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Pernicious Koch Brothers Political Influence

Koch BrothersAn earlier article on America's Tea Party discussed its backers, including David and Charles Koch, billionaire owners of Koch Industries, a privately owned energy conglomerate with interests in manufacturing, ranching, forestry, finance, and numerous other ventures in 60 countries and 45 states.

In 2009, Forbes called it America's second largest private company after Cargill with annual revenues of $100 billion. Donating generously to recruit, educate, fund, and organize Tea Party protests, they helped turn their private agenda into a mass movement of working Americans backing policies oppositie their own self-interest, added proof of the power of persuasion to deceive and betray.

On April 4, Center for American Progress (CAP) Action Fund contributor Tony Carrk published a report headlined, "The Koch Brothers: What You Need to Know About the Financiers of the Radical Right," saying:

They use their vast wealth to bankroll "right-wing political action groups, think tanks, and individual politicians" to advance extremist notions of limited government, deregulation, privatization of state enterprises, assets and resources, low corporate and personal taxes, minimal social services, anti-unionism, and overall business friendly anti-populist policies.

They strongly oppose healthcare and financial reform, collective bargaining rights, and environmental sanity, among other issues. Since the mid-to-late 1990s, they donated over $85 million to dozens of right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups, including Americans for Prosperity, an anti-labor group for unrestricted free enterprise, limited government, tax cuts for the rich, job-killing trade agreements, and right to offshore jobs freely to low-wage countries.

The Kochs also donated directly to 62 of the 87 House Republican freshmen and participate actively in state politics, spending $5.2 million on candidates and ballot measures in 34 states since 2003, besides direct donations to 13 governors last year.

According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings alone, Koch Industries PAC contributed $43,000 to Republican Scott Walker's governatorial campaign, second only to the $43,125 given by state housing and realtor groups. Moreover, Koch PAC helped Walker and other Republicans by contributing $1 million to the Republican Governors Association. RGA then spent $65,000  supporting Walker and $3.4 million on television attack ads and mailings against his opponent, Milwaukee Democrat Mayor Tom Barrett.

It made the difference between victory and defeat, and let Walker advance anti-labor, pro-business legislation favoring Koch and other corporate predators, including a provision to let Walker use no-bid contacts to sell state assets. Among them - dozens of small power plants Koch may covet and be able to buy cheap.

Moreover, with 2012 elections ahead, the Kochs plan to raise $88 million for potential Republican presidential candidates, besides millions more for House and Senate ones, as well as state and local officials.

Access the full CAP report.

It details vast Koch holdings and interests, as well as its web of political influence that let Charles and David amass an estimated combined $44 billion personal net worth.

On April 7, the Center for Public Integrity's (CPI) John Farrell headlined, "Koch's web of influence," saying:

"Koch spends tens of millions trying to shape federal policies that affect their global business empire," CPI explaining that its lobbying disclosure files and federal regulatory records show "a lobbying steamroller for the company's interests...."

In recent years, its spending soared from $857,000 in 2004 to $20 million in 2008, then another $20.8 million through 2010 "to mold, gut or kill more than 100 prospective bills or regulations."

CPI founder, Charles Lewis says:

"The Kochs are on a whole different level. There's no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I've been in Washington since Watergate, and I've never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times."

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Koch's lobbying expenses ranked in the top five among oil and gas companies alone, using 30 well-connected firms in 2010 to assure its interests are well-served.

Another key Koch issue is controlling the message, the topic of Nation magazine contributors Mark Ames and Mike Elk in their April 20 article headlined, "Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch," saying:

Ahead of last November's elections, Koch pressured its employees to support company choices, "warning them about the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country" for disobeying.

Last year's Citizens United Supreme Court decision, granting corporations unlimited free speech, lets them politick brazenly within the law, including intimidating employees to back company choices and spread right-wing propaganda.

"Legal experts say that this kind of corporate-sponsored propagandizing has been almost unheard-of (since) New Dear-era laws," restricting workplace political activism and pressure.

Moreover, Citizens United lets companies prohibit unions from similar practices because of infringing on private property. The decision literally legitimizes "court-enforced corporatocracy." As a result, "workers across the country should start preparing for a future workplace environment in which political proselytizing is the new normal," at the same time prohibiting opposition views.

A Final Comment

On April 19, Ralph Nader's article headlined, "Waiting for the Spark," speculating about "(w)hat could start a popular resurgence in this country against the abuses of concentrated, avaricious corporatism" that aroused Nader once to call Washington "corporate occupied territory."

Today, in fact, it's a wholly owned subsidiary, doing whatever corporate interests want because bipartisan complicity serves them at the expense of peace, democratic values, and public needs.

As a result, growing inequality, poverty, hunger, homelessness, unemployment, injustice, and despair affect millions of Americans, on their own and out of luck because politicians don't care.

What will ignite them, asks Nader, suggesting that "(h)istory teaches us that the spark usually is smaller than expected (and) wholly unpredictable or unimaginable."

Dry tinder, in fact, proliferates everywhere. What better time than now for a clean sweep "Jeffersonian revolution." It can't come a moment too soon to rid America of noxious influences like Koch and corrupt politicians, hired hands serving them at the expense of vital popular needs gone begging.


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