The Koch brothers* are hiring.
You’ll find job listings for campaign staff positions in Koch-funded groups in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Virginia. Some of the ads call for experts in social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, YouTube, Google, and OutBrain to effect a strategy that’s both agile and overwhelming.
And you’re already seeing $20 million worth of TV ads from the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) targeting incumbent senators in Alaska, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Louisiana for supporting Obamacare. Similar ads are now up Michigan and Iowa, where veteran Democrats Carl Levin (D-MI) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) are vacating their Senate seats.
Now Democrats are sounding the alarm to their donors in a moment that’s reminiscent of the note the Obama campaign hit with an email in which the president said, “I will be outspent.”
“Democrats need money at this early stage in order to fight back against the limitless spending from the Kochs,” Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told The New York Times. “The limitless spending from the Kochs means we need Democratic donors to step up in a bigger way immediately.”
Republicans need six seats to take over the U.S. Senate and the Kochs are trying to expand the map to put even the states that twice voted for President Obama in play. And they’re building on a model that they perfected in 2010 when right-leaning groups hammered the president and Democrats in Congress for a year over the “failed” stimulus before it even had a chance to work.
With Democrats holding virtually every swing seat in the nation after the landslide of 2008, they defended on all fronts and avoided trying to nationalize the race, even though the choice was made for them. As the midterm election hit, in the midst of the worst job market in 60 years, Republicans won more elected offices than they had at any time since before the Great Depression.
The right tried to reprise this strategy in 2012 with dismal results. But in an off-year election, without President Obama on the ballot and with Obamacare disapproval soaring in red states, there’s a clear opportunity to use health care reform to define Democrats early.
And that’s what the Kochs are doing wherever they see an opportunity.
With former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land polling better than expected against her likely Democratic opponent Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI), especially in polls that under-sample African-Americans, Michigan presents such an opportunity. Land supported Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) in his plan to privatize Social Security and Medicare in previous budgets, but she’s unlikely to produce the sort of gaffes that cost Republicans Senate seats in Missouri, Indiana, Nevada and Rhode Island.
Land recently touted outside groups supporting her run right as AFP’s ad targeting her opponent began a $1 million three-week run — even though collaboration between candidates and these groups is illegal. Wink, wink.
Democrats also hope to expand the Senate map to Georgia — where Obama only lost by 8 percent without spending a dime in the state. Michelle Nunn, the daughter of the state’s former beloved senator Sam Nunn, will likely be the Democratic nominee and could easily end up facing Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) who was voted “Most Likely to be the Next Akin.” His primary opponent, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) — who recently said that children would benefit from working — was a close second to Broun.
While Karl Rove is actively trying to influence Republican primaries to ensure the most electable candidates win, Americans for Prosperity retains its Tea Party credibility by aiming its fire only at Democrats and sticking to the issue that will preoccupy the right for the third national election in a row — Obamacare.
So if you’re in one of those 13 targeted states, expect to hear about #fullrepeal of a law that’s been on the books for almost four years now on TV, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, email and anywhere the Kochs can find you.
*The Kochs go out of their way to obscure how they spend the millions they invest in Republican politics. Americans for Prosperity is a 501(c)(4) social welfare group that doesn’t have to release the names of its donors — though we know David Koch helped to found the group. These non-profits, which are limited in the amount of resources they can apply to political efforts, were the subject of the controversy where the IRS used political keywords to identify conservative and progressive groups for extra scrutiny. Big groups like AFP and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS avoided such scrutiny, until recently, at least.
By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, January 15, 2014
I’ve long held that what William Goldman said about Hollywood—”Nobody knows anything”—is equally true of Washington. At the same time though, people in politics are particularly adept at finding those who know even less than they do, and scamming them into giving over their political support or their money, or both.
I thought of this when reading the long investigation The Washington Post published the other day on the byzantine network of organizations the Koch brothers have established or funded to funnel their ample resources into politics. There are dozens of groups involved, and money moves back and forth between them in intricate ways. The Post was able to trace $400 million they spent in the last election, but since there were a number of organizations whose money they weren’t able to track, the real number is almost certainly higher. As a tax law expert quoted in the article says, “It is a very sophisticated and complicated structure … It’s designed to make it opaque as to where the money is coming from and where the money is going. No layperson thought this up. It would only be worth it if you were spending the kind of dollars the Koch brothers are, because this was not cheap.” The Koch brothers no doubt can avail themselves of the most skilled and creative accountants money can buy.
But they sure didn’t get much for their money. Barack Obama, you might have noticed, is still the president, and Democrats did quite well overall in 2012. Perhaps there was no way for the Kochs to change that even with a mid-nine-figure investment. But what it appears happened is that these brothers, who are no doubt savvy businessmen, got taken to the cleaners by their consultants (Matt Yglesias had the same thought I did about this).
You see, political consultants don’t always have standard rates that they use for all their clients. On one end, this may mean that the firm accepts a smaller profit to do some work for a do-gooder nonprofit. On the other end, it means that for a client the consultant knows has deep pockets, the same services will be marked up, maybe by a little, maybe by a lot. If you were a Republican polling firm and the Kochs came to you asking you to do a poll that you ordinarily charge $50,000 for, maybe you could just bump that up to $75,000. They probably won’t notice the difference, after all. And maybe you convince them that they need to conduct six or eight such polls over the course of the year. The direct mail consultants are doing the same thing, and you can bet the media consultants are doing it too, because those guys pull money from clients like nobody’s business. And it isn’t like the Kochs are going to be going over the contracts line by line, right?
Each individual consultant may only be padding his own bottom line by $50,000 here or $100,000 there, but there are so many people involved and so many millions passing hither and yon that by the time its over, the results at the ballot box may be discouraging but a lot of already successful Republican consultants are thinking it’s finally time to get that beach house.
There’s another scam going on at the same time, which is that many of these efforts are aimed at recruiting regular people to be the Koch’s ground troops, to put a “grassroots” face on what is most assuredly an elite project. The Kochs have sincerely held political beliefs, which by pure coincidence happen to line up perfectly with their economic interests. They’d like it if there were fewer regulations on corporate behavior and lower taxes on the rich, among other things (that isn’t to say they don’t also have beliefs on non-economic topics like abortion as well, because I’m sure they do). If you can convince a bunch of middle-class folk to go stand outside in their tricorner hats braying about the Founders and the Constitution as they press Congress to lighten the burdens on our nation’s beleaguered plutocrats, then it’s all worth it.
So the Kochs are getting scammed by their consultants, and they’re scamming the people whom those consultants are persuading, and meanwhile there are plenty of other scams around too. Today Rush Limbaugh went on the air and told his millions of listeners that the “polar vortex” is not an actual thing that meteorologists have documented, but something the media made up in order to make the current cold wave not contradict their existing global warming hoax. Does Rush Limbaugh believe this? I doubt it. But treating his audience like a bunch of gullible fools is part of his business model.
You can find regular people who think that if “global warming” were real, that would mean it will never get cold again. But that’s not because they’re dumb (though they may be). It’s because that’s what people they trust have been telling them for years. Every winter, whenever there’s a cold snap or a big snowfall, a parade of doltish Fox anchors goes on the air hour after hour to say, “So much for global warming! Suck it, Al Gore!” Or as Ted Cruz said today, “It’s cold! Al Gore told me this wouldn’t happen!” Har, har! And those Republican voters, made ever stupider by the media figures they adore, make sure the people who represent them won’t allow anything to be done to address climate change. And you know who benefits from that? Why Charles and David Koch, who are in the oil business. They make money, the consultants make money, Rush Limbaugh makes money, and the only people in the equation who don’t make money are the suckers at the bottom.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 7, 2014
“Poor Little Rich Boys”: Weeping In Frustration At The Obstinate Refusal Of The American People To Recognize The Natural Aristocracy
If you read Matea Gold’s long piece at WaPo today about the vast, byzantine web of organizations—many just dummies or decoys or the purest kind of money launderers—set up by the Koch Brothers and their friends to exert massive influence on American politics behind multiple veils of secrecy, you may have been a bit underwhelmed by the Koch’s often-repeated rationale for all the skullduggery:
In a rare in-person interview with Forbes in late 2012, Charles Koch defended the need for venues that allow donors to give money without public disclosure, saying such groups provide protection from the kind of attacks his family and company have weathered.
“We get death threats, threats to blow up our facilities, kill our people. We get Anonymous and other groups trying to crash our IT systems,” he said, referring to the computer-hacking collective. “So long as we’re in a society like that, where the president attacks us and we get threats from people in Congress, and this is pushed out and becomes part of the culture — that we are evil, so we need to be destroyed, or killed — then why force people to disclose?”
Playing the victim has long been part of the Brothers’ shtick. Some readers may recall a stomach-churning Wall Street Journal op-ed by Ted Olson early in 2012 defending the Kochs (his clients) from the omnipotent, malevolent, Nixonian hostility of Barack Obama, before which they were apparently cowering in fear. This was in the midst of a presidential cycle in which the Brothers walked very, very tall, per Gold’s estimates:
Together, the 17 conservative groups that made up the [Koch political] network raised at least $407 million during the 2012 campaign, according to the analysis of tax returns by The Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics.
That was all self-defense spending, you see—just as Sheldon Adelson’s vast investments in American and Israeli politics are merely the feeble efforts of an honest entrepreneur to protect himself from persecution.
It would be funny if it weren’t so pathologically sincere. I suggest you read Gold’s piece in tandem with Molly Ball’s fascinating profile of Frank Luntz, who is apparently going through some sort of mid-life crisis because of Obama’s re-election:
Luntz dreams of drafting some of the rich CEOs he is friends with to come up with a plan for saving America from its elected officials. “The politicians have failed; now it’s up to the business community to stand up and be heard,” he tells me. “I want the business community to step up.” Having once thought elites needed to listen to regular people, he now wants the people to learn from their moneyed betters.
Luntz’s populism has turned on itself and become its opposite: fear and loathing of the masses. “I am grateful that Occupy Wall Street turned out to be a bunch of crazy, disgusting, rude, horrible people, because they were onto something,” he says. “Limbaugh made fun of me when I said that Occupy Wall Street scares me. Because he didn’t hear what I hear. He doesn’t see what I see.” The people are angry. They want more, not because we have not given them enough but because we have given them too much.
For the time being, Luntz appears focused on breaking into Hollywood, presumably to reform the people via popular culture:
If he could, Luntz would like to have a consulting role on The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama. “I know I’m not supposed to like it, but I love it,” he says. He feels a kinship with Jeff Daniels’ character, the gruff, guilt-ridden, ostensibly Republican antihero, who is uncomfortable with small talk and driven by a “mission to civilize.” “I love that phrase,” Luntz says. “That doesn’t happen in anything that we do.”
When he’s at home in Los Angeles, The Newsroom is the high point of Luntz’s week. He turns off his phone and gets a plate of spaghetti bolognese and a Coke Zero and sits in front of his 85-inch television, alone in his 14,000-square-foot palace. “That’s as good as it gets for me,” he says.
Yes, Frank’s another poor little rich boy, weeping in frustration at the obstinate refusal of the American people to recognize the natural aristocracy that seeks to guide them away from the evil demagogues who demand limits on their wealth and power. Luntz is a relative small-fry in the counter-revolutionary universe, but the Kochs’ whining sounds to me like the warning rattle of a coiled snake.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 6, 2014
More than a century later we still have the poor with us, of course, and the rich, not to mention the unspeakably super-duper-rich – many of whom comport themselves in ways that likewise provoke public concern, especially in an era of growing inequality and impoverishment.
National Memo editor-in-chief Joe Conason believes the time has come to revive a somewhat less charitable tradition that he and his late colleague, the great progressive journalist Jack Newfield, established at The Village Voice during an earlier era of avarice: “The Greediest Cases.”
This holiday season we will feature a series of profiles of America’s Greediest Cases, and we encourage readers to nominate deserving public figures in the worlds of business, government, media, entertainment, and sports who exemplify the grasping materialism and rank hypocrisy of our time.
You and your brother are tied as the fourth richest person in America with $36 billion in assets each, the fruits of owning the second largest privately owned corporation in the world. How would you spend your spare time and money?
Perhaps you’d donate millions to medical research, public television and the arts. Or maybe you’d dabble in politics and try to expose the “Science of Liberty” and economic freedom to help “the most vulnerable.”
That’s what the Koch Brothers do. And how are they helping the most vulnerable?
By attempting to rid the public of programs like Social Security, which has kept more Americans out of poverty than anything the government has ever done.
While the Kochs insist that their goal is freedom, their agenda seems entirely based on policies that increase economic inequality and make it easy for carbon polluters like Koch Industries to continue their unfettered domination of energy markets.
Perhaps the best example of the Kochs’ hypocrisy comes in their war on solar power.
While the Kochs spent millions to try to put politicians in office who have vowed to never raise taxes on the rich or anyone, the billionaires are aiding efforts to “tax the sun” in an effort to squash the nascent solar industry.
One of the main benefits of powering your home or business via solar cells, especially in a state like Arizona, is a process known as “net metering,” which allows you to sell excess wattage back to the utility. While the virtue of using a renewable resource that is essentially carbon-neutral is a decent selling point, it’s the economic value of net metering that has fueled Arizona’s solar boom and made it the top solar state per capita.
This boom hasn’t pleased Arizona Public Service (APS), which stands to lose as much as $2 billion over the next 20 years if solar adoption continues at the current pace. That’s why the state’s largest electricity provider has been fighting for new regulations that would raise the cost of solar by $50-$100 a month, effectively killing the benefits of net metering. And APS has been waging this battle with some very powerful allies.
Why would the Koch brothers be interested in a small regulatory battle in Arizona?
Because it isn’t just about Arizonans reaping the unique benefit of living in a desert. It’s about freedom! The freedom of carbon polluters everywhere to make massive profits at the expense of the environment.
As the decision of the Arizona Corporation Commission neared, the state was hit with a series of ads ironically decrying the solar industry’s dependence on “corporate welfare” and comparing the solar businesses in the state to Solyndra, which is conservative for “something that makes me mad for some reason.”
An APS spokesman denied that they were funding the ads because they were funding them indirectly, through a consultant. The Kochs could also deny that they were funding the effort to tax the sun, because they weren’t funding the effort directly. Instead, the dirty work was being done by The 60 Plus Association, which models itself as the conservative alternative to AARP.
The brothers help fund The 60 Plus Association through another shadowy organization known as Freedom Partners, which gave $15.7 million to the group last year. And that wasn’t the only way they were involved in the fight in Arizona.
“APS appears to be leading the first assault of a national campaign by the utility industry trade association, Edison Electric Institute (EEI), and fossil fuel interests like APS, to weaken net metering policies,” notes the Energy & Policy Institute’s Gabe Elsner. The EEI is trying to push “model legislation” that saps the benefits of solar in several states through the American Legislative Exchange Council, another Koch-supported group. The State Policy Network, another Koch-supported “nonprofit,” is trying to roll back renewable energy credits in several states.
The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer helped popularize the term “Kochtopus” to define the Kochs’ ideological network. It’s so vast and cloaked in vagaries of election law that we truly have no idea how vast their influence is.
But we do know that again and again, these titans of industry are trying to crush renewable energy, even when it has Tea Party support, and it’s rare if they have to get a Koch Industries lobbyist directly involved. Often they’re trying to roll back breaks for non-carbon-based energy companies, while taking no such stand against the billions in government help the oil industry benefits from, but they’re even willing to pursue new regulations if it suits their needs, which led The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur to say, “…the Koch brothers hate the free market.”
The good news is that in Arizona they lost, mostly. Regulators voted to impose a $5 monthly fee on net metering, a fraction of what APS and The 60 Plus Association wanted.
The solar industry in Arizona survived this time, despite the Kochs’ best efforts.
By: Jason Sattler, the National Memo, December 27, 2013
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