Archive for Saturday, February 5, 2011

Koch brothers now at heart of GOP power

February 5, 2011


— The billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch no longer sit outside Washington’s political establishment, isolated by their uncompromising conservatism. Instead, they are now at the center of Republican power, a change most evident in the new makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Wichita-based Koch Industries and its employees formed the largest single oil and gas donor to members of the panel, ahead of giants like Exxon Mobil, contributing $279,500 to 22 of the committee’s 31 Republicans, and $32,000 to five Democrats.

Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group’s separate advertising and grass-roots activity during the 2010 campaign.

Claiming an electoral mandate, Republicans on the committee have launched an agenda of the sort long backed by the Koch brothers. A top early goal: restricting the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Kochs’ core energy businesses.

The new committee members include a congressman who has hired a former Koch Industries lawyer as his chief of staff. Another, Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia, won a long-shot bid to unseat a 14-term moderate Democrat with help from Americans for Prosperity, which marshaled conservative activists in his district. By some estimates, the advocacy group spent more than a quarter-million dollars on negative ads in the campaign. “I’m just thankful that you all helped in so many ways,” Griffith told an Americans for Prosperity rally not long after his election.

Perhaps the Kochs’ most surprising and important ally on the committee is its new chairman, Rep. Fred Upton. The Republican from Michigan, who was once criticized by conservatives for his middle-of-the-road approach to environmental issues, is now leading the effort to rein in the EPA.

Upton received $20,000 in donations from Koch employees in 2010, making them among his top 10 donors in that cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In recent months the congressman has made a point of publicly aligning himself with the Koch-backed advocacy group, calling for an end to the “EPA chokehold.” Last week the chairman released a draft of a bill that would strip the EPA of its ability to curb carbon emissions. The legislation is in line with the Kochs’ long-advocated stance that the federal government should have a minimal role in regulating business. The Kochs’ oil refineries and chemical plants stand to pay millions to reduce air pollution under currently proposed EPA regulations.

Koch Industries is the country’s second-largest privately run company, a conglomerate of refining, pipeline, chemical and paper businesses. Their products include Lycra and Coolmax fibers, Brawny paper towels and Stainmaster carpets. Last year, Forbes magazine listed the brothers as the nation’s fifth-richest people, each worth $21.5 billion.

A spokesman for the famously media-shy family declined to comment. Koch allies say the brothers act out of ideological conviction.

A Washington energy consultant familiar with the Kochs, Javier Ortiz, said the committee agenda reflects the “needs of the American people” and a broad shift in political sentiment.

When the 85 freshman GOP lawmakers marched into the Capitol on Jan. 5 as part of the new Republican House majority, David Koch was there too.

The 70-year-old had an appointment with a staff member of the new speaker, Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. At the same time, the head of Americans for Prosperity, Tim Phillips, had an appointment with Upton. They used the opportunity to introduce themselves to some of the new legislators and invited them to a welcome party at the Capitol Hill Club, a favorite wine-and-cheese venue for Republican power players in Washington.

The reception was a symbolic arrival for the Kochs, who have not always been close to the Republican hub. The brothers were known as hard-liners unafraid to take on conservative icons — even President Ronald Reagan and the American Petroleum Institute — whom they occasionally perceived to be too accommodating to liberal interests. David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate in 1980, when Reagan was the GOP presidential candidate.

The Kochs provided initial funding for the libertarian Cato Institute and are key donors to the Federalist Society, among other conservative organizations.

In recent years, they began drawing conservative media, business and political leaders to semiannual meetings in the West to discuss protection of the free-market ethos and to raise funds for their causes. The most recent was in Rancho Mirage a week ago.

Frustrated with the state of conservatism in Washington during the George W. Bush era, the Kochs began to shift the discussions at recent meetings from fundraising for think tanks to more specific electoral strategy.

At the center of the new ground-level strategy is a beefed-up role for Americans for Prosperity. Along with other well-funded conservative groups, the group was very active in the congressional midterm election — in many cases taking on roles often performed by national and state parties.

Americans for Prosperity is the political arm of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which David Koch co-founded in the 1980s under the name Citizens for a Sound Economy. He is chairman of the board of the foundation, which says it aims to educate citizens on “a return of the federal government to its constitutional limits.”

Americans for Prosperity says it spent $40 million in the 2010 election cycle, organized rallies and phone banks, and canvassed door to door in nearly 100 races across the country. The organization found scores of energetic activists in the “tea party” movement to carry its message.

Throughout this effort, Americans for Prosperity kept a strong emphasis on promoting its views on climate change and energy regulation. In 2008, AFP began circulating a pledge asking politicians to denounce a Democratic-led effort to compel oil refineries and utilities to clean up emissions of greenhouse gases through a so-called cap-and-trade system. AFP said it amounted to a hidden tax increase.

The cap-and-trade legislation passed the House, but died in the Senate. AFP began working to defeat House Democrats who voted for the bill, showing the power of its new activist base.

AFP does not disclose spending in individual races. But it said it facilitated tens of thousands of phone calls and organized dozens of events in recent congressional campaigns. Among the beneficiaries, besides Griffith, were newly elected Reps. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. All three now sit on the energy and commerce committee.

Gardner and Kinzinger declined to comment on their relationship to Americans for Prosperity and the Koch brothers, although a spokeswoman for Gardner emphasized that the group’s work was “totally independent” of his campaign, in line with federal election rules.

Other committee members have deeper ties to the Kochs.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., who represents Koch Industries’ home district, launched an aerospace company with investment help from a Koch subsidiary. He sold the company last year. His chief of staff is Mark Chenoweth, a former Koch Industries lawyer.

Phil Kerpen, vice president for policy at AFP, said the organization was pleased with the committee’s new members.

“From a policy standpoint, I think those are pretty good choices,” he said, mentioning Griffith in particular.

Griffith has questioned the EPA and the science behind its proposed regulation of global warming. “We have to be sure the EPA is reined in,” he said recently.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA had the power to regulate greenhouse gases as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Pompeo, Griffith and others want to strip the EPA of that authority.

Until recently, Fred Upton would have been an unlikely champion of that view.

In 2009, Upton told a Michigan newspaper, “Climate change is a serious problem that necessitates serious solutions.” Rush Limbaugh ridiculed Upton for his sponsorship of an energy-saving bill. Tea party groups opposed his bid for the committee chairmanship.

But as chairman, Upton said that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson would have to attend so many hearings before his committee that she would need her own parking space on Capitol Hill. In daily e-mail blasts, he hammered at the EPA’s “job-killing” regulations.

His bluntest rhetoric against the EPA came in a late December Wall Street Journal editorial he wrote with Phillips of Americans for Prosperity.

The EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, they wrote, “represents an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs — unless Congress steps in.”

In an e-mail statement, Upton denied that his position on climate change had shifted and explained his work with conservative activists. “Meeting with and listening to individuals and organizations that will be affected by the laws and regulations this committee oversees is one of our fundamental responsibilities,” he said.

The change on the committee is “like night and day,” said Jeremy Symons, senior vice president of the National Wildlife Federation, a nonpartisan organization that lobbied the committee to stem greenhouse gas emissions.

“In the past the committee majority viewed the Clean Air Act as an effective way to protect the public,” Symons said. “Now the committee treats the Clean Air Act and the EPA as if they are the enemy. Voters didn’t ask for this pro-polluter agenda, but the Koch brothers spent their money well and their presence can be felt.”

Republicans wave off such comments, saying the focus on the Koch brothers is just the left’s latest conspiracy theory.

“(Former Chairman) Henry Waxman stacked the committee with liberal environmentalists,” said Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., who now chairs the economy and environment subcommittee. “Now we are moving things back to the center.”


jafs 3 years, 2 months ago

Greed and corruption are problems of a philosophical, or theological nature.

As such, no political systems can solve them.

They exist in the private and public sectors, and in individuals of all sorts.

If people weren't prey to greed and corruption, any system (or no system) would work much better.


Flap Doodle 3 years, 2 months ago

The dead hands of Saul Alinsky are still guiding the progressive movement.


Bushloather1 3 years, 2 months ago

<"You do know that the US was partially bought, partially stolen, but was largely uninhabited due to smallpox wiping out 90% of the local population before the Pilgrims landed, right? ">

Okay, I got to ask. How did the native americans get small pox before the "white man" or "pilgrims" landed?


ophiuchus 3 years, 2 months ago

OMG, threading causes schizophrenia!


autie 3 years, 2 months ago

Face it. We live in a world in which morality, ethics, right and wrong have nothing to do with anything anymore. Policy now just goes to the highest bidder.


sr80 3 years, 2 months ago

i made a $2 dollar contribution on my taxes to the presidental fund.i wonder how much influence i will get with such largess


yourworstnightmare 3 years, 2 months ago

The GOP know that americans hate paying taxes but also hate having their goodies cut. So, they indulge them in both.

They cut taxes and all the while increase spending. There has not one single serious spending cut program detailed by the GOP, one that will get at the defense, social security, and medicare spending that accounts for over half of our budget.

Guess what? Tax cuts + spending increases = national debt.


yourworstnightmare 3 years, 2 months ago

The GOP cannot win elections on their economic arguments. The recent GOP victories had more to do with populist anger than with any sort of economic policy the GOP were espousing, because there was none.

Therefore, they run on social issues as a proxy. Also, they have "gone underground" to influence campaigns by secretive and opaque means.

The Kochs exemplify both of these trends in the GOP over the last 25 years.

I am afraid Tom Frank's description of god, gays, and guns is still a winning combo for the GOP, and I would throw in greed (after all no one wants to pay taxes).

In Kansas, as long as a GOP candidate is deemed a "social conservative", their economic policies do not matter.


JackRipper 3 years, 2 months ago

Funny the Koch's aren't out there against the roads and road building projects, some of which they have interesting ties to but since it helps them I'm sure all the money spent from the taxes for those things are just fine. It is curious how the CATO institute now seems to think roads are an natural as the grassy fields they replace and some how passenger rail is a government subsidy! I think this country is in the final chapter and the scum that got us there are cleaning up before they head for the yachts to live elsewhere.


jstthefacts 3 years, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.


ophiuchus 3 years, 2 months ago

Well, that explains all the arterial plaque.


Richard Heckler 3 years, 2 months ago

Sierra Club Launches Effort to Expose the Koch Brothers Billionare Family Blocks Protection of Air, Water

PALM SPRINGS - January 28 - In anticipation of a “secret” meeting to be hosted in Palm Springs this weekend by two infamously anti-environmental billionaire brothers, the Sierra Club will launch a social media campaign with its 1.4 million members and supporters to expose the Koch brothers’ planned assault on public health.

Charles and David Koch are billionaire oil tycoons who were featured in a recent New Yorker piece and are funding an enormous effort to roll back clean water and air protections. The brothers are expected to meet with wealthy friends and corporate CEOs in the Southern California desert this weekend to plan their agenda for the coming year – at the top of that list will be new efforts to gut environmental safeguards and clean air and water protections.

The Sierra Club is reaching out to its 1.4 million members and supporters using social media tools including Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about how the Koch brothers' agenda could increase cases of asthma, hinder children’s brain development with toxic mercury and threaten lives nationwide.

“Koch Industries is one of the biggest polluters in America, so it’s not surprising that they’ve spent millions blocking measures to protect our air and water,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. “The Kochs have also served as one of the biggest obstacles to our transition to a clean energy economy. You can thank the Koch brothers for standing in the way of new jobs in the wind, solar and efficiency industries. They have a lot of money, and they’re not afraid to spend it to influence politicians, fight public health safeguards and spread misinformation about pollution and climate disruption.”

The Koch brothers own a firm with revenues estimated at $100 billion and they are out to expand their profits at the cost of Americans’ health. A University of Massachusetts study identified Koch Industries as one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. From 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outspent even ExxonMobil in funding efforts against clean energy legislation.

“We can’t allow corporate polluters and oil tycoons to buy our government,” Brune said. “Americans need to know what the Koch brothers are up to, and we need to let our lawmakers know that we won’t allow these two billionaires to undermine environmental and public health safeguards for profit.”

The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.


pace 3 years, 2 months ago

The issue ad blitz was just a coincidence. Koch brotherhood doesn't exist. And soon we will see ads on our televisions telling us that. The ads were just an unfunded grass roots swell. Didn't you see the mothers and their kids in the ads speaking for us?


Richard Heckler 3 years, 2 months ago

Election funding is ONE the of the big issues and spending wayyyyyyyy too much money is ANOTHER issue and allowing the Chamber of Commerce to launder political donation money is yet ANOTHER issue!

Why are the corporate special interests not held accountable? They are not less guilty. Follow the Money!

The health care industry alone has six lobbyists for every member of Congress and more than 500 of them are former Congressional staff members, according to the Public Accountability Initiative’s LittleSis database. That’s more than 3,000 high dollar mouth pieces spending a lot of special interest campaign money.

WE VOTERS need to say NO MORE special interest funding of elections!!! Let’s keep the costs down so many others can afford to run! Replace 95% of all elected officials every 4 years for the house and every 6 years for the Senate.

Not voting sends the wrong message and changes nothing.

Lets’s demand a new system and vote in Fair Vote America : Demand a change on the next ballot.

Incumbents say NO to the voters and YES to corrupt special interest money. Time to try public financing of campaigns. Citizens cannot afford special interest money campaigns for it is the citizens that get left out. Let citizens vote on this issue.

Who would be against Public Funding? The special interest money providers plus their bought and paid for politicians!When will the media get on the the band wagon for public financing of all elected political offices? Let’s keep the costs down so many others can afford to run!

Also I say WE voters need to stop allowing congress to investigate and prosecute itself!!! When they violate laws it goes to the feds!!!

Very interesting:


Bushloather1 3 years, 2 months ago

Maybe the Koch brothers could each write the State of Kansas a $250 mil check to cover the budget deficit. And still have over $ 21 bil. left for themselves to get by on. I've done my part by consuming beans in place of more expensive protein. Pfffft!


tomatogrower 3 years, 2 months ago

So how many of Soro's employees now have pug government jobs that can affect our laws? Koch's lobbying has gone too far. Do you really favor allowing companies to pollute all they want? Do you want to go back to the 70's when the major cities were twice as choked with fumes than they are now? Do you want our city to be more like Bejing? They don't have any pollution control there. Try going to Mexico City. No emission controls there either. Koch would love to put all his chemicals in the rivers, it's costing him too much money to safely dispose of them. I mean if he didn't have to worry about pollution laws, he would be the richest person, instead of just 5th. What a loser, they are only the 5th richest. It must really gripe them.


jmadison 3 years, 2 months ago

I seem to have missed the same type of article regarding George Soros and the Dems.


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