Friday, February 2, 2018

¶ Five Myths About the Koch Brothers - Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Theda Skocpol - 2016

and Why It Matters To Set Them Straight

I've had a few more days to continue my crash course into Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers and "Libertarian" ideology in general.  The convoluted logic and the ruthless efforts I'm learning about get overwhelming.  Thankfully I have my Maddy dog who makes sure I get out for good long walks regularly, which helps clear my head and allows me to breath some fresh air and regroup.  

Why do I think this is so important to discuss and share?  Because liberalism, or more accurately, enlightened-self-interest, our democratic process of learning from and considering each other, and compromise - understanding critical thinking skills and the scientific process for assessing the world around us - all this is under existential threat.  

We have this group of faithful people who genuinely believe they have a personal reciprocal relationship with God (a Being billions of years old and encompassing the universe) and who now want to totally crush the Children of the Intellectual Enlightenment and our pluralistic society.

When all the layers are scraped away that's what I'm coming down to, this huge group of people who have convinced themselves that their own goals are God's own goals.  Think about this.

To believe that your personal goals are those of the God of Light and Time, Life and Love!  That is what's going on here!  Yet, the Bible warns us, God is beyond human understanding.  Yet, we have leaders marching around proclaiming they are doing God's Will and all who oppose them are damnable enemies deserving no quarter.

Self-certitude and absolutism, that leads right into totalitarianism and I understand too much history to delude myself into presuming it could never happen here.  It's happened in plenty of equally unlikely places before.  Particularly when few care to, or dare to, think about it, let alone talk about it.  A healthy Democracy demands an informed and engaged electorate.    

Well, that intro went way longer than expected, but than, this exercise is about wrestling with this information and ideas and seeing where they take me.

Okay, for the main feature, this addition to my Americans for Koch's Prosperity Collection is the product of two scholars who's investigations enabled them to share some important background information most have overlooked, important details worth thinking about if you're trying to understand what's happening today.  It does have a long history.

Five Myths About the Koch Brothers — And Why It Matters To Set Them Straight

Democratic reformers need to know exactly what they are up against — now and likely for years to come.


{Here again these quotes are simply a teaser to encourage you to read the entire article}

But even as much more information flows, myths about the Koch network persist. Invariably, myths take off from real facts, but end up painting pictures that overall are misleading. Here we draw on ongoing research to finger the most important misconceptions flowing from partial understandings of the Koch network. Setting the record straight is important not just for observers of US politics, but for democratic reformers who need to know exactly what they are up against — now and likely for years to come.

Myth # 1:
The Koch network is a recent reaction to the Obama presidency.

Even though the political activities of the Koch brothers gained national visibility only after Barack Obama moved into the White House, Charles and David were no neophytes. They had been at work for decades trying to reshape American politics and public policies. Starting in the 1970s, Charles and David Koch founded and provided sustained funding for an array of free-market and libertarian think tanks and academic research entities, including the Cato Institute and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. David Koch became active in Libertarian Party politics and even ran for vice president on the party ticket in 1980. …

Myth #2:
The Koch network is a personal pet project of the brothers themselves.

Much media attention has focused on David and Charles and on the controversial history of their family. After the recent release of Jane Mayer’s Dark Money, many outlets focused on such titillating details as family patriarch Fred Koch’s investments in oil refineries in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, and the maneuvers undertaken by Charles and David to force their brother Frederick to give up his financial stake in the family company. …

… But to think of the “Koch network” as a personal pet project funded by these two is to miss the forest for the trees. In fact, Charles and David have succeeded in rallying hundreds of other wealthy conservative families to support their strategic political operation. For years, many wealthy donors — including husbands with their wives — have gathered at swank resorts for the twice-a-year Koch seminars, …

Myth #3:
The Koch network is little more than a corporate front.

Especially on the left, there is a strong tendency to view the Koch network as merely a political front for their privately owned corporate conglomerate, Koch Industries, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas. Or else the network is portrayed as a somewhat broader front for many companies represented by participants in the Koch seminars. …
… However, Koch political advocacy goes beyond mere corporate self-interest. As philosophically committed libertarians, Charles and David support or encourage many causes far beyond opposing environmental and labor-market regulations. …

In sum, while the interests of mainstream business and the Koch network are tightly aligned when it comes to reducing taxes, loosening government regulations and undercutting labor unions, the Koch network promotes a much more sweeping, ideologically inspired free-market agenda. 

Ironically, it might be a good thing for liberals if the Koch network really was an industry front, because business interests are often willing to enter into legislative bargains. At times, corporations — and business associations — are willing to work with liberals on policies such as investments in infrastructure or education. 

Politicians can and do negotiate trade-offs on such issues. But liberals will have no such luck cutting deals with the ideologically driven Koch network or with most of the hardline Republicans it backs.

Myth #4:
The Koch network scatters big money to hundreds of conservative groups.

Journalists and pundits typically talk about the Koch network as a “secret bank” scattering money to hundreds of conservative groups across the political landscape. …

… However, by branding practically all major conservative groups as Koch affiliates, journalists and pundits obscure the real centers of action in the network. Our examination of IRS reports indicates that, even though Koch funding conduits like Freedom Partners dispense grants to dozens of groups, most of these grants are temporary and tiny. Take for instance …

… What’s more, of the $236 million in total grants Freedom Partners dispensed in 2012, more than three-fourths went not to outside groups but to core, Koch-controlled political organizations.

At the very heart of the network, finally, is Americans for Prosperity, a nationwide federated organization that now has paid staff in 34 states and contact lists for millions of conservative activists nationwide. AFP leverages its large financial war chest and grassroots contacts to oppose Democrats, help to elect very conservative Republicans and conduct policy campaigns to push those lawmakers in Congress and the states to enact Koch-supported policies and block or dismantle policies the network opposes.

In short, far from being an impenetrable “maze of money” widely scattered to a cacophony of right-wing groups, the Koch network is a tightly interlocked set of organizations that the brothers and their closest advisors have developed over time into an integrated political machine of unparalleled clout. 

Myth #5:
The Koch network is virtually a third US political party.

According to Kenneth Vogel at Politico, the Koch network has about three and a half times as many employees as the Republican National Committee plus GOP congressional campaign affiliates. And the network has pledged to spend between $700 and $900 million during the 2016 election cycle, more than double what the Republican committee apparatus spent in the previous election.  …

…  Far from being independent of the GOP, the network’s operatives and resources are closely intertwined with the Republican Party. Forging this symbiosis, we believe, has been the whole point, a deliberate, long-term strategy to move the Republican Party to the far right. Koch honchos do not aim to displace the GOP; they want to capture and use it as a tool to radically cut back American government. …

As this ironic situation suggests, the Koch network’s very successes in drawing Republicans toward extreme free-market positions can potentially weaken their mass electoral appeal, opening the door to new contenders and threatening the future of the political party the Koch network uses to enact its radical agenda.  {of course, this leaves out the other potential, taking over the GOP, or crippling it and starting their own.}

For the full fascinating read link to:

About the authors:

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez is a doctoral candidate (Alexander has earned his PhD and is Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia, SIPA) in government and social policy at Harvard University. He studies the political economy of the United States, with an emphasis on the politics of organized interests, especially business, and public policy.

Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University. At Harvard, she has served as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2005-07) and as director of the Center for American Political Studies (2000-06).

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