A Koch Industries subsidiary, C. Reiss Coal, is wreaking havoc in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The mineral transport company produces enormous coal piles that have monopolized part of the downtown waterfront for over ten years. A Wisconsin county commissioner is pushing for a study to measure the potentially deleterious health effects of the dust buildup that has become menace to the facility’s neighbors.
Green Bay Mayor, Jim Schmitt, said, “We thought maybe they’d get out of this business, but they’re committed to (it) … I would like nothing more for them to self-relocate (but at a cost of) of at least $20 million, it’s not going to happen in the next four years.”
Unsurprisingly, a spokesman for the facility said they have no plans to move the piles.
This is not the first time Koch Industries has jeopardized the health of it’s neighbors. Over the last few years, a Koch carbon facility came under serious scrutiny for their storage of hazardous petroleum coke, a waste byproduct of oil refining, in turn producing large clouds of dark dust over Detroit.
This has become a predictable narrative for Koch Industries whose mishandling of hazardous materials and disregard for environmental safety has been well documented.
It’s clear the Kochs care a hell of a lot more about their bottom line than about the health of Wisconsinites.
Another day, another Governor Scott Walker and Koch brothers’ scheme to further their extreme agenda and harm working families in the Badger State. This week, the Wisconsin state legislature is ramming through legislation that would make the state a right-to-work state, a measure that will pass both chambers and that Governor Walker has pledged to sign into law.
According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the bill is taken word-for-word from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that counts Koch Industries as a key member. This is not the first time Governor Walker has pushed legislation from the Koch-funded group. Governor Walker has used his governorship to sign a litany of ALEC bills into law, including anti-consumer tort reform provisions, restrictive voter ID laws, voucher and virtual school expansions, the privatization of the state’s economic development functions, and more. Now that the ALEC-inspired right-to-work legislation is before the Wisconsin legislature, the Kochs’ political arm, Americans for Prosperity, is urging its grassroots activists to contact their legislators in support of the bill.
All workers — whether in a union or not — in states with right-to-work laws on the books, earn lower wages, and consequently endure lower living standards. Indeed, Governor Walker, the Koch brothers, and their allies are falling over themselves to deal a crushing blow to Wisconsin’s working families. It’s a deja-vu inducing move from a group that spared no expense in supporting Governor Walker’s campaign in the 2012 recall election, which centered on his attacks on the state’s public sector unions.
This week, Bloomberg Politics dubbed Scott Walker the “King of Kochworld.” The article chronicled his deep and long-established ties to the Koch brothers’ network and their support for the ultra-conservative makeover he’s given the state of Wisconsin. It’s a love affair that could pay big dividends for Walker, as he looks to become the beneficiary of a large chunk of the eye-popping $889 million they’ve promised to spend this cycle.
Well, Walker is living up to his regal title. This week, his administration announced a number positional of shakeups, including the appointment of a gentleman named Scott Neitzel to run Wisconsin’s Department of Administration. According to the Wisconsin DOA website, their ultimate goal is to “offer Wisconsin residents the most efficient, highest-quality state government services possible.”
But in Neitzel’s previous role, as an executive at Madison Gas and Electric, he was hardly fighting for his new constituents. Instead, Madison Gas and Electric was teaming up with Americans For Prosperity, fighting to protect profits for Big Oil and petrochemical companies like Koch Industries at the expense of solar energy users. The coalition was pushing for legislation to hike fees and increase regulations on customers who produced their own solar power.
From personnel moves to policy pushes, Scott Walker’s motives are clear — the only constituents he’s looking out for are the ones he reigns over in Kochworld.
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.
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.
Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation