On Thursday, the Democratic SuperPAC American Bridge launched realkochfacts.com, a digital project that delves into the Koch brothers, their policy agenda, business impact, and political spending, including a state-by-state analysis of how the big-spending conservatives have affected local legislation.
The website’s release comes on the same day that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to take to the Senate floor in support of a constitutional amendment that will reinstate limitations on campaign spending, contributions, and independent group spending. These limits were recently eliminated by McCutcheon v. FEC, which further loosened campaign spending regulations that were previously weakened by the Citizens United decision in 1988. J. Gerald Hebert, executive director of the Legal Center, said that the decision “exponentially increased the already significant political influence of the very richest while further undermining the influence of the overwhelming majority of Americans.”
With realkochfacts.com, American Bridge hopes to draw attention to a specific subset of the very richest: Charles and David Koch. According to the website, in conjunction with Americans For Prosperity, the Koch brothers spent more than $122 million during the 2012 election. Politico also reports that this year, the Koch brothers aim to spend more than $125 million “on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives.” And according to a Politico source close to AFP, the $125 million number is a “very conservative estimate.”
According to a recent New York Times article, the chief aim of AFP is not only to advance Republican candidates, but more importantly, to convince “Americans that big government is bad government.” And with a veritable arsenal of financial ammunition, American Bridge believes that “voters need to know what’s at stake,” especially with midterm elections on the horizon. Gwen Rocco, the spokesperson for American Bridge, told The National Memo,
The organizations the Kochs fund and the extreme conservative candidates they support show the truth behind their agenda: supporting tax cuts for the wealthy, weakening Medicare, and eliminating the minimum wage. The Real Koch Facts project will serve as a daily research, communications and rapid response effort to show voters just how dangerous the Kochs’ self-serving agenda is for working families.
AFP has advanced that agenda in a variety of ways, notably opposing Hurricane Sandy relief, renewable energy, and environmental protection. Given that Koch Industries, America’s second largest private company, is a titan in the petroleum and fossil fuel industry, AFP’s resistance to alternative energy sources and stemming pollution comes as little surprise. It also shows how closely tied the Koch brothers’ personal interests are to their political maneuverings and AFP’s donations.
Following the Hurricane Sandy disaster, AFP’s director of policy wrote to the Senate: “Unless the legislation is fully offset with other spending reductions, I urge you to vote NO on the Hurricane Sandy disaster-aid supplemental.” AFP also sent the same message in opposition to an amendment that sought to provide “$33 billion in funding for long-term projects, including repairs to federal buildings, coastlines and subway tunnels to protect against future disasters.”
In regard to environmental issues, Greenpeace reports that since 1997, the Koch brothers have given over $67 million to groups denying climate change. This is likely spurred by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s finding that “Koch Industries ranked in the top 30 polluters nationwide in air, water, and greenhouse gases.” A Greenpeace examination of lobbying records show that for the past decade, the Koch brothers have deployed more lobbyists than Dow, Dupont, American Petroleum Institute, and the Chamber of Commerce in order to block legislation that seeks to address the “bulk storage of poison gasses at dangerous chemical facilities such as oil refineries, chemical manufacturing facilities, and water treatment plants.” The only organization with more lobbyists for this cause was the American Chemistry Council.
Sen. Reid’s support of Thursday’s proposed constitutional amendment, which he hopes will “grant Congress the authority to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns,” comes as a direct attack on the Kochs, their agenda, and their financially backed political influence. With Mitch McConnell voicing the opinion of seemingly the entirety of the GOP, that “in our society, spending is speech,” there is a pronounced inequality in representation. In excerpts of Reid’s remarks obtained by the Washington Post, the Majority Leader points out,
The Supreme Court has equated money with speech, so the more money you have, the more speech you get, and the more influence in our democracy. That is wrong. Every American should have the same ability to influence our political system. One American, one vote. That’s what the Constitution guarantees. The Constitution does not give corporations a vote. And the Constitution does not give dollar bills a vote…
In Reid’s view, “the Kochs’ bid for a hostile takeover of American democracy is calculated to make themselves even richer” — and realkochfacts.com seems poised to prove his argument.
Screenshot via Al-Jazeera