Veterans Groups Concerned With Trump Tapping the Koch Network for VA Leadership

December 1, 2016

Trump and his transition team continue to rely on the Koch Network to staff their administration. Trump is looking to the Kochs’ Concerned Veterans for America to shape the Department of Veterans Affairs:

  • Trump met with VA Secretary contender Pete Hegseth who is a former president and chief executive of CVA
  • CVA has previously worked closely with retiring Rep. Jeff Miller who is also under consideration for VA Secretary
  • Senior CVA Advisor and author of a report on turning the VA into a nonprofit corporation Darin Selnick serves on the Trump’s transition team
  • Former CVA Advisor Amber Smith also serves on Trump’s transition team

CVA’s leadership under Trump would allow them to enact their policy goal of privatizing the VA despite polls indicating that two-thirds of veterans oppose the Kochs’ plan. Traditional veterans service organizations are becoming alarmed by growing influence CVA has in the Trump administration and what it might mean for the care of their members. CVA is just another one of the Koch’s astro-turf political groups advancing their agenda over the interests of veterans.


Trump Reached Out To The Kochs’ Concerned Veterans For America To Overhaul The VA

Trump Has Reached Out To A Once-Obscure Veterans Group, Concerned Veterans For America, Backed By Charles And David Koch To Influence His Policy To Overhaul The VA. According to the Washington Post, “President-elect Trump is leaning on a once-obscure group backed by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch as he seeks to make good on a campaign promise to overhaul veterans’ care he has denounced as a tragic failure. Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) was founded as a political advocacy group just four years ago. It has little connective tissue with other veterans groups, whose membership-heavy organizations have long dominated policy discussions in Washington. But CVA is proving to be an influential force in the incoming Trump administration.” [Washington Post, 12/1/16]

Leading Candidates To Run Trump’s Department of Veterans Affairs Have Close Ties To CVA

Leading Candidates To Run Trump’s Department of Veterans Affairs Have Close Ties To CVA. According to the Washington Post, “The leading candidates to run the sprawling Department of Veterans Affairs, the second-largest federal agency, have close ties to the group.” [Washington Post, 12/1/16]

  • Former CVA CEO Pete Hegseth Was Announced As A Contender For VA Secretary, Along WithHouse Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller Who Has Worked Closely With The Group. According to the Washington Post, “The president-elect met this week with Pete Hegseth, a Fox News contributor, Iraq War veteran and a former president and chief executive of CVA who has emerged as a contender for VA secretary. […] Hegseth is not the only candidate for VA secretary with ties to the group. CVA has worked closely with retiring House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), who shares its commitment to faster discipline for employees and a smaller bureaucracy.” [Washington Post, 12/1/16]
  • Miller And HegsethHave Been Outspoken Critics Of Obama’s VA And The VA Employee Union. According to the Washington Post, “Miller and Hegseth have been outspoken critics of the Obama administration after the wait-times scandal. They have also denounced VA’s employee union as a defender of incompetent workers and those who break the rules.” [Washington Post, 12/1/16]

Former CVA Advisor, Amber Smith And Senior Advisor, Darin Selnick Were Named To Trump’s Transition Team. According to the Washington Post, “A senior adviser and a former adviser to CVA serve on the transition team. And as the Trump campaign crafted its blueprint for VA, it drew heavily from the group’s vision of a health-care system with a drastically smaller government footprint and a fast route to firing poor performers. […] A member of Trump’s transition team who will meet with veterans Thursday is Darin Selnick, a senior adviser to CVA who served at VA in the George W. Bush administration. Amber Smith, a Fox contributor and former adviser, also serves on the team.” [Washington Post, 12/1/16]

  • Selnick Co-Authored CVA’sFixing Veterans Health Care Report Which Calls For Turning The Current System Into A Government-Chartered Nonprofit Corporation And Tightening Eligibility For VA Health Care.According to the Washington Post, “Selnick co-authored an in-depth report the group released this year with some Democratic support called ‘Fixing Veterans Health Care,’ which calls for turning the current  system into a government-chartered nonprofit corporation that would oversee construction and health insurance programs. It also advocates tightening eligibility for VA health care to give more support to disabled veterans, ‘to reorient the VA health care system back toward its original mission of caring for the veterans with service-connected disabilities.’” [Washington Post, 12/1/16]
  • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers Released Legislation Drawing From The Report That Was Quickly Rebuked By More Than Two Dozen Veterans Groups.According to the Washington Post, “After Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chairman of the House Republican Conference, laid out a plan that drew from the report, more than two dozen veterans groups sent her letter in opposition, according to a report in the trade magazine Government Executive. The letter said the changes would inflict ‘immediate and permanent negative consequences for millions of veterans.’” [Washington Post, 12/1/16]

CVA’s Mission Was Political Advocacy, Not Veterans Service

CVA’s Mission Has Been Political Advocacy In The Koch Network, Not Helping Veterans With Access To Benefits And Services. According to the Washington Post, “While CVA has joined IAVA, the Legion and others in denouncing chronic benefit backlogs, delays to patient care and a lack of accountability for VA employees who break the rules, its mission is political advocacy, not helping veterans with access to benefits and services. […] The group is part of a network of politically active nonprofits backed by the industrialist Koch brothers and other wealthy conservative donors. The Kochs have been a political lightning rod for years, with Democrats charging that they use their wealth and political network to push a small government agenda and influence Republicans.” [Washington Post, 12/1/16]

CVA Sponsored Town Hall Meetings During The Presidential Primaries And Spent $3.5 Million On GOP Senate Races Including Florida And Pennsylvania. According to the Washington Post, “While the Koch operation disavowed Trump during the campaign, condemning his calls for a ban on Muslim immigration, CVA sponsored numerous town hall meetings during the presidential primaries and spent $3.5 million on GOP Senate races, including the winning campaigns of Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.)” [Washington Post, 12/1/16]

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation