“A Final #NeverTrump Revolution”: Could Desperate Republicans Buy Trump Out Of The Presidential Race?
On Friday we learned that, in response to Donald Trump’s presidential anti-campaign, some GOP delegates are trying to muster a final #NeverTrump revolution before he’s officially nominated at the Republican National Convention next month. Now, Politico is teasing desperate Trump-anxious Republicans even further — particularly those still in the bargaining stage of grief. Apparently a former Trump advisor told Politico reporter Ben Schreckinger that they believed Trump would drop out of the presidential race if someone slipped him $150 million. Then, another former Trump advisor, Jim Dornan, agreed that such a payoff would “probably” work, and wondered if the Koch brothers would be up for the investment. But while the idea was a big hit on Twitter, especially with #NeverTrump superfan Bill Kristol, Trump isn’t buying into the buy-out idea, telling Politico (whose reporters are already banned from Trump events) that they are a bunch of lying liars for passing along things his former advisors said:
This story is a total fabrication from you and POLITICO, as usual. I will never leave the race, nobody has enough money to pay me to leave the race, and if they did, it would be totally illegal anyway. Did Obama and the Clintons get you to write this garbage?
Then again, when a reality television star’s presidential campaign seems more like a garbage fire, or media-empire grab, than an actual, functional presidential campaign, it does kind of make sense that all sorts of outlandish speculation would emerge about that candidate’s intentions. Plus, Politico got a law professor to suggest a legal loophole:
“It’s against the law to bribe someone for a vote or certain favors, but if I say to Trump, ‘I’m starting a new hedge fund with $300 million committed to it. I’d really like you to join us. Your name will bring in billions. I’ll give you a 50 percent interest from the start, and you can cash out the value of your initial interest ($150 million) when you want,’ There’s no bribe there, and Trump could go away with the $150 million,” [Pace Law School’s Jim] Fishman wrote in an email.
Also, regarding the #NeverTrump delegate story, Trump is now calling it a hoax, though it’s a hoax that’s apparently worth engaging with if that provides an opportunity to brag:
Who are they going to pick? I beat everybody. I beat the hell out of them. And we’re going to beat Hillary. And it’d be helpful if the Republicans could help us a little bit. If they don’t want to help out as much, I’ll fund my own campaign. I’d love to do that.
By: Chas Danner, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 18, 2016
“Win The War Over Time”: The Koch Brothers Play The Long Game, Making Them Smarter Than The Average Republican
The biggest political news this weekend is coming in two separate stories from the from the Koch brothers. Most important is that the Kochs are staying out of the nomination fight completely now that it has functionally come down to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz:
Charles Koch says he won’t “put a penny” into trying to stop Donald Trump, that there are “terrible role models” among the remaining Republican presidential candidates, and that his massive political network may decide to sit out of the presidential race entirely.
“These personal attacks and pitting one person against the other — that’s the message you’re sending the country,” Koch said in an exclusive interview with ABC News that aired Sunday. “You’re role models and you’re terrible role models. So how — I don’t know how we could support ’em.”
The billionaire CEO of Koch Industries and one of the most powerful and controversial figures in politics said he and his brother David Koch have also turned down pleas to join the “Never Trump” movement, which aims to deny the real estate mogul the nomination.
Instead Koch said he and his brother plan to stay out of the party’s nomination fight.
The other not totally unrelated news from the same ABC interview is that the Kochs are so disgusted with their Republican candidates that they even believe it’s possible that Hillary Clinton would make a better president–which is predictably being used against her by many Sanders supporters.
The great advantage the Koch brothers have over most people in politics is that they really believe in their ideology so deeply that they are willing to hand over the presidency–and its concomitant power to select Supreme Court justices–to their ideological enemies for four years in the service of longer-term goals lasting decades. The Koch brothers do not depend on winning elected office to advance their careers, and they (admirably and rightly, in my view) see politics not as a series of pitched electoral battles to implement various legislative aims, but rather as a grand battle of ideologies in which the entire longitudinal direction of a country is determined. If some Republican careers are damaged in the process, so be it. If some (to them) odious regulations are implemented in the meantime, so be it. They intend to win the war over time, even if it means losing the occasional battle. And that makes them a far more terrifying and effective opponent than the likes of Reince Priebus or Charles Krauthammer, whose vision goes no farther than the next election they can, donor they can please, or war they can start.
In this case, the Kochs know that even if Trump or Cruz were to win the general election–and even if they therefore had the power to appoint Supreme Court justices!–it would actually be more damaging to their long-term economic libertarian interests than if they were to win. They know that putting Hillary Clinton into office gives them potentially four years to run oppositional politics and ramp up their Hispanic outreach initiative.
They can deal with one or two more liberal justices on the court, because they know that if they can engineer a counter-revolution in the next decade and unseat Democrats in 2020, they can lock down Congress for yet another decade and ultimately have a near permanent Supreme Court majority by 2030 or 2035. Charles and David Koch themselves may not live that long, but that’s not their concern: their concern is to win the war. That makes them far more ambitious and frankly smarter than the average operative.
The question is whether their bet is correct. It could be that letting Clinton into the presidency in 2016 does what they believe it will. It’s also possible that 2016 will be the last chance for a Republican running on Reaganomics to win the presidency at all, and that by 2024 the Koch brothers’ Objectivist vision for the Republican Party will be all but irrelevant. But in either case, the Koch brothers are absolutely correct that neither Trump nor Cruz will adequately serve their decades-long interest.
By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 24, 2016
“Billionaires Try To Buy The Supreme Court”: Hiding Behind Tax Laws To Avoid Revealing Their Identities
“Let the people decide” is the refrain of Republicans opposed to holding hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, but they’re being bankrolled by an anonymous collection of billionaires—1 percenters so cowardly that they’re hiding behind tax laws to avoid revealing their identities.
Case in point: the “Judicial Crisis Network,” the right-wing front organization doing ad buys across the country to oppose Judge Garland getting a hearing. JCN is one of many 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations on the right and the left, and C4s don’t have to disclose their donors.That is the major reason that political spending by C4s increased more than 8,000 percent between 2004 and 2012.
That doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about C4’s like JCN, however. Thanks to a 2015 investigation by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, we do know it was started in 2005 (as the “Judicial Confirmation network” meant to promote Bush’s judicial appointees) by a group of arch-conservatives including Ann Corkery. Corkery isn’t listed on the JCN’s website, perhaps because the group doesn’t want “the people” to know she is also member of the far-right, literally self-flagellating Catholic order Opus Dei; a former director of Bill Donohue’s ultra-right Catholic League; and a board member of Hobby Lobby’s law firm, The Becket Fund, although her bio has been removed from Becket’s website too.
Conveniently, Corkery also directs JCN’s leading funder, the Wellspring Committee.
Who funds the Wellspring Committee? Well, here’s where things get interesting.
Turns out, Wellspring was founded in 2008 by none other than the infamous Charles and David Koch, together with their political Svengali, Richard Fink. According to Kenneth Vogel, author of the book Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp, Wellspring raised $10 million from attendees at the Kochs’ donor seminars, right after it was founded.
How much and from whom we don’t know.
And that’s precisely the point. Indeed, so secretive is the Wellspring Committee that Jane Mayer’s masterful 449-page tome on the Kochs, Scaifes, and other mega-donors doesn’t even mention it. One insider told Vogel, “Wellspring would never have put their name on anything.”
And these are the people saying “let the people decide.”
From the beginning, Wellspring was set up as a dark-money conduit, effectively laundering billionaire donations so no one would have to be accountable for them. Wellspring donated $7.8 million in 2008, for example, in part to other Koch-funded fronts like Americans for Prosperity.
But Wellspring was different in one key respect. Unlike most of the libertarian “Kochtopus”—which would eventually fund the Astroturf Tea Party movement—Wellspring worked closely with the Republican establishment. Corkery herself was a co-chair of the National Women for Mitt Finance Committee. The operations were initially run by Rick Wiley, a former Republican National Committee official. Wellspring also coordinated with Republican mega-donors, including Sheldon Adelson’s Freedom’s Watch.
The marriage didn’t last long, though. After the 2008 election loss, the Koch brothers turned back to their roots, funding front groups like Americans for Prosperity and Center to Protect Patient Rights to oppose Obamacare and the Tea Party movement to oppose mainstream Republicans.
From 2008 to 2011, Wellspring raised $24 million but not one donor’s name is known. (There are rumors that its funders now include the Templeton Foundation and hedge fund mogul Paul Singer, both contacts of Corkery’s.) Intriguingly, however, 10 of Wellspring’s grantees (in the period 2008-11) also received money from the Koch-funded Center to Protect Patient Rights, and Wellspring works with consultants who used to work with Koch Industries.
Whoever is paying for it, we do know that Wellspring is giving JCN $7 million a year, the lion’s share of that group’s budget, and that Corkery’s husband Neil is JCN’s treasurer. JCN, in turn, announced a $3 million campaign to oppose any Supreme Court confirmation hearings—just the latest of its big spends on judicial battles across the country.
In other words, the leading opponents of Judge Garland’s confirmation aren’t citizens concerned about democracy, but a front organization started by a secretive religious extremist and funded by anonymous members of the Koch brothers’ network. Let the people decide, indeed.
Oh, and by the way, C4s like Wellspring and JCN can only spend up to 49.9 percent of their expenditures on politics: the rest is supposed to promote “social welfare.” But since a judicial campaign isn’t technically a political campaign, these expenditures actually count as Wellspring’s non-political “social welfare” expenses. Because of course this has nothing to do with politics.
The further one digs into this miasma of hypocrisy, wealth, and secrecy, the more incestuous it all becomes. For example, it turns out, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, that Neil Corkery, in addition to JCN, was also “president of its allied Judicial Education Project, and executive director of a charity called the Sudan Relief Fund, all of which paid him salaries; but he also drew paychecks from at least four other organizations: the anti-gay union National Organization for Marriage, ActRight Action, the Catholic Association Foundation, and Catholic Voices. His total earnings were almost $450,000 and his weekly workload was 105 hours in the first half of 2012.” He is also linked to the C4 group called the Annual Fund, itself launched in 2010 with a $2.4 million grant from Wellspring.
Sometimes the “vast, right-wing conspiracy” isn’t really that vast.
It is, however, deeply hypocritical. If the mantra of the anti-Garland crowd is “let the people decide,” why won’t they let the people know who they are? Why the layers of obfuscation and secrecy? If the Wellspring Committee funders really care about democracy, they’ll stop hiding behind tax regulations and shell corporations, and proudly disclose who they are and what they want to do.
Unless, of course, they know the people would decide to run them out of Washington.
By: Jay Michaelson, The Daily Beast, March 29, 2016
“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.
— 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
“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 Breitbart.com, 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.
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