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Koch Brothers v. Health Reform

3:18 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

By Robert Greenwald and Jesse Lava

Do all roads lead to Koch?

Conservative activists will rally at the Supreme Court tomorrow to encourage the overturn of the Affordable Care Act. The “Hands Off My Health Care” protest—which will feature the likes of Rep. Michelle Bachmann and Sens. Jim DeMint and Rand Paul—is being organized by Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing group financed by industrialists Charles and David Koch. The billionaire brothers provided the seed money to get this organization off the ground and have donated at least $5 million overall (possibly a lot more) to its operations. David Koch still serves as the group’s chairman.

These facts belie the image that Americans for Prosperity would like to present as a humble grassroots organization. The stories we see today about regular Americans coming to D.C. to protest evil health reform are directly attributable to the corporate interests that the Koch brothers represent.

Yet the Kochs’ impact on the current court battle doesn’t end there. Group after group participating in the lawsuit to destroy the Affordable Care Act is a beneficiary of the Koch brothers’ largess—reflecting the outsized influence that these guys wield in our political debate. Indeed, one wonders whether this effort would be happening at all if not for these two billionaires with a direct interest in avoiding government regulation.

One of the most important groups in this case is the National Federation of Independent Business, which is bringing one of the lawsuits now before the Supreme Court. This group has received $88,000 from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is controlled by none other than Charles Koch.

Several organizations that have filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court have received substantial donations from the Koch family as well. These groups include:

In addition, a Court-appointed attorney used a study by the Rand Corporation to show the impact of the individual mandate in the health care bill—even though Rand has received $100,000 from none other than the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Read the rest of this entry →

Inside the Koch Brothers’ Expensive Echo Chamber

11:17 am in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

March 12, 2011

March 12, 2011 by Sue Peacock

Documents and interviews unearthed in recent months by Brave New Foundation researchers illustrate a $28.4 million Koch business that has manufactured 297 commentaries, 200 reports, 56 studies and six books distorting Social Security’s effectiveness and purpose.

Together, the publications reveal a vast cottage industry comprised of Koch brothers’ spokespeople, front groups, think tanks, academics and elected officials, which have built a self-sustaining echo chamber to transform fringe ideas into popular mainstream public policy arguments.

The Koch brothers’ echo chamber has successfully written the messaging for the AARP, a traditional defender of Social Security for all generations, which recently opened the door to cutting benefits.

The Koch echo chamber begins with think tanks like the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation and Mercatus Center at George Mason University and the Reason Foundation, which owe their founding and achievements to Koch backing. These think tanks take their $28.4 million in Koch funding and produce hundreds of position papers distorting the long-term health of Social Security.

The authors of these hundreds of self-described policy studies, newsletters, commentaries and books are then paraded through television, print and online news media. Their distorted message is amplified through shows like Hannity, with its 3.3 million viewers per episode, or CNBC’s Kudlow Report and its roughly 300,000 viewers per episode night after night after night.

Eventually, elected officials react to the Koch echo chamber and typically shift their position for reelection or the next campaign.

The investigation revealed Koch-supported policy fixes, and specific language repeated across each document, such as raising the retirement age or eliminating cost of living adjustments for Social Security dependents and beneficiaries.

These Koch ideas percolate through the echo chamber and into the mainstream. The frequency and repetition of the arguments supplant more popular policy recommendations like scrapping the Social Security tax cap, which would free individuals earning more than $106,800 annually to pay taxes on all of their wages, like everyone else.

“The Koch brothers job is to do everything they can to dismember government in general,” Sen. Bernie Sanders says in this video. “If you can destroy Social Security, you will have gone a long way forward in that effort.”

The Koch echo chamber has been so effective that AARP, a traditional advocate and defender of Social Security, has repositioned its policy to open the door to cut Social Security benefits for dependents and beneficiaries.

Counter the Koch billions and protect social security. Create an echo chamber of truth and share this video with your friends and family.

The echo chamber, coupled with AARP’s shift toward cutting Social Security, pushes the argument further toward the Koch brothers’ goals. Influential opinion-shapers in venerable news outlets will react and have already begun to referee disputes on new ‘middle ground’ that has, over time and through the actions of AARP and the Koch echo chamber, grown tolerant of the Koch brothers’ talking points.

“The Koch brothers fund organizations, and you have economists and political scientists working there and they are very, very good at getting on television,” Sanders said. “They are very effective in getting their positions out into the media.”

That’s further personified by the Koch brothers’ lobbying. Koch Industries spent $857,000 on lobbyists in 2004, one year before George W. Bush tried and failed to privatize Social Security. They also donated $104,660 to his campaign. The attacks on Social Security needed more time to stew in the echo chamber before they could be mainstream, and given the increase in lobbyists, they have risen dramatically. AARP’s shift is more proof of the Kochs’ achievements.

In the first two years of the Obama administration, the brothers have spent $20 million on lobbying, according to the Center for Public Integrity. And they’ve diversified their donations to a slew of Republican opinion leaders and strategic Democrats who oppose revenue increases like Sen. Ben Nelson and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And, with AARP’s action, the Koch echo chamber has broken ground on a new political terrain favorable to their ideological and financial goals.

Almost overnight, a historic and popular service, like Social Security, faces extinction. But behind this outcome, the Koch echo chamber has been churning for years.

Senator Bernie Sanders Belongs on the Sunday Shows

7:01 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

“With a $1.6 trillion deficit,” Sen. Bernie Sanders told Jon Stewart recently, “it is insane to think that the only way you’re going to move toward a balanced budget is by slashing college Pell grants, by cutting Medicaid, by converting Medicare into a voucher program, by cutting programs that working class and middle class people desperately need.”

The Senator on social security: “Social Security has a $2.6 trillion surplus. It could pay out every benefit owed for the next 26 years. It is not going bankrupt. It’s not going broke.”

On income inequality: “You have so few who have so much and so many that have so little. Those are themes not usually discussed here in Washington, for kind of obvious reasons.”

Senator Sanders is a bold voice, and one that’s missing every Sunday. He’s a passionate advocate for the middle class and yet his last morning show appearance came late last year.

Compare that to Sen. John McCain, who leads everyone with 10 appearances this year alone. His friends and ideological allies, Sens. Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman, round out the top seven interviewees this year, with six and five appearances each.

The Sunday shows often set the tone for the upcoming political week. As the same voices drone on, the Senator’s absence means the political and media elites are overlooking the forces squeezing working and middle class Americans.

Will you call or write the network producers and tell them to Bring Senator Sanders On? (Their contact information is at bottom.)

2011-06-02-bilde.jpeg

Senator Sanders waves during a Memorial Day parade. (Photo by sanders.senate.gov)

You’ve probably heard the Senator’s zingers and social philosophy picked up despite the shows’ pattern of interviewing the same half-dozen politicos each week. It’s not rocket science. It’s because what the Senator says is popular and widespread that it shines through the media muzzle.

“Medicare for all” is something the Senator’s pushed for years. More fundamentally, Senator Sanders is one of the few leaders who understands that political debates exist in terms of individuals and lives.

“I would not support Medicaid cuts when you have 50 million Americans who have no health insurance today at all,” the Senator said.

As GOPers coalesce around the plan to end Medicare, the Senator speaks for millions of Americans when he reminds us about the 45 million Americans who will die this year because they don’t have health insurance.

“It is morally obscene to cut programs for the most vulnerable people in this country,” he says.

Why is Senator Sanders being kept off the Sunday shows? It must be ideological discrimination because nothing else explains how the same tired trope of alleged newsmakers is trotted out each week.

Like McCain, Graham and Lieberman, the Tea Party is overrepresented on the shows too. Rep. Michele Bachmann, Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee all have far more appearances on Sunday shows than Senator Sanders. It doesn’t take much when the Senator has never been interviewed in 2011.

These conventional wisdom weather vanes are, as you’d expect, all the same. They are for spending cuts of different sizes, for interventions of different scopes and favor radical changes like dismantling the Federal Reserve or Education Department for different reasons. Many Democrats aren’t so different either, but Senator Sanders is one of a kind.

The Senate’s only self-styled socialist, Senator Sanders is passionate, outspoken, and offers a unique worldview among the elected American political spectrum and news media elite.

He has a wide following across the country and around the world, which is partly due to his uniqueness in contemporary American politics. He has an incredibly engaged Facebook community of 66,300 individuals, a Twitter following of more than 38,000 and an email list that reaches thousands upon thousands more.

The Senator can make the mundane policy differences engaging and catch fire. In a committee hearing about access to health care, Sen. Rand Paul equated “a right to health care” to enslaving medical professionals. Senator Sanders was able to transform Paul’s talking point into inspiration for his supporters and common sense reasonableness to his critics.

“My profound question to the [doctor] is, do you, as an employee at a federally qualified health center, consider yourself a slave?”

Even Paul had to laugh off his absurd question.

With Bernie absent from the Sunday shows, and their trend toward booking the same politicians each week, there exists an echo chamber within an echo chamber. With a lack of diversity each week, the Sunday shows move further away from their historical origins in American broadcasting.

They were conceived as a way to justify using public airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission licenses networks the right to use public radio waves because it’s a public service. That’s been precedent since the very beginning of American broadcasting.

Ideological discrimination is bad for ratings and worse for our democracy. As the Sunday shows move away from their historical moorings, our democracy suffers from a dearth of journalistic public service.

All the while, the “crooks on Wall Street [who] caused the recession” and politicians “who go after the middle-class, working families, low-income people” – in Bernie’s words – will be wearing television makeup and living comfortably in the networks’ green rooms this Sunday.

Will you call or write producers for Face the Nation, This Week, Meet the Press and State of the Union and respectfully ask them to bring Bernie on?

Face the Nation: Carin Pratt, (202) 457-4481, ftn@cbsnews.com

Meet the Press: Iliana Drimmer, (202) 885-4598, ilana.drimmer@nbcuni.com

This Week: (212) 456-7777 (push 5 and address your message to Rick Kaplan, executive producer of This Week)

State of the Union: Michelle Jaconi, (404) 827-1500, michelle.jaconi@turner.com