Koch Agenda + State Legislatures = A World That Only Suits The Kochs

Over the past six months, we’ve told you all about the Koch brothers’ extreme, self-serving agenda designed to hurt the middle class and make the Kochs even richer. They’ve turned North Carolina and Wisconsin into Tea Party utopias.They’ve taken over the Republican Party and set the agenda. They’ve tried to indoctrinate children with their anti-government, climate change-denying beliefs. And now the oil tycoons are trying to kill alternative energy at the state level so we stay addicted to their oil.

In 2009, the Koch brothers “threw their full weight behind defeating” legislation to address climate change – and they won. Now they’ve set their sights on the states: they’re trying to repeal state laws that require utilities to get more of their energy from alternative sources like wind and solar.

How are they doing this? Through yet another Koch-funded group that tries to move our country closer and closer to Kochville, a.k.a. their extreme, self-serving utopia. This one’s called ALEC, short the American Legislative Exchange Council, and it writes Koch-inspired “model legislation” that state legislators can introduce – they just have to fill in the right state name, Mad Libs-style.

Yesterday, we told you about the Koch-funded Heartland Institute, which is known to deny the human causes of climate change, and how it tried to include its pseudo-science on climate change in Texas public schools’ textbooks. (You can probably see where this is headed.)

In a surprise to no one, the Heartland Institute “took credit for writing the legislation” to repeal renewable energy mandates that ALEC used. According to National Journal, since then, “at least 40 bills aimed at weakening or repealing clean energy mandates have been introduced” in state legislatures.

The Koch brothers stand to lose a lot if we move away from oil, so they’re stacking the deck. And if any state legislators don’t agree with their policies, the Kochs try to replace them with their lackeys. They drive the policy and pick the candidates of the national Republican Party, and now they’re trying to run the states, too.

If they win this round, we’ll all be worse off – unless, of course, your last name is “Koch.”

Chris Christie’s Board Again Rejects Windmill Plan, Receives Praise From AFP

The third time isn’t always the charm. For a third time, Chris Christie’s Board of Public Utilities has rejected a proposal to build windmills near Atlantic City in order to generate renewable energy. It turns out that the infinite checkbooks of the Koch brothers are more charming than the proverbial ‘third time.’

Immediately after Christie’s Board of Public Utilities once again shot down the promising project, the Koch brothers’ Americans For Prosperity issued a press release praising the energy regulators for their decision. In said press release, they do their best to dress the energy plan up in scary clothes, applauding the BPU for “rejecting this misguided offshore wind scheme.” Amazingly, later in the release, they point out that New Jersey’s job market continues to be lackluster, losing 4,500 jobs in October, while disregarding the renewable energy jobs this project would create.

AFP’s crusade against alternative energy forms is well documented. This month, they launched ads urging Republican members of Congress to kill the wind production tax credit. They are constantly out to protect Big Oil companies like Koch Industries under the guise of protecting consumers from higher costs, but that facade is melting away. In fact, just this weekend, the New York Times ran this story: “Solar and Wind Energy Start to Win on Price vs. Conventional Fuels.”

As for notedly ambitious Governor Chris Christie, he’s likely happy to keep from upsetting the Koch brothers ahead of his inevitable 2016 presidential run. Christie has already angrily defended the Kochs earlier this year, and the Times recently detailed the negligent stance the governor has taken on climate change as he’s been courting the AFP donor crowd.

The BPU’s ruling is now under appeal and advocates for the windmill project are still hopeful they will prevail. For now, count it as a win for Chris Christie, a win for the Koch brothers, and a loss for New Jerseyans.

We’ve previously reported on the Kochs’ attempts to indoctrinate America’s children with their anti-government, anti-science educational curriculum, and their latest attempt is just as outrageous.

The battle over public school textbooks in Texas has been in the news for months because of several controversial and factually inaccurate details included in the proposed textbooks. Early versions were riddled with errors, and some even went as far as lying to students about the science behind and causes of climate change. And where did this pseudo-science come from?

If you guessed the Koch brothers, you win!

The Koch-funded Heartland Institute, a self-described “nonprofit research organization,” is in reality a conservative advocacy group known to deny the human causes of climate change (just like the Koch brothers!).

In one passage submitted by Heartland, which was written by its non-scientist employees, students:

  • are told that scientists “do not agree on what is causing the [climate] change;”
  • are told to compare Heartland’s pseudo-science to the findings of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change;
  • and are asked to decide whether or not they think global warming is caused by human activity.

In truth, however, 97% of publishing climate scientists and 97% of climate papers “agree human activity is responsible.”  The debate is over, but the Kochs and the Heartland Institute are trying to create a new generation of climate change deniers.

Unfortunately, the Heartland Institute’s passages were just a few of the many factual inaccuracies included in the draft textbooks. On Friday, November 21, the Republican-controlled Texas State Board of Education voted 10-5 on party lines to approve 89 new social studies textbooks that include “‘hundreds of pages’ in last-minute changes.” These textbooks “will be used in Texas public schools for the next decade,”  so it makes sense that board members review the changes, right?

Apparently, not.

The board voted to approve the new textbooks without reviewing the changes, and when one board member proposed delaying the final vote until board members were able to review the changes, the proposal was voted down.

As a result, for the next decade, public school students across Texas will be using textbooks that could be riddled with factual inaccuracies and filled with ideological misinformation.

In an unusual turn of events for Real Koch Facts, however, there is a silver lining here: the Kochs’ “science” will allegedly not be included in the textbooks, sparing 5 million public school students across Texas a decade of misinformation and indoctrination – at least when it comes to climate change.

Despite this setback, expect the “Kochtopus” to keep growing its tentacles.

Kochs using dark money to oppose dark money disclosure rules

Previously on Real Koch Facts, we’ve likened the flow of money between the organizations in the Koch brothers’ political network to an elaborate shell game, where cash is covertly shuttled between dozens of nonprofits, holding companies and “disregarded entities.” A new report from the Center for Public Integrity further confirms that the so-called “Kochtopus” is as deliberately opaque as it is multi-tentacled. CPI outlines the activities of American Commitment, a “social welfare” nonprofit that received the bulk of its funding from 2011-2013 from three Koch-backed groups and is currently advocating against enhanced IRS disclosure rules for organizations of its kind.

According to CPI, American Commitment received 87 percent of its 2011-2013 funding — in other words, millions of dollars — from the Koch brothers’ “secret bank,” Freedom Partners Action Fund, the Koch-backed Center to Protect Patient Rights, and Free Enterprise America. Keep in mind that American Commitment did not have to disclose these Koch donations, but rather, CPI unearthed these donations in the tax returns filed by the donor organizations; the IRS requires nonprofits to disclose grants made to other organizations. The CPI report fully details the utter obfuscation involved, but at its core, these maneuvers allow organizations to avoid disclosing their donors by funneling money to a “social welfare” group that can indulge in both donor anonymity and support candidates.

That’s not even the worst of it. As CPI notes, American Commitment “has vigorously opposed [IRS] efforts to force donor disclosure on social welfare nonprofit groups,” likely because its political activities mean there’s a high likelihood the group would be impacted by the proposed rules. Given the number of nonprofits within the Kochtopus, it follows that the ever-opaque Koch network is very likely helping to fund American Commitment’s vocal opposition to the new IRS transparency rules.

Although the funding shell game is a hallmark of the Koch network, they certainly aren’t the only ultra-wealthy conservative benefactors who partake in it. The Conservative Transparency database uses public tax filings to help track the dark money that flows between conservative donors, organizations, and candidates.

Koch Brothers Find Most Pathetic Excuse Yet To Attack Government

Since 1991, it has cost $15 to buy an annual bird-hunting permit in America. But if birds run out, you can’t hunt them anymore. So Tea Party Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) introduced a bipartisan bill, which Politico reports had the backing of the duck hunters, to increase the annual bird-hunting permit cost from $15 to $25. Everyone wins.

Only, the Koch Brothers’ Americans For Prosperity didn’t see it that way. For AFP, anything that could possible be used as an excuse to attack government should be used as such, no matter how pathetic. This, believe it or not, was a statement written in response to the bipartisan, duck hunter-backed, Tea Party introduced, $10 annual permit hike:

“The scrooges in Congress want to ask American families for even more of their paycheck to help fund a bloated, oversized government that cannot properly do the few things it is supposed to be doing, never mind all of the things it is not supposed to be doing.

Americans For Prosperity’s incessant attempts to undermine government on any possible issue are well-documented. And sometimes, they are simply beyond parody.

New report highlights same old Koch education scheme

In addition to myriad political entities and nonprofits, the Koch brothers’ network — or the “Kochtopus” — also comprises Koch-funded education initiatives designed to impart their extreme libertarian views on our nation’s young people. These initiatives — like Youth Entrepreneurs — wield influence in our schools the same way the Kochs do politically: by buying it. Standard operating procedure among the Kochtopus’ tentacles, but as a new report from Huffington Post highlights, it’s especially craven when you consider the Kochs’ open hostility toward public education, and the drastic education funding cuts that some of their favorite elected officials have presided over in North CarolinaKansas and Wisconsin.

Huffington Post digs into the machinations of the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI), an organization that has received millions in funding from the Koch organizations that came together to launch BRI in 1999, including the Charles Koch Foundation and the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation. A senior vice president at Koch Industries sits on BRI’s board. These are BRI’s explicit ties to the Koch network, but implicit, self-serving Koch philosophies abound in the free materials that the group provides to teachers and students on topics surrounding the Constitution. According to the report, BRI “cherry-picks the Constitution, history, and current events to hammer home its libertarian message that the owners of private property should be free to manage their wealth as they see fit.” Sounds eerily like the billionaire Kochs’ opposition to the wealthy paying their fair share in taxes, just remixed for social studies class. Other lowlights from the BRI’s materials include its support for “Stand Your Ground” legislation proliferated by the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the teachings’ utter lack of references to climate change, natch.

Another HuffPo report on Youth Entrepreneurs earlier this year deemed the group’s efforts as being part and parcel with the “Kochs’ slow creep into America’s schools.” As the piece on BRI notes, the infiltration is even more bizarre when taken with the rest of the Koch legacy on education, which dates back to David Koch’s insistence in 1980 that the Department of Education be abolished and with it, all federal funding for education. In the decades since, the Kochs have backed Republicans like Scott Walker, who slashed education funding in Wisconsin, a move that would naturally lead cash-strapped schools, students and teachers to lean on the free resources and funding opportunities Koch groups like BRI and YE proliferate.

Deprive schools of resources, then ply them with free materials that espouse your self-serving worldview — it’s a vicious circle that only promises to worsen as bought-and-paid-for Republicans usher in the Kochs’ anti-public education agenda.
In 2010, Common Sense Principles, a dark-money “social welfare” group in New York, sprang seemingly out of nowhere and started spending big against Democrats in the state senate. The mysterious group earned the scrutiny of the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, who described it as “daisy chain of out-of-state corporations and ‘ghost companies.'” That is to say, the shadowy group went to great lengths to avoid disclosing their donors and their connections.

Well Crain’s New York Business is now reporting that the mysterious Common Sense Principles has ties to The Koch brothers’ ever-growing political network. Surprise, surprise. During the 2012 cycle, Common Sense funneled $900,000 to American Future Fund, $500,000 to the American Justice Partnership, and $10,000 to the Hispanic Leadership Fund, all three of which operate within the Koch sphere.

Shockingly, nobody from any of those three groups returned phone calls looking for comment on the new Crain’s story. And when the Albany Times Union did some digging into Common Sense Principles in 2012, they found further evidence of shadiness, in the form of possible illegal coordination:

But tax records filed in 2011 show its directors are Chris LaCivita and Kevin Wright, both of whom have ties to Senate Republicans. Wright is an officer in Old Dominion Research Group, an opposition research firm that has been employed by the Senate Republican Campaign Committee this year, paid by its “housekeeping” account. The tax records further show that Common Sense paid money to Old Dominion.

Nothing to see here, nothing to see here. Just one more Koch-tied group dancing around campaign finance laws to try to buy elections…

Koch network likely to spend heavily for Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson

Just over a week has passed since the 2014 elections, so all eyes are now on the November 2016 elections, natch. Given that the Koch brothers and their allies spent heavily this cycle to help send their top cronies, like Iowa’s Joni Ernst and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, to the Senate, it’s unsurprising that the Kochs’ 2016 spending plans are already being discussed. It’s especially unsurprising when you consider the battleground state in question: Wisconsin, where the Kochs and their political arm, Americans for Prosperity, have already spent millions to support Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to implement a far right agenda in the Badger state.

According to POLITICO, Wisconsin’s potentially vulnerable Tea Party Senator Ron Johnson’s bid for a second term would likely be aided by the deep-pocketed brothers. The report notes that Johnson is a “favorite of the Koch brothers’ donor network” and that Koch-affiliated operatives confirm the likelihood of heavy spending on his behalf. If AFP’s history in the state is any indicator, Wisconsinites can look forward to a bevy of misleading ads on Johnson’s behalf.

Regardless, it’s clear that this cycle’s Koch favorites were candidates who espoused Koch-approved positions at every turn. It follows that Johnson must also prioritize the billionaire brothers’ interests if he is eliciting talk of heavy Koch spending this early on in the cycle.

Return On Investment: Kochs Demand New Republican Majority Kill Wind Tax Credit

The Koch brothers are fresh off their nearly $300 million campaign to boost Republicans in this year’s midterm elections, and we’re already starting to see the kinds of favors they expect as a return on their investment.

Just days after the election, the Koch brothers’ Americans For Prosperity and other Koch-funded groups are leading a coalition demanding that Republicans in Congress let the wind production tax credit (PTC) expire. The PTC for wind is a popular incentive that has been crucial to the wind energy industry as it has boomed in recent years, providing more affordable energy, supporting thousands of new jobs, and protecting our environment. It was created in 1992 under President George H. W. Bush, and has been repeatedly renewed by both Democrats and Republicans since then.

But the self-interested billionaire Koch brothers don’t care about any of those things. They care about continuing to grow their massive fortune accumulated through their Big Oil conglomerate Koch Industries, no matter the cost to others. And coincidentally enough, the Koch brothers just so happen to have recently purchased a slew of seats for Republican members of Congress, and helped catapult soon-to-be Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to his long-sought-after dream job.

So there you see the dangerous feedback loop the Koch brothers have created. It’s not simply that they are willing to pour infinite money into rigging our democracy. It’s that in turn, Republican legislators are beholden to the Kochs’ self-serving agenda — an agenda that comes at the expense of working families and a healthy environment.

Confirmation That For The GOP, Koch Cash Trumps Sound Policy

Coral Davenport wrote an eye-opening piece for the New York Times last week about one of the most puzzling recent refrains from Republican politicians. Why, when asked about climate change, has nearly every key Republican started responding, “I’m not a scientist”?

The piece includes quotes from Republican strategists and lobbyists highlighting just how ridiculous this response really is:

“It’s got to be the dumbest answer I’ve ever heard,” said Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who has advised House Republicans and conservative political advocacy groups on energy and climate change messaging. “Using that logic would disqualify politicians from voting on anything. Most politicians aren’t scientists, but they vote on science policy. They have opinions on Ebola, but they’re not epidemiologists. They shape highway and infrastructure laws, but they’re not engineers.”

So why do Republicans continue to default to that line, when everyone seems to agree that it’s an idiotic one? Two words: Koch brothers. Here’s how the Times explains it:

For now, “I’m not a scientist” is what one party adviser calls “a temporary Band-Aid” — a way to avoid being called a climate change denier but also to sidestep a dilemma. The reality of campaigning is that a politician who acknowledges that burning coal and oil contributes to global warming must offer a solution, which most policy experts say should be taxing or regulating carbon pollution and increasing government spending on alternative energy. But those ideas are anathema to influential conservative donors like the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and the advocacy group they support, Americans for Prosperity.

And then Americans For Prosperity’s President, Tim Phillips, parses no words in laying out how they AFP would react to a Republican who was willing to work to address climate change: “They would be at a severe disadvantage in the Republican nomination process. …We would absolutely make that a crucial issue.”

This is the clearest example yet of the complete stranglehold the Koch brothers have over today’s Republican Party. There is no scientific debate that climate change is real and that human beings are contributing to it. Experts agree that we should take action immediately. Public polling indicates that there is very broad support for taking these actions.

And still, GOP candidates just keep saying, “I’m not a scientist,” because they know the climate-denial-funding, self-serving, oil-made billionaire Koch brothers will spend millions to crush their political careers if they stand up and support commonsense actions.

Needless to say, this is a dangerous reality — one in which the GOP policy agenda is determined not by elected officials concerned about the well-being of their constituents, but by billionaires concerned about the well-being of their bank accounts.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation