Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How the Koch Brothers Bought the GOP

How the Koch Brothers Bought the GOP
  from Rolling Stone - October 9, 2004 - [inset article]

All it takes is a few hundred million dollars, political leaders to bow and scrape before you, and a willingness to game the system.

The Koch brothers have built a political operation that rivals traditional GOP arms like the Republican National Committee. In the 2012 election, political groups connected to the Koch network raised nearly $400 million. For 2014, the Koch network is hardly scaling back its ambition, seeking to create a $290 million war chest. That alone would be $74 million more than the RNC spent on the last midterm, in 2010. "They are set on taking over the GOP," says University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs, who has likened the Kochs' political influence to that of robber barons, calling their activities "the 21st-century version of how you buy yourself a government in America."

The hub of the Koch network, Freedom Partners, is organized under the tax code as a chamber of commerce, making "dues" paid to the organization tax-deductible. In 2014 Freedom Partners raised nearly $255 million. Tax benefits are not supposed to be applied to funds used for political activities but Freedom Partners simply claims it does not engage in political activity. It makes grants instead to a constellation of loyal political nonprofits like the Center to Protect Patient Rights and the 60 Plus Association. Freedom Partners also gives huge sums to Americans for Prosperity - a reincarnation of the Kochs' 1990s front group Citizens for a Sound Economy - and smaller grants to the Tea Party Patriots.

The sway of the Koch network transcends any rift between the Tea Party and the GOP establishment. Top politicians allied with both camps, including 2016 presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. assembled in June for a private gathering of the Koch donor network at a beachfront golf resort in Orange County, California. McConnell began his speech extolling Charles and David Koch: "I don't know where we'd be without you," he said in a leaked audio recording from the event. Then, as if reading from Americans for Prosperity talking points, McConnell promised the gathering that, should the GOP recapture the Senate, it will "push back against regulatory overreach," working to block federal funding "on health care, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency."

In addition to electioneering, the Koch machine works to advance a bottom-line-driven agenda through groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council - an alliance between industry and mostly GOP politicians. ALEC pursues a national agenda at the state level, introducing nearly identical bills in state legislatures. Koch Industries is a significant funder of ALEC and has a seat on its corporate board. In recent months, ALEC has been working to kneecap the solar industry, seeking to levy a steep tariff - a so-called sun tax - on home producers of solar power. For Koch Industries, the hypocrisy is glaring. Charles Koch rails against "political" forms of profit-seeking, including: "Lobbying governments to hamper competitors."