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Posts tagged "Dark Money"

h/t: Peter Montgomery at RWW

h/t: St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board

See Also: BREAKING: Right-Wing Activist Judges at SCOTUS rule in favor of McCutcheon

h/t: Andy Kroll at Mother Jones

H/T:Andy Kroll at Mother Jones

The political network spearheaded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch has expanded into a far-reaching operation of unrivaled complexity, built around a maze of groups that cloaks its donors, according to an analysis of new tax returns and other documents.

The filings show that the network of politically active nonprofit groups backed by the Kochs and fellow donors in the 2012 elections financially outpaced other independent groups on the right and, on its own, matched the long-established national coalition of labor unions that serves as one of the biggest sources of support for Democrats.

The resources and the breadth of the organization make it singular in American politics: an operation conducted outside the campaign finance system, employing an array of groups aimed at stopping what its financiers view as government overreach. Members of the coalition target different constituencies but together have mounted attacks on the new health-care law, federal spending and environmental regulations.

Key players in the Koch-backed network have already begun engaging in the 2014 midterm elections, hiring new staff members to expand operations and strafing House and Senate Democrats with hard-hitting ads over their support for the Affordable Care Act.

Its funders remain largely unknown; the coalition was carefully constructed with extensive legal barriers to shield its donors.

But they have substantial firepower. Together, the 17 conservative groups that made up the network raised at least $407 million during the 2012 campaign, according to the analysis of tax returns by The Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics.

A labyrinth of tax-exempt groups and limited-liability companies helps mask the sources of the money, much of which went to voter mobilization and television ads attacking President Obama and congressional Democrats, according to tax filings and campaign finance reports.

The coalition’s revenue surpassed that of the Crossroads organizations, a super PAC and non­profit group co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove that together brought in$325 million in the last cycle.

The left has its own financial muscle, of course; unions plowed roughly $400 million into national, state and local elections in 2012. A network of wealthy liberal donors organized by the group Democracy Alliance mustered about $100 million for progressive groups and super PACs in the last election cycle, according to a source familiar with the totals.

The donor network organized by the Kochs — along with funding an array of longtime pro-
Republican groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association and Americans for Tax Reform — distributed money to a coalition of groups that share the brothers’ libertarian, free-market perspective. Each group was charged with a specialized task such as youth outreach, Latino engagement or data crunching.


The structure

Freedom Partners and TC4 Trust moved a large share of their funds through an intermediary group, the Phoenix-based Center to Protect Patient Rights, which served as a major cash turnstile for groups on the right during the past two election cycles. It is run by political operative Sean Noble, who served as a Koch consultant in 2012.

Rather than finance CPPR directly, Freedom Partners and TC4 Trust transferred $129 million to limited-liability companies with changing names that are registered in Delaware, a state that requires corporations to disclose little about their operations: Eleventh Edition (which was renamed Corner Table and then Cactus Wren) and American Commitment (which was SDN, then became Meridian Edition).

Their relationship to CPPR was unknown until May, when the Arizona group acknowledged in amended tax filings that the LLCs were its affiliates.

Such LLCs are known as “disregarded entities,” which means that, for IRS purposes, they do not exist. Their revenue is reported on the balance sheets of their parent organizations.

Tax experts said disregarded entities are typically used by nonprofits to, for example, hold a piece of real estate to shield an organization from liability.

But they also can be used to make it harder to trace the movement of funds between groups. In its final tax return, TC4 reported doling out nearly $28 million to 10 organizations with names such as POFN LLC, PRDIST LLC and TRGN LLC. Those are the affiliates of the groups Public Notice, Americans for Prosperity and Generation Opportunity, in that order.

The Post and the Center for Responsive Politics identified the groups that make up the Koch-backed network through an analysis of tax filings, which revealed their shared DNA. Most have affiliated LLCs and received a substantial share of their revenue from the feeder funds.

The makeup of the coalition was corroborated by people familiar with the structure who said the network is ad hoc and will not necessarily remain constant.

A key player is Americans for Prosperity, the Virginia-based advocacy organization that finances activities across the country and ran an early and relentless television ad assault against Obama during the 2012 campaign. More than $44 million of the $140 million the organization raised in that election cycle came from Koch-linked feeder funds.

Other groups in the network included the American Future Fund, a Des Moines-based nonprofit that poured more than $25 million into ads against Obama and congressional Democrats in 2012; Concerned Women for America, a conservative Christian women’s activist group that ran a get-out-the-vote effort aimed at young women; the Libre Initiative Trust, a Texas-based group aimed at Latinos; Generation Opportunity, which seeks to engage millennials; and Themis Trust, which houses the data used by the allied groups.

The network also distributed funds to other independent political players. In the last election, Freedom Partners and CPPR doled out millions of dollars to a wide assortment of groups on the right, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($3 million), the NRA ($6.6 million), the National Federation of Independent Business ($2.5 million) and Heritage Action for America ($500,000).

Obama’s reelection prompted internal reassessments in the network, as it did among many conservative groups that had worked to defeat him in 2012. But there are no signs that the coalition plans to retreat.

Rather, officials are focused on creating a more effective operation aimed at bolstering the conservative movement for the long term. Freedom Partners, which now has nearly 50 employees, is expected to bring many functions in-house and expand beyond grantmaking, according to people familiar with the plans. Groups such as CPPR are expected to play a smaller role going forward.

See Also: Graphic of the Koch Brothers’ Funding

h/t: Matea Gold at WaPo

Newly released documents have exposed the agenda of the conservative North Carolina-based J.W. Pope Civitas Institute showing that the organization is seeking funds to engage in a campaign to decimate Medicaid funding in the state. North Carolina media should take care to disclose these revelations to ensure readers know what’s really behind the Civitas Institute’s forthcoming Medicaid attacks.

On December 5, The Guardian released documents noting that conservative groups across the United States “are planning a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services in key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers’ compensation and the environment.” The Guardian explained that the “proposals were co-ordinated by the State Policy Network, an alliance of groups that act as incubators of conservative strategy at state level.” Indeed, according to a report by the Center for Media and Democracy, the State Policy Network (SPN) and its member organizations “work together in coordinated efforts to push their agenda, often using the same cookie-cutter research and reports, all while claiming to be independent and creating state-focused solutions that purportedly advance the interests or traditions of the state.” he report added:

Although many of SPN’s member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, our in-depth investigation reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, ALEC-backed agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders, all while reporting little or no lobbying activities.

Among the groups cited in the Guardian papers was the Civitas Institute. The organization requested funding for a campaign to try to sway politicians into reducing the amount of money North Carolina gives to the state’s Medicaid program, which it characterized as “failed,” and if successful, export their messaging to other SPN affiliates around the country:

As Media Matters has previously noted, Civitas is affiliated with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which gets funding from Donors Trust — once dubbed the “dark money ATM of the conservative movement.” The Trust counts the Koch brothers and other major conservative donors as its benefactors. The Civitas Institute itself, receives a significant portion of its funding from North Carolina conservative luminary Art Pope, who is also a budget advisor to North Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory.

h/t: MMFA

A new report from the Center for Media and Democracy reveals an expansive network of closely allied right-wing groups, funded in part by Charles and David Koch and other corporate and conservative sources, operating as the State Policy Network (SPN).

The Center notes that while many of the organizations allied with SPN claim to be independent, their agendas often mesh together and work in concert with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC has often circulated model legislation in state legislatures aimed at promoting conservative causes, including the controversial NRA “Stand Your Ground” law in several states. The report also explains that SPN affiliates are required to share their publications with each other, and as the head of the Alabama Policy Insitute (an SPN affiliate) told National Review, “We trade information all the time and borrow ideas from each other.”

The State Policy Network’s research has been cited far and wide in the media, from the national level down to local newspapers and blogs. A small sampling of the various issues the State Policy Network-affiliated groups have been cited on by the media:

  • Debate over an Apple manufacturing plant in Mesa, Arizona [Phoenix Business Journal11/8/2013
  • Right to work laws targeted at teacher unions in Michigan [Detroit Free Press11/10/2013
  • School testing standards in North Carolina [News & Observer,11/7/2013]
  • A report on the effect of taxation in Farmington, New Mexico [Farmington Daily Times11/27/2012]
  • A proposal to eliminate income tax in Maine [Associated Press,10/21/2013]
  •  Efforts to eliminate collective bargaining in Wisconsin [Maine Sun Journal2/28/2011]

In addition, Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute (an SPN affiliate) has appeared at least seven times over the last year on Fox’s Stosselattacking public education and promoting the privatization of municipal services.

Center for Media and Democracy explains that while many donations to these groups have not been publicly disclosed, individual donations have been made to SPN groups by the Koch Brother’s Family Foundations, Koch Industries, and David Koch himself.  Koch money also fuels SPN through the Donors Capital Fund, which has received millions from the brother’s Knowledge and Progress Fund.

SPN has also received funding from longtime conservative benefactors the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and corporate backers including Reynolds American, Altria, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft Foods, Express Scripts, Comcast and Time Warner. Facebook was a sponsor of SPN’s 2013 annual meeting in Oklahoma City.


SPN is an active member of ALEC, and 34 SPN members are directly linked back to ALEC. As the Center notes, “all of SPN’s member think tanks push parts of ALEC’s agenda in their respective states.” SPN has been a sponsor of ALEC’s annual meeting for the last three years, a sponsorship which costs $50,000 per meeting according to ALEC documents.

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which generates news coverage friendly to conservative causes and leaders through its web of state-based news outlets, is also a beneficiary of SPN. At least 37 SPN affiliate groups either host Franklin’s reporters or publish publications associated with the Franklin Center. The Franklin Center also shares several key donors with SPN.

See Also: Illinois Policy Institute’s role in Dark Money

h/t: MMFA

IL - Who Is Behind The Illinois Policy Institute

The Illinois Policy Institute = the ALEC factory of Illinois.

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler tossed his hat into the2014 Governor’s race to unseat Democrat John Hickenlooper in September of this year, and has been working to capture an early lead when he suddenly suspended his campaign in order to send his resources into a local school board election.

Understandably, this has outraged many, including the good citizens of Douglas County, the focus of Gessler’s efforts. Denver Post:

Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler says his passion for education reform is why his 2014 gubernatorial campaign is shifting gears over the new few days to focus on electing a conservative slate of candidates to the Douglas County School Board on Tuesday.

But Gessler’s announcement, both in an e-mail and on Facebook, has attracted critics who contend the state’s top election officer — and a former elections law attorney — is violating campaign finance laws with announcements about “paid opportunities.”

Not at all, said Gessler’s political director Rory McShane.

“We are currently following and will continue to follow all campaign finance laws,” McShane said.

Campaign finance laws prevent a candidate committee from accepting contributions or making donations to another candidate committee.

Here’s what Gessler wrote in his e-mail: “We’re actively recruiting door-knockers to get out the vote. We also have paid opportunities … .”

Here’s what he wrote on his Facebook campaign web site: “If you would like to help we’re looking for walkers! It pays $11 per hour!”

McShane said groups supporting the conservative school board candidates are paying the walkers, not Gessler’s gubernatorial campaign but that’s not how critics read the missives.

Boy, are those groups supporting the conservative candidates spending money in that race, too. There’s a slate of four candidates who are associated with the Tea Party who have received between $38-40,000 each from 25 donors or less. Compare and contrast that with the homegrown candidates sponsored by people who actually live in the area. They have ten times the number of donors but only about a quarter of the funds.

The Douglas County School Board race is ground zero for union-busters right now, but it’s not the only one, nor is this a new tactic. Conservatives going all the way back to the halcyon days of the John Birch Society have long believed school board takeovers are the very first step to “taking back their country,” and education reformers are taking advantage of that to bust unions for their own ends.

However, it could be the first time that an elected official and candidate for Governor has decided to pay people to get out the vote for them while suspending his own campaign. In the email he sent out to his supporters onhis email list, he was clear about his motives:

Against the advice of the Denver political elites, I’ve ordered my campaign for Governor to shift focus for the next week until the Douglas County elections, to ensure that conservatives are victorious this year.

We’re actively recruiting door-knockers to get out the vote. We also have paid opportunities – but we need you if we’re going to be successful as a team.

He donated his email list and a piece of his website to recruitment to elect candidates funded with outside money in order to bust unions, but he’s just fine with that. He’s an election lawyer and known for his own voter suppression efforts in Colorado during the 2012 general election.

Gessler also appears to be ethically challenged.

First, it was learned that a discretionary account intended to cover official state business was tapped to pay for a partisan junket to Florida. Reporting by The Denver Post also showed that, at the end of the fiscal year, Gessler reimbursed himself $1,400 for expenses for which he has no documentation.


A short time later, Gessler lowered fines owed the state by the Larimer County Republican Party by tens of thousands of dollars and then agreed to help them raise money to pay off the debt.

He may have shrugged off criticism about the moonlighting and the GOP shilling, but Gessler will have a hard time ignoring complaints that he misused taxpayers’ money.

Earlier this month, it was learned that he spent $1,452 from his office’s discretionary account to attend a Republican National Lawyers Association meeting and the Republican National Convention in Florida. Questioned as to the prudence of spending taxpayer money on partisan activity, the secretary implied that everybody does it and criticized the scrutiny as politically motivated.

Oh, maybe so, except that he didn’t produce the receipts for it.

Gessler has long-standing ties to shady political groups, like the Western Tradition Partnership, now renamed the American Tradition Partnership by Gessler as part of his services to whoever funds that particular 501c4. Whatever the name, boxes of financial records were discovered in a meth house in Colorado, and shed some light on the dark money moving in Colorado and Montana:

But the details available on WTP, which has worked to elect conservatives in Montana and Colorado and has won national attention for a lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to apply itsCitizens United ruling to states, are striking.The bank records highlight WTP’s ties to groups backing libertarian Ron Paul. The Conservative Action League, a Virginia social welfare nonprofit run at the time in part by John Tate, most recently Paul’s campaign manager, transferred $40,000 to WTP in August 2008, bank records show. Tate was also a consultant for WTP. In addition, WTP gave $5,000 to a group called the SD Campaign for Liberty, affiliated with Paul and the national Campaign for Liberty.

The bank records also illustrate how cash passes between dark money groups, further obscuring its original source: $500,000 passed from Coloradans for Economic Growth to WTP to the National Right to Work Committee, over a few days in October 2008. Coloradans for Economic Growth and the National Right to Work Committee are social welfare nonprofits that don’t have to disclose their donors. Tate and others paid by WTP were also once associated with National Right to Work.

What Gessler and his moneybags pals are doing in Douglas County isn’t all that different from what Republicans do in general. They move in gangs, they capture big bucks to buy the office and then pay off their sugar daddies with quid pro quo activities like suppressing the vote, weakening campaign finance laws, and busting unions.

Is it any wonder the parents in Douglas County are aggravated? What happened to caring about the children, after all?

h/t: Karoli at Crooks and Liars

Though the bulk of the federal government remains shutdown, the Supreme Court will convene Monday for the opening of its next term — a term that features major campaign finance, abortion, race, religion and environmental cases and which could potentially give the Court’s Republican majority an opportunity to strike a critical blow to union organizers. The first closely watched case of the term will be heard Tuesday, and this case could give millionaires and billionaires even more influence over elections than they already enjoy.

The plaintiffs in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission include the Republican National Committee, which has an obvious interest in weakening legal barriers preventing large-dollar donations directly to the GOP or to GOP candidates. During the 2012, just one Republican billionaire — casino mogul Sheldon Adelson — spent nearly $150 million to elect Republicans. As things stood in 2012, however, Adelson needed to funnel nearly all of this money through third-party groups — super PACs and the like — rather than giving them directly to candidates or Republican Party organizations. For all that the Roberts Court’s Citizens United decision did to inject big money into elections, that opinion at least suggests that donations directly to candidates (and, potentially to political parties, for reasons explained below) can still be restricted even if super PACs are free to collect enormous donations.McCutcheon, by contrast, could allow Sheldon Adelson to write a series of massive checks directly to Republican Party groups.

Currently, federal law caps the totally amount a wealthy donor can give to candidates and party organizations at a total of $123,200 per election cycle. Now, the RNC wants the Supreme Court to eliminate this cap. Thus, if the Roberts Court sides with the GOP in McCutcheon, wealthy individuals who havealready spent six figures to shape the outcome of the 2014 elections will suddenly be allowed to spend even more money to help place their favorite candidates in office. In theory, the case does not threaten caps on the amount donors can give to a single candidate or party organization — just on the total amount they can give to all candidates or party groups — but it is very easy to transfer money between party groups once the money leaves the donor’s bank account.

Even after Citizens United, a Republican Party victory in McCutcheon would require a drastic shift in the law. In Citizens United, the five Republican justices claimed that “the potential for quid pro quo corruption distinguished direct contributions to candidates from independent expenditures.” In essence, these justices reasoned, when campaign expenditures are given directly to a candidate, they can easily become bribes intended to secure policy commitments from the candidate.” When such expenditures are given to super PACs or other third-party groups, by contrast, candidates are less likely to be influenced by their benefactors.

This distinction between gifts to candidates and gifts to outside groups that support the same candidate is not particularly convincing — it’s not like the GOP candidates funded by Sheldon Adelson were not capable of discovering who was spending all that money on their behalf — but this artificial distinction between direct and indirect contributions is an important prong of Citizens United‘s holding, and a decision for the GOP in McCutcheon could tear down this distinction.

As the lower court explained in McCutcheon, striking down the contribution caps at issue in that case would enable billionaires like Adelson to essentially launder money through a political party to the candidate of their choice.

H/T: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress Justice

Journal Communication’s right-wing talker Charlie Sykes (WTMJ Radio 620), delights in stirring controversy. But last week he went too far. In a segment discussing whether food stamp recipients should be allowed to buy unhealthy food, Sykes played a clip of an incredibly offensive video that is a favorite of neo-Nazi websites.

Dwelling on a popular Sykes topic the “growing gigantic culture of dependent people” or “moocher culture,” Sykes slips in a long clip (at 29.20) where the voice of an African American woman can be heard listing all the fast food joints — liquor stores — where one can allegedly use an electronic benefits (EBT) card. Sykes did not explain the clip or where it originated. The full song portrays women as having kids in order to receive food stamps to fund a party lifestyle. (For the record, you can’t buy booze with food stamps.)

The clip is part of a video “It’s Free, Swipe Yo EBT" made by a young woman named LaToya “Chapter” Hicks, but the production credits go to Christopher Jackson. He is reportedly the same Christopher Jackson who wrote an incredibly offensive piece about teaching black children, another fave of the “we heart Hitler” crowd. The Jackson essay is featured on the white nationalist site and Chapter’s video on the Nazi site

The Wisconsin Democratic Party promptly put out a release denouncing the clip as racist and offensive. The party contacted reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and also wrote to the broadcast side of the Journal Communications firm (which owns the paper and the radio station) asking VP Steve Wexler to look into it. While the newspaper recently put the inopportune Tweets by the Democratic Party spokesman on the front page of its paper prompting disciplinary action, it could not be bothered to write a word about the controversy over the weekend. 

Sykes defended the use of the video in a blog post Sunday night on “Right Wisconsin.”

“Pshaw,” says Sykes — she’s black, it’s art, just because neo-Nazis love it doesn’t mean it’s a problem. In fact, Sykes so loves the video “about welfare programs run amok” that he says he uses it all the time and has previously posted it as an “anthem” for his nation of moochers theme. The Journal Sentinel covered the issue briefly online Monday, but only because Sykes wrote about it. 

Sykes might think that he and Stormfront have a uniquely discerning eye for art, but by any measure the video is highly offensive. It shouldn’t be used by any news source and Journal Communications should make it clear to Mr. Moocher that he shouldn’t be using it either.

Journal Communications has given Sykes a lot of rope lately. He is the center of their new experiment called “Right Wisconsin" a subscriber-based, paid content news site for right-wingers which Sykes touted in January as a means ofhelping to get more Republicans elected. One of the sponsors and “partners” is the phony issue-ad group Wisconsin Club for Growth, which has spent millions in the state defending Governor Scott Walker and GOP candidates. The site features long-time GOP operatives like Brian Fraley, now at the MacIver Institute, and “reporting” by Media Trackers, a Breitbart-style attack dog operation. Both the MacIver Institute and Media Trackers are funded by the Bradley Foundation.



(via Is Your Team’s Owner a Major League Asshole? | Mother Jones)

In early February, a US Patent and Trademark Office court in Washington, DC, confirmed what baseball fans had suspected for more than a century: The New York Yankees are evil. After an internet startup, Evil Empire Inc., had attempted to trademark the phrase “Baseball’s Evil Empire,” the Yankees filed an injunction, and the panel of judges agreed. As the court put it, “The record shows that there is only one Evil Empire in baseball and it is the New York Yankees.” If only it were true. The ranks of Major League Baseball owners include some of the richest men—and they are almost exclusively white males—in the country, as likely to open their wallets for a super-PAC as they are a top-shelf free agent. Viewed in the context of the competition, with its anti-discrimination settlements and SEC investigations, the Yankees are, like their Opening Day roster, fairly pedestrian.

So where does your team’s ownership rank? We took a stab at it, analyzing each franchise by its level of political activity (based on campaign donations and office-seeking) and relative degree of evil—copyrighted or not. Read below the matrix for the full breakdown.

At the end of last year, I reported on the mysterious $11 million dollars that flowed into California to defeat ballot propositions 30 and 32. The flow of money was traced as it passed through several non-profit organizations, ultimately going all the way back to a known dark money conduit known as Americans for Job Security. Here’s a refresher:

AJS Spending in 2010-2012 cycle

  • The $11 million drop into California notwithstanding, AJS also dropped $15 million into the national elections. All of their media buys went through Crossroads Media, and nearly all of the funds were spent in opposition to Barack Obama.
  • In Arizona, Americans for Responsible Leadership dropped $1.1 million to oppose an open primary system in Arizona and an increase in their sales taxes. Because of differences in state campaign finance laws, it appears that ARL will not be compelled to disclose their donors. But based upon similarities, it’s not a far leap to assume the money flow was similar to the one in California.
  • In late 2011, AJS ran anti-union ads in New Hampshire tying to the Republican primary debate held there.
  • AJS dropped $689,000 in Wisconsin to oppose Eric Hovde, the less conservative candidate running for the open Senate seat Tammy Baldwin eventually won.

Because the trail seemed to go cold with the Americans for Job Security reveal, there didn’t seem to be much point in pursuing it. But according to Raw Story, California officials haven’t given up on digging through to the actual source.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission has issued roughly a dozen new subpoenas in the investigation of $11 million that was laundered through a network of dark money groups and funneled into the state during the last election, according to unnamed sources who spoke to The Huffington Post.

It’s not yet clear where the original $11 million came from, but investigators have so far traced it back to a group called Americans for Job Security (AJS), run by Stephen DeMaura, a blogger for Red State and the former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party. AJS told the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) it would not engage in political spending, but its application to accept tax deductible contributions has yet to be accepted.

Investigators said AJS gave $11 million to the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR), which was run in 2010 by Sean Noble, a former Republican congressional staffer whomPolitico called a “top” operative for the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch. The CPPR was instrumental during that year’s midterm elections in dolling out more than $44 million to groups that attacked Democrats and health care reform,according to The Center for Responsive Politics. Noble eventually moved on to work for another Koch-linked group, Americans for Limited Government.

I have no idea who they have subpoenaed, but I expect they will be able to dig it back to the usual GOP culprits. As soon as I saw that Sean Noble was in the mix, it was pretty obvious. Noble bills himself as the co-founder of DC London, a Republican campaign management firm. Past clients include Senator Jeff Flake. Noble’s real claim to fame, however, is that he was Senator John Shadegg’s chief of staff, and more importantly, worked side by side with Phil Kerpen at Americans for Prosperity and appears to be associated with Kerpen’s new venture, American Commitment, a new addition to the Koch stable of right-wing “activist” organizations.

This is one to watch. I would love for California to actually hold the Koch machine responsible for once instead of just shaking the change out of the slot.

H/T: Karoli at Crooks and Liars

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who spent as much as $150 million on independent expenditures to bolster Republicans in the 2012 election, has informed the Securities and Exchange Commission that his Las Vegas Sands Corporation “likely violated a federal law against bribing foreign officials.”

“[T]here were likely violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions” of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the company said in its annual regulatory report published on Friday. Late last year, Adelson reportedly held meetings with at least one House GOP leader to discuss “possible changes to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” arguing that he had been the target of federal investigations under the Act as retribution for his strong support for Republican candidates.

h/t: Igor Volsky at Think Progress Justice

Two foundations that have been described as “the dark money ATM of the right” have spent more than $1 million combined funding a non-profit organization whose primary function is distributing libertarian education materials featuring Fox Business host John Stossel.

Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, the affiliated funding groups, were until recently obscure entities. But over the past month a series of reports havedetailed how those organizations have paid out more than $400 million to over 1,000 conservative groups since their 1999 founding. Those reports have described how the two organizations have allowed wealthy individuals to discreetly underwrite trending conservative causes likeclimate change denial.

The groups have also been the primary funders behind an effort to flood American classrooms with packaged libertarian lessons branded with John Stossel’s mustachioed face. In 2011, Donors Trust gave $540,000 to the Philadelphia-based Center for Independent Thought (CIT), with the funds earmarked for the distribution of “Stossel in the Classroom” teaching materials, according to IRS filings obtained by Mother Jones

"Stossel in the Classroom" began in 1999 when Stossel was still with ABC News. It was seeded with financial support from the libertarian Palmer R. Chitester Fund and grew slowly until CIT took over the program in the mid-2000s.

CIT was a natural home for “Stossel in the Classroom.” Founded with Koch money as the Libertarian Review Foundation in the 1970s, real estate developer Howard Rich took control of the organization in 1990 and gave it its current name. Rich is part of the libertarian donor elite,  founded Americans for Limited Government, and sits on the board at Cato, the Club for Growth, and the Friedman Center for Educational Choice. (Rich’s wife, Andrea, runs CIT, but does not draw a salary.)

At the same time the group took over “Stossel,” new right-wing funding began flowing into its coffers. While Donors Trust was its main sponsor in 2011, it has also received money from Donors Capital Fund ($500,000 from 2007 to 2010) and foundations linked to the Koch brothers.

The purpose of groups like Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund is to allow wealthy benefactors to support conservative causes anonymously. The Tides Foundation is a liberal analogue, donating millions of dollars to left-leaning groups (including Media Matters).  According to Mother Jones, whose non-profit arm has also received Tides funding, “Donors Trust’s strategic intent is far narrower and more coherent than Tides’. The groups funded by Donors Trust more or less pursue the same agenda—eliminate regulations, kneecap unions, shrink government, and transfer more power to the private sector.”

The Center for Public Integrity produced this graphic detailing the flow of money in recent years from Koch-backed and other right-wing foundations through Donors Trust to a variety of conservative groups:


CIT’s funders — whoever they are — will find nothing in their program’s activities to make them question their investment in helping produce the next generation of libertarians.

The new caretakers built a slick new website, archived more videos spanning Stossel’s career, instituted a professional organization of requests and distribution, and began producing specially designed economics DVDs and teaching guides.

The program now offers hundreds of free clips from Stossel’s shows and specials that claim to seriously address a range of academic subjects, including Art (“Why does Hollywood Hate Capitalism?”), Biology ("Debunking Food Myths"), and History (“The Real Story of Thanksgiving,” which explains “how the Pilgrims were hurt by sharing”).

"Stossel in the Classroom" also produces libertarian economics courses. The small team of economists that writes materials such as “Making Economics Come Alive with John Stossel” has multiple close ties to the Stavros Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Economic Education at Florida State University.

The videos on the site are stacked with pundits echoing Stossel’s radical laissez-faire views. A typical lesson pairs videos of Fox Business pundits tearing into a regulatory effort — a video on the 2011 health care law features serial liar Betsy McCaughey and industrial-fan entrepreneur Bob Luddy — with teacher’s guides that ask if government regulation is necessary. 

h/t: MMFA