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Posts Tagged ‘Koch brothers’

New Koch Brothers-Funded Super PAC Looks to Capitalize on Janus Decision Ahead of the Election

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

On the cusp of the midterm elections, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a right-wing political advocacy organization founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has endorsed eight GOP House incumbents in the hopes of weakening labor groups’ influence in Washington and ensuring that the AFP’s political agendas remain a priority in Congress.

AFP is a Koch-funded organization whose agenda is in line with other groups—such as Concerned Veterans for America, which is also funded by the Koch brothers—that work against progressive initiatives and protections for labor unions, healthcare reform and any effort to combat climate change, says David Armiak, a researcher for the Center for Media and Democracy, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit watchdog group.

On August 31, AFP endorsed eight GOP House incumbents as its “policy champions”: Peter Roskam (R-Ill. 6th), Dave Brat (R-Va. 7th), Ted Budd (R-N.C. 13th), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio 1st), Will Hurd (R-Texas 23rd), Erik Paulsen (R-Minn. 3rd), Rod Blum (R-Iowa 1st) and David Young (R-Iowa 3rd).

“AFP will fully activate its grassroots infrastructure through phone banks and neighborhood canvassing, as well as deploy targeted digital, mail, and radio advertising” to support these candidates in their upcoming elections, the organization writes in a statement.

While it’s hard to know the specific reason that the AFP singled out these eight GOP incumbents as its “policy champions,” the AFP has “correctly recognized that these are candidates who are vulnerable,” says Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, a political scientist and public affairs professor at Columbia University. According to the nonpartisan election analyst the Cook Political Report, many of them are in toss-up races. In three of the elections, Ill.-06, Iowa-01 and Minn.-03, polls currently lean Democrat.

Armiak says AFP’s newly formed super PAC, Americans for Prosperity Action (AFPA), allows all Koch brother-funded groups to consolidate their spending power into a single political ad-buying powerhouse. This makes it more challenging for an experienced researcher, such as Armiak, to track the money funneling through the Koch brothers’ political network.

“[The groups] are reorganizing their spending filing to make it more complicated,” Armiak says. “It’s a sophisticated network and difficult to figure out and will take a while to study to truly understand how it operates.”

This can be worrisome to progressive interest groups that AFP and Koch brother affiliates typically work against—such as those pushing for healthcare reform and environmental advocacy—because it allows AFP to spend more money against such interest groups with little disclosure of where their funds come from.

Organized labor groups especially may be negatively impacted after the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision this June. “[AFP wasn’t] directly involved in the Janus decision but heavily supported it,” Hertel-Fernandez says. The decision means right-to-work laws, which prohibit unions from charging non-members fees regarding union services like collective bargaining, now apply to the public sector. This could benefit AFP and its endorsed candidates because it could lessen the financial strength of unions, which will inevitably hurt their lobbying abilities in Washington, according to Hertel-Fernandez.

It’s likely AFP and the Koch brothers are eyeing the Janus decision as an opportunity to use it as justification to support federal right-to-work laws in the private sector, too, Hertel-Fernandez says. AFPA is a new weapon that allows the AFP to spend exorbitant amounts of money to support candidates who will push for private sector right-to-work laws, which are currently applied in 27 states.

As a super PAC, AFPA is not restricted to any donation or spending limits. While it is illegal for a super PAC to coordinate with political candidates, it can spend unlimited amounts to support any candidate it chooses with methods such as advertising and canvassing. Donors to AFPA know that if they want their agendas advanced, they have to keep financially supporting congressmen that have proven to be a strong return on investment by voting on legislation that suits their interests, says Hertel-Fernandez. The eight GOP incumbents AFP has endorsed have historically been aligned with the Koch brothers’ libertarian ideology and political interests.

“To Charles and David Koch, politicians are just actors who are just a means to an end. They are looking for people who will just do what they ask them to,” Hertel-Fernandez says. “They are willing to work with anyone to pursue [their] agenda.”

The Koch brothers and their political network are clearly focused on maintaining influence in Congress. But as we head into the polls today, political analysts and pundits are predicting a blue wave that might just thwart the Koch brothers’ attempt to keep control of the House.

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on November 6, 2018. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Eric Bradach is an editorial intern for In These Times.

How the Koch Brothers Celebrate Earth Day

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Michelle ChenBefore the words “Koch Brothers” became an epithet among labor activists everywhere, the oil industry barons were already persona non grata to Mother Earth. This Earth Day, let us celebrate the myriad ways Koch has touched the lives of flora and fauna alike.

The Brothers Koch are primarily known as chief financiers of the anti-union showdown in Wisconsin. Koch-addicted Gov. Scott Walker and other Wisconsin conservatives pushed anti-union legislation that faithfully reflected Koch’s neo-libertarian, anti-government agenda. The grassroots backlash drew a diverse coalition of public and private sector workers, civil rights groups, and other advocacy organizations from many demographics–so broadly offensive was the bill’s attack on collective bargaining rights and critical social programs.

Wisconsin environmentalists, too, have fought on common ground with labor. As an oil mogul, Koch obviously has an interest in environmental deregulation (as seen in its battle against various anti-pollution policies, according to Think Progress). Walker’s budget plan actually serves Koch’s twin agendas of assaulting unions and the environment simultaneously. Nick Milroy at the Superior Telegram says the Governor wants to pull the plug on the budding green economy:

One of the governor’s first acts after being elected was to give federal train money to other states. He gave away $810 million in train money and 5,500 jobs to Illinois and other states. This action appears to be pay back to the oil, coal and gas industries that contributed $127,693 to Walker, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, www.wisdc.org.

Walker then proposed the most restrictive rules in the nation for wind energy. Wisconsin should be open to clean energy businesses like wind energy. The governor has already killed two projects and threatened 1,000 jobs.

In his budget repair bill, the governor attempted to sell state power plants with no bid contracts and canceled a biomass power plant that would have created jobs and helped wean us off fossil fuels. It makes no sense to sell these power plants and stop biomass when Wisconsin imports $16 billion a year in oil, gas, and coal each year, costing us over 300,000 jobs.

Forward-thinking labor groups (including some in Wisconsin) have often been at the forefront of pushing for green jobs, both as a movement toward long-term sustainability, as well as toward a more balanced and equitable framework for economic development.

The New York Times reported in February that Koch Industries had relatively few workers in the state and thus “no direct stake in the union debate… The pending legislation would not directly affect its bottom line.” This gave the impression that Koch’s attack on Wisconsin’s labor movement was largely ideological—hence its connections to Americans for Prosperity, the faux-populist astroturf group behind the Tea Party.

However, by steamrolling labor, Koch—which has also poured millions into anti-science climate “skepticism” campaign groups—undermine the public’s ability to resist ruthless profiteering. For big oil, any policy that disempowers public institutions—whether it’s the regulatory system, public  unions, or the social programs and schools that nurture civil society—expands the corporate grip on our workplaces, neighborhoods, and governments.

The Koch team is quietly changing the political climate up north as well. Geoff Dembicki at the Tyee describes an intricate feedback loop in which Koch’s profits from the horribly polluting Canadian tar sands indirectly feed into the anti-science, pro-corporate and anti-labor agenda on the other side of the border.

Together, America’s fifth-richest citizens — each worth $21.5 billion — own Koch Industries, a refining, pipeline, chemical and paper conglomerate that manufactures common household products such as Brawny paper towels and Stainmaster carpets. They’re also one of the biggest refiners of Alberta oil sands crude, handling an estimated 25 percent of all imports entering the U.S.

Anytime a clean energy law threatens to impact those operations, the Kochs fight back hard. Not content anymore to wage war from the sidelines, the brothers and their allies have now installed themselves at the heart of Republican power in Washington, D.C.

Earlier investigations by Dembicki have exposed other links between Koch and Canadian oil:

  • Minnesota-based Koch subsidiary Flint Hills Resources boasts of being “among the top processors of Canadian crude in the United States,” according to its website.
  • Incidentally, a pipeline that carries this oil runs straight into Wisconsin. So it’s hardly surprising that Wisconsin lawmakers obediently scrubbed a low-carbon fuel standard from an energy bill in the face of heavy pressure from the Koch lobby last April.
  • Flint Hills was one of the biggest donors in the corporate opposition to the Proposition 23 ballot measure in California, which threatened to suspend the state’s landmark climate change law. (The referendum, which was ultimately defeated, would have not only rolled back the state’s emissions-reduction plan, but threatened major green job investments).

So lest you think that the Koch brothers are union-haters pure and simple, remember that stifling democracy, starving the government and smothering the ecosystem, are all bricks upholding Koch’s oil empire.

This week, The Nation published an article co-written by In These Times Contributing Editor Mike Elk that revealed an audacious Koch-sponsored propaganda campaign last November in Washington State. 2012 will likely see the corporate-political nexus explode with even more Koch PR blitzes, now that the Citizens United ruling has unraveled political spending limits.

So get ready for more Wisconsin-like showdowns as the Koch Empire gears up to mow down any worker, community or habitat standing in its way.

About the Author: Michelle Chen ‘s work has appeared in AirAmerica, Extra!, Colorlines and Alternet, along with her self-published zine, cain. She is a regular contributor to In These Times’ workers’ rights blog, Working In These Times, and is a member of the In These Times Board of Editors. She also blogs at Colorlines.com. She can be reached at michellechen @ inthesetimes.com.

This blog originally appeared in These Times on April 22. 2011. Reprinted with Permission.

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