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“A Political Party Of Their Own”: RNC Discovers A Problem With The Koch Brothers’ Operation

The more Charles and David Koch provided the resources for a massive political operation, the more it seemed as if the far-right billionaires were creating a political party of their own. The Kochs had an army of field organizers, blanketed the airwaves with political ads, and even had their own voter lists.

All of this, of course, raises important questions about the role of money in the political process, and just how much influence wealthy interests can wield in a democratic system. But as Yahoo News reports today, for the Republican National Committee, the Koch brothers’ power is raising very different kinds of questions.

The Yahoo News report notes, for example, that in the 2014 election cycle, the RNC and the Kochs’ operation struck a deal to share voter data, though the arrangement evaporated once the season came and went. Now, however, the two sides are sharply at odds, creating what one Republican operative described as “all-out war.”

Interviews with more than three dozen people, including top decision-makers in both camps, have revealed that the Kochs’ i360 platform for managing voter contacts – which is viewed by many as a superior, easier-to-use interface than what’s on offer from the RNC – is becoming increasingly popular among Republican campaigns.

The RNC is now openly arguing, however, that the Kochs’ political operation is trying to control the Republican Party’s master voter file, and to gain influence over – some even say control of – the GOP.

Katie Walsh, the RNC’s chief of staff, told Yahoo News, “I think it’s very dangerous and wrong to allow a group of very strong, well-financed individuals who have no accountability to anyone to have control over who gets access to the data when, why and how.”

I can appreciate why fights over data may seem like the ultimate in inside-baseball, but this is a fight worth paying close attention to.

Remember, for many modern campaigns, this data is the foundation for any successful endeavor. The more reliable and comprehensive the data, and the easier it is to use, the more effective the targeting, messaging, advertising, and grassroots organizing of any major campaign.

In this case, as one might expect, the Republican National Committee controls the Republican voter file, but the Kochs’ operation seems to have discovered that it really doesn’t need the Republican National Committee – the Kochs have their own platform to manage the data, and their own relationships with campaigns that want to make use of the data.

If that’s the case, some of you may be wondering why the Republican National Committee is needed at all – and you wouldn’t be the only one. From the Yahoo piece:

The core issue, from Priebus’ point of view, is one of loyalty and allegiance. The RNC is a permanent entity, committed to the Republican Party without question. The Koch network is too independent from the party to be trusted with possession of the GOP’s most valuable core assets. If the Kochs – whose political history is steeped more in libertarianism than it is in any loyalty to the Republican Party – decided next week to use their database to benefit only their massive multinational corporation, they could do so. […]

The Kochs’ political arm, Freedom Partners, which oversees i360, views the issue as one of capability. Koch aides – several of whom used to work at the RNC – want to win elections, and in their view the RNC has inherent challenges to helping the party win. Party committee fundraising is severely limited by federal election law, while building, maintaining and enriching a database is expensive.

The other angle to keep in mind is just how striking it is to see Republican officials discover their heretofore non-existent concerns about outside money and the political process. The RNC’s Katie Walsh didn’t even rely on anonymity – she straight up told Yahoo News, on the record, that she believes it’s “dangerous” to extend too much power to “well-financed individuals who have no accountability to anyone.”

Ya don’t say. We might want to think twice before turning over parts of the democratic process to unaccountable, wealthy players with their own agenda? I’ve heard similar concerns for many years, but I don’t recall them ever coming from RNC officials.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 11, 2015

June 13, 2015 Posted by | Democracy, Koch Brothers, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Plutocrat Politburo”: The Koch Brothers Don’t Care If You Care About Their Plans To Buy 2016 Election

The Koch brothers are done being shy. That’s the conclusion one would have to draw from the fact that they just announced that they hope to spend $889 million on the 2016 election, an unprecedented amount of outside money. It won’t all be theirs — they’re assembling a kind of Plutocrat Politburo, a group of billionaires and zillionaires who will contribute to the cause — but with a combined worth of over $80 billion, they’ll surely be the ones opening their ample wallets the widest and determining the strategy and the agenda.

But unlike some previous reporting on Charles and David’s political efforts, this revelation — which comes from a gathering in beautiful Rancho Mirage of Freedom Partners, the organization through which the Kochs and their allies will distribute all these millions — didn’t require any secret meetings with anonymous sources to unearth. They just told everyone. Here’s the Post’s story on it, here’s the New York Times’ story on it, and here’s Politico’s story on it, all complete with ample details and on-the-record quotes. Reporters may not have been invited into the private meetings at the gathering, but they were allowed to hang around and talk to the participants. And no fewer than four potential GOP presidential candidates (Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz) showed up as well, obviously unconcerned about any charge that they’re kowtowing to the uber-rich.

So the Kochs appear to have concluded that the efforts by Democrats (especially Harry Reid) to turn the Koch name into a symbol of everything that’s wrong in American politics have failed. No longer must they cower in their mansions and take pains to conceal their political spending, fearful of the piercing barbs aimed by liberal politicians and commentators, when all they want is for Americans to fully appreciate the majesty of laissez-faire economics. Free at last, free at last, thank Citizens United, they’re free at last.

If you were expecting journalists to express much consternation at the idea that a group of the super-wealthy are openly announcing their intention to buy the next election, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, the news is being reported more like that of a record-breaking contract for a professional athlete: wonder at the sums involved, but precious little moral outrage. That’s mostly because political reporters tend to believe that election campaigns are already nothing but a parade of deception and manipulation, an enterprise that’s inherently corrupt. So what’s a little more corruption?

There’s no doubt that the behind-the-scenes machinations are fascinating to anyone interested in politics. By putting themselves on par with or even above the parties, the Kochs will make the conflict within the Republican Party even more complex, and potentially vicious, than it already was. Ken Vogel of Politico described the move as “a show of dominance to rival factions on the right, including the Republican National Committee.” What happens when the insurgents are even better funded than what we’ve taken to calling the establishment? It will certainly be interesting to find out.

In any case, the Kochs are probably right that they have little to lose by being public about their plans. Yes, they’ll have to absorb some stern editorials, and maybe even some ads from the DNC criticizing Republican politicians for associating with them. But weighed against what they have to gain by putting nearly a billion dollars into the next presidential campaign — more than the two parties spent, combined, in 2012 — that’s a price so small it’s barely worth worrying about.

In his 2003 novel Jennifer Government, Max Barry imagines a future in which the penetration of capitalism and marketing has become so total that people take the names of their corporate employers as their own last names; characters are called things like John Nike, Nathaniel ExxonMobil, and Calvin McDonalds.

We may not have gotten quite that far yet, but the next Republican president — whether that person is elected in 2016 or after — will have been sponsored, supported, elevated, and outfitted by the Koch brothers and their friends. Should a Republican candidate they don’t like show promise in the primaries, he will surely be crushed by the awesome machine they’re building. The winner may not take their name (Scott Walker-Koch, perhaps?), but he or she will be in their debt to a degree we have not previously contemplated. And the consensus will be that that’s just how things work now.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, January 27, 2015

January 28, 2015 Posted by | Democracy, Election 2016, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Increasingly Confusing World Of Campaign Finance”: Koch-Backed Small Business Front Group Added To ALEC Board

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a big business-funded group that claims to be the “nation’s leading small business association,” has joined the corporate board of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or “ALEC.” It marks perhaps the final step towards the NFIB abandoning any pretense of being a nonpartisan representative of small business owners.

ALEC has been described as a “corporate bill mill” that allows big business interests to peddle influence with ALEC’s legislative members — who are almost entirely Republican — and push “model” legislation that tends to benefit the corporate bottom line or advance an ideological agenda. The NFIB has long been an ALEC member, and this week joined the ALEC corporate governing board, which meets jointly with the ALEC legislative board and helps set the agenda and fundraise for the organization.

The announcement of the NFIB’s board membership came the same day the New York Times revealed that the the health insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), laundered $1.6 million through the NFIB’s dark money advocacy arm in 2012 to attack Democratic Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas. This is on top of the $850,000 that the insurance group gave to NFIB the year before.

The New York Times wrote:

“The largely hidden role of the for-profit health insurers highlights the increasingly confusing world of campaign finance, as nonprofit groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business and its Voice of Free Enterprise program can keep their donor lists secret and then present their carefully fashioned message, financed in large part by big business, as if it is coming from, perhaps, a more sympathetic voice.”

Even the small business owner featured in the NFIB’s ad, John Parke of Little Rock, Ark., said he didn’t know the message was being bankrolled by the insurance industry — but says he should have been told.

“It is relevant to understanding who is sponsoring the message,” he said.

AHIP represents dozens of insurance companies, some of which are ALEC members, such as Guarantee Trust (which chairs ALEC’s Health & Human Services Task Force) and State Farm (which is also part of the ALEC corporate board).

Yet the insurance lobby donation wasn’t the NFIB’s biggest grant in 2012, which is the most recent year that records are available. The biggest donor to NFIB and its affiliated groups was the Koch brothers-backed Freedom Partners, an outfit that Politico described as “the Koch brothers’ secret bank.” Freedom Partners gave NFIB and its affiliates $2.5 million in 2012. NFIB received an additional $135,000 that year from another Koch funding outfit, the Center to Protect Patient Rights.

A Koch representative also sits on the ALEC corporate board.

A small business owner who joins the NFIB pays $195. Which means the Koch network’s donations to NFIB in 2012 was the equivalent of over 13,500 individual memberships. AHIP’s money amounted to more than 8,200 memberships.

Which raises the question, who does the NFIB speak for?

Small business owners run the gamut politically. Around a third say they are Republican, one-third Democrats, and one-third independent. Yet the NFIB’s political spending has not been representative of the small business owners it claims to represent. Its political donations go almost entirely to Republicans. And the NFIB’s funding sources place it squarely within the right-wing infrastructure.

The NFIB’s partisan and big business ties became evident in 2010, when it launched the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act that eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court. That year, Karl Rove’s dark money outfit Crossroads GPS gave the NFIB $3.7 million. The Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation (which also donates to ALEC) chipped-in an additional $100,000.

Prior to the healthcare lawsuit, the biggest contribution to the NFIB from an outside source was $21,000.

 

By: Brendan Fisher, PR Watch, The Center for Media and Democracy, August 1, 2014

August 3, 2014 Posted by | ALEC, Big Business, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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