By Brendan Fischer
Leaked audio from the Koch brothers' donor meeting in Vail, Colorado, in June reveals, among other things, the connections between the Kochs and a wealthy Wisconsin funder who spent hundreds of thousands that helped elect Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson as well as Governor Scott Walker and support various right-wing causes.
An anonymous source released the tapes to blogger Brad Friedman, who published the audio and transcript at Mother Jones and BradBlog. Fred Young, the heir of the Young Radiator fortune in Racine, Wisconsin, addressed the crowd of Koch invitees and introduced Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano.
Fred Young, the Kochs, and Scott WalkerYoung first caught the attention of the Center for Media and Democracy during the 2010 election cycle, when a shadowy group called "SpeechNow" began running misleading ads blaming then-Senator Russ Feingold for the deficit and claiming the clean election laws Feingold spearheaded were "attacking free speech." SpeechNow was allegedly a "grassroots" organization, but it was headed by David Keating, executive director of Club for Growth, and funded by Young to the tune of at least $110,000.
According to the Vail millionaire retreat transcripts, Young told the crowd "I attended my first Koch seminar in January of 2004, which I offer as an endorsement of what I think is the effectiveness of this group over the years of doing this." He also called on the crowd to applaud both of the Koch brothers, saying, "Charles [Koch], we appreciate very much what's happened here, you gather us together over these many years, give you real recognition, please clap. And David [Koch]'s played a very important role, likewise, as the head of Americans for Prosperity and it'd be great if you'd give him some recognition, too."
Young continued: "Especially now in these times that we're facing, this is an effective outfit and I hope you'll stay with us ... it's a well-oiled machine."
Young gave to multiple Republican candidates in the 2010 cycle, perhaps most notably to Scott Walker, to whom Young contributed up to the maximum donation limit. Walker acknowledged Young's largess after becoming governor -- one of Walker's first guests into the governor's office was none other than Fred Young. One of Young's pet issues has been opposition to rail in Wisconsin, a position shared by Walker, who rejected millions in federal aid to build commuter rail connecting Madison to Chicago and Minneapolis.
Fighting for the Freedom to OutsourceYoung was introduced by Koch Industries executive and lobbyist Kevin Gentry, who said, "Fred is a long-time fighter, freedom fighter, in this movement, from Racine, Wisconsin. Former owner of Young Radiator."
The "freedom fighter" exercised his freedom to move good jobs out of Wisconsin. Young cashed out his Wisconsin company for over $70 million in 1998 to a group that quickly merged with WABTEC, a multinational with a history of outsourcing jobs to make goods in China and elsewhere. But, even before Young sold the company, he worked to ship good-paying Wisconsin jobs out of state. Back in 1991, Young Radiator closed its Racine plant and fired 120 Wisconsin workers in order to boost his profits by outsourcing work to Iowa and Tennessee plants that did not give union-negotiated benefits.
Americans for Prosperity not "Grassroots," and Aids Political CampaignsGentry also noted that "As part of our efforts last year, in 2010, I was on the road ... in Wisconsin, here at one of Americans for Prosperity's last minute kind of get out the vote tours. And I went to an event in Racine, Wisconsin, and met up with Fred. It was sort of a Tea Party AFP event designed to help in the congressional races."
Lee Fang at Think Progress points out that the recordings clearly demonstrate that little is "grassroots" about Americans for Prosperity events -- they are funded and organized by David Koch's group and other wealthy interests, with a goal of helping to elect right-wing Republicans. Fang notes that AFP not only spent $45 million on secretly-funded attack ads, but also spent millions more on bus tours designed to help elect Republicans, quantities neither disclosed to the Federal Elections Commission nor documented as part of election spending.
Young Passes the Torch to "Judge" Napolitano and Charles KochAfter Young praised the Koch brothers and their "well-oiled machine," he introduced the main speaker, Fox News personality and former judge Andrew Napolitano. "He has been one of the few people with enough enthusiasm and power of opinion capable of sitting in for Glenn Beck when he's been on hiatus," Young said, telling the crowd that he and his wife are big fans of Napolitano and his Fox News show Freedom Watch.
Napolitano made some apt remarks about the unconstitutionality of the PATRIOT Act, but then likened tax collection to the police state. Napolitano also revealed he sometimes gets in "a little bit of trouble" from his employers at Fox for being tough on Republicans.
Charles Koch followed Napolitano, and compared the effort to defeat President Barack Obama in 2012 to the Iraq War, calling the election the "mother of all wars." According to some accounts, he likened President Obama to Saddam Hussein, an allegation Koch Industries disputes. The elder Koch pleaded with the millionaires in the crowd to help fund the Kochs' anti-Obama efforts, saying it is "for the life and death of this country."
Koch went on to give shout-outs to donors who gave more than $1 million to the cause; their bios can be found here.