A national political operation, organized by the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, is committing nearly a billion dollars ($889 million) to the looming 2016 presidential race in an unprecedented effort to help boost conservative/libertarian/Tea Party candidates. What You Want is a Koch.
Their master plan is to build on a prior strategy that was immensely successful during the 2014 midterm elections, which gave the Republicans control of both chambers of Congress. The billionaire brothers' political money had convinced millions of ( low-information?) Americans to vote for the Koch brothers' best interests (such as the Keystone pipeline), rather than vote in their own best economic interests — such as on issues like Social Security. The Kochs called Social Security "the most serious threat to the future stability of our society, next to the threat of nuclear war."
The Koch brothers could make billions in profits with the proposed Keystone pipeline, which TransCanada said will only temporarily employee 20,000 Americans during its construction. This is the Republican's one and only "jobs bill" — to build a Canadian pipeline to transport (mostly Canadian) dirty oil to refineries in the U.S. gulf for processing before being exported to the other countries (like China) on the open global market. So despite Republican claims, it will never make the U.S. "energy independent". And in defiance of a sitting American president, who has said he would veto any GOP bill to approve the pipeline, the CEO of the Canadian company (while attempting to seize privately-owned American property to build his pipeline) simply said, "It will be built".
The Koch brothers' "We Want to Rule the World" plan was announced to their uber-wealthy donors at a weekend meeting in Rancho Mirage, California (the Koch brothers' posh winter retreat). The event was hosted by Freedom Partners — a business lobby at the center of the Koch brothers' political operation, which also includes Americans for Prosperity. The Koch Side of Life.
Senators Rand "I Hate Poor People" Paul, Marco "I 'm a son of exiles" Rubio and Ted "I'm a Canadian Opportunist" Cruz — as well as Scott "I Hate Labor Unions" Walker — all of whom are mentioned as possible presidential candidates, took part in the Koch brothers' elitist gathering. (Some wonder: Was cash, Rolex watches, "painted ladies" or cushy post-election jobs ever promised? Because Things Go Better with Koch.)
889,000,000 (mostly tax-free) American dollars: That's how much Charles and David Koch hopes to spend on, not only the presidential race, but also on House and Senate contests, as well as other elections and policy fights in 2016 (such as State anti-labor "right to work" laws).
Besides literally buying the Republican Party, the Koch brothers are also attempting (with the Supreme Court's full blessing) to buy democracy in the United States of America. The Koch-endorsed groups make up a political machine that raises and spends more than any outside network in politics — and more than the official Republican and Democratic campaign committees.
And there's a good chance that much of the money the Kochs and their allies plan to unleash will be spent in the dark — that is, dirty money — with little disclosure of the true source of those millions. (Key parts of the Koch network are nonprofit advocacy groups that engage in political work without revealing their donors.)
The president of Freedom Partners (which hosted the Kochs' donor enclave), said that putting free-market ideals at the center of American life is the goal of the Kochs and their allies. But many people argue that these supposedly "free markets" are really "fraudulent markets", and rigged for the super-rich.
It's been well-known for a long time that Charles and David Koch will stop at nothing to purchase a government that grows their profits, weakens pollution standards and maintains tax breaks for big oil — all at the expense of investing in middle-class families who are struggling in an economy that's supposed to work for everyone, not just for the very rich, or politicos who rub elbows with these wealthy and powerful people.
Charles Koch had said his organization would not back down from its ambitions. "Americans have taken an important step in slowing down the march toward collectivism. But as many of you know, we don't rest on our laurels. We are already back at work and hard at it." Koch said the group's efforts have been "largely defensive to slow down a government that continues to swell and become more intrusive."
But anyone who spouts conservative/libertarian/Tea Party views, when they say "government", what they usually really mean is "people" — and usually it's the working-class and poor (aka the beasts they want to starve). So evidently, to the Koch brothers, because our population has "swelled", millions of average Americans have now become "intrusive" to them. (Well excuse us for living!!!)
And it's also odd that Sir Koch would use the term "collectivism" — the practice or principle of giving a group priority over each individual in it — when his own ideology gives his own personal priorities greater importance than the will of the majority (which is anti-democratic and promotes plutocracy/ oligarchy — not to mention, is very un-American.)
889 million (mostly tax-free and dirty) dollars. The Washington Post quips: "If the Kochs decided to blow all of that money on a Super Bowl ad on Sunday, instead of the 2016 campaign, they could run a spot that ran for 99 minutes ... That's longer than the game itself". And that's also what the multi-billionaire Koch brothers can gain or lose on the stock market in a single day.
When Senator Marco Rubio was asked by an ABC moderator about the role of wealthy donors (who invited senators to elite retreats) if they had too much political influence, Rubio replied mockingly: "As opposed to Hollywood or the mainstream media, you mean — or other multibillion-dollar entities that try to influence American politics every day? I believe in freedom of speech, and I believe spending money on political campaigns is a form of political speech that is protected under the Constitution. And the people who seem to have a problem with it are the ones who only want unions to be able to do it, their friends in Hollywood to be able to do it, and their friends in the media to be able to do it.”
But average working people (and of course, the very poor) don't have friends in Hollywood; nor are they friends will multi-millionaire media pundits. And sadly, most don't belong to a labor union either. And those who are "allowed" vote can't change the election or campaign rules (or how they're financed), because members of Congress (such as Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — who are
owned controlled influenced by those with the most capital) are the only ones who can change the rules. And the average voter can't change Congress (to change the rules) because the Supreme Court allowed those with the most capital to have the biggest and loudest megaphones (aka, Marco Rubio's twisted idea of what "freedom of speech" is supposed to really represent.)
To his credit, Senator Rand Paul indicated that he would support a narrow effort at campaign finance reform to restrict the political activities of those seeking government contracts: "Special interests can have a bad influence on government. The special interests that I’m concerned about are those who do business with government, get government contracts, get the government money, and then try to get more contracts. And I am for some limitations."
But Paul also should have mentioned Washington's "revolving door" policy as well — when politicos (and ranking military officers), after retiring from government service, go on to work as lobbyists for the very people they were supposedly regulating and taxing while in office (like wolves guarding the hen house.)
Senator Marco Rubio said that the real corruption was about special access, which wasn't happening with these mega-rich donors. "I don't know a single person in this room who's ever been to my office, and I haven't seen everyone here today, but a single one who's been to my office asking from government any special access." (Opps! No Rolex watch for Marco?)
At one point the ABC moderator brought up the "$10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increase" moment from the 2012 GOP presidential primary. All three senators danced around the question, but effectively said they would not take that deal. Rubio said, "You can't tax your way out of this problem anyway." But yet, almost everyone in the GOP would be perfectly willing to cut Social Security and Medicare, so long as no cuts were also made in defense spending — and so long as their PayPals (the CEOs) could continued to get their corporate welfare.
Speaking of which, Rubio also talked about shoring up Social Security and Medicare — and noted how people are living longer and willingly working into their 70s or longer. That brought laughter from the crowd. "What's the chuckles for?" Rubio said with an awkward laugh. [Editor's Note: It's still not clear as to what brought the laughter, but it was probably for two reasons: 1) Most people usually work longer out of financial necessity, not because they're just "willing" — and 2) Because, those wealthy donors also knew that it's usually the rich who are living longer. Heck, some have even had their bodies put into deep freeze after they died, to eventually be resurrected back to life (like a god) if the technology ever exists.]
According to Politico, in the end, Marco Rubio came out ahead of the other would-be GOP presidential candidates who had been invited to the Koch affair, according to a straw poll conducted by Frank Luntz (the GOP pollster) — while Rand Paul, who received the least enthusiastic response from donors, finished last in Luntz's poll. (While not in attendance at the Koch event, Sarah "I can see Russia" Palin is also considering running for POTUS.)
But no matter who eventually runs on the opposing team, Democrats will be hard pressed to find wealthy donors with pockets deep enough to match the Koch-coordinated effort in the race for 2016 — unless George Soros would like to donate $1 billion to the cause, rather than betting it against the British Pound again (Yes, sometimes the very rich do like to
gamble take huge risks.)
According to the president of Democracy Alliance, whether Democratic and progressive donors are willing to match the Kochs is the "wrong question" given that "we are working harder than ever to end the electoral arms race so that we can preserve a democracy that is not bought by a handful of rich people and corporations."
Many (maybe most) Americans now want publicly financed elections, because now they know for a fact (thanks in part to Stephen Colbert) that corporations are NOT "people" — and that they are only limited liability legal entities (that only exist on paper). These pieces of paper also give CEOs and other corporate execs many special legal and financial privileges that ordinary working people don't enjoy.
About 300 wealthy individuals (Koch donors) could now hold democracy hostage in America. In the court case of Citizens United, The Supremes claimed that this could never happen — and that foreign nationals could never have a voice in our government. During Obama's 2010 SOTU addresses, Justice Samuel Alito even called Obama a liar when the President had said:
"Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong."
But if one looks at who sits on the board of directors of these "multi-national" corporations, the Supreme's claim is ludicrous (especially when one considers what newly proposed "fast track" trade deals like the TPP can bring about in international law).
While almost no Republican Party leaders were invited to the Koch event, it has become a coveted invitation for the party’s rising stars, for whom the gathered multi-billionaires and multi-millionaires are a potential source of financing for campaigns and super PACs. And this year’s conference was the largest ever. (Talk about looking for a "handout"!)
The Koch brothers' current spending goal would allow its political organization to operate at the same financial scale as the Democratic and Republican parties. David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Obama, said "It’s no wonder the candidates show up when the Koch brothers call. [$889 million] is exponentially more money than any party organization will spend. In many ways, they have superseded the party.”
In other words, some American politicians (aka "representatives of the American people" — such as Senator Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz), are no longer obligated to a major American political party's official platform, but are only beholden to two mega-rich rich old white guys who want to rule the world (or at least, the United States of America). The Slate writes:
"Specifically, they [the Koch brothers] make themselves a powerful force in the fight to pick a presidential nominee. For the candidate, a huge part of running for president is building consensus. To have a chance at winning, you need to at least satisfy the constituent groups of the party, and in particular, those groups with the greatest resources. In practice, this means that the traditional factions of the Republican Party—Wall Street managers, longtime regulars, elected leaders, political pundits, and assorted business people — hold a lot of sway over the outcome. Challenge the interests of bankers, and you might have to find new donors for your campaign. Attack military interventions, and you might miss an important endorsement from a prominent magazine. In 2016, you can add another step to this dance: Cross the Koch brothers—on climate change or economic regulations or any of their other pet issues—and you risk losing an important source for help and money."
The Slate article then concluded: "If this marriage of extreme wealth and mass politics was the norm for the first Gilded Age, then there’s no reason it should be different for the second one." Have a Koch and a Smile.
If oil barons like the Koch brothers are willing spend almost $1 billion on an election to make $100 billion off a pipeline, reduce their taxes and eliminate government oversight (such as the Environmental Protection Agency) — to many people that sounds more like an "investment" rather than "free speech" (If Marco Rubio was telling the truth, how could he not believe otherwise?)
The Koch brothers' privately held firm, Koch Industries, has even launched an advertising campaign called “We Are Koch,” featuring the company’s employees. And who knows...maybe one day they might also have their own jingle too...
I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony,
We all live in Koch's new world, it's a real great company.
They're the real thing.
* Full Disclaimer: The author makes to accusations or assertions regarding the multinational corporation known as Coke® as to having any association with the Koch brother's political ambitions — even though he believes Coke is a corporate tax dodger and an international bully. As an aside, the author took the Pepsi challenge, and he prefers Pepsi over Coke.
Koch not all bad...
"The Koch brothers are homing in on reducing overcriminalization and mass incarceration, as well as reforming practices like civil forfeiture. Progressives, rather than giving the Kochs the stink eye, are welcoming their efforts."
* I suppose that, unless one were Satan, no one is totally evil. But if a Koch were president, would he put a banker in jail?
Koch Brothers Boycott
One problem with the Koch brothers boycott was that generic store brands may also be made by the Koch brothers. For example, Safeway's store-labeled paper towels may be made in the same Koch factory that makes Brawny.
Now there's an app that lets you boycott the Koch brothers (and other companies) by scanning your shopping cart.
But with so many mergers and acquisitions, the manufacturer can also change. So there's really no easy way out of this, not as there are with brand name products. (But if someone is buying someone else, it's probably Koch who's doing the buying).
Here's an app for download to use with Android and iPhone. With it, you can subscribe to a group called "Avoid Koch Industries" Scan the barcode when shopping with your phone and it'll tell you if it is something you want to avoid.
One commenter noted: "Probably 2/3rds of the paper products you see on the shelf are made by Kimberly Clark or Procter Gamble. Buy those. Just flip it over and look for the "Georgia Pacific" name — don't bother trying to memorize this list. I've been doing this for years.
Another commenter noted: "We can stop consumer goods, but the goods placed as components are impossible for a consumer boycott. For example, for an end-point consumer, avoiding Lycra and Comfortfel is all but impossible. Coolmax and Cordura are going to be components of things we buy, and frequently things without obvious competitors. The Kochs bought well established industries,
industries with regional identities and industries with long histories of industrial innovation. I have avoided and can continue to avoid Chevron -- opting for Marathon where possible, and I've dropped all GP products since the Koch purchase (in favor of Kimberly Clark). It's just very hard when it comes to components.
One commenter noted "That's part of the Kochs' strategy — diversify and infiltrate every corner of the economy. It's nearly impossible to avoid buying these products and as the Kochs grow, this will get worse.
Another commenter said they switched to Cottonelle from Northern. And if not, "console yourself by remembering that you're crapping all over it — the best thing to do with any Koch brothers product."