as a franchise), each of the 64 state-based think tanks is fiercely independent, choosing to manage their staff, pick their own research topics and educate the public on those issues they deem most appropriate for their state.” But Sharp said each of those 64 “rallies around a common belief: the power of free markets and free people to create a healthy, prosperous society.”
Sharp said that SPN respected “the privacy of our donors,” but that they gave “voluntarily,” which she contrasted with “groups like Progress Now and the Center for Media and Democracy who receive hefty gifts from unions, who in turn force their members to donate to political causes with which they may not agree.” The Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that contracts between unions and companies can only require workers represented by unions to pay what is “necessary to ‘performing the duties of an exclusive representative of the employees in dealing with the employer on labor-management issues.”
Based on a 2010 document, SPN lists a number of major corporations as past SPN funders including Microsoft, AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft Foods, Philip Morris, Verizon Communications, Comcast and Time Warner Cable Share Service Center. Several of the same groups sponsored SPN’s 2013 annual meeting, as did Facebook.
While SPN is no household name, CMD notes it has at least one celebrity alum: former SPN-affiliated think tank fellow and current filibustering Sen. Ted Cruz, the co-author of a 2010 paper for Texas Public Policy Foundation arguing the Affordable Care Act violated the 10thAmendment. That paper notes that the TPPF is working with partners to develop an “Interstate Compact for Health Care Reform,” which it says would provide that member states “may opt out of Obamacare entirely …” The San Antonio Current noted that a “Health Care Compact Act” echoing Cruz’s concept is among the model legislation pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative group whose members include major companies and scores of state legislators. CMD notes that the same year Cruz issued that report, the Koch-backed Donors Capital Fund provided his think tank a $65,300 grant “for the organization’s project, Turning the Tide Unifying the States to Oppose Federal Outreach.”
The CMD report also cites numerous SPN ties to the better-known ALEC, including a grant from Donors Capital Fund, which Mother Jones called the “dark money ATM of the conservative movement,” specifically to fund SPN member groups to participate in an ALEC gathering. SPN or its member groups sit on eight ALEC task forces; the largest number are in the Task & Fiscal Policy and Education groups. According to CMD, SPN’s annual meeting in September included representatives from Koch Industries, the Charles Koch Institute, the Charles Koch Foundation and several Koch-backed right-wing groups like Americans for Prosperity.
CMD suggests that SPN’s billionaire backers may not be motivated by ideology alone. “Be it the Koch brothers and environmental policy, the Waltons and minimum and living wage laws, or the Bradley Foundation and education privatization,” charges the report, “SPN funders end up being a ‘client’ to the think tanks, receiving a service – influencing state legislators and promoting a right-wing agenda – that benefits them.”
By: Josh Eidelson, Salon, November 15, 2013
“No Health Insurance, Just Drink”: Koch Brothers Generation Opportunity Campaign Against Obamacare Is Insanely Irresponsible
This is the strangest P.R. campaign yet against the Affordable Care Act. Generation Opportunity, the Koch-funded group behind the Creepy Uncle Sam ads, is throwing tailgate parties to “educate” young people about the exchanges. Read: To convince young people to forgo health insurance.
The group’s communication director, David Pasch, wrote an email to The Tampa Bay Times describing a drunken event at Saturday’s University of Miami-Virginia Tech football game:
“We rolled in with a fleet of Hummers, F-150’s and Suburbans, each vehicle equipped with an 8’ high balloon bouquet floating overhead. We hired a popular student DJ from UMiami (DJ Joey), set up OptOut cornhole sets, beer pong tables, bought 75 pizzas, and hired 8 ‘brand ambassadors’ aka models with bullhorns to help out.”
Mr. Pasch specified that “student activists,” rather than anyone employed directly by Generation Opportunity, “brought (lots of) beer and liquor for consumption by those 21 and over.”
As a sort of afterthought, he added, “Oh yeah, and we educated students about their healthcare options outside the expensive and creepy Obamacare exchanges.”
According to Think Progress, this isn’t a one-time thing: “The group is touring 20 different campuses this fall in a $750,000 effort to convince college students that they’re better off being uninsured than getting health coverage through Obamacare.”
That’s a lot of money for a campaign that’s not only insanely irresponsible, but also insanely dumb. Generation Opportunity is the old guy at a house party, convinced he can win the cool kids’ respect with booze.
By: Juliet Lapidos, Editors Blog, The New York Times, November 11, 2013
Even acknowledging that our national politics have become increasingly contentious, here’s a development that is really odd: Two billionaire brothers are spending millions of dollars to try to persuade young Americans not to buy health insurance. What’s up with that?
The industrialist Koch brothers, David and Charles, are among the very richest Americans — indeed, among the very richest people on the planet. They are not merely members of the 1 percent; they’re in the topmost fraction of the 1 percent.
That means that they not only can afford to buy health insurance for themselves, but they can also buy physicians, hospitals, medical labs and pharmacies if they choose to do so. They have access to the very best medical care that money can buy — and, in America, that’s the difference between life and death.
But unlike, say, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, the Koch brothers have not concerned themselves with trying to make life a bit more comfortable and pleasant for others. Oh, no. The Koch brothers are the very stereotype of the greedy and selfish hyper-rich, the poster boys for self-interested plutocracy. They want to control the country’s politics — no matter who gets hurt in their grab for power.
That’s why they’ve funded ultraconservative candidates and political causes over the past couple of decades. Their to-do list includes aiding the effort to torpedo the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. Among the political groups they fund is an outfit called Generation Opportunity, which is running a creepy ad to persuade young women of a lie: that Obamacare comes between a patient and her physician.
The Koch brothers know that the new health care paradigm depends on enlisting healthy young adults — people who tend to take the risk that they don’t need health insurance — into the system. If they don’t sign up, the new exchanges won’t have enough vigorous and youthful Americans to help pay the way for the sick and frail. Insurance companies need to be able to spread the costs around so they don’t go bankrupt trying to care for the ailing.
But the Koch brothers, like most conservatives, want Obamacare to fail. They are not concerned that the new health care law, which would extend insurance to the vast majority for the first time in history, is a “government takeover” of medicine or a “jobs-killer” or a ruinous new entitlement. None of that is true. (See factcheck.org or PolitiFact.com for actual facts about Obamacare.)
Nope, the real concern of most conservatives is that Obamacare will work, proving popular over the long run. Think about it: If they are so certain that the law will collapse under its own weight, why not step aside and allow it to do so? Why do they need to try to defund it and create creepy ads trying to persuade young people not to buy in? Why did they warn the National Football League not to promote the new health care exchanges?
If Obamacare succeeds, the generations-long conservative war against activist government would have lost another major battle, and more voters would be persuaded to vote for progressives. That’s the reason conservatives went all-out to defeat President Clinton’s similar health care proposal during his first term.
As Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, then fresh off his stint as Vice President Dan Quayle’s chief of staff, wrote in 1993: “… the long-term political effects of a successful Clinton health care bill will … relegitimize middle-class dependence for ‘security’ on government spending and regulation. It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests.”
There you have it. They don’t dare allow Obamacare to proceed unimpeded because Americans might come to like it and depend on it, as the elderly like and depend on Medicare. Indeed, conservatives, including Ronald Reagan, fought the creation of Medicare, claiming it was pure socialism.
Meanwhile, the Americans who would suffer most if Obamacare doesn’t succeed are those without health insurance or the promise of decent medical care. That includes the young adults who could be victims of terrible accidents or unforeseen diseases. Not that the Koch brothers care about them.
By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, September 28, 2013
A Koch-brothers funded conservative group, Generation Opportunity, is out with a wildly misleading, pernicious set of ads aimed at sabotaging the Affordable Care Act by discouraging young people from signing up for health insurance exchanges.
One’s aimed at young men, the other at young women. In the “for him” version, an actor tells his doctor that he saw an ad for the Affordable Care Act and “figured, why not?” The doctor tells him to take his pants off, “hop up here, lay down and bend your knees to your chest.” He leaves the room. Then a man wearing an Uncle Sam mask snaps on a blue glove. As if the message weren’t perfectly clear, the ad states: “Don’t let government play doctor.”
The “for her” version is much the same, except in that case Uncle Sam’s performing a gynecological exam.
The ads are as offensive as they are derivative.
During the 2012 campaign, the reproductive rights site Lady Parts Justice released a web video attacking laws requiring women to undergo medically unnecessary ultrasounds before receiving abortions. In that spot, a woman with her feet in stirrups explains that she wants an abortion because she’s “just not emotionally or financially ready to have kids right now.” The doctor, sitting between her legs, responds, “OK, well, just so you know, the law says that before I can do that, I need to do some things to you that you need to pay extra for. You know, just some things that will help you better understand what it is you really want.” These “things” include inserting a camera into her vagina and looking at pictures of what’s inside her uterus.
But that video made sense—states actually did pass laws interfering with the doctor-patient relationship—whereas the Generation Opportunity ads perpetuate outright lies. Young people who sign up for exchanges won’t be getting access to government-run healthcare (if only they were!), but to privately run insurance. Nor does the A.C.A. force doctors to ask patients about their sex lives or perform unwanted exams—as Politifact explained recently. Under the A.C.A., government doesn’t “play doctor,” it merely enables access to doctors who then decide, using their professional judgment, the best course of action.
Signing up for an exchange isn’t an act of political (or sexual) submission. It’s just a way to get insurance if you don’t have a job or your employer doesn’t provide it. The Generation Opportunity crowd surely knows that and obviously doesn’t care because its priority now, as ever, is bringing down President Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment. The group also doesn’t care about the possibility that some number of young people, scared by its ads, will forego access to affordable care, get sick, and go bankrupt paying their medical bills.
By: Julie Lapidos, Opinion Pages Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, September 23, 2013
“Money For Medical Bills Grows On Trees”: New Koch-Funded Front Group Tells Youth They Are Better Off Uninsured
For a new Koch-funded front group for young people, money for medical bills apparently grows on trees.
Generation Opportunity, a nonprofit financed with $5.04 million from a fund controlled by the Koch brothers’ lobbying team, just launched a new television advertisement to kick off an anti-Obamacare campaign. The ads, which provides no actual information about healthcare reform and instead seem designed to scare people away from doctor visits, have already been dissected by many in the media. What’s more revealing is Generation Opportunity’s real agenda, which was explained to Yahoo News in a story unveiling the new campaign (emphasis added):
Their message: You don’t have to sign up for Obamacare. “What we’re trying to communicate is, ‘No, you’re actually not required to buy health insurance,’” Generation Opportunity President Evan Feinberg told Yahoo News in an interview about the campaign. “You might have to pay a fine, but that’s going to be cheaper for you and better for you.”
So, the big idea here is that young people should decline health insurance? Having no health insurance is “better for you?” When a car accident happens, or someone is sent to the hospital needing critical care, who picks up the bill? For slash-and-burn Koch groups, that doesn’t seem to matter.
Notably, the young men and women hired by Generation Opportunity are provided health insurance, says organization’s communications director David Pasch, who spoke to TheNation.com over the phone. Lucky them.
Ethan Rome, the executive director of Health Care for America Now, says young Americans without health insurance will be “buried by bills and unable to recover for the rest of their lives.” “What they’re advocating is seriously unconscionable,” says Rome in response to Generation Opportunity’s call for youth to go uninsured.
Generation Opportunity also told Yahoo News that it will be passing out pizza and hosting tailgate parties to promote its campaign of opposing health insurance.
These antics, of course, are nothing new for the Koch brothers and their endless array of front groups. In the nineties, Koch-funded fronts fought healthcare reform by sponsoring a “broken-down bus wreathed in red tape symbolizing government bureaucracy and hitched to a tow truck labeled, ‘This is Clinton Health Care.’ ” They also fought environmental regulations, from acid rain to industrial air pollutants, not through sound policy arguments but by sponsoring populist-appearing agit-prop. More recently, Koch fronts have paid for moonbounces and other festival-type forms of outreach to lobby on issues critical to Koch Industries’ bottom line, like weakening the Environmental Protection Agency rules that affect Koch-owned facilities.
In the end, Koch operatives seem willing to use any marketing device that works, regardless of the truth or how it might affect regular people. In this case, encouraging young Americans to abandon health insurance is worth scoring political points against healthcare reform.
By: Lee Fang, The Nation, September 19, 2013