Endorsements from mainstream media figures have provided a scrim of credibility for Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash, the Hillary-and-Bill-bashing book just published by Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins. Without the explicit support of respectable institutions such as the New York Times and Washington Post, Schweizer’s lengthy record of inaccuracy and extremism – not to mention the dozens of errors in the book itself – would have doomed his project to the same irrelevance as so many others of its all-too-familiar type.
More than once in recent days, for example, Joshua Green of Bloomberg News has spoken out to defend the far-right author. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, during the pre-release publicity push for Clinton Cash last week, Green said of Schweizer: “He tends to kind of get smeared, but it’s worth remembering this is a serious guy who has done serious work that led to a serious article,” said Green, who went on to complain that Schweizer – whose previous works and connections with far-right dark-money sources were scrutinized by Media Matters, among others – is a victim of “character assassination.”
Character assassination is apparently the least of Schweizer’s worries, if the guy was being serious during his May 4 appearance on former Breitbart blogger Dana Loesch’s radio show. Her very first question recalled a loony wingnut legend concerning the tragic 1993 suicide of Vince Foster, deputy counsel in the Clinton White House:
“I know you don’t want to talk too much about it, but there is that, there is always that concern for anyone who goes up against the Clinton machine that they could be Vince Fostered,” she ventured, “and I’m sure that that was something that you took into consideration.”
In reply, Schweizer swiftly abandoned any semblance of seriousness:
“Yeah, I mean look — there are security concerns that arise in these kinds of situations. You know, you don’t like to go into too much detail, there were some things that were going on that we felt needed to be addressed. The decision on security wasn’t actually made by me, it was made by board members of Government Accountability Institute, and you know, it’s I think showing an abundance of caution. The reality is we’ve touched on a major nerve within the Clinton camp. They are very, very upset, and they are pulling out all the stops to attack me in an effort to kill this book off.”
Kill? Oh dear.
Keep this bizarre exchange in mind when journalists like Green insist that everyone must take Schweizer seriously. By contrast, Green tried to undermine me as an “inveterate Clinton defender” when we appeared together briefly on NPR’s On Point. As I pointed out later, he obviously hadn’t read any of my critical columns on Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary campaign. (Incidentally, Schweizer declined to appear with me on that broadcast, with his Murdoch publicist offering one feeble excuse after another — but I would be happy to debate him about his outlandish charges against the Clintons any time.)
The Vince Foster reference reflects on the mental state of Tea Party cartoon characters like Loesch, who remain obsessed with the most deranged legends about the Clintons. But it is also a timely reminder that the Vince Foster nonsense, like other “Clinton scandals,” was promoted by the late Republican billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who spent millions on the clandestine “Arkansas Project” in pursuit of the Clintons’ political destruction.
The true story of those covert activities — or as a famous woman once put it, the “vast right-wing conspiracy” — is told again in our new (and free!) e-book, The Hunting of Hillary, excerpted from The Hunting of the President.
Today, Scaife’s role is played by the secretive financiers of Schweizer’s “institute” — namely, the Koch brothers and their network of Republican billionaires, whose plotting and financing of this attempted “character assassination” of Hillary Clinton is the best endorsement of her that I can imagine.
By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, May 5, 2015
“Koch Funding Of Universities Shrouded In Secrecy”: Trying To Reshape Public Education To Match Their Libertarian Ideology
In a recent column entitled “The Campus Climate Crusade,” The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel spent over 800 words arguing the basic conceit of UnKochMyCampus, a campaign uniting students at universities around the country who are working to increase transparency on their campuses and fight attempts by corporate donors like Charles and David Koch from influencing their education.
Her core arguments? The left is wielding transparency as a “weapon,” and efforts to access information through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are “shutting down debate across the country.”
Unfortunately for Strassel, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Our work with UnKochMyCampus has shown us that transparency removes the smoke and mirrors that cloud the debate, leaving ordinary people ill-equipped to develop informed opinions on research and policy around the most important issues of the day. Our policy is being shaped by corporations, for corporations – and that’s a huge problem.
There was a time when the public engaged in a seemingly-legitimate debate about whether smoking caused cancer. Then we learned that the studies claiming cigarettes were safe were funded by the tobacco industry. Once the cat was out of the bag, people saw that “debate” for what it was – a farce.
Just as tobacco companies had a vested financial interest in keeping the public in the dark about the dangers of smoking, today’s fossil fuel companies are stoking denial about the realities of climate change and masking the positive impact of regulations and renewable energy programs to protect their bottom line.
One of the key strategies they use to accomplish this is unleashing a flood of money into think-tanks and universities around the country to help disseminate their message. That money comes with strings attached that give corporations more and more influence over education and research at both public and private universities around the country.
Just weeks ago it was revealed that Harvard-Smithsonian’s Willie Soon – whose climate change studies the scientific community have long claimed to be inaccurate – received almost all of his funding from fossil fuel interests. Were it not for public disclosure laws, this information would have been hidden from the public, making it much more difficult for those who are not members of the scientific community to discern whether Soon’s research was above board or just corporate PR disguised as science.
While this is an egregious example, it’s by no means an aberration. Between 2001 and 2013, the Charles Koch Foundation has provided nearly $70 million to almost 400 campuses across the country. This money goes to researchers like Soon or think-tanks like the Beacon Hill Institute housed at Suffolk University in Boston that produce content designed to further climate denial and attack policies they oppose, like the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon rule or state renewable portfolio standards.
But that’s not all the money buys. As students at Florida State University and Clemson University discovered in 2011, grant agreements (Memorandums of Understanding, or “MOUs”) between universities and the Charles Koch Foundation often give the Kochs influence over the hiring of professors and development of course curriculum. In other words, on top of reshaping scientific studies to further their bottom line, the Kochs are also trying to reshape public education to match their libertarian ideology. This strategy has been in effect for decades and was even referenced outright by Charles Koch during a 1974 speech he delivered to a room of businessmen at a seminar on “The Anti-Capitalist Mentality”: “We should cease financing our own destruction…by supporting only those programs, departments or schools that contribute in some way to our individual companies or to the general welfare of our free enterprise system.”
Bringing to light the MOUs between the Charles Koch Foundation and universities exposed the Kochs’ dark money campaign on college campuses around the country and rightfully caused an uproar, which explains why Koch Industries is so vehemently opposed to further efforts by students involved in the UnKoch My Campus campaign to increase transparency. Case in point: Koch Industries is currently paying legal fees for University of Kansas professor Art Hall who sued the university following a Kansas Open Records Act request submitted by a student who sought to gain more information into his hiring. It sure looks shady: From 1997 to 2004, Hall was chief economist of Koch Industries’ lobbying subsidiary, Koch Companies Public Sector and currently serves as the director of KU’s conservative Center for Applied Economics, which receives funding from the Kochs.
But perhaps no other university in the country serves as a better example of the corporatization of education than George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. GMU has received more than $34 million from the Charles Koch Foundation since 2011. But the real impact of the Kochs’ funding on campus remains a mystery. Despite repeated attempts by students to obtain information about the grants and MOU with the Foundation, the school refuses to comply because it has housed the grants under the private George Mason University Foundation instead of the university itself in an attempt to prevent any potentially damning information about their source from being subject to the rules governing public universities like GMU.
Transparency is one of the last avenues available to concerned members of the public, including students, professors and alumni, who have serious and well-founded concerns about the motives of major financial donors like the Kochs. If transparency is seen as such a threat, only one logical question remains: what are they so afraid of disclosing?
By: Kalin Jordan, Co-founder of UnKochMyCampus; Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, April 20, 2015
The more closely we look at Peter Schweizer — right-wing author of Clinton Cash and new best friend of the New York Times and Washington Post — the more he appears to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Koch brothers. Schweizer’s forthcoming book on Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation was supported by a “think tank” called the Government Accountability Institute, which has reportedly received millions from Koch-connected donor funds over the past two years.
Crooks and Liars points toward Donors Trust, the huge Koch-funded “dark-money ATM of the right,” as a key source of funding that made Schweizer’s book possible. He is, after all, the president of the Government Accountability Institute, where tax-exempt money was used to finance a couple of nasty, inaccurate political hits on President Obama during the last election cycle, almost as soon as the “non-partisan think tank” sprang up.
If that isn’t suggestive enough, here is video of Schweizer himself, delivering a February 2014 speech at the Charles Koch Institute, an “educational organization” based in Arlington, VA. Its tax-exempt activities are subsidized by the CEO of Koch Industries, Inc. — yes, that Charles Koch.
Maybe the Times and Post editors should have taken a closer look before they leaped into a deal to promote this Kochtopus production. Or did they look and not care?
Update: Not surprisingly, Media Matters for America provides further detail on Schweizer’s financing by the Koch brothers, Robert Mercer, and the right-wing billionaire political nexus.
By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, April 23, 2015
Koch Industries, considered Public Enemy Number One by many environmentalists, is blanketing the airwaves with an ad campaign touting its contributions to society.
Charles and David Koch, billionaire moguls of a fossil fuel empire, sign off their company’s self-aggrandizing ads with the triumphant exclamation “we are Koch!”
The main ad in their series of spot commercials features a kaleidoscope of bucolic farms as well as bustling factory workers and lab technicians. A narrator informs us that the company has a 60,000 strong workforce dedicated to providing a broad range of products to” help people improve their lives.” [“We Are Koch.”]
There is no mention of this second largest privately held company in the nation being slapped with numerous fines for pollution offenses. There is nary a word about the Koch brothers using their immense wealth to finance the debunking of climate change. No reference is made to the company’s lobbying efforts to thwart clean, renewable energy expansion and weaken anti-pollution regulations.
One of the ads features Claire Johnson, an environmental engineer lauding the work of her employer, Flint Hill Resources, a Koch chemical refining multi-site operation.
“If a pollution incident does occur,” Johnson declares as she stares into the camera, “we are great at self-regulation…” [We Are Koch.]
Koch’s perception of its self-regulatory skills is not shared by government authorities responsible for safeguarding our air, water and land. You can understand why when you learn that the very same Flint Hill Resources was recently fined $350,000 for allowing a Texas chemical plant to leak a lethal amount of hazardous emissions.
To counter the Koch’s pervasive propaganda, an advertising rebuttal is needed. Television satirist Jon Stewart took a one-time stab with a video parody displaying oil fields and polar bears. The video was accompanied by a supposed Koch narrator rhapsodizing that “with our devotion to fossil fuels, we [Koch] make your planet warmer and water more flammable while lubricating your birds and displacing your polar bears.”
Unfortunately, Stewart doesn’t have the resources to saturate the electronic mass media with his visual message. It is a shame there is no major ad campaign offering such responses as something like the following. Picture a Koch Industries chemical plant discharging suspicious-looking affluent into a waterway with a narrator boasting “here is a Koch plant operating at full tilt.” A sonorous voice then intones “They Are Koch.”
How about a video in which a melting iceberg collapses into the sea as a Koch narrative drones “global warming is a natural phenomenon. There is no human-induced climate change. They Are Koch.”
The camera zooms in on a bulldozer unloading toxic coal residue into a hazardous waste landfill with a voice-over proclaiming “renewable energy at this stage is unaffordable. That leaves the plentiful coal and other fossil fuels we supply as the only practical alternatives for the foreseeable future. They Are Koch.”
Koch Industries employs a lot of people, but it jeopardizes a lot as well.
By: Edward Flattau, The Blog, The Huffington Post, March 25, 2015
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