End Scene: McCrory & the Kochs Killing NC’s Film Industry

Last year, we brought you the first in the trilogy about the Kochs’ tirade against the successful film industry tax credits in the Tarheel State: Thom Tillis Gives the Koch Brothers Two Thumbs Up. Then there was the smash-hit sequel, North Carolina Film Tax Incentives: The Kochs Strike Back. Although the Kochs sent one of the key protagonists — then-Speaker Thom Tillis — to Washington, the series continues, this time starring Republican Governor Pat McCrory.
Although the film tax credit was integral to attracting high-budget films and television shows to the state and critical to supporting thousands of North Carolina jobs, the Koch brothers’ political arm, Americans for Prosperity, ran ads last year railing against the program. Despite dire warnings, McCrory caved to the anti-film tax credit clamor created by AFP and other special interests. First, McCrory signed a budget that effectively ended the film tax credit. Then, the Governor refused to call a special session to protect the more than 4,000 film industry jobs in the state. And now, the warnings seem to be coming to fruition. According to WRAL, “no new movies are in production or currently planned anywhere in the state,” and at least one network television show has elected to move its production to Georgia as a result of the change to the film tax credit program.

There you have it, the sad (but predictable) end of a trilogy that’s not only played out in North Carolina, but also in Kansas, and across the country where the Kochs’ influence has ensured the implementation of extreme policies that benefit their self interests. Part 1: The Kochs and their allies stake out their position, invariably one that harms working families and benefits Koch interests. Part 2: Lawmakers cave to — or even champion — the Kochs’ preferred course of action, despite warnings about the harm that will result. Part 3: Negative impacts on working families, state budgets, jobs, clean energy, education funding, you name it. Real Koch Facts rates this one two thumbs down.
Yeah, but how will that play in Iowa and New Hampshire? 

That’s a question that used to be asked about presidential candidates as they geared up to court base voters in the nation’s crucial first caucus and primary. But for today’s GOP hopefuls, the game has changed, and the most important primary is already underway: The Koch primary.

If you want to understand who makes up the core constituency that Republicans are hoping to impress ahead of 2016, look no further than this morning’s lede from POLITICO — a revealing commentary on the current state of the GOP:

Four leading Republican presidential prospects are expected to appear this weekend in the California desert before an exclusive gathering of rich conservatives convened by the Koch brothers’ political operation, several sources tell POLITICO.

And the New York Times coverage of the upcoming Koch gathering recounted GOP presidential hopefuls’ varying attempts to cozy up to the billionaire brothers in recent months. It sure sounds like the Kochs have been enjoying plenty of quality time with their suitors: a day at the links with Rand Paul, a double-date with Chris and Mary Pat Christie, a Ted (Cruz) talk about grassroots conservatism as he dropped by Wichita, and so on and so forth.

But beyond the anecdotes, the Times cuts to the heart of the matter, referring to the increasingly powerful Koch network as an “almost shadow version of the Republican Party” and reminding us just how much is at stake as these ambitious GOPers head west in search of campaign gold:

For those with strong relationships in the Koch network, this week’s gathering in the California desert will provide a critical early test of the race to win the so-called Koch sweepstakes.

Retail politicking has long been instrumental in determining early presidential front-runners of the cycle. But it used to describe candidates who were making their cases to the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire, not selling themselves to the Koch brothers and their billionaire friends in a Palm Springs hotel.

Pat McCrory’s Medicaid Expansion Conundrum

Back in 2013, Gov. Pat McCrory roundly rejected the call for Medicaid expansion in North Carolina, leaving 500,000 constituents uninsured. The bill for the program would have been footed almost entirely by federal dollars, but that wasn’t going to stand in the way of McCrory asserting his categorical opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

At the time, the Koch brothers’ political arm, Americans For Prosperity, applauded McCrory for his denial of expanded health care access. That’s not overly surprising — McCrory has extensive ties to the Koch brothers, from doingrobocalls for AFP in 2011 before he was technically a gubernatorial candidate, to hiring long-time Koch-crony Art Pope as his budget director.

But it turns out denying people healthcare to prove one’s ideological purity isn’t overly popular. McCrory started to waffle on the issue after facing significant political pressure to accept Medicaid expansion. Of course, that didn’t sit too well with the anti-Medicaid expansion crusaders at AFP. Last month, their North Carolina state director and policy analyst penned an op-ed entitled “Governor, don’t cave on Medicaid expansion.”

In said plea, the AFP staffers have trouble conceiving that there would be any merit at all in providing an affordable health insurance option to working North Carolinians: “And what would we be paying for? Nothing that should comfort taxpayers.”

And yesterday, AFP announced their legislative agenda for the new year, making clear that stopping Medicaid expansion is a top priority. They’ll find little resistance to that end from leaders in the GOP-controlled General Assembly, who have already made clear they side with AFP.

So the question remains for the spineless governor — will he finally submit to the pressure to do the right thing and take leadership to reach a deal? Or will he give in to the Koch brothers and friends, who have long been instrumental in setting the agenda in this administration? 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians await the answer…
We have even more development in the never-ending shuffling of staffers between Koch-backed groups and official Republican posts on the Hill!

This week, Jim Inhofe — who has literally written a book called The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future – officially assumed his post as chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. That meant he had to name his staff hires, and fittingly, he named a staffer from the Koch-backed group Generation Opportunity as the EPW press secretary.

It makes a lot of sense if you think about it. The Koch brothers have spent tens of millions of dollars funding climate change denial and continue to fight tooth and nail against taking any action address it. Inhofe has dedicated a great deal of his public life trying to discredit climate science. So best to hire your spokesperson straight from the Kochtopus.

Of course, it’s all very scary when one considers that the Senate committee tasked with protecting the environment is chaired by the climate denier-in-chief and represented by a Koch-tied spokesperson.

Meanwhile, Rob Portman tapped a former lobbyist for the Koch-backed NFIB to be his chief of staff.  Sadly, these are just just the latest in a flurry of moves in which Republicans in Congress have hired staffers from Koch-funded groups, or vice versa, highlighting the ever-shrinking divide between the two worlds.

The Koch Brothers’ “Support” for Immigration Reform

The Koch brothers have bent over backwards to try to convince everyone that they are expanding the Republican tent and appealing to minority voters in the way the party so desperately needs. Everyone accepts that the billionaire brothers’ economic agenda is ultra-conservative. But they’ve managed to persuade some folks that their platform is more inclusive when it comes to social issues, immigration, and beyond, all while funding right-wing organizations that push extreme polices on these fronts.

Look no further than the current immigration debate for proof of their antics. A Koch brothers-funded group called The LIBRE Initiative was founded in 2011 to focus on Hispanic outreach. They are a self-proclaimed “grassroots organization that advances the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community so it can thrive and contribute to a more prosperous America.”

So what is The LIBRE Initiative doing to help move the immigration debate forward?  They seem to be promoting the strategy of Jeff Sessions, who is so supportive of immigration reform that in 2013, he said that passing the bipartisan Senate immigration bill would constitute a “crushing hammer blow to working Americans that they will not soon forgive.”

Meanwhile, the CATO Institute, which was co-founded by Charles Koch in 1977 and still boasts David Koch as a board member, is filing briefs challenging the legality of actions President Obama has taken in his attempt to shield families from being torn apart.

If President Obama’s executive actions are undone by Congress or the courts it will result in millions of people being subject again to deportation.

For a couple libertarians who are supposedly fighting to expand Republican appeal and empowering the Latino community to prosper, the Koch brothers sure have an interesting strategy…

AFP Michigan sponsors event featuring racist speaker

On the eve of the Republican National Committee’s annual winter meeting, Chairman Reince Priebus and RNC leaders find themselves dealing with the fallout from yet another inappropriate, racist remark by a Republican official. According to a report from Slate, Michigan RNC Committeeman and former State Rep. Dave Agema has become an “embarrassment for much of the party,” thanks to his long history of posting racist material on Facebook.

“Much” is the operative word here. Prominent GOP members are calling for Agema’s ouster after his most recent Facebook post, which quoted a white supremacist magazine. Further, according to Slate, two sponsors — the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and Heritage Action — backed out of an event Agema recently spoke at in Michigan, “The Powwow.” Yet a handful of organizations remained listed as sponsors despite Agema’s racist rants, including Americans for Prosperity Michigan, the Koch brothers’ political arm in the state. Slate notes that Agema, who reportedly addressed “The Powwow” last Friday evening, won the RNC committeeman post in 2012 thanks to a fractious campaign that enjoyed substantial Tea Party support.

Last week’s meeting isn’t the first time a Koch-sponsored event has invited a known racist to the dais. Charles Murray, the noted bigot behind “The Bell Curve” who is classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “White Nationalist,” was invited to address the Koch network’s secretive donor summit last June.

Things keep getting worse in the Koch-dreamland of Kansas

Kansas Is Totally Screwed.” That’s the Mother Jones headline from this week for their story documenting the latest in what’s been a fierce downward spiral for the Sunflower State ever since Governor Sam Brownback implemented his massive Koch-inspired tax cuts.

The article paints a stark picture of just how dire the situation in Kansas really is. Brownback will need to trim $279 million from the budget by this summer, an additional $650 million for fiscal year 2016, and on top of everything else, the Kansas Supreme Court claims that student funding is already so low that it’s threatening the “state’s constitutional guarantee of an adequate education.”

In sum, Brownback that promised his extreme tax overhaul would provide “a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.” It appears instead, it just shot the Kansas economy in the heart. They’ve already been tagged with a slew of credit downgrades, and things are continuing to get worse and worse. And all thanks to the exact kind of tax cuts that the Kochs salivate over.

The economic catastrophe all sort of makes you wonder if Brownback even had a budget director when he began implementing his radical plan. Well, he did. It was Americans For Prosperity consultant, Steve Anderson. Kochonomics 101: How to tank a state economy while making the rich richer.

Would You Believe Tom Cotton’s Spokesman Is Going To Work For The Kochs?

There were few 2014 candidates whose love for the Koch brothers was more transparent than Tom Cotton. During his senate campaign, Cotton infamously skipped out on Arkansas’s iconic Pink Tomato Festival to pal around with the Koch brothers and their closest billionaire friends at a secretive Southern California retreat.

At said summit, Cotton heaped praise on the Kochs and their network for boosting him, specifically praising Americans for Prosperity-Arkansas for playing a “critical role” in buoying the Republican Party within the state. Cotton has been in lock-step with AFP throughout his time in Congress — notably he was the only member of the Arkansas congressional delegation to oppose the Farm Bill, which is crucial to the state’s economy. In return for his strict adherence to the Koch agenda, AFP poured huge amounts of money into dishonest attack ads against Cotton’s opponent.

Well, with the help of the Koch brothers’ treasure chest, Cotton won his election and headed back to Washington. As for his campaign communications director? Well he just accepted a job as — you guessed it — the director of Americans For Prosperity-Arkansas.

It’s the latest in a chain of moves since the midterms that highlight just how deeply intertwined Koch-world and GOP really are.  Joni Ernst hired her chief-of-staff away from the Koch-backed NFIB. Mitch McConnell’s new policy directorformerly lobbied for Koch Industries. Governor Doug Ducey picked a longtime Koch operative to be his chief-of-staff.

It’s getting harder and harder to tell where the Koch network ends and the GOP begins. That’s bad news for working families.

The Koch brothers want you to think they’re being noble

Today, Charles Koch co-authored a Politico piece titled “The Overcriminalization of America.” For the Koch brothers, it’s just the latest move in their most recent political pet project, having spent the last few months touting criminal justice reform. With around 2.4 million people incarcerated in the United States, including a disproportionate number of minorities, that seems like a noble mission, right?

It would be, if only their motivations weren’t so dishonorable. The Koch brothers’ “come to Jesus” moment didn’t arise over the problems they saw with the criminal justice system; it came after Koch Industries and employees came under scrutiny from law enforcement in the course of their work. They didn’t like the scrutiny, and they’ve been donating hundreds of thousands of dollars every year since 2004 to reform the criminal justice system. Supporting groups like this was simply a business decision for them, not a moral one.

The Koch brothers claim they aren’t trying to make this a political issue and that this is all about libertarian principles, but we know all too well that the they expect results from their political spending. They spent big in at least 10 different Senate races in 2014, dropping $150 million on the elections. And now they can count senators from Kentucky, Iowa, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Colorado as their new (bought and paid for) friends. So what do the Koch brothers expect from their newly minted senators? As Bloomberg reported, “[The Kochs] want their senators to be soldiers.”

Before the 2014 elections, they backed then-North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis and he delivered for the Kochs by cutting taxes for the wealthy. They also backed Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and he delivered by attacking collective bargaining rights to the point where public workers saw pay cuts and lost their ability to negotiation over health coverage, safety, or sick leave. Long story short: they use their money – and the web of conservative organizations they have either set up or funded, a.k.a. the “Kochtopus” – to affect change that helps their bottom line. So what do you think they expect from this spending on criminal justice reform?

Koch-Crony Joni hires Koch-Crony Lisa Goeas as her chief of staff

Question of the day: How many Koch-Cronies can you fit into one U.S. Senate office?

Answer: At least two (for now).

On Tuesday, incoming U.S. senator and Koch-Crony Joni Ernst hired Lisa Goeas, the vice president for political and grassroots operations at Koch-backed NFIB, to be her chief of staff.

NFIB stands for the National Federation of Independent Businesses and claims to represent America’s small businesses, but in reality, it’s about anything but small businesses. Regular readers of Real Koch Facts know that NFIB is Just another Koch-backed group working to push its anti-working family agenda like pushing for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Here’s how it works: The Kochs fund a group that claims to support small businesses. The group endorses Koch candidates. The candidates then claim they’re endorsed by the small business community, and if they win election, they push Koch-friendly legislation through and hurt working families. It’s a vicious cycle, and just one of the many tentacles of the “Kochtopus.”

Goeas worked for NFIB for the past 9 years, where she led the group’s political activities including endorsing candidates for public office, promoting NFIB’s policy goals, and expanding the group’s grassroots efforts.  Before joining NFIB, she worked for the most recent “President Bush” (though Jeb is *actively exploring* trying to take that crown) as the chief of staff at the Small Business Administration. She previously worked in the Senate for former Republican Senator Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas.

With Koch candidates winning in Kentucky, Iowa, Colorado, North Carolina, Kansas, West Virginia, and Arkansas, it will be a race to see who can cram more Koch Cronies into their offices and push the most extreme agenda in the Senate. It’s no secret that Joni’s Koch connections run deep, and by hiring Lisa Goeas, Ernst is taking an early lead in the race to cater to the Koch brothers who got her elected.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation