The Koch brothers announced months ago that they were going to spend close to one billion dollars in this year’s elections. We know that they aren’t giving this money to Donald Trump, so where is it going? Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this with attorney Howard Nations.
Transcription of the above video:
Farron: The Koch brothers announced months ago that they were going to spend close to 1 billion dollars in this year’s elections, and we know that they aren’t giving that money to Donald Trump, so where is that money going? Joining me now to answer that question is Howard Nations. Sir Howard, a long time ago, the Koch brothers said, “Look, we are going to spend almost 1 billion dollars in this year’s election.” We had Karl Rove and his little crossroads group. They were going to come out and be big spenders in this election. Adelson, all the usual suspects. They had such high hopes for this year’s election, and then suddenly nothing. Everybody seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth, and Trump has just taken over. Koch brothers, Rove, Adelson, all those guys are seemingly quiet at the moment. What’s your take on this?
Howard: Well, Rove and Adelson were tweeted to death by Donald Trump, but the Koch brothers are still very much alive and well and working their magic. The Koch brothers are omnipresent, but they are under the radar. When you see the do-nothing house of representatives, that’s the Koch brothers. When you see legislative races, state attorney general races, congressional races, that’s the Koch brothers. They are still the most powerful single force in the republican party, and the manage that as well as anything else through the American Legislative Exchange Counsel which carries out the Koch brothers’ legislative agenda.
If you look at it, what the Koch brothers want. On the environment they want no penalties, no regulations, no legislation to stop pollution because they are one of the 3 largest polluters in the United States. They want privatization of public schools. They want to rewrite the history books as they have in Texas to reflect their father’s John Birch Society philosophy. They want nonregulation of the financial industry, union busting as they have done in Wisconsin, especially public employee unions and teacher’s unions. They oppose minimum wage. They want no taxation of the upper 1%, and they want to hand pick and elect the president.
Now, 10 out of 11 is not bad. Their only failure has been the presidential politics. It may have something to do with the quality of their candidacy. They’ve backed Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, and in 2016 their big guy was Scott Walker where they invested 10 million dollars in his recall election and had him teed up for the presidential race. He fell flat in the presidential rate, another victim of Trump.
Farron: It’s interesting that their guy, Walker, got trounced so bad nationally. He was one of the first people to drop out even though he was never at the kids’ table debates, he was always on the big boys’ stage, but he still couldn’t hack it, and so the Koch brothers, they are very quiet right now. About a year ago they were doing all their little PR, talking about, well, “we’re really the victims here. The 1% are so under-represented in this country.” They tried to do that whole makeover thing. They sat down with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski trying to be like, “We are the good guys. We want to do all these great things,” but then they realized nobody bought it.
They didn’t say they were going to back off of politics. They said, “We are going to go under the radar.”
Howard: They have.
Farron: That’s what we are seeing today.
Howard: They’ve had a very successful time since 2010. Their success is at the federal level. After 2 years of Obama from 2008 to 2010 being highly successful. They seized control of the congress in 2010 with the Tea Party Revolution. They put up $45 million dollars into the 2010 congress, and they stopped the Obama’s legislative agenda in its tracks, and it’s been stopped ever since. Obama has had to move to executive orders just because of that. On the state levels where they are very highly active, they choose governors, attorney generals, state legislatures, and they pay attention to something very smart. They choose secretaries of state. They control all this through the American Legislative Exchange Counsel which drafts the Koch brothers’ agenda into state laws.
They then give that to their state legislators who carry those as bills, and they pass it. The Koch brothers’ agenda becomes the law of the state all over the country. What have they got? Thirty-five states that the republicans are controlling. They also draft anti-voting legislation through Alec. They suppress voter turnout. They have voter ID laws, and they target and reduce democratic demographics. Here’s where the secretary of state comes in. The secretaries of state control voting, the rules and regulations, the hours that polling places are open, how many polling places there are in each district. They understand that, and that is a major means of suppressing the vote, but their goal is to suppress minorities, college students, any demographic group that might be supporting democrats, and they’ve been very successful.
Farron: What we are seeing now from the Kochs is the same thing we saw from them in 2014. They knew that they weren’t going to have too much of an impact on the national elections, the senators and the house of representatives, so what they did in 2014 was they took their fights to the states. They passed tax ordinances in small towns in Ohio. They worked with the Dakotas to pass laws allowing more fracking. Those were things that at the time nobody paid attention to. We didn’t know they were happening. It’s very hard to track the money in state elections, but we found out after the fact. The Center for Media and Democracy did a great of exposing all of this, and they are exposing all of it right now. The question is, why isn’t anyone paying attention? We’ve seen them do this before. We’ve seen it be successful, and they are doing the same thing right now except they are doing it with close to a billion dollars.
They have spent over 400 million at this point already, so why are we not paying more attention to this? As far as the national Democratic party, they should be very concerned.
Howard: This is where they are under the radar. It is the social welfare nonprofits. In 1999-2010, there were 1551 social welfare nonprofits created in the United States. After 2010 when the Tea Party Revolution took over, 2010-2016, there have been 2316 nonprofits added. That is 150% increase in 6 years. Why? Citizens united, dark money. Social nonprofits that make no donor disclosures. They don’t identify where the money comes from, and they are controlled by rules that they are allegedly supposed to spend only half of their money on politics, but, as a result, you recall in 2012, the IRS, the audit division was attacked as targeting conservative nonprofits.
That’s what they are supposed to do. They are supposed to attack and target all nonprofits to make sure that they are spending in accordance with the rules that make them nonprofits, and that was their reason for existing. Republican politicians attack the IRS, threaten to cut off their budget if they kept it up, so the IRS backed off, so now these social network groups which are nonprofits are no longer audited by the IRS. The result is, in 2012, that very year when they backed off, the social network groups spent 257 million dollars on federal elections alone.
Now, their latest thing is, and this is the Koch brothers, the social networks have increased greatly in the south because in the south their agenda is easier because they have a lot of people who are already preconditioned for the same kind of agenda that they are, so they are targeting states like Virginia, Texas, Florida, Georgia. Virginia and Florida are obviously presidential swing states. The other states are very big on voter suppression. North Carolina, Texas huge on voter suppression, and so they are there. They are under the radar, and they are being extremely successful.
Farron: I think it’s important to point out as well, they are not only fighting for the presidential election. They are fighting for their own interests in each of those states. For example, in the state of Florida, we found out not too long ago that they actually fought an initiative that would have increased the amount of state investment into solar energy. We are talking about something as simple as that. The Koch brothers helped to kill that just so that they could continue to exploit fossil fuels in the state of Florida. They are doing this everywhere. They are heavily involved in Texas and Oklahoma. They want to bring it to Virginia. They want to go back into Ohio with it, and so we are going to see a lot more of this.
Again, my big concern here is that the Democratic party itself is not out there fighting this. To be honest, I don’t know that they can. I don’t know that we can fight close to 1 billion dollars of outside money that is being funneled, almost laundered through these nonprofit organizations that are clearly violating the law, yet they can’t do anything about it. It almost seems at this point we are just, we have to sit back and accept it. It’s a terrifying reality, but this is what’s happening, and I don’t have any answers.
Howard: Let me give you a quick, easy history lesson. In 2012, they spent close to a billion dollars, and their major target was to defeat Obama, so it can happen. They lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Rove lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Adelson, they all lost big time. Now, they won in the states, and that is their big deal, so right now what they are doing … Their new deal is they have carefully targeted and funded individual groups. For example, how many Democrats have ever heard of Libre? Libre is a nonprofit targeting Latino voters. It opposes Obamacare, opposes federal minimum wage. Now, you know Latinos want to oppose federal minimum wage, right? It supports market-based immigration. Market based means it’s okay for the Mexicans to come in and do all the things they do here that the white Americans don’t want to do as long as they go back home when they are through.
The YEM. How many have heard of the YEM? The YEM is a group, a generation of opportunity the call it. It’s a Koch group that targets millennials. They want to oppose government regulation. They oppose the national debt increase. They oppose the minimum wage. You know millennials want to oppose the minimum wage, right? They oppose Obamacare. You know millennials want to do that. They have another group called public notice, opposing government spending, opposing government regulation. They have another group they back called Christians Trust which is socially conservative. It is anti-LGBT. Another group they back is one of their nonprofits, Center for American Opportunity. Limited government.
Of course they have their Tea Party Patriots which is all about presidential elections, and once again, these guys seem to do everything right except pick presidential candidates. This year, the Tea Party Patriots backed Ted Cruz. They are there. They are everywhere. They’ve got all these nonprofits operating. They are targeted nonprofits, and those things I just listed opposing all those things I just listed, all of those are the Koch brothers’ agenda, and they are trying to convince the Latinos that it’s their agenda, the young that it’s their agenda, the Christians. It is the Christian agenda for the most part, but the Koch brothers understand one thing about politicians better than anybody else.
Politicians are concerned about 3 things. One is re-election. A lot of them are concerned secondly about getting a higher office. If you are in the state legislature, you want to go to the congress. If you are in the congress, you want to go to the Senate and so forth, but 3rd, they also want a profitable soft landing. If they get defeated for re-election and you are a Koch candidate, you are hired as a lobbyist, and that’s a nice little plush retirement fund, so they do it. They understand it, and you’ve got to give them credit. It’s evil, but it’s working.
Farron: It is, and unfortunately, you do. They play the game better than anyone else. Unfortunately, every time they win, it means the rest of us are the losers. Education right now is our greatest weapon. We are out here, we are talking about this. You know so much about this, and we appreciate you telling us these stories today. We will keep on it. We’ve got to fight back. This is a huge election year, and there is a lot more at stake than just the presidency. The Koch brothers understand it, and I think the Democratic party needs to understand that as well. Howard, thank you very much for talking with us today.
Howard: My pleasure Farron. Thanks.