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 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.

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.

AFP adds Wisconsin to its roadshow of misleading ads

To understand the relationship the Koch brothers’ political arm, Americans for Prosperity, has with the truth, you needn’t look any further than the group’s scorecard on PolitiFact. During this midterm cycle, the group has racked up a consistent stream of “mostly false” and “false” ratings for their claims in ads. A toddler taking a “true or false” quiz is more likely to get a “true” than this outfit, which has also employed paid actors to spout falsified stories about the Affordable Care Act.

The latest “mostly false” rating was issued in response to a misleading mailer AFP is circulating in Northern Wisconsin. According to the mailer, Republican Governor Scott Walker’s administration is responsible for the region’s mining economy “moving forward” and for more people “getting good, high-paying jobs.” Per PolitiFact, AFP’s citation for this claim is Senate Bill 1, a controversial bill partially written by a mining company with significant interests in Northern Wisconsin and signed into law in 2013. As PolitiFact notes, “taken together, that suggests a boom in jobs related to the iron ore mine.” And yet, when they dug into the claim further, PolitiFact only found evidence of about 10 miners who are employed at the new iron ore mine project, which is in its early stages. PolitiFact notes that AFP claims that it also was including sand mining in its claim, yet the bill cited was specifically related to “metallic” mining.

Given that Scott Walker is a favorite of the Koch brothers and their allies, it’s hardly a surprise that AFP is sending misleading campaign mailers on his behalf. The “mostly false” mailer is especially subversive when you consider the mining project and Senate Bill being referenced. There are numerous questions about whether the bill was part of a pay-to-play scheme, after the mining company Gogebic Taconite gave $700,000 to the Koch-affiliated Wisconsin Club for Growth in support of Walker’s 2012 campaign in the recall election, before the bill the company helped author was signed into law early in 2013.

In effect, not only is AFP Wisconsin misleading voters about Scott Walker’s mining job creation record, they’re inflating the benefits of an early-stage project involving a company whose donations to another Koch outfit and ties to the Walker administration are being called into question.

Federal judge with ties to Kochs rules in Scott Walker’s favor

Enforcement of campaign finance laws in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin is the ultimate nursery tale gone bad, with the fox guarding the henhouse at every turn. Case in point: a federal judge with ties to the Koch brothers ruled yesterday that outside groups, like the many organizations receiving Koch funding, can legally coordinate on “issue advocacy” with political campaigns, like that of Koch favorite Governor Scott Walker.

Given that Walker faces an ongoing John Doe investigation into potential illegal coordination of efforts with outside groups during the 2012 recall election, it was hardly a surprise when his Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, declined to represent the state’s Government Accountability Board in a lawsuit challenging the coordination rule. The lawsuit was argued before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa, who issued an injunction yesterday overturning the Wisconsin state law banning coordination between political campaigns and “independent” political groups, provided that the groups are only engaging in “issue advocacy.”

This is not Randa’s first ruling related to the law banning coordination, as Randa previously ruled in the John Doe inquiry that coordination was acceptable, so long as the outside groups are not advocating for voting for or against a specific candidate. He then ordered a halt to the John Doe probe, a ruling that was later overturned by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

When you examine Randa’s ties to the Koch brothers, the rulings look less like consistent opposition to the coordination rule, and more like a concerted effort to legalize coordination between Walker’s campaign and Koch-affiliated groups. Randa has attended an expenses-paid Koch brothers junket, and one of his assistants is married to a Walker campaign attorney. Koch-funded groups have spent millions on Walker’s behalf and in support of his extreme political agenda.

Campaign finance experts note that there’s reason to believe this ruling will also be overturned, but in the meantime, a judge with ties to both the Kochs and their favored candidate has once again wielded his gavel to their benefit.

Koch tied Judge Ruled To Legalize Coordination between Koch groups and campaigns

Randa Issued Ruling Striking Down Prohibition On Coordination Between Outside Groups And Campaigns

Judge Rudolph Randa Overturned Wisconsin Law Banning Coordination Between Campaigns And Issue Advocacy Groups.  According to the Wisconsin State Journal, “U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa on Tuesday ordered Wisconsin officials not to enforce state law banning coordination between campaigns and “independent” political groups so long as the groups engage only in so-called issue advocacy. Randa’s order came in a lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsible Government Advocates against the state Government Accountability Board and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm. Randa had previously ruled in a John Doe investigation that groups can coordinate with candidates so long as they don’t expressly advocate for or against a specific candidate, and he ordered a halt to the probe.” [Wisconsin State Journal, 10/14/14]

Judge Had Ties To Koch Brothers And Walker Campaign

Judge Randa Attended Expenses Paid Junkets Funded By Koch Brothers

Judge Who Paused John Doe Probe Into Walker Campaign Finance Regularly Attended Expenses –Paid Judicial Conferences Funded By The Koch Brothers. According to The Center For Public Integrity, “The federal judge who ordered an end to an investigation into possible illegal campaign coordination between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and conservative groups during two recent recall elections regularly attended expenses-paid judicial conferences sponsored by conservative organizations including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation — groups that have funded efforts against campaign finance reform.” [Center For Public Integrity, 5/27/14]

Husband Of Assistant To Judge Randa Was A Walker Campaign Attorney

Wife Of Walker Campaign Attorney Worked As Assistant For Judge Randa. According to The Wisconsin State Journal “An assistant to the federal judge who ordered a halt to the state’s secret investigation into possible illegal campaign coordination between Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative groups is married to a lawyer for Walker’s campaign — which could be grounds for a judge to step down from a case. Steven Biskupic, a former U.S. attorney who is representing a party in the secretive John Doe probe, wouldn’t say Thursday whether his wife Cary Biskupic’s employment with Judge Rudolph Randa posed a conflict of interest.” [Wisconsin State Journal, 5/9/14]

Koch Controlled Outside Groups Supported And Spent Money On Walker’s Behalf In Wisconsin

David Koch: “We’re Helping Him, As We Should. We’ve Gotten Pretty Good At This Over The Years. We’ve Spent A Lot Of Money In Wisconsin. We’re Going To Spend More.” According to the Capital Times, “According to the Post, Koch said of Walker: ‘We’re helping him, as we should. We’ve gotten pretty good at this over the years. We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.’ The Post added: ‘By ‘we’ he says he means Americans for Prosperity, which is spending about $700,000 on an ‘It’s working’ television ad buy in the state.’” [Capital Times, 2/22/12]

Groups Affiliated With The Koch Brothers Spent Money On Ads Supporting Walker

Americans for Prosperity Announced $900,000 to Support Scott Walker’s Reelection Campaign.  [TPM, 5/27/14]

February-March 2011: Club For Growth And Americans For Prosperity Spent Over $220,000 On Ads For Walker In Wisconsin. According to Green Bay Press-Gazette, “The Club for Growth Wisconsin, a conservative organization with ties to New York real-estate developer Howie Rich, has doled out the most money so far, purchasing 826 ads at a cost of $193,605 – $30,000 more than next highest spender, the union group AFL-CIO. Americans for Prosperity, a group with strong financial backing from the billionaire Koch brothers, has been highly active as well, pumping $34,365 into local markets for 156 ads to run from Feb. 23 to March 2 in favor of Walker. Two groups against Walker’s agenda – the Greater Wisconsin Committee and America’s Families First – have spent a combined $120,000 on ads. Even before Walker laid out the specifics of his budget repair bill, the Club for Growth Wisconsin was running advertisements in support of the Republican governor.” [Green Bay Press-Gazette, 3/9/11]

Americans For Prosperity Established A Stand With Scott Walker Website Amidst The Protests Against His Budget. According to The Capital Times, “The billionaire brothers whose political action committee gave Gov. Scott Walker $43,000 and helped fund a multimillion-dollar attack ad campaign against his opponent during the 2010 gubernatorial election have quietly opened a lobbying office in Madison just off the Capitol Square. Charles and David Koch, who co-own Koch Industries Inc. and whose combined worth is estimated at $43 billion, have been recently tied with Walker’s push to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers. The two have long backed conservative causes and groups including Americans for Prosperity, which organized the tea party rally Saturday in support of Walker’s plan to strip public workers of collective bargaining rights and recently launched the Stand with Scott Walker website.” [The Capital Times, 3/2/11]

Americans For Prosperity Purchased $700,000 In Air Time Across Wisconsin Touting The Accomplishments Of Walker. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, “Wisconsin’s political spending blitz is getting a fresh infusion of cash from a national conservative group that’s spending $700,000 on a series of commercials touting the accomplishments of Gov. Scott Walker. The nonprofit foundation of Americans for Prosperity, the group founded by billionaire conservative activists David and Charles Koch, on Thursday confirmed to Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent it purchased air time across Wisconsin for a 60-second spot and another ad to be unveiled next week.” [Wisconsin State Journal, 2/10/12]

Americans For Prosperity Launched A $500,000 Ad In Support Of Walker’s Initiatives. According to The Associated Press State & Local Wire, “Two conservative groups have launched a new television ad supportive of Gov. Scott Walker’s initiatives, including curbing public employees’ collective bargaining rights. The 60-second ad is by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the MacIver Institute. Matt Seaholm, state director of Americans for Prosperity, said Friday the buy is for more than $500,000 and the ad is running in Milwaukee, Green Bay, La Crosse and Wausau.” [The Associated Press State & Local Wire, 11/18/11]

Koch Connection“National Federation Of Independent Business (NFIB) Has Endorsed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker For Reelection. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, “The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has endorsed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for reelection. No surprise here. The NFIB purports to represent small business, but receives much of its funding from big business interests including the Kochs, the far-right Bradley Foundation, and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS — which are the same groups that have long supported Walker.” [PRWatch.org, 10/1/14]

Tell Me More About Education, Guy Who Wants To End All Federal Funding For Education

As part of the Koch brothers new “well-being initiative,” which is nothing more than another apparatus to push their self-serving anti-government agenda, The Charles Koch Institute is hosting an education forum in Nashville.

The Koch brothers hosting a forum on education is ironic at best and offensive at worst. Consider that Koch-supported governors and budgets have already wreaked havoc, gutting education funding in states like Wisconsin and North Carolina. But slashing funding is only one step toward their ultimate goal…

When David Koch ran for vice president in 1980, his Libertarian ticket called for abolishing the Department of Education and ending ALL federal funding for education.

So this is the Kochs view of how to increase “well-being” — by eliminating federal funding for education. It’s all part of their self-serving crusade against government that would privatize everything from education to social security and eliminate environmental regulations that keep our air safe to breathe and our water safe to drink.

The Koch agenda is bad for the well-being of working families, and we don’t need a new initiative or an education forum to figure that much out.

Background after the jump.

In 2011 and 2012, the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity spent $10 million backing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s policies, and this election year is shaping up to be no different. AFP is kicking off a major paid media blitz in Wisconsin this week in support of Walker in the midst of what many polls show is a tightening reelection race this fall.

This most recent AFP ad buy in Wisconsin –  $866,000 – is hardly surprising when you consider the return on investment that the AFP and the Kochs have gotten there over the last several years: a Governor and state house that have pursued an extreme right-wing agenda. Hand in hand, this Koch-fueled wave of Wisconsin Republicans have attacked workers’ rights, drastically slashed education spending and handed out tax breaks to the wealthy – and there are plenty more examples of this self-serving agenda in action.

With Governor Walker’s track record, it’s hardly a surprise that AFP is already spending in an effort to buy another term in the Wisconsin Governor’s mansion. Read more about the Koch brothers’ Wisconsin efforts here.

Before the 2010 elections, Wisconsin was a relatively progressive state, focused on improving and investing in education and protecting workers’ rights. But that year, conservative groups like the Kochs’ American for Prosperity spent millions to elect a massive wave of Republicans in both the state House and in the governor’s mansion.

In the four years since Governor Scott Walker and the state legislature took office, they have supported and passed an extreme right-wing agenda. Working together, they have made it harder to vote, attacked public workers’ rights and made public parks and the areas around school less safe by allowing concealed weapons.

The legislature and Governor Walker have also slashed the education budget by $800 million, while at the same time giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy. With no surprise, the governor and his extreme conservative allies also passed a law severely limiting a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions by requiring medically unnecessary ultrasounds. And now, they are working to block raising the minimum wage for the hard working people of Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin chapter of American for Prosperity has already put up $10 million toward supporting Walker’s extreme Tea Party agenda; what will they attack next?

View full research brief after the jump.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation