mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Keeping America American”: The Koch Brothers Have An Immigration Problem

Every year, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the political group backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, gathers thousands of conservative activists to share strategies for building a popular movement to advance their small-government, low-tax philosophy. This year’s Defending the American Dream Summit, held in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 21-22, attracted about 3,600 people to compare notes for weakening labor unions and stopping Medicaid expansion. Yet everyone on the floor seemed to be talking about the one topic left off the agenda: immigration.

That may be a problem for the Kochs and their network of like-minded donors, who’ve invested heavily in broadening their appeal beyond the traditional conservative base of older, white voters—and, specifically, in appealing to minorities, immigrants, and young people. In Columbus, activists got training on how to reach Snapchat-happy millennials and knock on doors in black neighborhoods to spread the gospel of the free market. They heard a former farm laborer, the son of Mexican immigrants, describe a Koch-backed program in Las Vegas that helped Latinos pass their driver’s tests and get licenses. The crowd dutifully took notes and applauded politely.

When it was time to file into the bleachers to see presidential candidates speak, talk of outreach faded away. The crowd went wild for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose plan for guarding the Mexican frontier includes 90,000 repurposed IRS employees, and for Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor, who promised to build a wall on the nation’s southern border within six months. “Immigration without assimilation is invasion!” proclaimed Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants.

The message struck a chord with summit-goers as they filed into a nearby bar for an AFP-sponsored “Buckeye bash.” “Send ’em back,” said David Dandrea, an 82-year-old former school custodian from Altoona, Pa., referring to undocumented immigrants. “A lot of them are coming over and getting on welfare. They overload the hospitals. A woman who’s eight months pregnant comes over the border to have her kid.” Fellow conservatives in bright red and highlighter-yellow AFP T-shirts wandered past. John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” blared from the speakers.

Donald Trump, who’s dominated media coverage of the presidential race and made a crackdown on “the illegals” the centerpiece of his campaign, was never far from people’s minds in Columbus. Praise for Trump, who wasn’t invited to speak, was virtually unanimous, even from those who said they were backing other candidates. “He’s like the last little bit of salt you put in the stew to bring out the flavor,” said Rita Singer, a retired fabric store saleswoman from Moncks Corner, S.C. “He says what everyone else is thinking.”

Tim Phillips, the president of AFP, cautioned against reading too much into the Trump buzz. “It’s partly impacted by the breathless 24/7 coverage,” he says across the street from the Greater Columbus Convention Center, where the event was held. “If the summit were in two more months, and it’s 24/7 coverage of the Iran nuclear deal, you would find people bringing that up more.” Phillips pointed out that the activists the Koch network cultivates care about all kinds of issues, from abortion to gun control, but AFP, he said, remains solely focused on shrinking government and taxes. “We still have good friends who care passionately about these issues,” he says. “It shows a healthy, vibrant movement to have those discussions.”

The Kochs’ wealth comes from Koch Industries, the Wichita industrial behemoth they run. Their net worth is estimated at about $49 billion each. They’ve bankrolled libertarian causes for decades, although in recent years they’ve forged bonds with nontraditional allies. They gave $25 million to the United Negro College Fund and are working with the Obama administration to reduce the ranks of nonviolent drug offenders in the nation’s prisons. Yet they’ve also come to rival the Republican Party as an organizing body of the American right, securing pledges from other wealthy donors to spend as much as $889 million this year and next pushing their agenda.

Their strategy for recruiting Latinos hinges on Daniel Garza, a son of migrant fruit pickers who runs the Libre Initiative, funded by Koch-affiliated groups including the nonprofit Freedom Partners. Seated before more than 500 AFP members in Columbus, he described going door-to-door in Latino neighborhoods to make the case against Obamacare. When someone asked if Trump is threatening conservatives’ chances with Latinos, Garza said conservatives need to be respectful and appreciate the crucial role that immigrants play in the U.S. economy. He called Trump’s proposal to deny citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants “not realistic.”

Dorothy Osborne, a stay-at-home mom from Tennessee, disagreed. “Yes it is!” she called out as Garza spoke. In the hallway outside, Osborne said she agrees with much of Garza’s message. “We have to go and talk to these people,” she said. “We want them to love freedom.” But she said she doesn’t think an immigration crackdown would alienate Latinos who live here legally. “It’s economics, it’s crime, it’s the drain on our resources. And it’s keeping America American,” she said. “If our country becomes more like Venezuela, that’s not helping anyone.”

 

By: Zachary Mider, Bloomberg Politics, August 27, 2015

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigration, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Calling In Their Chips”: Americans For Prosperity Announces Legislative Agenda, Mirrors Koch Industries’ Corporate Wishlist

Americans for Prosperity, the grassroots organizing group founded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, spent $125 million in the midterm elections last year. Now, they’re calling in their chips.

At the National Press Club yesterday, AFP president Tim Phillips and several officers with the group laid out their agenda. The group is calling for legalizing crude oil exports, a repeal of the estate tax, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, blocking any hike in the gas tax, a tax holiday on corporate profits earned overseas, blocking the EPA’s new rules on carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants, and a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, along with a specific focus on the medical device tax.

The announcement was touted by NPR as a “conservative agenda for Congress.” But it’s also a near-mirror image of Koch Industries’ lobbying agenda. Koch Industries — the petrochemical, manufacturing and commodity speculating conglomerate owned by David and Charles — is not only a financier of political campaigns, but leads one of the most active lobbying teams in Washington, a big part of why the company has been such a financial success.

Koch Industries transports both crude oil and coal, making the AFP’s work to legalize crude oil exports and to block the EPA from rules that would diminish the coal market in the U.S. particularly important to Koch Industries’ bottom line. As multiple news outlets have reported, Koch also owns a substantial stake of Canadian tar sands, positioning the company to benefit from approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Indeed, on EPA and other issues, Koch Industries’ lobbying office in D.C. has instructed its influence peddlers to work many of the same issues as AFP.

And what makes the AFP agenda almost a self-parody is its focus on the estate tax, which it called the “death tax” during the press event yesterday. In reality, this tax only affects the wealthiest 0.15 percent of Americans because only those who stand to inherit from family members with $5.43 million in wealth are impacted. Couple this with AFP’s focus on a corporate overseas tax holiday, again only an issue that impacts wealthy global companies, and AFP’s purported goal of helping regular Americans loses all credibility.

Charles Koch has made headlines in recent weeks over his claim that he will devote significant energy to criminal justice reform. But curiously, no issues relating to such reforms — even though over-prosecution of petty crimes and abuses such as asset forfeiture clearly fall under the umbrella of economic concerns AFP purports to champion — will be addressed by Charles Koch’s marquee advocacy group, AFP. The issues that are part and parcel of Koch’s bottom line, however, appear to take priority.

 

By: Lee Fang, Republic Report, January 19, 2015

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Americans for Prosperity, Congress, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Meet The American Oligarchy”: “Americans For Self-Prosperity”, Grasping Barbarians Exercising Crude Political Power

Let’s put it this way: If the Koch Brothers were Russians, we’d call them oligarchs: grasping barbarians exercising crude political power.

But this is America, where tycoons can buy respectability by throwing money at their wives’ favorite ballet companies and museums. Also by funding “think tanks” staffed by “resident scholars” keen to enhance the boss’s fondest delusion: that great wealth invariably conveys great wisdom.

Hence “Americans for Prosperity,” the group funded by billionaire brothers David H. and Charles G. Koch that’s spending untold millions in 2014 on TV commercials attacking the Affordable Care Act as a government boondoggle that “just doesn’t work.”

The deeper strategy, AFP president Tim Philips told the New York Times, is to present the law as “a broader cautionary tale” crafted “to change the way voters think about the role of government for years to come.”

Or as the sloganeering sheep in Orwell’s Animal Farm might have put it, “Big government bad, big business good!”

Elsewhere, however, big business hasn’t been looking entirely benign of late. Consider three episodes currently in the news: General Motors, the Toyota Motor Corporation, and Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electrical utility.

As so often happens with corporate malfeasance, the details can be hard to believe. Documents turned over to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration by General Motors show that company engineers knew about problems with an ignition switch in Chevy Cobalts as long ago as 2001.

That it could be a fatal flaw wasn’t immediately recognized.

The problem appears to have been a defective part manufactured by a GM supplier. Sometimes triggered by a too-heavy keychain swinging from the ignition, it caused the engine to shut off while driving — resulting in immediate loss of power steering, power brakes, and the failure of the vehicle’s air bags to deploy.

By 2009, however engineers concluded that the faulty switch played a causal role in several fatal accidents — although some drivers had been drinking, texting or otherwise distracted — and that while Cobalts were going out of production, hundreds of thousands were still rolling.

Nevertheless, GM did nothing, while company lawyers fought off or stonewalled lawsuits alleging product liability.

Twenty-three fatal accidents and 26 deaths later, GM finally issued a recall notice for 1.6 million vehicles last month. The company’s recently-appointed CEO Mary Barra has been doing public penance and vowing to do everything possible to restore consumer confidence in the GM brand, which will definitely take some doing.

Published accounts of how separate divisions of GM’s giant bureaucracy communicate badly or not at all read like episodes of Catch-22. Customer complaints and warranty claims aren’t shared with safety engineers, who in turn have no communication with company lawyers. Meanwhile, nobody was talking to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal agency that belatedly promises a criminal investigation.

Meanwhile, the auto industry press contrasts GM’s “unusually proactive and candid approach” to Toyota’s, which last week admitted criminal guilt and paid a $1.2 billion fine—the largest against an automaker in U.S. history.

Announcing a settlement, Attorney General Eric Holder said the company had “intentionally concealed information and misled the public” and shamefully showed “blatant disregard for systems and laws.”

At issue were faulty accelerator pedals which caused the cars to rocket out of control. Toyota has recalled as many as 10 million vehicles worldwide, and has been forced to pay tens of millions in fines and lawsuit settlements. Hundreds more civil lawsuits await litigation. What the settlement makes clear is that Toyota’s top management deliberately lied to government investigators both about the mechanical issue and their knowledge of it.

Which brings us to the Tea Party paradise of North Carolina and Duke Energy’s massive coal ash spill into the Dan River—spreading as many as 82,000 tons of toxic sludge along 70 miles of scenic river bottom. According to the Associated Press, “coal ash contains arsenic, lead, mercury and other heavy metals highly toxic to humans and wildlife.”

In addition to the “accidental” spill, caused by a collapsed corrugated pipe seemingly uninspected since 1986, environmental activists photographed Duke employees pumping an estimated was 61 million gallons of coal ash-contaminated water into the Cape Fear River further east.

The resulting uproar has persuaded GOP governor Pat McCrory, a 28-year Duke Energy employee (and recipient of some $1.1 million in Duke-sponsored campaign donations) to change his mind about burdensome federal regulation. His state’s toothless regulators will now “partner” with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pursue joint enforcement against the utility.

Previously, McCrory had scorned the feds as an impediment to efficient business practices, and made a great show of turning down EPA grant money. Meanwhile, arguing strenuously against stricter regulation of coal ash has been an industry front group called ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) largely financed by — you guessed it — those well-known philanthropists, David and Charles Koch.

Americans for Prosperity, indeed.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, March 26, 2014

March 27, 2014 Posted by | Big Business, Corporations, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“David Vitter, God Bless The Koch Brothers”: The Most Patriotic Americans In The History Of The Earth

It stands to reason that Republican politicians are going to celebrate Charles and David Koch. After all, the billionaires’ generosity is critically important in conservative politics right now and may ultimately be the deciding factor in which party has power in Congress.

But Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is willing to take his appreciation for the Koch brothers to a pretty extraordinary level, as evidenced by a town-hall event in Shreveport this week. American Bridge posted the above video (http://youtu.be/-7mStFMk6og), and for those who can’t watch clips online, the conservative senator told constituents:

“I think the Koch brothers are two of the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth. […]

“God bless the Koch brothers. They’re fighting for our freedoms.”

Sure, Republicans are bound to be grateful to the billionaires for saturating the airwaves with anti-Democratic attack ads, but Vitter’s effusive praise seemed a little over the top.

Burgess Everett saw an even longer version of the clip and reported that Vitter, as part of the same discussion, said he’s “not defending big money in politics.”

No, of course not.  He’s just grateful that the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth are fighting for our freedoms.

It’s worth noting that Louisiana will host two major elections in the next two years: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is running for re-election this year, and she’s already facing attack ads from the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity, and Vitter is running for governor next year, and likely hopes the Kochs’ operation will support his candidacy.

But there’s an even larger context to this: what is it, exactly, the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth hope to receive in exchange for their political investments?

The New York Times reports today on the bigger picture.

As [Americans for Prosperity] emerges as a dominant force in the 2014 midterm elections, spending up to 10 times as much as any major outside Democratic group so far, officials of the organization say their effort is not confined to hammering away at President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. They are also trying to present the law as a case study in government ineptitude to change the way voters think about the role of government for years to come.

“We have a broader cautionary tale,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity. “The president’s out there touting billions of dollars on climate change. We want Americans to think about what they promised with the last social welfare boondoggle and look at what the actual result is.”

Leaders of the effort say it has great appeal to the businessmen and businesswomen who finance the operation and who believe that excess regulation and taxation are harming their enterprises and threatening the future of the country. The Kochs, with billions in holdings in energy, transportation and manufacturing, have a significant interest in seeing that future government regulation is limited.

Indeed, Wonkblog reported just yesterday that a Koch Industries subsidiary is the biggest lease owner in Canada’s tar sands, covering an area of 1.1 million acres. The piece added, “Separately, industry sources familiar with oil sands leases said Koch’s lease holdings could be closer to 2 million acres.”

This helps bring into sharper focus why the Democratic fight with the Koch brothers has become so important. The dispute isn’t about some misleading AFP attack ads about health care reform; this is about a broader agenda.

As Greg Sargent explained this morning, “The real purpose of the Dem strategy is to create a framework for a broader argument about the true goals and priorities of the actual GOP policy agenda. It’s about tapping into a sense that the economy is rigged against ordinary Americans, and in favor of the one percent, and dramatizing that the GOP’s economic agenda would preserve that status quo, blocking any government policies designed to address stagnant mobility and soaring inequality. Or that, as Jonathan Chait puts it, the GOP has ‘built a policy agenda around plutocracy,’ and its primary ‘organizing purpose is to safeguard the economic interests of the very rich.’”

And it’s against this backdrop that David Vitter proclaims, “God bless the Koch brothers. They’re fighting for our freedoms.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 20, 2014

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, Koch Brothers, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Like The Dog That Chases A Car”: Republican’s Can’t Do Better Than ObamaCare No Matter What They Would Like You To Believe

We are all familiar with the spectacle of a dog frantically chasing a car, which strikes us as stupid because, after all, what on Earth would the dog do with the car if it actually caught it?

That’s basically what we’re witnessing with the Republicans’ monomaniacal war on the Affordable Care Act:

The GOP’s message may well evolve between now and November, but the most tangible early indicator — advertising spending by conservative groups against Democratic candidates — shows how intensely it is focusing on the health-care law.

“It has been the predominant focus of both our grass roots and our advertising efforts,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, the primary political operation of a donor network backed by billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch.

Of the roughly $30 million the group has spent on ads since August, Phillips said, at least 95 percent has gone toward spots about the health-care law.

Democrats have been tracking that spending to help gauge what their candidates will be facing.

In Senate races, where control of the chamber is on the line, all but $240,000 of the $21.2 million that super PACs are spending on television advertising has gone into attacks centered on the health-care law, said Matt Canter, deputy executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The exceptions were ad buys in three states that criticized Democratic senators for supporting President Obama’s judicial nominees.

There is a lot of polling data about ObamaCare, and you can pick and choose which numbers you want to focus on. I like the fact that 57% of self-proclaimed independents think we should either keep the law as it is or make improvements to it, versus 33% who think it should be scrapped. I don’t like that 29% of voters say that they have been negatively impacted by the law versus 17% who say that they have benefitted.

Overall, you could fairly say that the law is slowly becoming less unpopular. This is a victory in itself, considering how much money the Republicans have spent on trashing the law, and how little money the Democrats have spent defending it. If the law were to become popular, the Republicans’ entire midterm strategy would collapse.

As I’ve noted in recent days, the Republicans are so focused on using ObamaCare as a weapon in the midterms that they don’t want to take on tax or immigration reform because either issue would divide their caucus and take the country’s focus off their war on health coverage.

But, I think the public is going to notice that they are like the dog that chases the car. If you elect them to dismantle ObamaCare, they will have no solutions. They can’t do better than ObamaCare no matter what they would like you to believe. Their proposed reforms would cost more money, insure less people, and take away plans from people who like their plans. Everything they claim not to like about the law, they would make worse.

So, while I am nervous about the differential in firepower and resources being dedicated to arguing about ObamaCare, I think the Republicans are putting all their eggs in one basket full of lies and distortion and that we ought to be able to outflank such a clumsy, plodding, charge.

 

By: Martin Longman, Ten Miles Square, Washington Monthly, February 27, 2014

March 2, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: