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.”
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.
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.
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 RealKochFacts.com 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.
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.
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 AFP, Freedom 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 summer, Gardner 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.
Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation