Saturday, September 21, 2013

Koch's Americans for Prosperity Brings Ann Coulter to Madison in a Last-Minute Push to Stop "Obama's Failing Agenda"

Origninal Link:

By Will Dooling

On Sunday, Madison's Monona Terrace hosted a rally for the Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a "grassroots" nonprofit founded and funded by billionaire industrialist David Koch. AFP's last-minute Wisconsin rallies are the final move in their sprawling "Obama's Failed Agenda" bus tour, which is criss-crossing the nation with multiple buses and rallies in a final push to mobilize the Tea Party base. Despite the name, AFP has claimed in numerous press releases that their tour is "non-partisan." However, in Madison, AFP counted on three very partisan speakers: Canadian "health care refugee" Shona Holmes, Wisconsin talk-show host Vicki McKenna, and right-wing author and agitator Ann Coulter.

Ann Coulter "Still Clinging to My Guns and My Religion"

The centerpiece of the rally was a speech by Coulter. Audience members were requested to put away video cameras and tape recorders before Coulter began speaking. She opened by proclaiming "I'm Ann Coulter, and I'm still clinging to my guns and religion," before segueing into effusive praise for Wisconsin's former Senator Joe McCarthy, "that great American patriot." She also dispensed a few cursory opinions on energy policy ("No war for oil?...If there was ever a reason to go to war, oil is a reason,") and national defense ("You can't hug a child with nuclear arms?...Well you can't destroy a small Russian city with an American child.")

Coulter used a large portion of her speech to promote her new book "Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama." According to Coulter, "liberalism is the new black," and "after four years of the Obama presidency, their best argument is: 'you're a racist if you don't elect this black Jimmy Carter.'" Coulter repeated her frequently-stated belief that the Democratic party panders to minority voters in order to advance its true agenda: "Their constituency is not old people, poor people...or minorities...their constituency is government workers." Coulter stated that she preferred the Romney/Ryan ticket, saying of Romney "I know if he becomes president, he'll do the right thing." Coulter was quick to reassure her audience, however, that the Romney/Ryan plan to effectively privatize Medicare "does not touch anyone 55 years old or older."

Coulter attacked any federal attempt to regulate or police the healthcare industry, stating that, in her opinion, the skyrocketing cost of health care was "100% created by the government," and that, despite having driven to the event on the Interstate system built by Eisenhower "everything provided by the free market over time will become better and cheaper...everything provided by the government over time will become more expensive and worse." Later in her speech she contrasted Obama's response to the 2008 financial collapse with the administration of 1920's-era Republican Calvin Coolidge. In Coulter's opinion "Calvin Coolidge was a great president," because when he encountered the financial difficulties of the early 1920's, his response was to "do nothing...and we had the roaring twenties." Coulter lamented that, unfortunately, "when the Great Depression hit, we had a Democrat in charge," apparently forgetting that the first three years of the Great Depression happened under a Republican, Herbert Hoover. Coulter closed by reminding her audience that in its entire history, the United States "has been a power only for good." and that it is "the only non-imperial superpower left in the world." She warned that if "Obamacare is not repealed in the next few never will be...that's it, lights out, it's over."

Shona Holmes Warns "Keep the Government as Far Away from your Doctor as Possible"

Holmes opened at the rally, delivering a speech nearly identical to the speech she gave at a 60 Plus Association meeting in Madison just a few weeks ago.
Holmes claims to have fled to the United States from Canada in order to receive urgent medical care for a tumor on her optic chiasm, and that her experiences with both health care systems have lead her to conclude that the health care system in Canada (which is largely free) is inferior to the health care system in the United States (which is prohibitively expensive for many Americans). Holmes warned the crowd: "You have to keep your government as far away from your doctor as possible." Holmes said she had "no skin in this election whatsoever," and simply wanted to warn Americans about "what is happening in Canada."

She is heavily invested in the mission of AFP and other Tea Party groups pushing to overturn the Affordable Care Act. (It is unclear what, if anything, she is being paid, and by whom.) Holmes has been a frequent fixture at AFP rallys this year, and also appeared in an ad AFP ran earlier this year which echoed her claims and was simply titled "We Must Replace President Obama." Her speech was followed by a short speech by local radio personality Vicki McKenna, who rallied the audience to vote against Obama: "He needs this state, and we're not gonna give it to him."

AFP Distributes New Obama "Documentary"

At the event, tables staffed by AFP members offered informational brochures and DVDs, including copies of Joel Gilbert's piece, "Dreams from my Real Father", which peddles the claim that Obama's real father was African-American socialist John Marshall Davis. Over the past month, Gilbert has distributed his film at numerous Tea Party events and purportedly mass-mailed it to 2.7 million people in swing states. The film alleges that Obama orchestrated a massive conspiracy to conceal his true paternity, going so far as to receive covert plastic surgery to hide his resemblance to Davis. Apparently, it is worse to be born of a socialist in some circles than to be born in a foreign country.

How a Koch Brothers 'Business League' Spent $236 Million to Frame the Debate

Original Link:

By John Nichols

“There is looming up a new and dark power.… The accumulation of individual wealth seems to be greater than it ever has been since the downfall of the Roman Empire. And the enterprises of the country are aggregating vast corporate combinations of unexampled capital, boldly marching, not for economic conquests only but for political power.”

So said Edward Ryan, the populist jurist of the mid-nineteenth century whose rage at the corruption of democracy by the wealthy and their corporations inspired generations of progressives and populists to try to constrain “the money power.”

Ryan’s warning, delivered in 1873, described the politics of the twenty-first century more accurately than most of the reporting by today’s pliant contemporary media.

“For the first time really in our politics, money is taking the field as an organized power,” he explained. “It is unscrupulous, arrogant and overbearing.”

But it is not proud.

No matter what the billionaire Koch brothers and their operatives say.

This week, it has been revealed that Charles and David Koch and their wealthy partners funded an, until now, “secret bank” that made “grants” of $236 million during the 2012 election cycle to maintain the right-wing political infrastructure that advances their economic interests. And by all accounts, they’re just getting started.

When the official paperwork is filed with the Internal Revenue Service in short order, it will, according to documents shared by the new “Freedom Partners” group with Politico, reveal massive “grants” to undermine implementation of the Affordable Care Act ($115 million to the anti-Obamacare Center to Protect Patient Rights), maintain the Tea Party movement and related political projects ($32.3 million to Americans for Prosperity and smaller checks for the Tea Party Express and the Tea Party Patriots), promote Paul Ryan’s austerity agenda on Social Security and Medicare ($15.7 to the conservative 60-Plus Association), promote the right-wing social agenda in the states ($8.2 million to the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee), shore up the gun lobby ($3.5 million to the National Rifle Association) and develop the ability of conservative groups to use data mining to advance their projects ($5 million to the Themis Trust voter database initiative).
This is not about contributions to candidates or campaigns.

This is not about contributions to parties or traditional political organizations.

This is about “framing the debate.”

Winning elections matters. But shaping the discourse—so that no whichever party wins, so that whichever candidate prevails, the discussion defaults to a narrow set of “options”—matters more.
The management of the debate by powerful interests explains why a Congress that cannot seem to do anything useful will this week vote for the forty-first time to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Why “entitlement reforms” that the American people do not want remain “on the table.” Why Washington insiders keep proposing the same tax breaks for the rich, free trade deals and austerity schemes. Why state legislators talk about restricting the right to choose rather than expanding public education.
Freedom Partners is the latest of the many Koch creations that shape the discourse and the politics of the United States—not always with success, but with a consistency that assures long-term influence. Koch Industries is quick to point out that “Freedom Partners is a non-profit, non-partisan business league” that “operates independently of Koch Industries.” Yes, but three of the group’s five directors list Koch connections in their biographies and a fourth is one of Charles Koch’s close friends. In addition to the Kochs, the major donors to Freedom Partners, which raised $256 million during the 2012 election cycle, are reportedly the wealthy attendees at the secretive policy summits that have become command-performance events for prominent Republicans such as House Budget Committee chairman Ryan and House majority leader Eric Cantor.

“Our members are proud to be part of [Freedom Partners],” the group’s president, Marc Short, told Politico.

No, they’re not.

In the same conversation where he spoke about the “proud” Freedom Partners “members,” Short refused to reveal their identities. And he refused to say how much money the various billionaires and millionaires are chipping in to buy a piece of the American dream—except to note that the top donor gave around $25 million, so it’s not all Koch money. Which begs a question: Who else is buying?
And another question: How do groups like this get away with so much secrecy?

Organized under section 501(c)6 of the Tax Code, Freedom Partners operates as a trade association or “business league”—as in the National Football League.

Trade associations that utilize this section of the Tax Code must reveal the recipients of their “grants.” But they do not generally have to reveal the sources of those grants because the lists of donors they file with the IRS are not considered public documents.

Which brings us back to Edward Ryan.

The populist judge closed his great rant of 1873 by saying: “The question will arise and arise in your day, though perhaps not fully in mine: Which shall rule, wealth or man? Which shall lead, money or intellect. Who shall fill public stations, educated and patriotic freemen or the feudal serfs of corporate capital?”

There’s not much question that wealth rules the day. While banks and Wall Street insiders get bailouts, great American cities are driven into bankruptcy.

There’s not much question that money trumps intellect. What else could explain the focus of official Washington on billionaire-backed schemes that would “fix the debt” by lowering tax rates for billionaires while at the same time imposing “chained-CPI” cuts on retirees with fixed incomes?
There are still a few educated and patriotic freemen, like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (who warns that the Koch brothers are shaping a “plutocracy” that is “of the rich, by the rich and for the rich”), and there are educated and patriotic freewomen, like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
But Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan provide daily confirmation that the feudal serfs of corporate capital have occupied public stations. And that occupation is not merely a Republican project; in Washington and across the country there are Democrats who preach privatizations, austerity cuts and policies that will only result in a redistribution of the wealth upward.

So we have answered most of Edward Ryan’s questions.

But they only point to new questions:

Who is paying to create a “money power” politics where wealth rules, money trumps intellect and feudal serfs of corporate capital occupy public stations?
Why are they allowed to operate in secret?

And what are we the people going to do about it?

Americans for Prosperity Rally Calls for "Nullifying" Health Care Law (with Help from ALEC)

Original Link:

By Brendan Fischer and Laura Stiegerwald

The evening after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Wisconsin chapter of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity held a "Hands Off My Health Care" rally to plan next steps in their effort to defeat "Obamacare." The plan apparently involves American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation.

"Nullification" of Health Care Law Advocated

"Any act or set of actions that you take on a state or a local level which has as its effect rendering a federal act null and void -- that's what we are trying to do," Michael Boldin of the California-based Tenth Amendment Center told the crowd of about 400 people gathered at the Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.

Boldin was advocating for "nullification," a legal theory supported by conservatives that asserts any state has the right to nullify or invalidate a federal law the state deems unconstitutional. According to Boldin, "[Thomas] Jefferson said, 'whensoever the federal government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoratitaive, void and have no force; and nullification is the rightful remedy.'" The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected nullification, most recently in the 1950s when Southern states tried using the strategy to resist racial integration of public schools.

ALEC Has Lobbied to Defeat Health Reforms

Boldin said that constitutional amendments adopted in Ohio and Arizona could provide the basis for a nullification challenge to the federal health care law. He explained that the amendments declare, "no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer or health care provider to participate in the health care system."

The Ohio and Arizona laws Boldin referenced echo the ALEC "model" Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act. The ties between these laws and ALEC is revealed by in-depth investigations into ALEC's influence in Arizona and Ohio.

Open records requests submitted by the Center for Media and Democracy revealed that ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Director Christie Herrera emailed Wisconsin legislators in December 2010 encouraging them to introduce ALEC's Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act. Herrerra recommended they use the language introduced in Arizona, which she says "expands and updates ALEC's original Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act." The following April, a version of the bill was introduced in Wisconsin and passed the state senate, but failed to pass the assembly.
Similar bills were introduced in 43 other states in recent years. The laws passed as a constitutional amendment in four states and as statutory provisions in eleven. According to ALEC, the laws set the stage for Tenth Amendment litigation by creating state laws at odds with the federal healthcare reform's individual mandate. Legal scholars expect that this litigation would fail because the federal law would trump state law under the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause (Article VI).
Wisconsin State Senator Leah Vukmir, who is on the ALEC Board of Directors and the Chair of the ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force, was quoted in ALEC's press release about the Supreme Court's decision. She also spoke at the AFP rally.

According to ALEC's "Health" Co-Chair: "It Will Destroy our Economy"

At the rally, Vukmir did not specifically reference ALEC legislation but said generally that Obamacare is "devastating to our individual freedoms, our religious freedoms. To freedoms. It will destroy our economy."

"Obamacare is going to destroy quality healthcare and we have to intervene," she said, asserting the health care law would lead to "increased costs and lower availability."

Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families says otherwise. In an interview with the Center for Media and Democracy, he said there are approximately 500,000 people in the state who are currently uninsured, and estimated that between two-thirds and three-quarters of those individuals would get coverage because of the Affordable Health Care Act reforms, which include a Medicaid expansion, health care exchanges, and tax credits for small businesses that offer insurance to their employees.

Other Wisconsin legislators speaking at the rally included Reps. David Craig and Bill Kramer (who is a member of ALEC's Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force, as of 2011, which gives insurance company members an equal vote on "model" legislation).
The day after the "Hands off my Healthcare" rally, Americans for Prosperity launched a massive, $9 million ad buy in twelve battleground states for the November elections (including Wisconsin), attacking President Obama for passing a healthcare reform law the Supreme Court described as a "tax" in finding the law consistent with Congress' powers. "How can we afford this tax? We're already struggling," the ad claimed.

Walker Plans to Thwart Healthcare Reform

In a statement released after the U.S. Supreme Court announced their decision, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said, "Wisconsin will not take any action to implement ObamaCare." Walker reiterated that point in an appearance on CBS' Face The Nation on Sunday, a sentiment shared by other GOP governors like Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, who has also worked to implement ALEC's agenda in his state.

Last year, Walker turned down $38 million in federal funding and announced the state had stopped work on designing the health insurance marketplace "exchanges," pending the outcome of the Supreme Court decision. Under the Supreme Court's decision, states are still required to implement the exchanges but can opt-out of expanding Medicaid coverage. Walker now says the state is awaiting the outcome of the November elections before implementing any part of the health care law -- but if Romney loses, the state would only have two months to design an exchange before the January 2013 deadline, after which the federal government would impose its own plan.

Even if former governor and Bain Capital partner Mitt Romney were to win, Republicans would also have to retain control of the House and get control of sixty votes in the Senate to overturn "Obamacare." Few expect this to happen.

"There will be an exchange and the real question is whether the state is going to participate in the developing of the exchange or not," said Walker's Democratic predecessor Jim Doyle, who now serves as a national co-chairman for the group Know Your Care, which promotes the health care law. "Part of a governor's job is preparing for things that may not go the way you want them to go."

Koch-backed group launches new attack on health care law

Original Link:

A conservative group backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch will launch a new round of advertising Thursday to attack President Obama's health care law, less than two weeks before enrollment opens for new health care exchanges.

Americans for Prosperity will spend $3.1 million advertising in six states, said President Tim Phillips. Its 60-second ad stars an older woman who said she has twice survived cancer and frets about government interference in a medical system that she says has saved her life.

The commercial will run in Ohio and Virginia — both presidential swing states — along with North Carolina, Alaska, Louisiana and Arkansas, all home to Democratic senators who are top GOP targets in next year's elections. The ad will run through Oct. 2.

The advertising is part of a persistent GOP-led push to sow doubts about Obama's leadership and the 2010 health care law that is his signature legislative achievement. A USA TODAY/Pew Poll released this week shows 53% of those surveyed disapproved of the law, and 41% said it would have a "mostly negative" effect on them and their families in the coming years. Only 25% predicted mostly positive results.

Foes of the Affordable Care Act have run nearly five times the number of TV commercials in recent months as its proponents have aired, a new advertising analysis shows.

Between July 1 and Sept. 16, Americans for Prosperity led all advertising, running more than 3,200 spots to slam the law, according to a tally of advertising by Kantar Media.

That's four times the number of ads placed in the same period by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, charged with implementing the law, Kantar's estimates show.

"Opponents have turned this into their primary club in their campaign to batter the president," said Elizabeth Wilnervice president of Kantar's Campaign Media Analysis Group. "The Republican mantra has become: less taxes, more jobs and Obamacare sucks."

The law faces its biggest test Oct. 1 when enrollment opens for the new online marketplaces, known as exchanges.

Under the law, most Americans without health insurance must buy coverage through the exchanges or pay a fine. The administration hopes to sign up 7 million uninsured Americans in the program's first year. The law's success relies, in part, on persuading the young and healthy to enroll to balance the costs of those with chronic conditions.

Phillips said his group is working for the law's eventual repeal. "We want to keep this issue at the forefront," he said.

Conservatives also have used the issue to energize their voting base. Though the spending is relatively small at this point, advertising about the Affordable Care Act already has begun to crop up in next year's midterm elections for Congress, Kantar's data show. Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a super PAC supporting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's re-election, recently included the health care law in its ad targeting McConnell's leading Democratic challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Proponents, meanwhile, say they plan to ramp up spending. HHS is planning its own advertising campaign in the fall, but has not released specifics.

"We will continue educating and informing the uninsured," agency spokeswoman Joanne Peters said in an e-mail.

Dan Mendelson, who oversaw outreach for the children's health insurance program in the 1990s during the Clinton administration, said the Obama administration's publicity efforts to date have been "tepid," but said it's hard to sell insurance plans that aren't yet available.

Once the enrollment opens on Oct. 1, Americans will see even more advertising from insurance companies touting their services before enrollment ends on March 31, 2014, he said.

"This law has been a political football for a long time," said Mendelson, now CEO of consulting firm Avalere Health. "As of Oct. 1, it will become a commercial insurance offering."

Proponents say they are confident consumers will respond to nuts-and-bolts information about health insurance and tune out the political spin.

Enroll America, a non-profit group run by former White House official Ann Filipic that is encouraging Americans to shop for insurance in new online marketplaces, is doing no traditional television advertising. Instead, it plans digital advertising to target uninsured individuals through social media and online sites, said spokeswoman Jessica Barba Brown.

It also has started a massive outreach campaign, deploying 127 staffers to 10 states that have not established their own health care exchanges. An estimated 3,000 volunteers have been recruited to help knock on doors, staff phone banks and pass out health care literature at an array of gathering places, from farmer's markets to churches.

Enroll America plans to spend "tens of millions of dollars" on the effort, Brown said.
"This is about to become real for people and that's what we are focusing our energy on," she said. "We want to make sure we can connect people with the care they need."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

'Rosetta Stone' of the Right: Koch Bros. Financial Cabal Exposed

Original Link:

By Jacob Chamberlain

Politico exposes quiet Koch outfit that operates as 'secret bank' for shadowy right-wing causes with hundreds of millions

A Politico exclusive published Thursday reveals for the first time that a highly secretive Virginia-based group serves as "the Koch brothers' secret bank," spending $250 million in 2012 alone "to shape political and policy debate nationwide."

According to Politico, Freedom Partners, the second largest "shadow money" group in the U.S., funnels money from the Koch brothers and other anonymous right-wing donors to fund numerous "shadow money" campaign groups such as American's for Prosperity, Center to Protect Patient Rights, and American Future Fund. Freedom Partners has been "cutting checks as large as $63 million to groups promoting conservative causes," the Politico investigation found.

Freedom Partners has largely flown under the radar until now, but the revelations of how it operates fills in a large piece of the puzzle behind the extensive and elusive money trails of right-wing political spending in the post-Citizens United world.

The group's 38-page IRS filing examined by Politico, "amounts to the Rosetta Stone of the vast web of conservative groups — some prominent, some obscure — that spend time, money and resources to influence public debate, especially over Obamacare."
As Politico reports:
The group has about 200 donors, each paying at least $100,000 in annual dues. It raised $256 million in the year after its creation in November 2011, the document shows. And it made grants of $236 million — meaning a totally unknown group was the largest sugar daddy for conservative groups in the last election, second in total spending only to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which together spent about $300 million. [...]
Freedom Partners is organized under the same section of the Tax Code as a trade association, a 501(c)6, which allows the group to conceal its donors from public release, although the amounts and recipients of its major grants are public. [...]
Members are drawn from the Koch brothers’ semiannual conferences, a 10-year-old tradition that draws top politicians — including, last month, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Many seminar attendees also give directly to Koch-approved groups, and the Freedom Partners funds do not include the Kochs’ many gifts to university think tanks.