Monday, February 5, 2018

Koch Government? Public Citizen investigates - 2017

I'm taking advantage of Public Citizen's Creative Common License in order share extensive highlights of their report.  I will be following this post with another one that lists all the references used in here, I hope it encourages you to check out the full report.  The following speaks for itself, so without further ado.
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HOW THE KOCH BROTHERS’ AGENDA HAS INFILTRATED THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION 
Public Citizen
     
http://www.citizen.org   |  November 30, 2017 
Copyright © 2018 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License.
     Donald Trump and the Koch brothers had a rocky relationship during the 2016 presidential campaign, despite the Kochs’ status as Republican mega-donors and kingmakers. Now, as the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration approaches, political operatives and policy experts who have worked at numerous Koch-funded organizations have fanned out through the Trump Administration, taking jobs influencing education, energy, the environment, health care and taxes — all in service of a hard-right anti-government agenda. 

     A Public Citizen review of the Koch brothers’ connections to the Trump administration and their policy agenda in Washington, D.C. finds:

* 44 Trump administration officials have close ties to the Koch brothers and their political groups, particularly Vice President Mike Pence, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney. 

* The bulk of Koch allies are in the White House, with 21 officials working there or nominated for White House jobs. 

* Koch allies are also staffing jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency, Interior Department, Energy Department and the Treasury Department. The positions they are advocating overlap with the Kochs’ economic interests, in weakening regulatory enforcement, lowering corporate taxes, loosening environmental regulations and opening up public land to oil and gas extraction. 

* The Kochs have already achieved the majority of goals contained in “Roadmap to Repeal” — a policy document1 published in January 2017 by Freedom Partners, a Koch group. 

METHODOLOGY 


Public Citizen’s analysis includes officials who have worked at Koch-created groups such as 
Americans for Prosperity, 
Freedom Partners, 
Libre Initiative, 
Concerned Veterans for America, and 
Generation Opportunity. 

     It includes lawyers and lobbyists who have represented Koch businesses or political groups. It also includes individuals who worked at think tanks and advocacy groups and academic centers with Koch funding and close Koch ties, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, Independent Women’s Forum, Americans for Tax Reform, Cato Institute, George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, and state-level think tanks such as the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and politicians heavily funded by the Koch network. 

     It excludes officials who have worked at the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all of which have received significant Koch funding but are not as intimately tied to the Kochs and their political agenda. 

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INTRODUCTION: FROM SUSPECT PUPPET-MASTERS TO TRUSTED PARTNERS

The billionaire Koch brothers control Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in America. 

They have built a sprawling political empire dedicated to the promotion of their extreme anti-government philosophy. Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, is based in Witchita, Kan. David Koch, from New York City, is the company’s executive vice president and a board member. They are the company’s main shareholders, controlling a vast corporate empire that includes paper products, carpets, and oil refineries, among other activities.2  

With hundreds of millions in donations, the Kochs have transformed Republican politics. Politico wrote in 2015 that the Koch political machine “has exploded in size and influence in the past few elections and now eclipses the official GOP in key areas.”3, The political groups created by the Kochs, nicknamed the Kochtopus, have spent several decades pulling the party toward an extreme anti-government, corporate libertarian agenda.4 Political groups financed by the Kochs and other ultra-rich donors5  advocate against taxes, regulations and social services at the federal, state and local level.  

The influence of these two extremely wealthy individuals on the American political system has mushroomed since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. 

This decision permitted unlimited corporate political spending and resulted in unprecedented amount of money flooding into U.S. elections. Through infusions of dark money, Koch-funded groups are able to influence elections and ballot initiatives without telling the public who is funding their efforts. 

Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ lead political advocacy group, coordinates national campaigns, has 36 state chapters,6 and has even started a “grassroots” training program.7 

Freedom Partners is the largest grant-maker among Koch organizations, reporting nearly $450 million in awards since 2011, according to a federal tax returns. 8  “We want to grow this into a movement of millions," Mark Holden, general counsel of Koch Industries and chairman of the board of Freedom Partners, the Koch network’s funding arm, told the Washington Post in 2016.9   

For the 2018 election cycle, the Kochs have said they aim to spend between $300 million to $400 million, spreading out their money among groups including Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners Action Fund, Concerned Veterans for America, the Libre Initiative and Generation Opportunity.10  Seventeen groups connected to the Kochs raised more than $400 million during the 2012 election cycle alone, mainly to target former President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, 

The Washington Post and Center for Responsive Politics calculated.11 The Checks and Balances Project calculated that Koch foundations and the Koch nonprofit network donated $192 million to 72 groups associated with climate change denial and opposition to clean energy solutions from 1997-2013.12 On its own, Koch Industries has made nearly $41 million in political contributions since 1990 and spent nearly $127 million on lobbying since 1998, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.13   

The Kochs’ Conflict with Trump 

… Though the Koch brothers and their donors certainly would have preferred another Republican president, the lack of policy expertise in Trump circles presented an opportunity. Trump’s need to fill out his administration with staffers matched the Kochs longstanding push to lower taxes for the rich and undermine regulations. A Koch donor was candid in a post-election interview with Politico:   

“In creating the Koch network, I don’t think that we ever envisioned that we would be supplying staffers to this semi-free market, semi-populist president. But we’re happy that he’s picking people who have that free market background, particularly because on many issues, [Trump] is a blank slate, so anybody with expertise is in an amazing position to shape his agenda.”- Koch network donor Frayda Levin.18

THE KOCH WHITE HOUSE

Wring for The Intercept, Lee Fang aptly described the close ties between the Kochs and the White House.  “If the billionaire Koch brothers turn to the White House for favors, they will see many familiar faces,”29 Fang wrote. 

According to Public Citizen’s count, 21 current or nominated White House officials have close ties to the Kochs. …

The Koch Deregulatory Roadmap 

era regulations in January 2017. Freedom Partners released a two-page “action plan” labeled “Roadmap to Repeal.”39  In a press release, Andy Koenig, vice president of policy at Freedom Partners, called on Congress to “end the government overreach of the past eight years.”40 Freedom Partners urged Congress to “put lawmakers on record on as many of these regulations as possible so that voters can see where they stand and hold them accountable in 2018.”41 The Los Angeles Times reported on the centrality of Koch political aides to this repeal effort:

The Koch network sent advisors to Capitol Hill to meet with Republican leaders and help prioritize the agenda with rank-and-file lawmakers. Activists from the network’s state chapters — many who knocked on doors to help get out the November vote — showed up in lawmakers’ offices to urge support. They focused Republicans on a little-known procedural tool — the Congressional Review Act — that allows Congress to disapprove of new regulations within a short time frame after the rules are issued.42 

THE KOCH AGENDA FOR TAXES

Frustrated by their failed attempt to repeal the Accordable Care Act, the Koch Brothers and their network of donors have set their sights on cutting corporate taxes. 
"If you whiff on Obamacare repeal and if you whiff on tax reform, it's bound to harm [Republicans]," Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, told CNN. “Republicans in Congress know that their failure in health care does raise the stakes on tax reform. There are no excuses any longer."70 

The Koch organizations have consistently claimed that tax cuts for the wealthy will benefit all Americans and even impose burdens on the rich. …


       The Public Campaign for a Koch-Friendly Tax Overhaul 

campaign urging vulnerable Democratic senators to back the Republican plan for corporate tax cuts.78 One video plays upon Americans’ frustrations about powerful interests in Washington, and then makes an argument79 for tax policies that will enrich those very interests. …

       Kochs Would Benefit From Tax Legislation  

rs, as well as President Trump. Donations to the Kochs’ political network could potentially become tax-deductible under legislation passed by the House, a move that could cost the government $400 million to $500 million per year in lost taxes.81 

A full repeal of the estate tax would provide a windfall to heirs of the wealthiest estates at a cost of nearly $270 billion over a decade.82 Some Koch businesses might also benefit from a lower tax rate for so-called pass-through corporations whose earnings are taxed at their owners’ individual income tax rate.83  …

THE KOCH AGENDA FOR ENERGY  

Three political hires at the Energy Department formerly worked at the Institute for Energy Research and the American Energy Alliance97, a Koch-funded98 climate-change denying, pro-fossil fuel think tank and advocacy organization. These groups are run by Thomas Pyle, a former Koch Industries lobbyist who was the leader of energy issues on the Trump transition team.99 The American Energy Alliance in 2015 held a media call featuring Pence, then governor of Indiana, in which Pence said he would not comply with the Obama administration’s climate change initiative. 100 

In a post-election memo obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, Pyle was bullish about the prospects for the Trump administration, “We expect the Trump administration will adopt pro-energy and pro-market policies – much different than the Obama administration’s top-down government approach.”101 

The memo outlined 14 policies that fossil fuel industry executives could expect from the Trump administration, including102 “withdrawing from the 2015 Paris Climate agreement, eliminating the Clean Power Plan, increasing the leasing of federal lands for exploitation of coal, oil and gas, expediting the approval of pipeline projects including the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline and rolling back federal fuel economy standards.” …

Kochs Push Development of Public Lands

A longstanding Koch goal has been to promote oil and gas drilling on federally owned land as well as the transfer of federal lands to state control. Americans for Prosperity has funded the American Lands Council, led by Ken Ivory, a Republican state representative from Utah who has been working to “convince state and local officials that they can claim millions of acres of federal land to use as they wish,” Mother Jones reported in 2015.121  

The state-level ALEC network has created model bills used by state legislatures to push this agenda.122  ...

THE KOCH AGENDA FOR THE ENVIRONMENT 

As major refinery and pipeline owners, the Kochs have an economic stake in derailing regulations to address global climate change. Koch Industries owns or operates about 4,000 miles of pipelines, which transport crude oil, gasoline, jet fuel, propane and chemicals.”134  Through its Flint Hills Resources subsidiary, Koch Industries owns three oil refineries. 135 

Despite the Koch brothers’ criticism of market-distorting tax credits and subsidies, such as those for ethanol, Koch Industries has built up a large ethanol business in recent years.136 

The close relationship between the Koch brothers and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been highlighted in more than 7,500 emails and other records released by the Oklahoma attorney general’s office after a lawsuit by the Center for Media and Democracy. …

THE KOCH AGENDA FOR EDUCATION  

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has become something of a household name 164 in the first year of the Trump administration — an unusual feat for a typically low-profile cabinet position. Her often-expressed disdain for public schools has made her an extremely controversial leader for the Education Department. She has labeled the U.S. public education system a “monopoly” and a “dead end,” lacking what DeVos sees as the “innovative” spirit present in Silicon Valley. 165
  
The daughter of wealthy western Michigan industrialist Edgar Prince, DeVos is married to Amway heir Richard DeVos Jr. The couple, who have an estimated net worth of more than $5 billion, are longtime funders of efforts to promote vouchers, which enable public funding to pay for religious schools and other schools, …

The DeVos-Koch Connection 

The Kochs have long disliked public education. This mistrust “can be traced to their father, Fred, who ranted and raved that the National Education Association was a communist group and public-school books were filled with ‘communist propaganda,’ paranoia that extended to all unions, President Eisenhower and the “pro-communist” Supreme Court,” 172 wrote Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy in a 2011 article in The Nation. 

The Kochs have longstanding ties to DeVos, their fellow Republican mega-donor, and share the goal of undermining public education. The DeVos family has attended the Kochs’ donor summits and contributed to the brothers’ political ventures.” 173  

Two DeVos-created groups, the American Federation for Children and Alliance for School Choice,  are funders and supporters of the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council.174 More than 170 bills were introduced in state legislatures in 2015 that reflected the education priorities of ALEC, 175  according to a study by the Center for Media and Democracy. …

THE KOCH AGENDA FOR HEALTH CARE 
      
… the Kochs were deeply resistant to replacing the 2010 law with any sort of substitute plan. Koch-allied Republican lawmakers consistently drove the legislation to the right during “repeal and replace” negotiations, helping to make it more difficult, and ultimately impossible, for Republican moderates to support the effort.  

Even before the failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, frustrations were evident. "Get Obamacare repealed and replaced, get tax reform passed," Texas donor Doug Deason told the Associated Press, threatening to cut off donations. 
"You control the Senate. You control the House. You have the presidency. There's no reason you can't get this done. Get it done and we'll open it back up."192  One Koch lieutenant openly warned of “consequences” for those who fail to execute the Koch agenda. 

"If they don't make good on these promises ... there are going to be consequences, and quite frankly there should be," said Sean Lansing, chief operating officer for Americans for Prosperity. 193

CONCLUSION 

Ever the bait-and-switch salesman, Donald Trump has consistently used populist language to disguise plutocratic aims. 

The presence of so many Koch-affiliated political operatives in the Trump administration underscores how Trump has betrayed his supporters and contradicted his pledges to stand up for forgotten Americans against powerful interests.  

In an administration that lacks a clear policy agenda or expertise, Koch aides have been happy to fill the void with specific ideas to enrich corporate interests and harm the public as a whole. 


This agenda betrays the central idea of Trump’s campaign: that an outsider was needed to stand up for the little guy against the powerful.  The advance of the Kochs’ brand of anti-regulation, pro-corporate libertarianism into the highest levels of Washington threatens to bring America closer to the Kochs’ ultimate goal: undermining the premise that government can be an effective force for good in American society. 

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