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The Kochs’ Double Whammy

1:24 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

If any doubt was left about the power of big money in our politics, the Wisconsin election destroyed it. Charles and David Koch goosed Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign with $10 million through their front group Americans for Prosperity, $1 million through the Republican Governors Association, and more from members of the “million-dollar donor club” of financial titans that meet regularly at Koch-hosted secret summits. Meanwhile, the official campaign of Democratic opponent Tom Barrett raised about $4 million. Is it any wonder that Walker climbed steadily in the polls and ultimately won?

Protest Sign: 3 Koch Brothers, Dave, Chuck, $cott

Photo: Rochelle Hartman / Flickr.

Yet as my new film Koch Brothers Exposed illustrates, the Kochs’ political influence goes beyond buying the public debate. The Kochs have also been investing in suppressing the vote — providing a one-two punch to democracy. First they try to change your mind, and failing that, they try to take your vote.

The invaluable Lee Fang reveals at Republic Report that a $100,000 donation linked to the Koch brothers went to a Florida group called Protect Your Vote in 2010. The perversely named organization was formed to fight ballot initiatives demanding fair redistricting. Specifically, the initiatives — known as Amendments 5 and 6 — said district boundaries couldn’t be drawn to favor a political party, deny minorities equal opportunity, or be gerrymandered.

The initiatives ended up winning. But who could have opposed such sensible guidelines? Anyone with a vested interest in maintaining control over the political process instead of trusting the public to govern itself. Anyone, that is, who wants to preserve the illusion of public accountability while rigging results behind the scenes — creating suppression in effect, if not in name. Could there be a more apt description of the Koch brothers’ modus operandi?

Indeed, Kurt Browning, the official who ran Protect Your Vote, is the man behind Florida’s recent effort to purge the rolls of potentially eligible voters. Naturally, the disenfranchised folks are disproportionately likely to vote for Democratic candidates. The Justice Department has now demanded that Florida stop the purge in light of evidence that the list — which at one point had around 180,000 people — has numerous mistakes and is violating federal voter protection laws. So the man the Koch brothers backed shifted from shady redistricting to denial of the vote, removing even the appearance of fair democracy.

The Kochs have supported outright suppression in the past. They are longstanding leaders in the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has pushed voter ID bills making it more difficult for vulnerable populations to vote. In 2011, 34 state legislatures introduced such bills, potentially disenfranchising up to 21 million voters.

The Kochs, then, have a crafty strategy for commandeering the political process: spend vast sums not only for TV ads, “grassroots” campaigns, and think tanks that manipulate public opinion, but also on direct efforts to ensure that many of those who aren’t fooled are unable to vote anyway.

This is the Koch vote — a constituency of two with the bullhorn of millions.

Don’t Koch Block the Debate

2:13 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

With my new film Koch Brothers Exposed set for release, the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are doing everything they can do hide their behavior. First they got their lawyer to fire off a menacing letter that all but threatened news organizations that dare to cover the film’s content. Now they’re insisting — get this — that there’s nothing to debate anyway.

That’s right. In response to my offer to a debate or public discussion, the Koch brothers, hiding behind their attorney, wrote, “We are confused about what there is to debate.”

Perhaps the Kochs have not seen what my team and journalists such as Lee Fang, Addie Stan, and Jane Mayer have uncovered. What we’ve found is that Charles and David Koch are using their vast fortune to buy the political and legal process. They are corrupting democracy in ways that are harming the 99% while serving their own economic interests.

One area of excessive influence is energy policy. The Kochs, who own Koch Industries, are one of the top 10 polluters in the nation, which means they have a strong interest in eliminating or preventing environmental regulations. The Kochs have given over $500,000 to members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee, which proposes environmental regulations and is supposed to hold polluters accountable. Indeed, as our film reveals, the Kochs are the oil and gas industry’s single biggest donor to that committee. Is it any wonder that Congress won’t pass bills to curb climate change or tackle other environmental problems?

In fact, the Kochs frequently have secret summits where they host wealthy right-wing donors as well as federal policymakers to talk strategy and fundraising. Participants have included U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Those two justices recently increased the Kochs’ power by voting in the Citizens United case to allow unlimited corporate money into politics. And just last week, the justices heard a case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — a bill that the Koch-founded and -financed group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has been pushing to overturn. Should our system permit such a conflict of interest enabling the Kochs to wield influence that virtually no other citizen can match? Read the rest of this entry →