Saturday, February 26, 2011

Corporate Lawsuit Abuse

Original Link:

By Jim Hightower

Not all of the bullies are in schoolyards these days — quite a few have graduated to the executive suites of corporate America.

Take Charles and David Koch, two multibillionaire brothers whose lives of privilege and bloated sense of entitlement have turned them into such spoiled brats that they can't even take a joke.

Last December, the Kochs' oil operations became the object of a spoof by a merry band of tricksters called Youth for Climate Truth. Not only is Koch Industries a notorious polluter and spewer of global warming gasses, but the brothers have recently been exposed as longtime secret funders of various right-wing front groups trying to debunk the very existence of climate change.

The young folks made fun of this by issuing a fake news release on what appeared to be Koch Industries letterhead. It said, in essence, that the Kochsters had seen the light on global warming and henceforth would be strong environmental advocates. A pretty harmless joke.

The grumpy billionaires, however, not only failed to laugh, but they quickly resorted to bullying. They've unleashed a snarling pack of lawyers to demand that the identities of those who produced the parody be given to the Kochs so they can sue them for damages.

What damages? The lawsuit says the brothers want reimbursement for "costs associated with spending time and money to respond to inquiries about the fake release."

Good grief — Charles and David are two of the 10 richest people in America, and they're whining about a $10 phone bill! What the Kochs really are trying to do, of course, is bully their critics — make fun of us, they're saying, and we'll bury you in legal bills.

By the way, these billionaire bullies have also financed front groups that attack public interest lawyers. Why? Because, say the Kochs, these public interest lawyers file "frivolous" lawsuits!

But it's not just the Koch Bros. who are needlessly taking up precious space in our judicial system.

Another frivolous filer is Dan Snyder. And Dan is mad, mad, mad. He's stamping his tiny little feet and having a screaming tantrum!

That's unpleasant to witness when a 3-year-old does it, but it's truly troubling to see a public hissy fit being thrown by a 45-year-old billionaire owner of a pro football team. Snyder owns the once-great-but-now-terrible Washington Redskins, whose on-field ineptness during his 10-year tenure has certainly made long-suffering fans mad — almost in the "insane" sense of the word.

But the owner's tantrum is not directed at his players or coaches. Instead, he's gone into a code-red temper meltdown because a local newsweekly, the Washington City Paper, dared to publish a long piece last November deriding Dan himself as the source of the team's misery.

What insouciance, shrieked The Dan, as he summoned his legal team to go after the small paper. Their first tactic was raw intimidation. "Mr. Snyder has more than sufficient means to protect his reputation," the lawyers snarled at City Paper's owners, crudely implying that even trying to defend a lawsuit by Mr. Redskin would strip the paper of all its assets.

But City Paper didn't fall for Snyder and Team's smack talk. Still, Dan pushed ahead, suing for $2 million in general "damages." But it's a weak play, for the libel suit he filed is compromised by the fact that the article in question is ... well, factual.

This reality led the billionaire (who happens to be Jewish) to try a trick play. He claimed the paper's article is an offensive anti-Semitic diatribe against him — an assertion that an independent journalistic observer calls "almost unbearably stupid." After all, Snyder's team is called "Redskins," a slur that Snyder insists "is not meant to be offensive whatsoever."

Overprivileged corporate crybabies like Dan Snyder and the Koch Bros. are giving hypocrisy a bad name. They denounce "lawsuit abuse" by anyone who dares to sue them, even as they deploy their legal departments to intimidate anyone who crosses them.

Money Pollution: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Darkens the Skies

Original Link:

By Bill McKibben

In Beijing, they celebrate when they have a “blue sky day,” when, that is, the haze clears long enough so that you can actually see the sun. Many days, you can’t even make out the next block.

Washington, by contrast, looks pretty clean: white marble monuments, broad, tree-lined avenues, the beautiful, green spread of the Mall. But its inhabitants -- at least those who vote in Congress -- can’t see any more clearly than the smoke-shrouded residents of Beijing.

Their view, however, is obscured by a different kind of smog. Call it money pollution. The torrents of cash now pouring unchecked into our political system cloud judgment and obscure science. Money pollution matters as much as or more than the other kind of dirt. That money is the single biggest reason that, as the planet swelters through the warmest years in the history of civilization, we have yet to take any real action as a nation on global warming.

And if you had to pick a single “power plant” whose stack was spewing out the most smoke? No question about it, that would be the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose headquarters are conveniently located directly across the street from the White House. On its webpage, the chamber brags that it’s the biggest lobby in Washington, “consistently leading the pack in lobbying expenditures.”

The group spent as much as $33 million trying to influence the 2010 midterm elections, and has announced that it will beat that in 2012. That, of course, is its right, especially now that the Supreme Court, in its Citizens United ruling, opened the floodgates for corporate speech (as in “money talks”).

But the chamber does what it does with a twist. It claims to represent “three million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions.” The organization, that is, seems to speak for a country full of barbers and florists, car dealers, restaurant owners, and insurance salesmen, not to mention the small entrepreneurs who make up local and state chambers of commerce across the country.

At least when it comes to energy and climate, though, that claim is, politely put, a fib. The Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have to say where it gets its money, but last year a group called U.S. ChamberWatch used one of the last disclosure laws still in existence to uncover a single pertinent fact. They went to the headquarters of the chamber and asked to see its IRS 990 form. It showed that 55 percent of its funding came from just 16 companies, each of which gave more than a million dollars. It doesn’t have to say which companies, but by their deeds shall you know them.

The chamber has long opposed environmental standards. In the 1980s, it fought a ban on the dumping of hazardous waste. In the 1990s, it fought smog and soot standards. On climate change, though, it’s gone pretty near berserk.

In 2009, for instance, one of its officials even demanded a “twenty-first century Scopes monkey trial” for global warming: “It would be the science of climate change on trial,” the chamber’s senior vice-president for environment, technology, and regulatory affairs explained.

That didn’t go over so well. Several high-profile companies quit the chamber. Apple Computer, the very exemplar of the universe of cutting-edge technology, explained: “We would prefer that the chamber take a more progressive stance on this critical issue and play a constructive role in addressing the climate crisis.”

Other businesses complained that they hadn’t been consulted. Some, like Nike, quit the organization’s board. “We just weren’t clear in how decisions on climate and energy were being made,” said a Nike spokesman.

One thing was for sure: they weren’t being made by three million small businesses -- because many local chambers of commerce started quitting the chamber as well. From Florida and South Carolina to Missouri and Kansas, from Colorado and Pennsylvania to New Hampshire and Washington, dozens of local chambers have announced that the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for them on these issues. In Largo, Florida, for instance, the head of the local chamber explained that the U.S. Chamber was composed, “for the most part, of political action committees and business lobbyists. They hold little resemblance to the local chambers of commerce that have been the cornerstone of their communities for generations.”

Faced with that kind of incipient rebellion, the chamber backtracked just a little, issuing a statement saying that they didn’t really want a global warming version of a monkey trial after all, and that climate change was an “important issue.” (The same statement went on to call for transforming the United States into the “Saudi Arabia of clean coal.”)

The happy talk in public, however, has done nothing to change the agenda the chamber pushes so powerfully in private. The same year as that statement, for instance, the organization petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to take no action on global warming on the grounds that “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.”

Now, read that again. No suggestion here that 16 dinosaur companies adapt their business model to a reality that now includes melting ice caps, desertification and massive flooding, ever fiercer storms and acidifying oceans. Instead, they would prefer that every human being (and every other species) be so kind as to adapt their behavior and physiology to the needs of this tiny coterie of massive contributors. Forever.

What’s become clear is that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization formed in 1912, more than a century after the first local chamber came into being, is anything but a benign umbrella for American small businesses. Quite the opposite: It’s a hard-edged ideological shop. It was Glenn Beck, after all, who said of the chamber that “they are us,” and urged his viewers to send them money. (Beck personally contributed $10,000 of the $32 million he earned in 2009.) The chamber’s chief lobbyist even called in to offer his personal thanks. It shouldn’t have come as a great surprise: Beck’s Fox News parent, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, had given its own million-dollar donation to the chamber.

Thanks to the Supreme Court and its Citizens United decision, there’s no way to keep the chamber and others from running their shadowy, election-time campaigns. As long as monster companies are pumping money into their coffers, it’s “free speech” all the way, and they’ll simply keep on with their dodgy operations.

Still, the rest of us can stand up and be counted. We can tell the Congressional representatives taking their money that they don’t speak for us. We can urge more big companies to act like Apple and Microsoft, which publicly denounced the chamber. (It’s good to hear Levi Strauss, General Electric, and Best Buy making similar noises.) We need to hear from more dissenting chambers of commerce. It cheered me to find that the CEO of the Greater New York Chamber said, “They don’t represent me,” or to discover that just a few weeks ago the Seattle chamber cut its ties.

But it’s even more important to hear from small businesspeople, the very contingent the U.S. Chamber of Commerce draws on for its credibility. Across America in the coming months, volunteers from the climate change organization I helped to found,, will be fanning out to canvass local businesses -- all those bakeries and beauty salons, colleges and chiropractors, pharmacies and fitness centers that belong to local chambers of commerce.

The volunteers will be asking for signatures on a statement announcing that “the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me,” and offering businesspeople the chance to post videos expressing just how differently they do think when it comes to global warming, energy, and the environment. It’s a chance to emphasize that American business should be about nimbleness, creativity, and adaptation -- that it’s prepared to cope with changing circumstances, instead of using political cash to ensure that yesterday’s technologies remain on artificial life support.

It’s easy to guess how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will respond to this campaign. Last week, a series of leaks showed that their law firm had been carrying out extended negotiations with at least one “security firm” to collect intelligence on the chamber’s adversaries, including the group that uncovered the tax data showing where their money came from. Once the leak was made public, the chamber’s law firm cut off the negotiations, but not before they received “samples” of the kind of intelligence they presumably wanted -- pictures of their opponents’ children, for instance, or the news that one foe attended a “Jewish church” near Washington.

For the record: I don’t like the chamber’s deceptions. I belong to the Methodist church in my hometown. Keep away from my daughter.

With my colleagues at, I’ll do what I can to help undermine the chamber's claim to represent American business. I don’t know if we can win this fight against money pollution, but we’re going to do what we can to clear the air.

"We’re Broke,” Say the Rich, and the Poor Must Pay

Original Link:

By Glen Ford

“Gov. Walker and President Obama are essentially the same political animals – both eager to devour working people and the poor.”

The American union movement may be headed for its Waterloo, a final debacle that could occur in Republican-ruled Wisconsin, but might just as easily happen at some later date in Democrat-governed New York. The social compact that unionists must forge in order to survive the desperate struggle with capital has always been skin-thin, ever vulnerable to shredding by issues of race, or issues that can be made to appear to be racial. This fatal U.S. labor weakness is capital’s great American asset – the source of the GOP’s popular base – second only to money, itself. In 2011, the union movement has been successfully niggerized, the ultimate American form of demonization.

Racism is the salvation of late-stage American capitalism. For hundreds of years, real facts of human existence have been routinely turned on their heads, and non-facts accepted as ultimate truths, all to justify white supremacy. A society so afflicted can believe literally anything. Thus, the Republicans achieve wondrous success by planting the words “We’re broke” in the mouths of men and women who are transparently rich, and who in turn serve the interests of the super-rich.

“We’re broke” seems to be the universal Republican talking point, spoken everywhere the rich and their minions gather. It’s how House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh) justifies his party’s draconian cuts that could lead to a federal shutdown before spring. This governmental brokenness coexists with December’s Obama-GOP two-year, $850 billion tax giveaway, 40 percent of which goes to the top five percent of income earners, while 25 percent will go to the top one percent, according to the United for a Fair Economy.

“If Wisconsin is broke, it is because the GOP has chosen that it be so in order that multinational corporations can remain rich.”

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker won’t negotiate with Democrats over his bill to bust public employee unions because, “We’re broke and we need the money.” But just last month Walker shepherded through the legislature $140 million in new corporate tax breaks. So, if Wisconsin is broke, it is because the GOP has chosen that it be so in order that multinational corporations can remain rich. Such bald facts must be masked through the process of niggerizing the opposition who, says Walker, “think, somehow, a handful of the minority can hold people hostage.” With the flick of a few clumsy metaphors, Democratic Wisconsin senators, hiding out of state to avoid a quorum that would pass Walker’s anti-union bill, become inner city body snatchers while corporate executives walk away with $140 million of the people’s money.

Scott Walker’s campaign chest has never been broke. The billionaire Koch brothers see to that with generous contributions. The sinister energy industry siblings, bankrollers of the New Austerity, are anything but broke, with net worths of $21.5 billion apiece, according to Forbes Magazine.

None of the rightwing political funding outfits are broke, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has held that spending money is constitutionally protected speech, against which those who are really broke have no protections.

Certainly, Wall Street bankers aren’t broke; they’re doing better than ever, on the strength of derivative paper and near interest-free cash from the Federal Reserve – which, as printers and conjurers of U.S. currency, can never go broke.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has held that spending money is constitutionally protected speech, against which those who are really broke have no protections.”

The truly broke – as in “truly needy” – are the truly niggerized: African Americans, who ought to look those we-broke-talking rich people in the eye and say, like Tonto: “What you mean WE, White Man?”

United for a Fair Economy’s 2011 “State of the Dream” report, titled, “Austerity for Whom?” documents who has actually gone broke – or has always been broke – in America. “Blacks earn 57 cents and Latinos earn 59 cents on each dollar of White median family income…. Blacks hold only 10 cents of net worth and Latinos hold 12 cents for every dollar that Whites hold.”

We also know that today’s long-term unemployed, who are disproportionately Black, are broker for longer than at any time since the Great Depression.

We know school systems are starved for monies all across the country. Detroit’s system is so broke, the state has ordered that public school students double up, with classes at 60 kids, each. That will surely result in broken lives.

We know the Democratic Party has been politically broken, and is no effective defense against the GOP onslaught, because its leaders bow down to the same Wall Street gods as the Republicans. New York, a prime place of residence for the world-class rich (who don’t actually “live” anywhere in particular), is governed by a reputed “liberal” who wages relentless warfare on public sector unions. Democrat Andrew Cuomo demands a one-year wage freeze on public employees, whom he blames for all the state’s woes. At the same time, he would eliminate the highest tax brackets for the rich.

“The Democratic Party is no effective defense against the GOP onslaught, because its leaders bow down to the same Wall Street gods as the Republicans.”

Barack Obama is twice as bad, having frozen federal employee wages (and torn up their contracts) for the next two years. As I wrote in BAR on December 1, 2010 (“Obama Moves Effortlessly to the Right”), Obama, Cuomo and the rest of Wall Street’s Democratic servants endorse “two central corporate axioms: that too-high worker pay and benefits is what’s wrong with the American economy, and that federal [or any public] spending is a drain on economic growth.” That is precisely Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s position. Obama also claims to think “we’re broke,” which is why he’s put Social Security and every other entitlement program on the chopping block – to throw into absolute poverty those who are now merely broke.

In failing to recognize that Gov. Walker and President Obama are essentially the same political animals – both eager to devour working people and the poor – the AFL-CIO, self-styled “progressives” and drunk-on-ObamaL’aide Black folks have set themselves up for catastrophic defeat. What has purported to comprise the Left in the United States is on the verge of being politically shattered, broken.

The only good news is, capitalism is broken, too.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fox News boss persuaded fellow executive to 'lie' to federal investigators

Original Link:

By Ed Pilkington

Roger Ailes wanted Judith Regan to keep quiet about affair with man shortlisted to head US homeland security department.

The chairman of the right-wing current affairs channel, Fox News, Roger Ailes, has been named in court documents as the previously anonymous executive who allegedly tried to persuade a fellow boss at News Corporation to lie to federal investigators over a crucial Washington appointment.

The New York Times reported court documents had become available that for the first time name Ailes as the mysterious executive involved in the allegations. The claims were initially made in November 2007 by Judith Regan, one of Rupert Murdoch's rising stars in News Corporation until she was dismissed the previous year in a row over her decision to publish a book with OJ Simpson.

In her unfair dismissal claim against her former employers, Regan claimed that a News Corporation senior executive had tried to secure her silence during the process to vet Bernard Kerik as the US head of homeland security. Regan had been having an affair with Kerik, and she alleged in her lawsuit that the unnamed executive had wanted her to keep quiet about it during the vetting procedure in order to protect Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who had appointed Kerik as New York police commissioner and was Kerik's main supporter. Giuliani was at the time considering a run for the White House in 2008 and the revelations could have rubbed off adversely on him.

The identity of the executive has long been a topic of speculation in New York media circles. Now, according to the New York Times, the mystery is solved as Ailes is named in a separate court case in 2008.

The court documents reveal his identity and, even more sensationally, say that there is a tape recording of Ailes's conversation with Regan in which he seeks to secure her co-operation. However, there are no transcripts of the conversation.

Ailes, a hugely controversial figure in the News Corporation firmament who critics say has turned Fox News into a mouthpiece of the right-wing Tea Party movement, has been a friend of Giuliani's for more than 20 years. As mayor, Giuliani officiated at Ailes's wedding.

News Corporation hastily settled with Regan after she brought her 2007 lawsuit, to the tune of almost $11m. News Corporation said the case was closed.

Koch Funneled $1.2 Million to Governors Battling Unions

Original Link:

By Jonathan D. Salant

Koch Industries Inc. and its employees and subsidiaries spent $1.2 million in the last election helping to elect Republican governors who are now trying to take away bargaining rights of state workers.

Republicans Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio, who won election last November with Koch support, are pushing to limit the ability of public-employee unions to negotiate for salaries and benefits. Senate Democrats in Wisconsin walked out in protest, preventing a quorum in the Republican-controlled chamber.

The Koch-backed advocacy group Americans for Prosperity helped organize a rally on Feb. 19, set up a website and today announced a $342,200 ad campaign in support of Walker.

“This is a very well-financed, well-coordinated assault on labor unions,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the Washington-based advocacy group Public Citizen. “If they can break the backs of organized labor, they will have accomplished a great deal toward deregulating the American society.”

Protests in Ohio and Wisconsin spread yesterday as organized labor planned rallies, vigils and press conferences in at least 27 states. Workers in Indiana protested a proposal by Governor Mitch Daniels, a Republican elected in 2008, to curb collective bargaining and House Democrats stayed away from the chamber, blocking action.

Public-employee unions contributed $20.5 million to federal campaigns for the 2010 elections, more than 80 percent of it to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington research organization. In Wisconsin, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees made $83,888 in donations, all to Democrats, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a Helena, Montana-based research group.

Koch Backing
Koch, a closely held energy and chemical company based in Wichita, Kansas, is controlled by the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. Along with other corporations, Koch Industries has often opposed organized labor on regulation and free trade, Holman said. Now they see a chance to cripple unions in the name of balancing budgets, Holman said.

The $1.2 million in Koch support for Republican governors includes $1.1 million given to the Republican Governors Association, which spent more than $3.4 million in support of Walker, according to Common Cause, a Washington-based advocacy group that opposes the governor’s proposal.

The RGA yesterday set up a website endorsing Scott and its chairman, Texas Governor Rick Perry, posted a statement calling the Wisconsin chief executive’s actions “a defining moment for our country and the conservative movement.” Perry received $76,000 from Koch for his re-election campaign last year, more than any other candidate, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Mark Miner, a spokesman for Perry, said Koch backs the governor’s policies. “Governor Perry is a pro-business, job creation governor who believes in low taxes and limited government,” Miner said.

In addition, Koch gave $43,000 directly to Walker, his single largest corporate source; $11,000 to the Wisconsin Republican party; $22,000 to Kasich; and $34,000 to the Ohio Republicans.

Koch also supported the 2008 campaign of Indiana’s Daniels, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The RGA received $25,000 from Koch that year and was the biggest source of campaign cash for Daniels, institute records show.

Wal-Mart Spending

In addition, Americans for Prosperity spent $1.2 million in support of Republican candidates for Congress last year, Federal Election Commission records show. Koch Industries’ federal political action committee contributed $1.3 million to candidates for the 2010 elections, 90 percent of it to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the Bentonville, Arkansas, subject of a campaign by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, also contributed to the campaigns of Walker and Daniels, and donated more than $340,000 to the Republican Governors Association for the 2010 elections, according to the Internal Revenue Service and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

“We have a long history of supporting elected officials on both sides of the aisle,” said Lorenzo Lopez, a spokesman for Wal-Mart. “We contribute to candidates who are supportive of issues important to our customers, associates and shareholders.”

Koch Comments
As for Koch Industries, the company “never had discussions with either of these elected officials related to the legislation now under consideration,” said Philip Ellender, president of government and public affairs for Koch Cos. Public Sector LLC, which says it provides legal, government and public affairs services for Koch Industries.

“Koch Industries is pleased to see elected officials take up initiatives that might avert looming fiscal crises at both the state and national level with the aim of spurring job creation and reducing public debt,” Ellender said.

Democratic and Republican governors alike have discussed reducing employee pay and benefits as they address deficits. Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, proposed cutting the number of state employees and making them contribute to their pensions. At the same time, he said he didn’t support taking away collective bargaining rights, guaranteed under his state constitution.

‘Eliminate Collective Bargaining’
“Walker is trying to eliminate collective bargaining,” Scott said yesterday in a radio interview in Tallahassee. “As long as people know what they’re doing, collective bargaining is fine.”

The Florida Republican Party, which received $40,000 from Koch, gave $5.2 million to Scott’s campaign. The RGA gave $130,000.

“New governors got elected promising to focus on jobs, and instead they are settling political scores,” said Lee Saunders, secretary-treasurer of the AFSCME, based in Washington.

Ohio lost more than 600,000 jobs in the last decade, said Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Ohio Governor Kasich.

“We need to reduce the cost of government and make the state economically competitive if we are going to be able create jobs and save Ohio,” Nichols said.

“Simply put, this is about fixing a broken system,” said Mark Jefferson, executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party. “When the left tries to throw the campaign donations out there, it’s because they know they’ve got a problem on the merits.”

Eddie Vale, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor federation, said the Wisconsin governor was trying to break unions, not solve a fiscal crisis.

“Taking away your right to belong and bargain with your union, and how you fund your union, is meant to eliminate them,” Vale said. “The workers agreed to all of his concessions on pay and benefits but he’s still insisting on taking away their rights.”

Wisconsin Power Plants
Walker’s proposal also would allow Wisconsin to sell power plants without seeking bids.

“His efforts look suspiciously like payback to his corporate benefactors,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar, a former Democratic U.S. representative from Pennsylvania.

“The main point of the heating plant provision was to allow the state to start the process of looking at selling off the heating plants,” said Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for Walker. “We have no idea who is going to buy these heating plants, so any speculation as to who will operate these plants, if indeed they are sold, is premature.”

Koch’s businesses in Wisconsin include Flint Hills Resources, a refining and chemical company; Koch Pipeline, which operates a pipeline system in the state; C. Reiss Coal, a supplier of coal used to generate power; and Georgia-Pacific, a tissue maker, according to the company’s website.

Office for Lobbyists
Since 2003, Koch companies have completed more than $32 billion in acquisitions and investments and almost $11 billion in capital expenditures, according to the Koch website.

“We have no interest in purchasing any of the state-owned power plants in Wisconsin,” said Ellender, the Koch Cos. Public Sector president, in an e-mailed statement. “This is a dispute between public-sector unions and democratically elected officials over how best to serve the public interest.”

The company opened an office for its lobbyists in Madison, Wisconsin, near the state capitol, the Capital Times reported yesterday.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Republican Strategy

Original Link:

By Robert Reich

The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working class -- pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don't believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class.

By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans want Americans to believe that we can no longer afford to do what we need to do as a nation. They hope to deflect attention from the increasing share of total income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while the jobs and wages of everyone else languish.

Republicans would rather no one notice their campaign to shrink the pie even further with additional tax cuts for the rich -- making the Bush tax cuts permanent, further reducing the estate tax, and allowing the wealthy to shift ever more of their income into capital gains taxed at 15 percent.

The strategy has three parts.

The Battle Over the Federal Budget

The first is being played out in the budget battle in Washington. As they raise the alarm over deficit spending and simultaneously squeeze popular middle-class programs, Republicans want the majority of the American public to view it all as a giant zero-sum game among average Americans that some will have to lose.

The president has already fallen into the trap by calling for budget cuts in programs the poor and working class depend on -- assistance with home heating, community services, college loans, and the like.

In the coming showdown over Medicare and Social Security, House budget chair Paul Ryan will push a voucher system for Medicare and a partly-privatized plan for Social Security -- both designed to attract younger middle-class voters.

The Assault on Public Employees

The second part of the Republican strategy is being played out on the state level where public employees are being blamed for state budget crises. Unions didn't cause these budget crises -- state revenues dropped because of the Great Recession -- but Republicans view them as opportunities to gut public employee unions, starting with teachers.

Wisconsin's Republican governor Scott Walker and his GOP legislature are seeking to end almost all union rights for teachers. Ohio's Republican governor John Kasich is pushing a similar plan in Ohio through a Republican-dominated legislature. New Jersey's Republican governor Chris Christie is attempting the same, telling a conservative conference Wednesday, "I'm attacking the leadership of the union because they're greedy, and they're selfish and they're self-interested."

The demonizing of public employees is not only based on the lie that they've caused these budget crises, but it's also premised on a second lie: that public employees earn more than private-sector workers. They don't, when you take account of their education. In fact over the last fifteen years the pay of public-sector workers, including teachers, has dropped relative to private-sector employees with the same level of education -- even including health and retirement benefits. Moreover, most public employees don't have generous pensions. After a career with annual pay averaging less than $45,000, the typical newly-retired public employee receives a pension of $19,000 a year.

Bargaining rights for public employees haven't caused state deficits to explode. Some states that deny their employees bargaining rights, such as Nevada, North Carolina, and Arizona, are running big deficits of over 30 percent of spending. Many states that give employees bargaining rights -- Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Montana -- have small deficits of less than 10 percent.

Republicans would rather go after teachers and other public employees than have us look at the pay of Wall Street traders, private-equity managers, and heads of hedge funds -- many of whom wouldn't have their jobs today were it not for the giant taxpayer-supported bailout, and most of whose lending and investing practices were the proximate cause of the Great Depression to begin with.

Last year, America's top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion. Much of their income is taxed as capital gains -- at 15 percent -- due to a tax loophole that Republican members of Congress have steadfastly guarded.

If the earnings of those thirteen hedge-fund managers were taxed as ordinary income, the revenues generated would pay the salaries and benefits of 300,000 teachers. Who is more valuable to our society -- thirteen hedge-fund managers or 300,000 teachers? Let's make the question even simpler. Who is more valuable: One hedge fund manager or one teacher?

The Distortion of the Constitution

The third part of the Republican strategy is being played out in the Supreme Court. It has politicized the Court more than at any time in recent memory.

Last year a majority of the justices determined that corporations have a right under the First Amendment to provide unlimited amounts of money to political candidates. Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission is among the most patently political and legally grotesque decisions of our highest court -- ranking right up there with Bush vs. Gore and Dred Scott.

Among those who voted in the affirmative were Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Both have become active strategists in the Republican party.

A month ago, for example, Antonin Scalia met in a closed-door session with Michele Bachmann's Tea Party caucus -- something no justice concerned about maintaining the appearance of impartiality would ever have done.

Both Thomas and Scalia have participated in political retreats organized and hosted by multi-billionaire financier Charles Koch, a major contributor to the Tea Party and other conservative organizations, and a crusader for ending all limits on money in politics. (Not incidentally, Thomas's wife is the founder of Liberty Central, a Tea Party organization that has been receiving unlimited corporate contributions due to the Citizens United decision. On his obligatory financial disclosure filings, Thomas has repeatedly failed to list her sources of income over the last twenty years, nor even to include his own four-day retreats courtesy of Charles Koch.)

Some time this year or next, the Supreme Court will be asked to consider whether the nation's new health care law is constitutional. Watch your wallets.

The Strategy as a Whole

These three aspects of the Republican strategy -- a federal budget battle to shrink government, focused on programs the vast middle class depends on; state efforts to undermine public employees, whom the middle class depends on; and a Supreme Court dedicated to bending the Constitution to enlarge and entrench the political power of the wealthy -- fit perfectly together.

They pit average working Americans against one another, distract attention from the almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and power at the top, and conceal Republican plans to further enlarge and entrench that wealth and power.

What is the Democratic strategy to counter this and reclaim America for the rest of us?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Koch Industries Slashed WI Jobs, Helped Elect Scott Walker, Now Orchestrating Pro-Walker Protest

Original Link:

By Lee Fang

Wisconsin’s newly elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker is facing a growing backlash over his attempt to cut pay and eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in his state. Although Walker is claiming his power grab is an attempt to close a budget gap, the budget “crisis” was engineered by Walker as soon as he got into office. As Brian Beutler reported, half of the budget shortfall comes from Walker’s own tax cuts for businesses and other business giveaways enacted in January.

A number of the big business interests standing with Walker are beneficiaries of his administration’s tax giveaways. But the greatest ally to Walker is the dirty energy company Koch Industries. In response to the growing protests in Madison, Koch fronts are busing in Tea Party protesters to support Walker and his union-busting campaign. Last night, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz reported on the involvement of Club for Growth and the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity in the pro-Walker protest scheduled tomorrow.

Koch Industries is a major player in Wisconsin: Koch owns a coal company subsidiary with facilities in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan; six timber plants throughout the state; and a large network of pipelines in Wisconsin. While Koch controls much of the infrastructure in the state, they have laid off workers to boost profits. At a time when Koch Industries owners David and Charles Koch awarded themselves an extra $11 billion of income from the company, Koch slashed jobs at their Green Bay plant:

Officials at Georgia-Pacific said the company is laying off 158 workers at its Day Street plant because out-of-date equipment at the facility is being replaced with newer, more-efficient equipment. The company said much of the new, papermaking equipment will be automated. [...] Malach tells FOX 11 that the layoffs are not because of a drop in demand. In fact, Malach said demand is high for the bath tissue and napkins manufactured at the plant.

Koch Industries was one of the biggest contributors to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, funneling $43,000 over the course of last year. In return, Koch front groups are closely guiding the Walker agenda. The American Legislative Exchange Council, another Koch-funded group, advised Walker and the GOP legislature on its anti-labor legislation and its first corporate tax cuts.

According to the EPA, Koch businesses are huge polluters, emitting thousands of pounds of toxic pollutants. As soon as he got into office Walker started cutting environmental regulations and appointed a Republican known for her disregard for environmental regulations to lead the Department of Natural Resources. In addition, Walker has stated his opposition to clean energy jobs policies that might draw workers away from Koch-owned interests.

Moreover, other organizers for the pro-Walker protest are from groups associated with corporate and Koch interests. American Majority, a Virginia-based front group founded by organizers funded by millionaire investor Howie Rich, is on the ground contacting Wisconsin Tea Parties to support Walker in Madison. Austin James, an American Majority official who was caught teaching Tea Party members to spam profiles of liberal books with negative comments, is the contact for the Facebook page organizing the pro-Walker protest. Eric O’Keefe, a longtime conservative operative who helps lead American Majority, attends Koch strategy meetings.

Update Koch's Americans for Prosperity group has launched a new website and petition called The new site attacks all collective bargaining, not just for public sector unions. Koch's front group also declares: "In fact, every state should adopt Governor Scott Walker's common sense reforms."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Funded by the Koch Bros.

Original Link:

By Andy Kroll

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker, whose bill to kill collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions has caused an uproar among state employees, might not be where he is today without the Koch brothers. Charles and David Koch are conservative titans of industry who have infamously used their vast wealth to undermine President Obama and fight legislation they detest, such as the cap-and-trade climate bill, the health care reform act, and the economic stimulus package. For years, the billionaires have made extensive political donations to Republican candidates across the country and have provided millions of dollars to astroturf right-wing organizations. Koch Industries' political action committee has doled out more than $2.6 million to candidates. And one prominent beneficiary of the Koch brothers' largess is Scott Walker.

According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings, Walker's gubernatorial campaign received $43,000 from the Koch Industries PAC during the 2010 election. That donation was his campaign's second-highest, behind $43,125 in contributions from housing and realtor groups in Wisconsin. The Koch's PAC also helped Walker via a familiar and much-used politicial maneuver designed to allow donors to skirt campaign finance limits. The PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn spent $65,000 on independent expenditures to support Walker. The RGA also spent a whopping $3.4 million on TV ads and mailers attacking Walker's opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker ended up beating Barrett by 5 points. The Koch money, no doubt, helped greatly.

The Kochs also assisted Walker's current GOP allies in the fight against the public-sector unions. Last year, Republicans took control of the both houses of the Wisconsin state legislature, which has made Walker's assault on these unions possible. And according to data from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the Koch Industries PAC spent $6,500 in support of 16 Wisconsin Republican state legislative candidates, who each won his or her election.

Walker's plan to eviscerate collective bargaining rights for public employees is right out of the Koch brothers' playbook. Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Reason Foundation have long taken a very antagonistic view toward public-sector unions. Several of these groups have urged the eradication of these unions. The Kochs also invited (PDF) Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union outfit, to a June 2010 confab in Aspen, Colorado; Mix said in a recent interview that he supports Governor Walker's collective-bargaining bill. In Wisconsin, this conservative, anti-union view is being placed into action by lawmakers in sync with the deep-pocketed donors who helped them obtain power. (Walker also opposes the state's Clean Energy Job Act, which would compel the state to increase its use of alternative energy.) At this moment—even with the Wisconsin uprising unresolved—the Koch brothers' investment in Walker appears to be paying off.

Koch Brothers Behind Wisconsin Effort To Kill Public Unions

Original Link:

By Rick Ungar

As the nation focuses on the efforts of Governor Scott Walker to take away collective bargaining rights from public employees in Wisconsin, new information is coming to light that reveals what is truly going on here.

Mother Jones is reporting that much of the funding behind the Walker for Governor campaign came from none other than uber-conservatives, the infamous Koch Brothers.

What’s more, the plan to kill the unions is right out of the Koch Brothers play book.

Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Reason Foundation have long taken a very antagonistic view toward public-sector unions. Several of these groups have urged the eradication of these unions. The Kochs also invited Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union outfit, to a June 2010 confab in Aspen, Colorado;

Via Mother Jones

If you are reluctant to believe that this is a coordinated attack, consider this-

This afternoon, Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin Public Workers Union, sent a message to the Governor’s office agreeing to the cuts to pension & welfare benefits sought by Walker in his bill. The governor’s response was “nothing doing.” He wants the whole kit and kaboodle – the end of the collective bargaining rights of the public unions.

As noted in my earlier post, this is, indeed, the first shot in the final battle to end unionism in America.

UPDATE: The Americans for Prosperity group, a Tea Party group that is a Koch Brothers front, has put up a website and petition called The website attacks all collective bargaining – not just for public employees’ unions. Americans for Prosperity is also organizing a rally tomorrow in Wisconsin to support Gov. Walker.

Why are the Koch Brothers so interested in Wisconsin? They are a major business player in the state.

This from Think Progress:

Koch owns a coal company subsidiary with facilities in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan; six timber plants throughout the state; and a large network of pipelines in Wisconsin. While Koch controls much of the infrastructure in the state, they have laid off workers to boost profits. At a time when Koch Industries owners David and Charles Koch awarded themselves an extra $11 billion of income from the company, Koch slashed jobs at their Green Bay plant:

Officials at Georgia-Pacific said the company is laying off 158 workers at its Day Street plant because out-of-date equipment at the facility is being replaced with newer, more-efficient equipment. The company said much of the new, papermaking equipment will be automated. [...] Malach tells FOX 11 that the layoffs are not because of a drop in demand. In fact, Malach said demand is high for the bath tissue and napkins manufactured at the plant.

You really have to wonder how long it will take for Tea Party devotees to realize just how badly they are being used.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Cato Institute is a Fraud!

Original Link:

The Cato Institute, "libertarian think tank" in Washington D.C., is a complete and utter fraud. I smelled a rat back in 2007 when these guys went out of their way to discredit Ron Paul and refused to endorse him but now the truth is revealed. Here's what they thought of Ron Paul back in 2007:

Watch the video below. The man admits on CNN that Cato's research is funded by oil interests of around 40%! That means Haliburton and other war and oil related interests have their claws in a "libertarian" think tank that's no more libertarian than Fareed Zakaria is a unbiased moderator.

Also note, what a fraud this CNN "debate" really is. The only sincere person sitting at this table is the guy not wearing a suit because he's probably gullible enough to actually believe what the IPCC has forced fed him over the years.

This is the most fraudulent display I have ever witnessed on CNN, but what could we expect when it's hosted by Fareed Zakaria a higher level CFR and Trilateral Commission policy maker.

To block EPA regulations, Koch Industries expands lobbying campaign to children

Original Link:

By Brad Johnson

Koch Industries, the privately owned industrial conglomerate, is using any available method to fight the enforcement of laws to limit its toxic pollution. This summer’s “Regulation Reality Tour,” produced by Koch’s grassroots marketing arm Americans for Prosperity (AFP), featured a “moon bounce in the shape of a SWAT car for children,” ostensibly symbolizing the boogeyman of Environmental Protection Agency “Carbon Cops.” “Let’s make sure we keep doing our part to ensure that our generation passes on to our children and grandchildren the same freedoms we enjoyed,” AFP cries, in protest of sewage overflow rules.

While AFP stokes fear in its Tea Party network about the supposed economic and libertarian disaster of reducing pollution, Koch’s lawyers and contractors flood the Obama administration with submissions challenging proposed rules so that it can keep pumping out pollution for free. Here are just a few of the health and environmental rules that Koch Industries and its many subsidiaries are challenging:

– Koch Industries is protesting the EPA’s effort to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Substance Inventory. [Docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2009-0187]

– Koch Nitrogen Co. LLC, the Koch Industries fertilizer subsidiary, is challenging the disclosure of unit-specific or facility-specific greenhouse pollution, calling it “misguided.” [Docket EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0508]

– Flint Hills Resources, LP, the Koch Industries oil and gas subsidiary which operates six major hazardous air pollutant facilities, is protesting EPA’s proposed national emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants from industrial boilers. [Docket EPA-HQ-OAR-2002-0058]

– Flint Hills Resources “supports the elimination of all crude oil data reporting requirements” for greenhouse pollution compliance. [Docket EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0109]

– Georgia Pacific, the Koch Industries forestry product subsidiary, claims that dioxins aren’t really toxic or carcinogenic. [Docket EPA-HQ-ORD-2010-0395]

– Georgia Pacific, is fighting the EPA’s efforts to tighten water quality standards for stream-dumping. [Docket EPA-HQ-OW-2009-0596]

– Invista, a Koch Industries chemical subsidiary, argues that chemical plant greenhouse pollution should not be monitored. [Docket EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0508]

After eight years of inaction under the Bush presidency, the health and safety of the American public is now a higher priority than polluter profits — but Koch Industries and other industrial polluters are fighting tooth and nail, even if they have to poison our democracy to win.

The billionaire brothers who make us sick

Original Link:

By Michael Brune

This weekend, two billionaire brothers will hold a private, closed-door meeting of elite and powerful donors and supporters of the oil industry. You can bet that along with conga lines and Jello shooters, the agenda at Charles and David Koch's little bash will include doing everything possible to ensure that nothing gets done that might result in clean energy, green jobs, or a healthy environment.

If you've heard of the Koch brothers, it's probably because of the article that Jane Mayer wrote about them for The New Yorker last year. As a rule, the Kochs prefer to keep a low profile and let their money do the talking -- and their combined wealth of an estimated $30 billion from their Koch Industries has a very loud voice. When you spend more each year than ExxonMobil to fund climate-opposition groups and obstruct environmental policy, your money is shouting like a street-corner evangelist. In the case of the Koch brothers, the false gospel is spread by think tanks, foundations, and (unfortunately) many of the new faces in Congress -- elected with a lot of help from the Kochs.
I don't know a word that means the exact opposite of environmentalist -- but then we didn't really need one until the Kochs came along. Greenpeace put out a shocking report focused on how Koch Industries and its owners fund the climate-denial machine, but it also gives some insight into why the Kochs are also going after all environmental safeguards as well as the Environmental Protection Agency.

Koch Industries has a long history of multi-million dollar fines from the EPA and Justice Department for everything from oil spills to dumping toxic chemicals. Even the Bush administration fined them for covering up the illegal dumping of 91 tons of carcinogenic benzene--though John Ashcroft got potential fines of $350 million knocked down to a $20 million slap on the wrist for falsifying documents.

What makes the Koch Brothers particularly scary, though, is not that they reflexively oppose any change that might hurt their own bottom line. That doesn't make them all that different from Massey Energy or Chevron or lots of other big polluters (Koch Industries was ranked in the top ten of air polluters in the U.S. by a University of Massachusetts study). What's different about the Kochs is that they subscribe to a radical libertarian philosophy that opposes any governmental safeguards to protect people or the environment. It's a grim vision of our country that few Americans would ever subscribe to if they could see it plainly, and yet -- thanks to the brothers' enormous wealth -- it's had an out-sized effect on both our government and our public discourse. It's like a hidden riptide that keeps pulling you out to sea no matter how hard you strike toward the shore.

But what makes riptides most dangerous is that people don't even know what they're fighting against. This week the Sierra Club will put a spotlight on the Koch brothers' agenda. I encourage you to join our Facebook campaign to help get the word out. Because when people can see their democracy being hijacked, they refuse to tolerate it.

Let me end on a positive note. We've trounced the Koch brothers before. Remember Prop 23 -- the California initiative to roll back efforts to fight climate change? The Koch brothers were one of the proposition's largest bankrollers, but California voters overwhelmingly rejected their vision. Now it's time for all Americans to stand up to the Koch brothers' dangerous efforts to keep us tied to the dirty energy sources which making people sick and destroy our nation's economic health. It's time this billionaire's good old boy's club got out of the way of the innovative new energy sources that are producing jobs and prosperity for the rest of us.

Wisconsin Is a Battleground Against the Billionaire Kochs' Plan to Break Labor's Back

Original Link:

By Adele M. Stan

The war on Wisconsin employees isn't just about the budget or Wisconsin: Koch toady Gov. Walker is just one soldier in the billionaire's offensive to kill labor.

As some 30,000 protesters overwhelmed the state capitol building in Wisconsin today, Democratic state senators hit the road, reportedly with State Police officers in pursuit. The Dems left the state in order to deprive Republicans the necessary quorum for taking a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's bill to strip benefits and collective bargaining rights from state workers. Newsradio 620 WTMJ reported that the Democratic senators were holed up in a Rockford, Illinois, hotel, out of reach of Wisconsin state troopers. Now, it seems, Republican lawmakers are beginning to waver on their support for the union-busting bill.

Last week, Walker threatened to activate the National Guard in the event of any disruption in services from public employees that, he said, could occur as a result of his legislation.

Gov. Walker claims that his war on the public workers in his state is simply about balancing Wisconsin's budget; believe that and there's a collapsed bridge in MInnesota I'd like to sell you. UPDATE: TPM's Brian Beutler reports that half of Wisconsin's budget shortfall results from three of Walker's own business-coddling initiatives. According to the Capitol Times, as quoted in Beutler's piece, in January, Walker pushed through "$140 million in spending for special interest groups." Walker claims a budget shortfall of $137 million. You do the math.

The fact is, Walker is carrying out the wishes of his corporate master, David Koch, who calls the tune these days for Wisconsin Republicans. Walker is just one among many Wisconsin Republicans supported by Koch Industries -- run by David Koch and his brother, Charles -- and Americans For Prosperity, the astroturf group founded and funded by David Koch. The Koch brothers are hell-bent on destroying the labor movement once and for all.

During his election campaign, Walker received the maximum $15,000 contribution from Koch Industries, according to Think Progress, and support worth untold hundreds of thousands from the Koch-funded astroturf group, Americans For Prosperity. AlterNet recently reported the role of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Americans For Prosperity in a vote-caging scheme apparently designed to suppress the votes of African-Americans and college students in Milwaukee. In 2008, Walker served as emcee for an awards ceremony held by Americans For Prosperity. There, he conferred the "Defender of the American Dream" award on Rep. Paul Ryan, now chairman of the House Budget Committee.

On Monday, AlterNet reported on the gaggle of Koch-sponsored politicians who individually graced the podium at last weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference (including several from Wisconsin: Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Johnson). Rep. Michele Bachmann, also a Koch favorite from next-door Minnesota, kicked off the conference.

Not Just About Wisconsin -- or State Workers

It's said that states are the laboratories of democracy, but the Kochs are determined to make Wisconsin a laboratory of corporate oligarchy. Nationwide, the war on public workers -- and government in general -- is not simply a facet of an ideological notion about the virtues of small government. The war on government is a war against the labor movement, which has much higher rates of union membership in the public sector than it does in the private sector.

Labor is seen by corporate leaders as the last strong line of resistance against the wholesale takeover of government (and your tax dollars) by corporations. So, by this line of thought, labor must die.

But it's even deeper than that. The labor movement holds whatever modicum of workplace fairness standards exist for the rest of workers, be they organized or not. Contracts won by organized workers function as a ceiling for what the rest of the workforce is able to demand. Without the labor movement, there's not a worker anywhere in the nation who has much of a bargaining position with her or his employer. And that's the way David Koch and his brother, Charles, want it.

Midwest Frontier Province of Kochistan

Although headquartered in Kansas, Koch Industries has at least 17 facilities and offices in Wisconsin (by my rough count of facilities and companies noted on the Koch Industries "Wisconsin Facts" page), and operates "nearly 4,000 miles of pipeline" through its Koch Pipeline Company, L.P. Which may account for Wisconsin's evolution into the Midwest Frontier Province of Kochistan.

The conglomerate boasts "four terminals and strategically located pipelines" through its Flint Hills Resources, LLC, which it describes as "a leading refining and chemicals company" that markets "gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, ethanol, olefins, polymers and intermediate chemicals, as well as base oils and asphalt."

The Kochs' Georgia Pacific paper and wood products division has six facilities in Wisconsin. Its C. Reiss Coal Company "is a leading supplier of coal used to generate power," according to the Koch Web site. "The company has locations in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan."

Is it any wonder that Gov. Walker signed Americans For Prosperity's pledge (PDF) against energy reform legislation?

"I Don't Run a Union Facility"

At the Americans For Prosperity Foundation's RightOnline conference last July, a breakout session for managers and entrepreneurs focused on how to talk to workers about legislative issues -- including the Employee Free Choice Act, which would simplify the process by which workers could elect to join a union. Among the panelists was former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain, who is currently exploring a presidential bid. (Last month, Mark Block stepped down from his perch as state director of Americans For Prosperity Wisconsin chapter in order to serve as Cain's chief of staff.) The panel also featured Timothy Nerentz of The Oldenburg Group, a mining and defense equipment manufacturer based in Milwaukee. Nerentz illustrated how he talked to his workers about EFCA: "[W]e don't operate a union facility. That's all I have to say."

"Now, you certainly have a right to a union, right?" Nerenz continued. "You got rights, I got rights, all God's children got rights. But you need to know before you make that decision what's involved in that decision." When I pressed him after the panel to clarify whether he was threatening to shut down a factory whose workers chose to unionize, he simply restated his initial point: "We don't operate a union facility."

Stimulus Spending Seen as Too Friendly to Unions

You'd think that a big business like Koch Industries would love the idea of stimulus spending, since it's bound to improve the economy. So, what gives? Why do these guys hate the stimulus funds so much?

Well, it seems that too much of it, in their view, goes to preserve the jobs of unionized workers -- like autoworkers and teachers -- which, in turn, preserves unions as part of the U.S. workforce. So that's why, presumably, Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips today sent out a newsletter touting an anti-stimulus bill introduced by a House member from the Midwest Frontier Province of Kochistan:

By the way, newly-elected Congressman Sean Duffy from Wisconsin (emphasis mine) made one of his first efforts in Congress a bill that returns non-obligated stimulus funding to the taxpayers. Now his bill has been included in the continuing resolution the House is working on this week. It’s great to see our efforts to end government overspending become the core of actual legislation and not just something we all rally for.

Bus Follies

While we're on the topic of e-mail blasts, I received quite the indignant one today from something called the Campaign To Defeat Obama, a.k.a., Our Country Deserves Better PAC, a.k.a., Tea Party Express. The e-mail expresses great consternation at the fact that Organizing For America, the remnant of the Obama campaign's organizing effort (now part of the Democratic National Committee), helped get protesters to Madison to protest at the Wisconsin state capitol. "They sent out 54 messages on Twitter alone!" the e-mail shouts (emphasis theirs). They accused the Obama administration of sending in a "mob" to the state capitol to "bully" state lawmakers to abandon Walker's bill.

In the e-mail, Tea Party Express Our Country Deserves Better Campaign to Defeat Obama screams:

Organizing For America is responsible for most of the chaos, and has been filling bus after bus with protestors and shuttled them to the State Capitol. This was not a spontaneous uprising - this was an organized effort by Barack Obama to further his radical, leftist agenda.

Tea Party Express worked with Americans For Prosperity during the mid-term election campaign. What did they do? Filled buses with activists to get them to rallies and protests.

Today, however, it seems Americans For Prosperity had a hard time finding takers for their free-bus-trip offer for those wanting to support Gov. Walker's union-busting, worker-bashing bill. As of scheduled departure time, reports the Racine Journal Times, only six people had boarded AFP's Racine bus to Madison. Several key Republican lawmakers, according to recent reports, are beginning to waver in their support for Walker's labor-bashing bill.

Mike Pompeo (R-Koch) Gets To Work Slashing EPA Funding

Original Link:

By Kristen Bartoloni

Last night, Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Koch) proposed an amendment to the Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) that would “sharply cut funding for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program that collects data on industrial greenhouse gas emissions.” The $8.4 million cut would leave funding for the registry at $3.2 million, unless the EPA shifts funds from another program to the registry.

Toeing a fine line between conspiracy theorist and Koch Industries profit protector, Pompeo took the house floor where “he called the registry part of an EPA plot to destroy U.S. jobs“:

EPA would, I am sure, tell you that they are simply collecting a little bit of data on greenhouse gases, that this registry is simply a very innocent effort to learn a little bit more about who is emitting greenhouse gases — who or what.

But this data is the very foundation of the EPA’s effort to pursue its radical anti-jobs agenda. Indeed, continuing the greenhouse gas registry at currently funded levels will permit the EPA regulatory nose inside the job-destroying tent. We cannot head down this path.

The amendment passed in a 239-185 vote.

Despite the Koch-approved rhetoric, even fellow Republicans found the bill to be poorly crafted. Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) – who apparently is incredibly frightened by the EPA’s quest to keep our air clean — originally supported the amendment, but after talking to businesses, decided to vote nay, because the business community “told him the greenhouse gas registry was a useful compliance tool for them.”

Pompeo is the congressman “spawned by ‘Kochtopus‘” and “essentially a subsidiary of the Koch brothers’ business empire.” He made his fortune off of a Koch backed company, sidled up to Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity in his 2010 campaign, signed the AFP anti-climate change pledge, took more campaign contributions from Koch Industries than any other candidate in 2010, and hired on an ex-Koch lobbyist to be his chief of staff. In fact, Koch Industries even ranked at top of Pompeo’s campaign contribution list, outpacing the second top contributor by $60,000.

So it’s no surprise that the Congressman from Koch took to the House floor to champion one of Koch Industries’ top causes – stripping the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. Pompeo earned a plush position on the House Energy and Commerce Committee From Koch, and quickly went to work to do the big polluter’s bidding.

The Koch Committee’s Big Oil Witnesses For Upton-Inhofe Pollution Act

Original Link:

By Brad Johnson

With contributions from Noreen Nielsen, Energy Communications Director for Progressive Media at the Center for American Progress.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, now under Republican control, is holding a hearing right now to discuss blocking the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce global warming pollution. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), who has received $9,000 from Koch Industries since 2008, will chair the subcommittee hearing on the Upton-Inhofe “Energy Tax Prevention Act,” hatched at a secret meeting between the bill’s sponsors and polluter lobbyists. The Republican witness list is a cavalcade of the nation’s worst polluters and oil-funded ideologues:

– Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s 2010 campaign was heavily funded by some of Texas’s largest industries, with most coming from people connected to oil and gas interests. Abbott, who has received $40,000 from Koch Industries and $10,000 from ExxonMobil, sued the Obama administration to end an offshore oil-drilling moratorium instituted following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and has taken the EPA to court three times in the past year, accusing climate scientists of “lying, falsification, cover-ups, et cetera.”

– National Black Chamber of Commerce president Harry Alford has received $425,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. The study NBCC commissioned from Charles River Associates to attack the Waxman-Markey climate bill made false assumptions to generate artificially high costs for clean energy action.

– Lonnie Carter is president of Santee Cooper, a coal-powered utility that is the largest single mercury polluter in South Carolina. Santee Cooper is also a top consumer of mountaintop removal coal.

– Steve Cousins is vice president of Lion Oil, which ranks 27th on the list of top 100 facilities releasing chemicals such as nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and benzene into the environment. Cousins is a climate denier, questioning whether human activity is responsible for global warming.

– Peter Glaser of Troutman Sanders LLP works with the Washington Legal Foundation, which has received $325,000 from ExxonMobil and $1,255,000 from Koch Industries since 1997. Glaser has fought on behalf of carbon polluters for years, opposing the Supreme Court’s Massachusetts v. EPA decision.

– Fred Harnack represents the U.S. Steel Corporation, which ranks 19th on the 2010 Political Economy Research Institute Toxic 100 Air Polluters list.

– Illinois Farm Bureau president Phillip Nelson has a history of attacking air and water safeguards, while supporting big polluting mega-farms. Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland, headquartered in Decatur, IL, is seventh on the 2010 Political Economy Research Institute Toxic 100 Air Polluters list.

– James Pearce is the environmental general manager for FMC Corp., which had to pay the largest civil penalty ever obtained under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act for repeatedly violating the hazardous waste law at its phosphorus production facility in Pocatello, Idaho.

– Steve Rowlan is the environmental general manager at Nucor Corp., which is 24th on the 2010 Political Economy Research Institute Toxic 100 Air Polluters list.

– Margo Thorning is the vice president and chief economist for the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF). ACCF has received $215,000 from Koch foundations and nearly $1.7 million from ExxonMobil. Even with artificially negative assumptions, ACCF’s study of Waxman-Markey found that 20 million new jobs would be created by 2030.

Self-proclaimed “climate-denier-in-chief ” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), one of the draft legislation sponsors, will also testify at the hearing. Inhofe’s top lifetime contributor is Koch Industries, which has given him $86,650 since 1989.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Kochs Are Coming

Original Link:

By Jim Hightower

Rancho Mirage, California - The multibillionaire Koch brothers are used to running their nefarious network of political front groups from behind closed doors, keeping their identities and self-serving involvement secret from the media and us hoi polloi.

For more than three decades, Charles and David Koch have been quietly funneling tens of millions of dollars from their industrial fortune into the Cato Institute, Federalist Society, Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and dozens of other right-wing organizations set up to push their extremist laissez-faire agenda of plutocratic rule. From behind their plush curtain, they've operated as the right wing's Wizard of Oz -- only Ozzier.

But now, the curtain is being pulled back, and there they are -- buck naked and butt ugly -- for all to see.

What an unpleasant surprise it must have been for the brothers last Sunday to find ordinary folks peering at them and their fellow Republican billionaires. About 200 of the wealthy elite were comfortably sequestered behind the gated walls of the Rancho Las Palmas Resort, presumably untouchable in the Southern California desert.

They had been invited to this lair of luxury to participate in an exclusive four-day political retreat that Charles periodically organizes to plot strategy with his peers and get money commitments from them for the next national election.

In the past, these have been totally clandestine pow-wows. They allow the Kochs and their corporate cohorts to huddle privately with such top GOP officials as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas and to hob-knob with such right-wing sparklies as Karl Rove and Glenn Beck.
This year, however, the letter of invitation from Koch Industries was leaked to researcher Lee Fang at the Center for American Progress. In it, Charles bragged that "we will assemble an exceptional group of leaders" at Rancho Las Palmas. And he did -- but not the kind of leaders he intended to bring together!

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Instead, he found some 1,500 grass-roots leaders gathered at the resort to greet the elites. Accompanied by national media, these uninvited guests succeeded in uncloaking the Kochs, turning the family's name into a four-letter word -- as in, "to Koch" democracy.

I was among the "rabble" intruding into this corporate getaway, having been invited by the political reform group Common Cause to speak and emcee the people's Las Palmas rally. I can testify that the Koch crowd was not happy to see us -- indeed, photographer Michael Cline snapped a wonderful picture of an exasperated David and Julia Koch glumly watching us from their resort's balcony.

The purpose of our public protest was not merely to expose the handful of wealthy interests who are using front groups and secret corporate cash to gain political supremacy -- we "outsiders" were also there to organize support for repealing last year's infamous anti-democracy edict by the Supreme Court. A five-man cabal of corporatados on the Court ruled that a corporation is a "person" entitled to use unlimited sums of corporate funds to elect or defeat any candidate of its choosing -- thus enthroning special-interest business money over all other interests in our society.
Unfortunately, to reverse the Kafkaesque hubris of the five Supremes who're trying to play God, we need to pass a constitutional amendment that explicitly makes the obvious point that, to be a person, you have to have a navel. While passing any amendment to our nation's basic governing document is difficult, it can -- and must -- be done if America is even to pretend to be a government of and by the people.

The good news is that Americans are up for it. A nationwide poll in January found that four out of five of our people support the passage of just such an amendment -- including 68 percent of Republicans.

Two hundred and thirty-six years ago, Paul Revere rallied the American public's resistance to the democratic repression with the cry, "The British are coming!" Today, the rallying cry is, "The Kochs are coming!" To join the resistance, go to

Saturday, February 12, 2011

On First Day Of New Congress, Koch Operatives Met With GOP Chairman Planning To Gut The Clean Air Act

Original Link:

By Lee Fang

In January, ThinkProgress interviewed billionaire plutocrat David Koch about his views on climate science, his Tea Party movement, and his political plans for the future. On the day of our interview, we also discovered that he planned to hold a party for the new Republicans he helped elect. As we have documented, Koch not only financed the rise of the anti-Obama Tea Party, he has also helped guide the movement to support the narrow business priorities of his conglomerate Koch Industries: Koch funds rallies for young children that attack the EPA, Koch’s front groups spread doubt about climate change, and Koch’s Americans for Prosperity hands out Tea Party talking points attacking clean energy. Building on this research, the Los Angeles Times reported this weekend about the central influence of Koch in the new GOP Congress.

According to the Times, just before David Koch spoke to ThinkProgress following House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) swearing in ceremony, he had met with Boehner in the Speaker’s office. Koch’s top political deputy, former Jack Abramoff operative Tim Phillips, met with the new Energy and Commerce Committee chair Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) that day as well:

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 Times also reported a fact that most of the traditional media has ignored: in addition to direct donations to candidates, Koch groups spent tens of millions in largely undisclosed money hosting rallies and running “issue ads” in support of climate science-denying GOP candidates in 2010.

As the Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has detailed, the Republican push to eviscerate the EPA and the Clean Air Act meshes perfectly with the goals of Koch Industries. Koch is a major polluter, and opposes EPA regulations on carbon emissions and other hazardous air pollutants.

In our interview with Koch, we asked him why his front group Americans for Prosperity focuses so much on denying climate change. Koch said it was because “regulating CO2 excessively…really damage[s] the economy.” Koch however was hesitant to answer if he himself believes in climate change. He eventually denied anthropogenic global warming by giving a standard climate denier response: “Climate does fluctuate. It goes from hot to cold. We have ice ages.” However, he simply shrugged when asked if carbon pollution — like the carbon pollution Koch Industries heavily contributes to — affects climate change:

FANG: Why does Americans for Prosperity focus so much on the science of climate change? I’m just curious why they spread so much information that denies the existence of climate, of global warming?

KOCH: Well… I think it’s uh, regulating CO2 excessively is going to put — uh really damage the economy.

FANG: Do you believe in climate change yourself? [...] Do you believe in climate change yourself, Mr. Koch?

KOCH: Climate does fluctuate. It goes from hot to cold. We have ice ages.

FANG: But do you believe carbon pollution affects climate change? [Koch shrugs]

US Chamber’s Lobbyists Solicited Hackers To Sabotage Unions, Smear Chamber’s Political Opponents

Original Link:

By Lee Fang

ThinkProgress has learned that a law firm representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the big business trade association representing ExxonMobil, AIG, and other major international corporations, is working with set of “private security” companies and lobbying firms to undermine their political opponents, including ThinkProgress, with a surreptitious sabotage campaign.

According to e-mails obtained by ThinkProgress, the Chamber hired the lobbying firm Hunton and Williams. Hunton And Williams’ attorney Richard Wyatt, who once represented Food Lion in its infamous lawsuit against ABC News, was hired by the Chamber in October of last year. To assist the Chamber, Wyatt and his associates, John Woods and Bob Quackenboss, solicited a set of private security firms — HBGary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively called Team Themis) — to develop tactics for damaging progressive groups and labor unions, in particular ThinkProgress, the labor coalition called Change to Win, the SEIU, US Chamber Watch, and

According to one document prepared by Team Themis, the campaign included an entrapment project. The proposal called for first creating a “false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information,” to give to a progressive group opposing the Chamber, and then to subsequently expose the document as a fake to undermine the credibility of the Chamber’s opponents. In addition, the group proposed creating a “fake insider persona” to “generate communications” with Change to Win. View a screenshot below:

The security firms hoped to obtain $200,000 for initial background research, then charge up to $2 million for a larger disinformation campaign against progressives. We don’t know if the proposal was accepted after Phase 1 was completed.

The e-mails ThinkProgress acquired are available widely on the web. They were posted by members of “Anonymous,” the hactivist community responsible for taking down websites for oppressive regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and American corporations that have censored WikiLeaks. Anonymous published the emails from HBGary Federal because an executive at the firm, Aaron Barr, was trying to take Anonymous down. Barr claimed that he had penetrated Anonymous and was hoping to sell the data to Bank of America and to federal authorities in the United States. In response, members of Anonymous hacked into Barr’s email and published some 40,000 company e-mails.

It is widely believed that Wikileaks has sensitive information about Bank of America, and plans to expose it later this year. This revelation prompted Bank of America to hire the law/lobbying firm Hunton and Williams, which in turn, according to the e-mails posted online by Anonymous, hired HBGary Federal and other firms to go after Anonymous and supporters of Wikileaks. For instance, one proposal from HBGary Federal and its associates proposed targeting Salon reporter and Wikileaks-supporter Glenn Greenwald with “actions to sabotage or discredit” him.

ThinkProgress has published a series of articles investigating the Chamber and its activities. We exposed the Chamber’s efforts to coordinate a lobbying campaign on behalf of large banks, including JP Morgan, to kill significant portions of financial reform. In October, we published a series looking into the Chamber’s efforts to solicit donations from foreign corporations for the same account the Chamber used to run partisan attack ads during the midterm campaign, as well as the Chamber’s participation in secret fundraising meetings convened by the billionaire plutocrats David and Charles Koch.

ThinkProgress will be posting more details of the Chamber lobbyist campaign to target progressives soon

Friday, February 11, 2011

Koch brothers now at heart of GOP power

Original Link:

By Tom Hamburger, Kathleen Hennessey and Neela Banerjee

The billionaire brothers' influence is most visible in the makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where members have vowed to undo restrictions on greenhouse gases.

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 press-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.

A symbolic arrival

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 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.

Longtime ties

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, it 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. The organization said it amounted to a hidden tax increase.

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

The advocacy group 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 with 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 Americans for Prosperity, 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, Upton would have been an unlikely champion of that view.

In 2009, he 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 late December, in a Wall Street Journal commentary 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 he 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."

Kochs brothers' plan for 2012: raise $88 million

Original Link:


In an expansion of their political footprint, the billionaire Koch brothers plan to contribute and steer a total of $88 million to conservative causes during the 2012 election cycle, according to sources, funding a new voter micro-targeting initiative, grass-roots organizing efforts and television advertising campaigns.

In fact, as the annual Conservative Political Action Conference meets this week in Washington and conservatives assess the state of their movement, the Koch network of nonprofit groups, once centered on sleepy free-enterprise think tanks, seems to be emerging as a more ideological counterweight to the independent Republican political machine conceived by Bush-era GOP operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie before the 2010 midterm elections.

The aggressive embrace of political activism by the Koch brothers, Charles and David, has cheered fiscal conservatives, who hope they will reorient the conservative political apparatus around free-market, small government principles and candidates, and away from the electability-over-principles approach they see Rove and Gillespie as embodying.

But not everyone on the right is happy about the brothers’ increasing political profile. Some conservatives complain that the political operatives who work for the Kochs don’t play well with others in the movement and worry that their efforts to steer big money to favored groups undermines other, potentially valuable conservative efforts.

Among leaders of conservative groups “there is the impression that there is a lot of favoritism, not necessarily from the Kochs, but from those the Koch brothers rely on to administer the money, and there are concerns about whether the best groups are being helped, or whether it’s just the groups that they happen to play favorites with,” said Erick Erickson, founder of the influential Red State blog and a CNN political analyst.

Erickson has spoken at events organized by the Koch brothers’ primary political vehicle, a nonprofit group called Americans for Prosperity, which he called “a very worthwhile organization,” but he said the Kochs “need to broaden the diversity of their grass-roots apparatus. … People want to get in on the action and have a hard time getting in on the action.”

Charles and David Koch reportedly have a net worth of $21.5 billion each, thanks to their stakes in Koch Industries, their privately owned oil, chemical and consumer products company.

For decades, they’ve been generous donors to academic institutions and public policy think tanks – some of which they founded – that promote small government and free-market conservatism. But in recent years, they have increasingly focused their giving on more activist groups, and, perhaps more significantly, they have used their influence to help guide millions more in contributions from other major conservative benefactors, primarily through twice-a-year donor summits the Kochs have been organizing since 2003.

The conferences, which are sponsored by Koch Industries, bring together roughly 150 wealthy conservative business titans or their representatives to hear presentations from handpicked Republican politicians and thought leaders, as well as the heads of conservative groups hoping to secure big checks to fund their nonprofits.

At the most recent summit, held in January at a Rancho Mirage, Calif., resort, the Kochs and their invited donors pledged to contribute $49 million toward an $88-million budget goal for policy and political projects planned for the 2012 election cycle, which were sketched out at the conference, according to a source with knowledge of the summit.

To put that in perspective, the twin political groups conceived by Rove and Gillespie – Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies and American Crossroads — raised $70 million for their efforts in the 2010 midterm campaign, during which they were among the most active of the independent political operators.

Unlike the fundraising for those groups — and most political nonprofits, for that matter — most of the donations pledged at the Koch summits goes into a pool, which typically include a mix of cash from invitees as well as a healthy share from the Koch brothers themselves. The brothers’ political advisers distribute the money at their discretion to political and policy groups featured at their conferences.

Groups with tighter Koch ties tend to reap more money from the pool than others, according to sources familiar with the Kochs’ philanthropy and meetings, one of whom said the Koch brothers typically invited a handful of groups less closely linked to them “to create an illusion of spreading the wealth.”

The Kochs swear summit attendees to secrecy and few will talk publicly about the meetings or the brothers’ philanthropy for fear of jeopardizing relationships with — and potentially funding from — the Kochs, who have a reputation in conservative circles for retaliating against allies and former allies deemed insufficiently loyal.

Technically, the Kochs don’t control any groups, rather they exert significant influence through their contributions, board positions and patronage of the leaders of outfits that have been prominently featured at their donor conferences, such as Americans for Prosperity and Themis, a fledgling voter micro-targeting initiative spearheaded by former Koch staffer Karl Crow that in some ways seems designed to compete with an effort launched last year by the Rove and Gillespie-backed Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies.

Sean Noble, another top Koch operative, has been hired by Americans for Limited Government, another group that sources say received donations from Koch conference attendees for its efforts to attack Democrats during the 2010 midterm campaign.

Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government, said he met Noble, a former House chief of staff who now runs his own consulting shop, during the effort to stop the Democratic health care overhaul from passing into law. He said he did not know whether sought contributions from the Koch conference, but did say his group did not get any direct donations from the Kochs or their company.

Wilson said personal connections won’t get you very far raising money from the Kochs, who — he said — make their political investment decisions based on business-like calculations about potential impact.

“They’ve been aggressive in their business, and they’re going to be aggressive in their politics,” Wilson said. “They know what they want and what they believe, and they move aggressively to advance those beliefs. You didn’t build that size of a business, and you can’t be that successful, unless you’re decisive — and they’re decisive.”

It’s difficult to determine how much of their own money the Kochs have directed or contributed to political efforts in recent years because most of the groups to which they’ve steered cash don’t have to report their donors, or even most details of their political spending.

Take Americans for Prosperity — which is comprised of two separate nonprofits, both of which the Kochs helped found and fund, and one of which, Americans for Prosperity Foundation, is chaired by David Koch.

Americans for Prosperity is chaired by Art Pope, a North Carolina businessman and major donor who has attended a handful of Koch donor seminars, including this year’s, and who characterized the Kochs’ political philanthropy as merely an effort to keep up with Democratic-leaning groups funded by major liberal donors who similarly meet in private to divvy up cash.

The Prosperity groups are separately registered under sections 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 of the tax code, which don’t require them to disclose the donors or much detail on their political spending. Their tax returns show their contribution intake nearly doubled between 2008 and 2009, when they reported receiving $26.8 million in donations and emerged as a key organizing group behind the populist tea party movement, helping drum up grass-roots opposition to the health care overhaul pushed by President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress.

Last year, Americans for Prosperity pledged to spend $45 million on rallies, canvassing and hard-hitting radio and television ads, criticizing Democrats in 50 swing House districts and half a dozen targeted Senate races. Though spending by the groups and their allies has been credited with helping the GOP retake the House, Americans for Prosperity’s ads ran throughout the year and didn’t expressly support Republicans or oppose Democrats, requiring only some of them to be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Pope, the Americans for Prosperity chair, said some big donors regard as safe bets groups that the Kochs support, because “they have very high standards for their business that they apply to the non-profits that they support.”

But Pope, whose own foundation has given $775,000 to Americans for Prosperity since Obama took office, dismissed the idea that the Kochs discriminate against groups to which they don’t have strong ties.

“In the donor community at large that I am involved in, most of them are very well informed and independent-minded donors.” While he said donors often “exchange ideas about ‘do you think this is a good organization?’” he said “the donors pretty well make their own decisions” and he added “I don’t know of any blacklist.”

And, he said Americans for Prosperity was more than happy to coordinate with other conservative political groups.

While Koch-linked operatives communicated with representatives of the Crossroads groups and affiliated outfits during the midterms, an anonymous Republican fundraiser complained to NBC’s Michael Isikoff that during regular conference calls between the groups to coordinate midterm election spending plans, representatives of Koch-backed groups were reluctant to share information.

At the January 2010 Koch donor meeting, though, Noble and Gillespie sat on a panel together analyzing the coming midterm elections. Entitled “the opportunity of 2010: understanding voter attitudes and the electoral map,” the panel also featured the AFP director Pope and veteran GOP operative Jim Ellis, who had been indicted in 2005 on campaign finance charges , for which he is awaiting an April trial, in connection with his work for ex-House Republican Leader Tom Delay, who this year was convicted of campaign violations.

In the weeks before this year’s Rancho Mirage meeting, Ellis crafted a 501(c)4 proposal for Noble seeking $4.75 million for a group that would spread anti-Obama messages in key states in the run-up to the 2012 presidential race.

Ellis told POLITICO the proposals were merely “draft internal documents from my private computer” and contended they “weren’t sent to anyone, including Sean Noble.”

Noble did receive a proposal from Ellis, but never submitted it for consideration by Koch donors, said a Koch source. The source added, though, that Koch-affiliated donors were providing seed funding to similar projects.

“President Obama is planning on spending $1 billion in 2012, and is giving a green light to Democrats to support outside groups with no disclosure and no oversight,” said the source, though, in fact, Obama political aides have stressed that they’d like any Democratic spending efforts to disclose donors.

“Conservatives aren’t likely to come close to matching that number but we’re determined to try,” said the source.