Closing Argument: Kochs Fight To Save Candidate Cronies In Critical Election

The midterms are around the corner and the Koch brothers and their vast political network have gone to unprecedented lengths to elect extreme Tea Party candidates who support their self-serving agenda. The Kochs have bought and paid for these candidates (both senate and gubernatorial), and are clearly hoping for an Election night wave to secure support for their anti-working families agenda.

Unparalleled Spending

The billionaire brothers began their dirty campaign early this cycle. By January of 2014, the Kochs’ chief political arm, Americans For Prosperity (AFP), had already poured $22 million in dark money into TV ads smearing Democratic senators up for reelection. AFP did not stop there. They have continued to spend so heavily on television ads, which range from misleading to patently false, that AFP has accounted for one out of every sixteen Senate ads this cycle as of August 2014.

But Americans For Prosperity’s spending is just one cog in a complex, ever-growing machine — a machine that increasingly threatens our democracy as it drowns out the voice of the people by amplifying the voice of a few self-interested billionaires. The many arms and extensive reach of this network have been dubbed the “Kochtopus,” and it continues to expand. This year, the Kochs launched a new Super PAC, Freedom Partners Action Fund, to allow for more direct spending on electioneering. While this new group is subject to financial disclosure, its biggest donors were unsurprisingly the Koch brothers themselves.

Overall the Koch network promised to spend around $300 million this cycle. While much of that money has gone to misleading voters over the airwaves, the real prize for the Kochs is buying candidates. From their secretive billionaires summit, which attracted hoards of powerful Republican politicians milling about with their benefactors and swapping thoughts on policy and strategy, to hosting events with key governors and 2016 GOP hopefuls jockeying for their support, the Koch network’s purchasing power is on display all around. Any smart Republican who wants to climb the political ladder is already pledging allegiance to the kingmakers. Florida Governor Rick Scott has fought to show he’s the governor the Kochs truly love the most, while major Koch beneficiary and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has spent his tenure in office trying to implement the extreme Koch agenda at every turn.

A Purchased Party

The aforementioned secretive billionaires summit the Koch brothers hosted provided an eye-opening look into their political operation. Many of the most trusted and wealthy members of the Koch political network gathered at a highly-guarded Southern California resort along with a number of the top leaders in today’s Republican Party — Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 2016 frontrunner Marco Rubio, crucial Senate candidates including Cory Gardner, Joni Ernst, and Tom Cotton, and the list goes on.

Leaked audio from that retreat confirmed that these big wigs of the GOP, responsible for charting the very direction of the party, are using the Koch agenda as their north star. We heard Joni Ernst credit the Koch network for having “started my trajectory” and Tom Cotton lavishing them with praise for elevating the GOP in Arkansas. Mitch McConnell promised that if he becomes majority leader, the Senate won’t waste time debating “gosh darn proposals” like raising the minimum wage or keeping student loan rates low. These comments are merely a tiny window into the Kochification of the GOP.

For decades, the Koch brothers have been fighting for their self-serving agenda to the detriment of working families, and now the Republican party has aligned with them on nearly every issue. The Koch brothers have long fought against the minimum wage; now key Republican senate and gubernatorial candidates have come out against a federal minimum wage altogether. The Kochs fund climate change denial because addressing it would hurt their bottom line; suddenly the entire GOP disavows scientific consensus. David Koch once called Social Security “the most serious threat to the future stability of our society next to nuclear war.” Today’s GOP is fighting to slash it. The Kochs have fought against the Farm Bill for years; now even Republican candidates in states driven by agriculture, like Kansas and Arkansas, voted against it.

The symbiosis between the Koch brothers and the GOP runs deep. The Kochs finance their candidates. The candidates push the Kochs’ self-serving agenda. The Kochs fund groups like the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). NFIB endorses Koch-supported candidates across the board. Those candidates tout their NFIB endorsement to claim they have the support of small businesses. Then the NFIB and the Republican politicians they back continue to push for policies, such as massive tax cuts for the wealthy that shift the tax burden toward working families, that do more good for the Koch brothers than for small businesses.

While they may have previously flown under the radar, these Koch-Republican charades are no longer going by unnoticed.

Fighting Back

American Bridge has spent the past six months exposing the truth about the Koch brothers’ self-serving agenda, their damaging business practices, and their chokehold on the Republican Party. We are holding them accountable, and voters will too.

It was not long ago that most Americans didn’t know who Charles and David Koch were, let alone why they should be wary of their agenda. But the Koch brothers are becoming household names — household names with a very negative connotation to them. Every day, the American people are learning more about the Kochs, and the more they learn, the more they reject the extreme Koch agenda and the candidates who support it.

We launched in May, and in just six months, we’ve managed to drastically change the way the Kochs are viewed in American politics. We dug up long-buried documents from Libertarian archives that demonstrated how extreme the Koch agenda has been for over 30 years — and the lengths to which the Kochs have gone to implement it. We showed for the first time that the Kochs and their business conglomerate, Koch Industries, are outsourcers, tied to lost jobs and American jobs shipped overseas. We’ve exposed the depths of the environmental damage caused by their work, and dove into how their business practices can wreak havoc on a community, all in the pursuit of further growing their unimaginable fortune.

On a day-to-day basis, our research and tracking team is digging deeper into the Koch brothers’ antics, and we are telling that story to voters across the country. With our current campaign finance laws, we can’t stop the Koch network from pouring hundreds of millions of dollars of dark money into elections of all shape and size. But we can make sure that voters know exactly who they are, how extreme their self-serving agenda is, and how broad their reach is within the Republican Party.

That’s exactly what we’ve done, and it’s exactly what we will continue to do in the 2016 election cycle and beyond.

Continue reading to learn more about Republican candidates who share the Koch agenda and are being propped up by the secretive billionaires in North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Florida.

Closing Argument: Thom Tillis Helped Make North Carolina The Kochs’ “Model State”

In 2013, a year before Koch-backed groups had begun their all out assault to help elect Speaker Thom Tillis to the Senate, the head of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) said that North Carolina provided “a great opportunity” to “create a model state”. What exactly did the Kochs have in mind for this “model state?” If their support for his Senate candidacy is any indicator, it probably looks a lot like the extreme, Tea Party agenda enacted by Speaker Tillis – helping the wealthy and special interests at the expense of North Carolina’s schools and working families.

Speaker Tillis’s worked hard to deliver for the secretive billionaire Koch brothers. His budget gave massive tax breaks to millionaires and raised taxes on small business owners and seniors’ retirement income. It stripped $500 million in education funding over two years and cut 13,000 education jobs, causing good teachers to leave the state state due to a pay scale that ranks among the nation’s worst. It could even lead to cutting back Medicaid assistance for working families throughout the state. Tillis even fought to kill the state’s film tax credit, which supports 4,200 local jobs, after AFP decided it was against it.  In the Senate, not much would change for Tillis. Take minimum wage, for example. AFP opposes increasing the minimum wage, which Speaker Tillis has said he’d consider eliminating entirely.

Speaker Tillis has been so successful at enacting the core of the Koch agenda, in fact, that AFP held rallies earlier this year to celebrate his good deeds, while the Kochs and their family members poured in the cash to the tune of more than $10,000 in personal contributions to Tillis’s campaign. That doesn’t even begin to count the more than $13 million that Koch-backed or funded entities have spent on ads attempting to prop up Tillis and tear down his opponent. Make no mistake: these Koch front groups, like the National Federation of Independent Businesses, are nothing more than another attempt by the Kochs to drive their self-serving, anti-middle class agenda.

But the Kochs’ efforts to turn North Carolina into their own personal utopia don’t start and end with Thom Tillis. For years, the Kochs’ AFP has been working to drive the policy agenda further and further right in a state that’s growing more and more purple by the day. The Kochs’ primary piggy bank, Koch Industries, has also had a negative impact on the future of the state, with its subsidiaries laying off hundreds of workers in multiple cities. Whose side are the Kochs on in North Carolina? Clearly not that of working families.

When North Carolinians head to the polls on Tuesday, they should bear in mind the true agenda of the secretive billionaires responsible for keeping Speaker Tillis’s campaign afloat: massive cuts to education, tax breaks for the wealthy, and job losses left and right. If voters choose Thom Tillis, they should expect nothing but more of the same from this Koch crony in the U.S. Senate.

And if the Kochs get their way in 2014, they won’t stop there.  When it comes to carrying the water of the Koch brothers and their self-serving agenda, Speaker Tillis has been tied at the hip to Governor Pat McCrory, who has advocated for the Kochs every step of the way.  Surely the Kochs will be there for McCrory – an unpopular governor who has enacted an unpopular agenda (the Koch agenda) – as he seeks a second term.  We’ll be there as well working to expose another Koch crony to the voters and the devastating impact their self-serving agenda has had on the state of North Carolina.

Closing Argument: Koch Crony Cory Gardner Counting On Kochs to Drag Him Across The Finish

In Colorado, Republicans have pinned their hopes on Koch-crony Cory Gardner, a classic supporter of the Kochs’ self-serving agenda.  What does that agenda look like in Gardner’s case? More of the same policies the Kochs have been working toward for years, benefitting wealthy special interests at the expense of working families and the middle class.

On issue after issue, Gardner has stood in line with the Koch agenda. Charles Koch has opposed the minimum wage entirely and David Koch ran for VP on a ticket that called for abolishing it. Their primary political entity AFP identified opposition to raising the minimum wage as a key vote multiple years in a row. Cory Gardner said he opposed raising the federal minimum wage. On equal pay for women, Koch Industries lobbied against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help women fight back against instances of pay discrimination. Cory Gardner voted against it. On Medicare, Gardner and the Kochs’ AFP both supported a budget that would turn Medicare into a voucher program.

The Kochs have spent millions propping up Gardner’s candidacy, spending heavily early on this year on debunked, misleading ads that were attacked for using paid actors. The Kochs’ faux-small business organization, which actually fights for tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of working families, endorsed Gardner earlier this year. The Kochs and their family members contributed $23,000 directly to Gardner’s campaign, while Koch-backed and funded entities including AFPFreedom Partners, the American Energy Alliance, and Generation Opportunity have dumped more than $4 million into the race to prop up Gardner’s candidacy. The Kochs have been so important to Cory Gardner that at a Koch conference this summerGardner flat out begged for more outside money to come to his rescue.

So what’s a Colorado voter to do? In this election, the choice is clear, because a vote for Cory Gardner on November 4th is a vote for the Kochs’ and their extreme, anti-working families agenda.

Closing Argument: Koch Crony Joni Ernst Owes Everything To The Kochs

Joni Ernst and the Kochs share so many of the same views, it’s sometimes tough to tell them them apart. Ernst has been such a strong ally for the secretive billionaire brothers that they personally maxed out in contributions to Ernst’s campaign. Joni Ernst is a Koch crony through and through, and a vote for her on November 4th is a vote for electing one of the fiercest defenders of the Kochs’ self-serving, anti-middle class agenda to the U.S. Senate.

On issue after issue after issue, it’s hard to find any air between Ernst’s positions and those of her billionaire oil baron benefactors. Renewable Fuel Standard? Ernst is “philosophically” opposed and her “perfect world” does not allow for it; the Kochs’ political arm Americans For Prosperity opposes RFS. Clean Water Act? Joni Erst opposes it and the heavy polluting Kochs do too. The Farm Bill is another – Ernst says she would have voted against it, and that’s just what AFP would have wanted. Minimum wage? Ernst and AFP both oppose raising it, just like they both support privatizing Social Security and gambling with seniors’ benefits in the stock market. Don’t forget about denying the science of climate change – the Kochs fund and benefit from climate change denialism, and Ernst is a noted skeptic of the science.  The list goes on, and on, and on.

At a Koch donor retreat this summer, Ernst thanked the Kochs for launching her political “trajectory,” showing that the Kochs can trust her to carry out their extreme, self-serving agenda. All told this cycle, Koch-backed and funded groups have spent more than $7 million in Iowa to prop up Ernst’s candidacy. No wonder Ernst’s agenda is so extreme, it’s bought and paid for by the Kochs. Iowa voters would do well to think about who is looking out for their interests over special interests when they head to the ballot box on November 4th.

Closing Argument: Terri Lynn Land’s Failed Koch Candidacy

The billionaire Koch brothers know a thing or two about making economic investments, and so ahead of the 2014 election cycle, they sought to invest in candidates that would push their extreme self-serving agenda in races in that could help expand the senate map for Republicans. In Michigan, they have gone zero for one with Republican Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land.

The wealthy brothers couldn’t have asked for a candidate who would better toe the Koch line than Terri Lynn Land, unfortunately that agenda turned out to be anathema to Michigan voters. Whether she was opposing a minimum wage hikegushing over unlimited dark money in campaigns, or promising to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, Land’s positions on the trail have been everything the Koch brothers could hope for. And on top of all that, she had millions of dollars to fund her own campaign.

So the Kochs invested, maxing out to Land’s campaign and running millions in misleading attack ads to prop up her candidacy. She even won an endorsement from the Koch-funded National Federation of Independent Businesses, which purports to advocate for small businesses by defending tax cuts for the wealthy.

But there was one problem: The voters have rejected Terri Lynn Land and the Koch agenda in Michigan. They’ve crashed and burned, and she’s poised to be handed a massive defeat on Election Day. The Koch brand has proved toxic in Michigan. From massive pollution in Detroit and killing hundreds of Michigan jobs by closing a plant in Gaylord, to opposing the Detroit bankruptcy package and Medicaid expansion, the Koch brothers have wreaked havoc on Michigan.

And they’ve been held accountable. Groups have run ads highlighting the Koch brothers’ business practices in Michigan and Terri Lynn Land’s support from them. Eventually, polling showed that Michigan voters became familiar with the Koch brothers, and that they didn’t like their agenda one bit. Now, the last thing Michiganders want is a Koch pawn representing them in Washington. That will be officially confirmed Tuesday night.

Closing Argument: Wehby And The Koch Brothers – Not For Oregon

While Oregon Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby briefly appeared to be a potential bright spot for the Republican Party, that moment quickly passed, although not for any lack of effort (money) by the Koch brothers to keep it alive.

The billionaire Koch brothers have spent around $1 million running attack ads against Wehby’s opponent. Wehby received further Koch support when she was endorsed by the Koch-funded National Federation of Independent Businesses, a group that claims to advocate on behalf of small businesses but in reality supports policies that aid big corporations like Koch Industries. Wehby also raked in thousands in personal donations from the Koch family to her campaign, and Tim Phillips, the president of the Kochs’ Americans For Prosperity, offered praise for her campaign at the Koch network’s secretive billionaires retreat this summer.

For the Kochs, Monica Wehby is essentially their ideal candidate. She has opposed efforts to raise the minimum wage, opposed environmental standards from the EPA, and wants to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act. So it’s no surprise that the Koch brothers did everything they could to lift Wehby’s candidacy — they know that if they could put her in the Senate, she would support their extreme self-serving agenda, to the detriment of working families.

Make no mistake, the Koch agenda spells nothing good for Oregon; Koch Industries’ record in the state is one of economic devastation and job loss. The reckless business practices of Koch Industries’ subsidiaries, like Georgia-Pacific, have had array of painful consequences  on Oregon and its people, including outsourcing, lots jobs, environmental damage, and even a local budget crisis.

The Koch brothers only care about one thing: their bottom line. Everything else, like their support of Monica Wehby, is just a means to that end. And the people of Oregon aren’t buying what the Kochs are selling this cycle.

Closing Argument: The Kochs Think Scott Brown Is A Sound Investment

The state of the union between the Koch brothers and Scott Brown was strong years before Brown moved to New Hampshire to run for Senate. In 2011, Brown was caught on tape kissing the ring of David Koch, gushing that “your support during the election, it meant a ton. It made a difference and I can certainly use it again.” Since then, Koch-backed groups have doubled down on their support for Brown, spending over $2.6 million on ads attacking his opponent.

As billionaire businessmen, the Koch brothers know a thing or two about making sound investments, and Scott Brown has clearly demonstrated to the Koch brothers that he will represent their interests again if they help him return to the Senate. Brown has voted for tax breaks for oil companies, surely music to the ears of oilmen like the Kochs. The fact that after losing his Senate seat in 2012, Brown gladly took in $270,000 to sit on the board of a company that outsourced American jobs also has to comfort the Kochs, with Koch Industries also outsourcing thousands of U.S. jobs.

The Koch-funded National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has endorsed Brown, who has in turn trumpeted the endorsement as evidence of his support for small businesses. In reality, the NFIB collects millions from the Kochs and has ties to some of the world’s largest multinational corporations. The NFIB supports tax cuts for the wealthy, like the Koch brothers, which would shift the tax burden even further onto the backs of working class families. When taken with the Kochs’ opposition to raising the minimum wage and to basic environmental protections for our air and water, it’s clear that the NFIB, their patron Kochs and New Hampshire candidate of choice, Scott Brown, are in pursuit of an anti-working families agenda.

When New Hampshire voters head to the polls on Election Day, they should not just consider whether a carpetbagger from Massachusetts will represent the Granite State, but whether someone who has groveled at the feet of the Koch brothers has anyone’s interests but the Kochs’ at heart. Scott Brown might be running for Senate in a new state, but he’s bringing his same friends along for the ride.

Closing Argument: Mitch McConnell Would Lead the Koch Agenda To Victory

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has spent thirty years in Washington putting special interests first, and if re-elected, he would undoubtedly prioritize the interests of the secretive billionaire Koch brothers. McConnell said so himself earlier this year at the Kochs’ secret donor summit, where he laid out just what a McConnell-run Senate would look like. In his own words, if McConnell becomes majority leader, “we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage…”

McConnell must know a thing or two about voting on the minimum wage – he has voted against raising it at least seventeen times during his tenure in Washington. The Kochs’ primary political arm Americans For Prosperity also opposes raising the minimum wage, and this is just the beginning of the similarities in the policy agenda shared by McConnell and the Kochs. McConnell and the Koch brothers also both oppose extending unemployment benefits, and they both supported the Ryan budget plan that would turn Medicare into a voucher program.

A Senate majority led by Mitch McConnell would spell disaster for working families around the country, and no one has been fighting harder to secure that than the Kochs. The Kochs have spent nearly $300 million in this election to buy Republican Senate candidates around the country who will support their extreme, self-serving agenda, and McConnell has proven he would be their ideal leader.

When wondering what another McConnell term would look like, Kentucky voters would do well to heed McConnell’s own promises – no more votes on raising the minimum wage, no more efforts better the lives of working families, just looking out for wealthy special interests, plain and simple.

Closing Argument: A Second Term For Scott Walker Is A Second Term For The Kochs

The Koch brothers’ political arm, Americans for Prosperity, spent heavily in Wisconsin in 2010 to ensure that Scott Walker was one of the many extreme Conservative Republicans swept into office by that year’s Tea Party wave. Over the course of his first term as Governor, Walker and his allies have steered Wisconsin to the far right, cutting education spending by $800 million, working to block an increase to the state’s minimum wage and at the same time, giving massive tax breaks to the wealthy. Led by Walker, the state’s Republican legislature introduced an assault on collective bargaining rights that effectively cut public workers’ pay and destroyed their ability to negotiate over health coverage, safety, or sick leave.

When Walker’s extreme policies were at issue in the 2012 recall election, AFP spent $10 million promoting his — and the Kochs — political agenda. Walker’s current campaign for reelection has also benefited from Koch support, with AFP pledging to spend just shy of $1 million in ads touting the governor’s policies. One of Walker’s first actions after the recall election was to sign a pro-mining bill into law, the language of which had been largely informed by a significant donor to the Wisconsin Club for Growth (another Koch-backed entity), the mining company Gogebic Taconite. AFP has issued mailers in the mining area of Northern Wisconsin touting the measure, though not without bending the truth to inflate the benefits of the controversial law and help pad Walker’s job creation credentials.

The Kochs’ have a history of ideological disdain for campaign finance laws, not to mention that these measures often interfere with their inclination to spend freely on behalf of their favorite candidates, like Walker. A federal judge in Wisconsin happens to share some of these views, which is perhaps not surprising given that he has attended multiple expenses paid junkets funded by the billionaire brothers. In the last two months alone, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa has issued two rulings favorable to the Koch brothers, their myriad political groups, and Walker’s campaign. In September, he removed an existing limit on PAC and political party campaign contributions to gubernatorial candidates, which Walker’s campaign quickly exploited to the tune of almost $2 million. Just weeks before Election Day, Randa made an injunction halting Wisconsin’s longstanding ban on coordination between political campaigns and outside groups — like those funded by the Kochs — so long as the groups are engaging in so-called “issue advocacy.”

From the initial Tea Party wave of 2010, through his 2012 recall election, to 2014, the Koch brothers and Scott Walker have teamed up to implement a far right agenda in Wisconsin. Walker’s policies mirror the Kochs’ extreme agenda, which is why the self-serving billionaires and their allies are spending heavily in the hopes of winning four more years for Walker. As Wisconsinites head to the polls on Election Day, they should bear in mind that a vote for Scott Walker is a vote for four more years of the Koch brothers’ political agenda.

Rick Scott – The Special Interests Governor

The heated race for governor in the Sunshine State is just around the corner, and after throwing his fantrum on national television, Rick Scott needs something of a miracle to win reelection. Luckily for Scott, he’s got the support of the billionaire Koch brothers and their extensive political network: Koch Industries has made large contributions to Scott’s campaign, and the Kochs’ primary political arm, Americans For Prosperity, has put more than 40 paid staffers on the ground in the Sunshine State.

Scott’s ties to the Koch brothers go back a ways. In 2013, Scott spoke at Americans For Prosperity’s “Defending the American Dream Summit” in Orlando the very same week that he skipped his own three-day education summit, a stark juxtaposition of priorities that drew this rebuke 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”… Maybe he hopes the Koch brothers, who founded AFP, will show some love to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work Committee.”

This year, AFP’s annual summit was hosted in Texas, and Scott’s fellow Republican governor and friend Rick Perry joked about razzing him because the Texas summit was better attended than Scott’s Orlando event. Perry recalled, “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?’”

Of course Scott called Perry to brag about his support from the Koch brothers. And of course the Koch brothers support Rick Scott, they share the same agenda – opposition to raising the minimum wage, denying the science of climate change, refusing to expand Medicaid. It’s a match made in heaven.

When Floridians go to the polls on Tuesday, they should bear this in mind. Rick Scott is the special interests governor. The Koch brothers are just one of his many interests.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation