To the Surprise of No One, Kochs Spend Big to Buy Access to Republican Governors

The New York Times reported yesterday that the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government and ethics watchdog group, uncovered a treasure trove of documents exposing the major corporate donors to the Republican Governors Association. Names on the list include Walmart, Exxon Mobil, and – yep, you guessed it – Koch Companies Public Sector, a.k.a. Koch Industries’ lobbying arm.

While that isn’t surprising, it does shed some light on just what the Kochs and their big-money pals are trying to buy: golf outings, policy breakfasts, secret donor meetings, an “intimate gathering” with Republican governors and Republican VIPs (whatever that means), and the Republican governors’ ears. In short: Access. Influence. Sway.

These donors would be model residents in Kochville, the Koch brothers’ self-serving utopia where horrible things like the minimum wage, social security, and environmental protections don’t exist. And, for the low, low price of $100,000 – or two easy payments of $50,000 – the Kochs and their prospective Kochvillians get “the ability to bring their particular expertise to the political process,” which is code for tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts to education, among many, many other anti-worker and anti-middle class policies.

The truth is, this is a bargain compared to what the Kochs are spending on their extreme Senate candidates this year alone. The Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity plans to spend $125 million, and when you count the Kochs’ dark money donor network, that number rises to half a billion dollars.

It’s no question that too much money in politics leads to self-serving policies and self-serving politicians – just ask former Virginia Governor (and former chairman of the Republican Governors Association) Bob McDonnell, who was recently convicted of felony corruption for his misdeeds in office. And now nearly half of all current Republican governors are facing charges of corruption or other scandals. So as these governors sell their loyalties to their backers, they should remember that the Kochs and their pals won’t be there to bail them out when things go south because they’re just as self-serving as their agenda.

Freedom Partners creates more tentacles for the Kochtopus

Known as the Koch brothers’ “secret bank,” Freedom Partners is notoriously covert in its dealings and purposefully opaque about the flow of money in and out of the organization. Freedom Partners’ opacity is a hallmark of the many groups comprising the Koch network, known not-so-affectionately to some as the “Kochtopus.” Through what details are available, Freedom Partners seems to be quite central to the Kochtopus, if not the head. The Koch network and Freedom Partners continue to grow tentacles upon tentacles — way more than just eight — in a deliberate attempt to obscure their political spending activities.

Recently, our friends at CREW dug into Freedom Partners’ most recent tax return, covering November 1, 2012 to October 31, 2013. CREW finds several notable, if not troubling, details in the returns.

Freedom Partners bills itself as a trade organization, yet its revenue and spending dropped off during this off-election year period — a financial trend much more common to a political committee, whose activities naturally ramp up election years. Despite the overall drop in expenditures, CREW notes that the group’s legal bills rose significantly from its previous tax return. One likely reason — or rather three — is that Freedom Partners required outside legal assistance in its latest quest to further muddy the waters the Kochtopus inhabits. Although many Koch groups already create “disregarded entities” to help hide their dealings, CREW found in the Freedom Partners filing that yet another three organizations have been created. According to CREW, the entities are “C corporations: Cavhoco, Inc., described as a holding company, and Dbldbl, Inc., and Knslt, Inc., which are described as consulting companies.”

Why the Koch network has such disdain for the use of vowels in its nomenclature is unclear, but given their self-serving political agenda, it wouldn’t be outlandish to suggest the Dbldbl, Inc. is a reference to their desire to defend the [Koch Industries] bottom line. Regardless of what specific activities the creation of these mysterious entities is meant to obscure, what matters is the mere fact that the organizations are meant to obscure some aspect of the billionaire Koch brothers’ spending activities.

While Freedom Partners has reached a new extreme with the creation of these C corporations, the clandestine shifting of millions of dollars is hardly a new development for the Koch network. Bridge Project’s Conservative Transparency database is an interactive tool that allows you to search transactions between the many tentacles of the Kochtopus and among the broader conservative network of donors, organizations and candidates.

Gov. BrownNose (R-KS) Swaps Wind Energy For Koch Love

Sam Brownback has done the unthinkable: he’s made himself — an incumbent Republican governor in Kansas — the underdog in this year’s gubernatorial election. And he’s done it by giving his home state a terrible, horrible, Koch-fueled makeover, handing out massive tax cuts for the wealthy that have decimated the state’s economy, gutted education funding, and alienated his constituents across the board.

But there was at least ONE issue where Sam Brownback seemed he would stand up to the Koch brothers for the good of Kansas. That issue was his career-long support for wind energy in the form of the Renewable Portfolio Standard. Well that’s no more.

For background, RPS is extremely popular in Kansas. So popular, in fact, that despite advertisements from the Kochs’ Americans For Prosperity urging lawmakers to vote for a bill that would have repealed the bipartisan initiative, the Kansas House shot down that attempt with a decisive 77-44 vote. Keep in mind that about three-quarters of Kansas House members are Republicans, many of whom had the courage to reject the Koch brothers in favor of what was best for their home state.

But not Sam Brownback. He knows that if he is to pull off the upset and win a second term as governor, his only chance is to be propped up by the Kochs’ dark money. So he reversed his long-held position, threw Kansas under the bus, and held out his hands for the Kochs’ reward. But he’s playing Kansans for fools, and it’s not going to work.

State Sen. Anthony Hensley summed up Brownback’s fold the best: “This means thousands of Kansans and many rural communities will be pawns in Sam Brownback’s power game. To that, I say: Game over, governor.”

Koch Subsidiary In AK Pays $80k To Settle Mishandled Hazardous Waste Accusations

A Koch Industries subsidiary, Flint Hills, has already made some unsavory headlines in Alaska. That’s because they decided in February to close their refinery in North Pole, AK — killing over 80 jobs — rather than meet environmental standards and pay for groundwater cleanup.

It’s hardly a surprising sequence of events. The Flint Hills episode is consistent with the Kochs’ mantra of money over all else, and their disregard for environmental safety has been well documented, including by former Koch Industries managers.

Now, Flint Hills has agreed to pay the $80,000 in a settlement over accusations of mishandling hazardous waste. Here’s what happened in this specific incident, as described by Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

After filtering groundwater, Flint Hills disposed of the used filters in an open trash bin at the site. The filters soon “self ignited” inside the bins, according to an EPA complaint, requiring a response from the North Pole Fire Department to extinguish two fires.

Meanwhile the Kochs are spending heavily trying to overtake a Senate seat here, using ads that purport to want what’s best for Alaskans while denying the truth about their own record in the state.

They’ve made it abundantly clear already: they care a hell of a lot more about their bottom dollar than they care about Alaska.

In the ongoing Pursuit of Koch race being run by 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls, it appears Chris Christie is making his move. Already in recent weeks, we’ve seen Rick Perry traversing the country to court their favor. Ted Cruz joined them for a national chat session. Mike Pence got his own POLITICO story on his love affair with the Kochs. And the three of them were joined with fellow 2016 wannabes Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal and Ben Carson to “defend the American Dream” with the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity.

Well Chris Christie, being the insanely ambitious lackluster governor he is, isn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to get a crack at the new power brokers of the GOP and their treasure chest. In a piece about Christie’s utter and proud refusal to tackle climate change, Coral Davenport at the New York Times reveals that Christie is speaking Friday to a group of AFP donors.

The article also chronicles the history of Christie’s disastrous climate platform, dating back to his withdrawal from Republican Governor George Pataki’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a bipartisan plan for Northeastern states to reduce their carbon emissions. That’s an initiative that was aggressively condemned by AFP, who even went as far as to sue the state of New York over it. As Davenport points out, “Mr. Christie, who withdrew from the program in 2011 as he first considered running for president in 2012.”

Surprise, surprise — Chris Christie withdrew from a bipartisan climate initiative that was despised by the Koch brothers right when he started mulling a presidential run. He received a great deal of praise from AFP President Tim Phillips for his extreme move, and now he gets to speak to their donors in a closed door meeting. Everyone’s a winner! (Except Planet Earth).

Stay tuned for the next episode of Pursuit of Koch…
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.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation