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“The KB-Party Of Plutocratic Rule”: Welcome To What The Supreme Court Wrought

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

February 27, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Democracy, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Crash Course In Congressional Mischief”: Voters Have An Entirely New Reason To Scorn Congress

After years of excoriating Congress for not legislating, Americans got a crash course Tuesday night about the mischief that can transpire when Congress actually fulfills its duties.

With both parties (for a change) committed to passing a spending bill by Thursday to avoid a government shutdown, the comprehensive legislation became a lobbyist’s delight. These omnibus last-minute bills traditionally pass Congress with virtually no debate. And since Barack Obama would never veto legislation to fund the government over minor provisions, anything small snuck into the bill is as good as inscribed into law.

Which brings us to the gem that Matea Gold of the Washington Post discovered on Page 1,599 of the 1,603-page bill. The provision — inserted in the legislation by persons unknown — would suddenly allow a married couple to give as much as $1.56 million to their political party and its committees in a two-year election cycle.

No, that isn’t a typo. Without resorting to Super PACs or taking advantage of a new loophole from the Supreme Court, couples or individuals could give roughly eight times more to their party in 2015 than they could in 2014. As election law expert Kenneth Gross told the Washington Post, “The cost of an ambassadorship just went up.”

Technically, this new giving can only go to three designated areas — convention costs, recount expenses and building funds. But while nothing is certain until regulations are written, it is a safe bet that these categories are likely to be porous. Hypothetically, funds for a new addition to the Democratic National Committee that houses the computers that contain the party’s voter files might also be used to update these registration lists. If nothing else, the parties would no longer have to take money from their general operating funds to pay for these activities.

A case can be made for strengthening the political parties in a Super PAC era. If the parties were too financially powerful in the 1990s when they were the only conduits for unregulated “soft money” contributions, now they are suffering from, in effect, being mere millionaires in a billionaire age. This is especially true as Super PACs are beginning to take on many of the traditional functions of parties like candidate recruitment, voter contact and polling.

It is worth recalling that parties are a force for responsibility and moderation in politics — since their ultimate goal is winning elections rather than enforcing an ideological agenda. Also, as ongoing organizations, the Republican and Democratic National Committees will still be around when the enthusiasms of the current generation of Super PAC donors wane or turn to art collecting and buying sports teams.

As a result, there could have been a robust public debate over the best way to fund political parties in this new electoral environment. Both Republican and Democratic party leaders — as well as the candidates themselves — should come to realize that they are the big losers when the mega-rich dominate campaigns through Super PACs.

It would have been possible to imagine bipartisan legislation in the next few years that would have traded increased legal contribution limits for enhanced disclosure of Super PAC and “dark money” spending. Or even swapped more generous giving for a functioning Federal Election Commission.

Instead Congress in its infinite wisdom decided that “dark money” legislating was a wiser solution. And blaming this one exclusively on the Republicans is probably not true, especially since the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee is currently $20 million in debt.

The result is that the McCain-Feingold legislation, signed with such high hopes 12 years ago, is now as outmoded as Morse Code. And voters (or, at least, that small remnant who still care) have an entirely new reason to scorn Congress. Quite an accomplishment for a group of stealth middle-of-the-night legislators.

 

By: Walter Shapiro, Brennan Center For Justice, December 10, 2014

December 15, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Congress, Omnibus Spending Bill | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Koch Brothers’ Expanding 2014 Operation”: Democrats Are Now Running Against Two Parties

It’s a number that gives Democrats chills: $125 million. That’s the widely reported number reflecting how much the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity intends to spend on this year’s midterm elections. In practical terms, it means Democrats will effectively be running against two rivals: Republicans and the Republicans’ outside allies.

Reid Wilson reports today, however, that the scope of the AFP operation isn’t done expanding.

Americans for Prosperity, the on-the-ground wing of the network of conservative organizations spearheaded by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, will open new state chapters in South Dakota and Alaska in coming weeks, the group’s president said. In an interview, Tim Phillips said that would bring to 35 the number of states where AFP has permanent offices. […]

Phillips said early reports that his organization will dish out $125 million on the midterm elections understates the actual amount they will spend.

If you’re starting to see AFP as something resembling an actual political party, there’s a good reason – the lines have blurred. The Koch-funded group has hundreds of field operatives, just like a party. It’s opening field offices in dozens of states, just like a party. It’s focusing on GOTV operations, just like a party.

And, of course, it’s investing millions in anti-Democratic attack ads, just like a party.

But unlike other national far-right forces, the Kochs’ group (just like a party) also intends to help “influence the makeup of state legislatures.” Tim Phillips told the Washington Post,  ”A lot of times a local property tax battle will bring a whole new group of people out. It’s easier to get movement on the state level.”

All of this, incidentally, doesn’t include the AFP’s “action fund.”

Remember this one?

During a closed-door gathering of major donors in Southern California on Monday, the political operation spearheaded by the Koch brothers unveiled a significant new weapon in its rapidly expanding arsenal – a super PAC called Freedom Partners Action Fund.

The new group aims to spend more than $15 million in the 2014 midterm campaigns – part of a much larger spending effort expected to total $290 million, sources told POLITICO.

As we talked about at the time, the “action fund” will allow the Koch brothers and their donor allies to be more explicit in their backing of like-minded Republicans, while devoting more of their campaign dollars to actual campaign activities.

This isn’t to say the beneficiaries of the Kochs’ support always win; the results from the 2012 cycle clearly show otherwise. But we’re nevertheless looking a formidable political force that Democrats and the left will simply never be able to keep up with financially.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 18, 2014

July 21, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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