The Koch brothers and their allies have pledged to spend a massive sum of money to influence this year’s midterm elections, at least $500 million, which is why their true, self-serving political motivations merit close scrutiny. After all, their exorbitant political spending is this blog’s entire raison d’être. It turns out it’s also the GOP’s, according to a report from Charlie Cook.

In his discussion of key Senate races this fall, Cook notes that some Republicans’ fundraising and spending efforts are being outpaced by their Democratic counterparts. Yet, political realities don’t necessarily reflect these disparities, precisely because of the Kochs’ exorbitant spending. According to Cook, “GOP strategists have privately said that if it were not for spending by organizations affiliated with the Koch brothers, they might well be in really bad shape.” Out of the mouths of babes!

It’s not just that the Kochs’ largesse is merely backstopping Republicans’ fundraising efforts. The party has become so dependent on the Kochs’ outlays that the policies espoused by key midterm candidates favor the ultra-rich oil billionaires over working families. Take two examples that Cook raises, North Carolina and Iowa. Thom Tillis backed extreme tax cuts benefiting his state’s wealthiest citizens while gutting its education budget, while Koch crony Joni Ernst has said she does not support the existence of the federal minimum wage.

The GOP “might well be in really bad shape” if it weren’t for the Kochs’ spending, but it’s current shape isn’t any better for working families.

New documents reveal same-old Koch extortion-as-education scheme

Across the country, up and down the Republican ticket, the Koch brothers’ exorbitant campaign spending has helped the billionaire brothers ensure that GOP candidates support the self-serving Koch policy agenda on issues like environmental protections, the minimum wage and tax breaks for the wealthy. Whether it’s through the Young Entrepreneurs program for high schoolers, or the college-level Edvantage curriculum, the Kochs have used charitable donations to education in much the same way, wielding their influence to create programs that indoctrinate students with their extreme libertarian views. It’s therefore disappointing — but not surprising — that higher education institutions, once thought sacrosanct, have also been subject to the Kochs’ attempts to purchase influence.

New documents released by the Center for Public Integrity detail the negotiations that took place in 2007 between the Charles G. Koch Foundation and Florida State University’s economics department over a proposed Koch donation worth millions. The emails and memos read like business contracts — not exactly out of character for the charitable arm of a Koch Industries executive — with numerous “strings attached” in the form of ideological requirements of the professors and graduate students the grant would support. According to a Guardian summary, in a memo to this colleagues, the then-department chair — who apparently fashions himself a “libertarian anarchist” according to CPI — outlines the Koch Foundation’s specifications:

A section of the memo headlined “Constrained hiring” says: “As we all know, there are no free lunches. Everything comes with costs. In this case, the money for faculty lines and graduate students is coming from a group of funding organisations with strong libertarian views. These organisations have an explicit agenda.

“They want to expose students to what they believe are vital concepts about the benefits of the market and the dangers of government failure, and they want to support and mentor students who share their views. Therefore, they are trying to convince us to hire faculty who will provide exposure and mentoring. If we are not willing to hire such faculty, they are not willing to fund us.”

The newly-released documents from FSU provide a small window into the machinations of the Kochs’ far-reaching efforts to provide financial backing to like-minded think tanks and academics who espouse their preferred radical free market mindset. But as Paul Krugman noted yesterday, the documents and negotiations we haven’t seen are equal cause for concern: “And you have to wonder how much this sort of thing goes on — usually, one suspects, more subtly and implicitly, without as clear a paper trail.” The FSU revelations are just one example of the Koch brothers attempting to buy influence in service of their extreme self-serving agenda, candidate by candidate, institution by institution.

Tom really “Cottons” to the Koch brothers

This week, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a Koch-backed entity purporting to represent the interests of small business owners, released radio and television ads in support of Arkansas’s Tom Cotton. Though the ads feature earnest-sounding proprietors of Arkansas small businesses, the spots actually represent just another favor in the mutually-beneficial relationship between Tom Cotton and the Koch brothers.

Last year, Tom Cotton’s vote against the Farm Bill turned heads, as he was the only member of the state’s delegation to vote against the bill and especially because the agricultural industry is critically important to Arkansas. Recently, new audio recordings revealed that when considering the Farm Bill, Cotton may have prioritized a constituency of two over his actual constituency. Recordings released earlier this month reveal that Cotton’s no vote on the Farm Bill received thunderous applause from Koch supporters during the Koch network’s secretive donor summit earlier this year. The Kochs’ political arm, Americans for Prosperity, opposed the Farm Bill. Cotton also toed the Koch line on the Paycheck Fairness Act, voting against consideration of the bill, which Koch Industries also lobbied against.

Having proven himself quite willing to put the Kochs’ anti-working class agenda ahead of the Arkansans he represents, Cotton is now reaping the benefits, in the form of NFIB’s support in his race for Senate. While the organization masquerades as an advocate for small businesses, in 2012 the NFIB received more of its funding from Freedom Partners — AKA the Kochs’ “secret bank” — than any other source.

Just like Tom Cotton claims to represent Arkansans, but then votes in favor the Kochs’ extreme agenda, the NFIB talks out of both sides of its mouth, claiming to represent small businesses while also clamoring for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, like the billionaire Koch brothers.

The past two weeks have seen Rick Perry skip the formal reading of his felony charges to do an event with the Kochs’ AFP in New Hampshire, then explain that he was being indicted for bribery (he’s not, shouldn’t have skipped that arraignment), then return to Dallas for AFP’s “Defending the American Dream Summit.”

At the end of this Tour-de-Koch, the gaffe-prone governor sat down with Ed Morrissey of the conservative blog Hot Air, and further revealed the extent to which Republicans revere the Kochs and court their political support — they even brag about it, apparently.

Perry opens the interview joking about how Rick Scott is always trying to one-up him, saying “Rick Scott always tries to one-up me, so you know, he was the first to call me and say ‘hey, we got Americans for Prosperity, what’d you get?'”

This was in reference to the previous year’s summit, which was held in Orlando, which sparked bewilderment from Tampa Bay Times:

Unless he’s worried about his base or the lingering threat of a primary challenge, it baffles us that Scott – who couldn’t find time to attend any of a three-day education summit he called himself – would find the time to speak at the AFP “Defending the American Dream Summit” Friday at Universal Florida. Maybe he hopes the Koch brothers, who founded AFP, will show some love to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work Committee.

But don’t worry, Perry got the last laugh. “Trust me, I will call Rick Scott and share with him that our crowd was a lot bigger than his!”

Let the record show, Rick Perry is not a laywer. Rick Scott is not a scientist. And neither of them is a moderate. They’re just a couple of scandal-plagued governors jockeying for the top spot in the Koch sweepstakes to the detriment of working families.

Watch the video:

New Report: The Long History of the Koch Agenda Hurting Arkansas Agriculture

The Farm Bill plays a critical role in Arkansas’s economy, benefiting the livelihood of the state’s farmers by guiding crop planting efforts, aiding in access to crop loans, and bolstering the state’s critical agriculture economy writ large. Whenever the future of this important legislation has been jeopardized by political back-and-forth, Arkansas’s agricultural community has vocalized its support for the Farm Bill – such as in 2013 when Chairman of the Arkansas Rice Federation Dow Brantley said that farmers “desperately need a farm bill written so we know where we stand” when it comes to deciding which crops to plant. That same year, Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach said that the state’s farmers and consumers would “suffer” if Congress did not pass a Farm Bill or extend the previous bill.

Yet despite obvious and vocal support for the Farm Bill, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch brothers’ primary political engine, has consistently been at the forefront of the fight against the Farm Bill. AFP opposed passage of the Farm Bill in 2014, and went so far as to attack crop insurance premium subsidies and revenue guarantees – intended to protect the livelihood of farmers – as “corporate welfare.” AFP also opposed the 2013 and 2012 Farm Bills, and advocated for making cuts to the crop insurance program in the 2012 bill. Taking their advocacy a step further, AFP is spending big to help their preferred candidate in Arkansas’s 2014 U.S. Senate contest, Republican Congressman Tom Cotton. Why? Because Congressman Cotton was the only member of the Arkansas congressional delegation to vote against the Farm Bill. Instead of standing with the rice and cotton farmers who drive Arkansas’s agriculture economy, Tom Cotton turned his back on his home state by joining the out-of-state billionaire Koch brothers in opposing the Farm Bill.

This Koch-fueled advocacy against a bill so critical to Arkansans and the state’s economy goes even deeper, though. AFP has a long history of involving itself in legislative battles around policies important to the agriculture community and to Arkansas in particular.  For instance, in 2012 AFP supported prohibition on new enrollment in CRP (the Conservation Reserve Program), a policy enacted under President Ronald Reagan that pays farmers annual rent in exchange for conserving a portion of their lands, which protects the critical wildlife habitats enjoyed by nearly 700,000 sportsmen in Arkansas and better prepares farmers for drought conditions. This one program, which AFP opposes, directly benefits more than 3,000 Arkansas farms. Guess who joined AFP in opposing this pro-Arkansas program? That’s right, Congressman Cotton.

AFP also supported efforts to eliminate the Farm Bill’s Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program (MAP), which help farmers sell their goods abroad. Once again, Congressman Cotton voted to eliminate these programs – a shocking move since he represents a state that produced agricultural exports worth $3.2 billion in 2008 and whose agricultural exports supported more than 37,000 jobs in the state as of 2009.

It’s clear that Tom Cotton and the Koch brothers are bad for Arkansas’s farmers. If you want more proof, American Bridge has the inside story on the long history of the Koch agenda harming agriculture in Arkansas.

Read the full report here.

Three Questions for the Kochs as they “Defend the American Dream”

This weekend, capping off an interesting week for the Koch brothers, their chief political arm, Americans For Prosperity is hosting their so-called “Defending the American Dream Summit.” This is their public-facing summit, not to be confused with the highly secretive meeting of billionaires that dominated this week’s political conversation, after new audio surfaced from the event.

Those newly released recordings further exposed the degree to which the billionaire brothers have taken the reins of the Republican Party. One key Senate candidate after the next extolled the Kochs and their increasingly powerful network, expressing gratitude for their support and reaffirming their devotion to the extreme agenda they champion. On top of that, the executive director of the Republican Governors’ Association lauded AFP as their strongest partner.

The more we learn about the Koch brothers’ shadowy operation, the more we see how central they’ve become to the GOP. In fact, Washington Post recently rated AFP America’s third largest party. So it’s no surprise that at their American Dream-defending summit this weekend, 2016 hopefuls Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Mike Pence and Ben Carson will be in attendance, courting the kingmakers’ favor.

Here are a few questions the Kochs should answer at their event:

  1. How does opposition to the minimum wage, a position now espoused by many of the Republican candidates you support, help workers trying to realize the American Dream?
  2. Will you urge the Republican Party to support another government shutdown, as Mitch McConnell implied he would do at your summit?
  3. It’s now abundantly clear that candidates around the country are attending your private retreats to pander for your money. You guys have clearly proven to be wise investors, so what do you expect in return for propping up these politicians’ carers?

Indiana’s Mike Pence could be the Kochs’ 2016 candidate of choice

On the heels of new revelations about the Koch brothers’ favorite 2014 GOP Senate candidates, POLITICO looks at a candidate the Kochs may be grooming for a 2016 run — Indiana Governor Mike Pence. The report points to numerous instances of alignment between Pence’s activities as a Member of Congress and Governor and the Kochs’ extreme agenda, in addition to the collection of former Pence staffers that are now among the upper echelons of Koch World. Given the hundreds of millions of dollars the Koch network is likely to pour into the next Presidential election — it raised over $400 million in 2012 — the headline’s claim that Pence could have a “Koch advantage” is quite the understatement.

In what reads like a 2,000 word love story about the romance between Pence and the Koch brothers, POLITICO notes that Pence initially piqued the Kochs’ interest as a Member of Congress for his opposition to “Big Government” programs, leading the billionaire brothers to feature Pence at least once at one of their secretive donor “seminars” during that time. Pence has since become a mainstay at Koch events; he’s appearing this weekend at a summit hosted in Dallas by Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ political arm. For his part, Pence went out of his way to exalt the Kochs ahead of his appearance at their event, saying that he’s “grateful” for David Koch and AFP, “honored” to be participating in the event and has “immense respect” for one of the Kochs’ top advisors.

Also during his Congressional tenure, Pence advocated for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, among other extreme positions that led one Republican operative to tell POLITICO that Pence is “credible to the conservatives.” As Governor of Indiana, Pence enacted what POLITICO terms “aggressive tax cuts,” which significantly benefited the state’s top earners — a move straight out of the Koch playbook. He did so with full-throated support from AFP Indiana. Indeed, AFP operatives are so enamored of Pence’s oeuvre of extreme, Koch-backed policies that they held up Indiana as a example of a “model state” in a memo to donors obtained by POLITICO. The article also makes note of at least three different former Pence staffers who are now embedded in the Kochs’ political network, none more so than former Pence chief of staff Marc Short, who leads Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a shadowy group known as the Kochs’ “secret bank.”

From Pence’s attendance at Koch events, to AFP’s lauding his work in Indiana as exemplary of the Koch agenda, to the Pence alumni scattered throughout the Koch ranks, POLITICO brings to light many different signs that the Koch winds could be blowing toward a Pence presidential candidacy. But in Koch World, money and political spending are how the brothers really show their love for their favorite candidates, so perhaps no signal is more clear than the $200,000 the brothers gave to Pence’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign.

Never ones to limit themselves to being courted by just one extreme candidate at a time, the Kochs are also auditioning several other potential 2016 Republican candidates this weekend at the AFP summit. In addition to Governor Pence, Koch-inspired activists in attendance will hear from recently indicted Texas Governor Rick Perry, Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and author Dr. Ben Carson.

Even non-attending Koch cronies get shout out at secret donor conference

As revealed by new reporting from The Nation and Huffington Post, GOP Senate candidates Mitch McConnell, Joni Ernst, Tom Cotton and Cory Gardner all had their chance to kiss the ring at the Koch brothers’ secretive donor conference earlier this year. Luckily for some of their compatriots, in-person attendance to pander to the high-rolling “seminar” attendees wasn’t a prerequisite for receiving shout-outs from the presidents of Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, two key organizations in the Kochs’ political network.

From East to West, AFP president Tim Phillips and Freedom Partners president Marc Short highlighted the Senate campaigns of Virginia’s Ed Gillespie, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy, Minnesota’s Mike McFadden and Oregon’s Monica Wehby, illustrating that two of the Kochs’ top operatives consider all of these candidates to be exemplary of the anti-working class agenda the billionaires are pushing in this fall’s midterm elections. Put simply, all of these candidates are carrying water for the Kochs, AFP and Freedom Partners, or else Phillips and Short wouldn’t have sung their praises to the Kochs’ network of mysterious donors. Phillips told donors at the event that North Carolina’s Tillis offers “the best opportunity” and that McFadden is “a good candidate,” while Wehby is “running a strong campaign” despite being in “a tough blue state.” In extolling the virtues of Gillespie and Cassidy, Phillips and Short noted that Virginia is a “key state for us” and that energy issues (near and dear to Koch Industries’ heart, of course) represent a “key battleground” in Louisiana.

With the Freedom Partners network committing to spend $500 million in this midterm cycle, including AFP’s pledge to pour over $125 million into the election, these new revelations shed light on which candidates the billionaire Koch brothers view as a sound investment. More on Phillips’ and Short’s’ comments lauding key Senate candidates after the jump:

BREAKING: Newly Released Evidence Shows Kochs Back Candidates Who Share Their Extreme, Self-Serving Agenda

What do Joni Ernst, Tom Cotton, Cory Gardner, and Mitch McConnell all have in common? They all share key aspects of the Kochs’ extreme, self-serving, anti-working families agenda.

New reporting tonight by The Nation and Huffington Post on audio from a secretive Koch donor conference – where Ernst, Gardner, Cotton, and McConnell all spoke – demonstrates these candidates’ gratitude for the Kochs’ support, and the extent to which they share the extreme Koch agenda.

Whether opposing an increase in the minimum wage (or opposing a federal minimum wage entirely), supporting efforts that would voucherize Medicare, opposing legislative attempts to remedy pay discrimination, or opposing (even “philosophically”) policies that would directly assist those they seek to serve (e.g., the Farm Bill in Arkansas and Renewable Fuel Standards in Iowa), Koch-backed candidates are putting their Koch-backed agenda first above all else.

Supporting research after the jump.

Back to school at Koch University

With summer coming to a close, the Koch brothers have created a handy shopping list for all of your Back to School needs: 

  • Pencils
  • Erasers
  • 3-ring binders
  • Anti-government propaganda

One of these items may not seem like the others, but according to Slate, the Koch-funded Institute for Humane Studies thinks that teaching materials that “vilify the government” deserve a place in the classroom right alongside the dry-erase markers. This marks the first full school year that The Edvantage, a project of IHS, will make its radical libertarian curriculum materials available online to teachers for free.

According to the report, The Edvantage’s online hub is replete with “educational videos, articles and podcasts on topics including economics, history and philosophy,” that go out of their way to decry the Environmental Protection Agency and the minimum wage while touting sweatshops as being beneficial to workers in the developing world. All of these positions are tenets of the Kochs self-serving agenda, suggesting that The Edvantage is yet another effort by the Kochs to indoctrinate students. Lest you think that The Edvantage’s similarities to the Koch platform are mere coincidence, consider that the materials are short on opposing viewpoints and lack “ideological balance,” according to Slate.

All of the aforementioned, Libertarian-tinged Edvantage resources are free for teachers, which is as calculated as it is charitable. As the Huffington Post noted about the Kochs’ “Young Entrepreneurs” program, many of our country’s struggling, underfunded school districts are not in a position to turn down free curriculum resources. Conveniently, the Kochs support the abolishment of the federal Department of Education and with it, all federal education funding, in addition to backing Republican candidates like Scott Walker and Thom Tillis who have slashed their respective state education budgets.

It would appear that The Edvantage lacks a math curriculum, so we’ve started one for them:

(Schools – School Funding) + Free Koch-inspired teaching materials = Koch indoctrination machines

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation