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Posts tagged "Koch Brothers"

h/t: Samantha Lachman at HuffPost Politics

Sen. Bernie Sanders is right on in regards to the Koch Brothers’ stupidity. 

h/t: John Prager at AATTP

h/t: Peter Montgomery at RWW


At least 15 Fox News personalities recently campaigned with organizations that were either created or heavily-funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.

No wonder these same Fox figures defended and praised the Kochs on-air. 

Reid’s right. 

H/T: Michael McAuliff at HuffPost Politics

h/t: Peter Montgomery at RWW


Koch Shill Joins Fox Talkers To Slam Bernie Sanders' VA Bill

Pete Hegseth, director of Concerned Veterans for America and newly appointed Minnesota GOP finance chair, joined Fox & Friends this morning to engage in Bernie Sanders-bashing over his VA proposal.

Of course, they lied through their tiny little teeth. In particular, the claim that veterans couldn’t go to private doctors under Sanders’ proposal is an outright lie. If you look at Sanders’ official summary on his official Senate site it’s there in black and white for all to read. If reading is something Fox talkers bother with, of course. Here are the words for the benefit of those who wish to be informed:

This legislation would also standardize the process VA uses to send patients into private medical care when VA is unable to provide them the care they need in a timely manner.

Seems pretty straightforward to me. You can also catch Bernie’s interview on Face the Nation where he specifically said “the short-term needs to make sure that any veteran who is on a long waiting line will be able to get the care that he or she needs either at a private facility or a community health center, or Department of Defense.”

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Harry Reid has more integrity than either of the Koch Brothers would ever dream of having. 

h/t: Caitlin MacNeal at TPM


On Tuesday, Thom Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, held off a libertarian challenger backed by Rand Paul to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Tillis was widely considered the establishment candidate, though not because his politics were notably more moderate than his Tea Party rivals’. As House speaker, Tillis proudly blocked the expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina, and he oversaw a decidedly radical legislative agenda that included restrictions on abortion and voting rights.

What marked Tillis as the candidate of the establishment was the source of his financial support, which included “nearly $2.5 million in television ads and mailers paid for by groups such as American Crossroads, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Rifle Association,” the Washington Post reported. Americans for Prosperity, bankrolled by Charles and David Koch, has already sunk millions of dollars into North Carolina in the past twelve months, to soften up Tillis’s opponent, the vulnerable Democratic freshman Kay Hagan. The Democrats, for their part, have also turned to outside billionaires and “dark money” groups to defend Hagan and their thin Senate majority. Even before Tuesday’s primary, national interest in the North Carolina Senate race had made it the third costliest contest in the country.

In recent years, North Carolina has become a showcase for the unfettered flow of money into American politics. The retail magnate and mega-donor James Arthur Pope, whom Jane Mayer wrote about in the magazine three years ago, has wielded enormous influence in the state. Wealthy liberal donors have tried to catch up, but they have a long way to go. In 2010, thanks in part to the support of Pope and allies like the Kochs and Karl Rove’s American CrossroadsPAC, Republicans took control of both houses in the state legislature for the first time since 1870. In 2012, Pat McCrory became the state’s first Republican governor in nearly two decades; last year, he named Pope the state’s budget director.

After a series of Supreme Court rulings, from Citizens United, in 2010, to McCutcheon, last month, the outsized influence of big donors now enjoys robust legal protection—as long as there is no “effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties” or “quid pro quo corruption,” in the words of Chief Justice John Roberts. In North Carolina, the debate over whether unrestricted campaign spending represents the flourishing of democracy or its corrosion is not an abstract one. It is literally in the water. For many years, environmental and community activists alleged that state officials had an inappropriately close relationship with Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric utility, which is headquartered in Charlotte. Those allegations grew louder when McCrory, who worked at Duke Energy for twenty-nine years, arrived at the governor’s mansion.

On February 2nd, an employee at a disused Duke coal plant in Eden noticed that a coal-ash pond had breached through a storm pipe into the adjacent Dan River. No one knows how long the spill had been going on, but by the time it was under control an estimated thirty-five million gallons of slurry had entered the river. The ash coated the bottom of the waterway and raced downstream toward drinking-water intakes from Danville, Virginia, to the Atlantic Ocean.

Coal ash—the stuff left over after coal is burned to generate electricity—contains significant amounts of arsenic, lead, selenium, mercury, and other heavy metals. It can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems, and is toxic if ingested; some of its chemicals can contribute to cancer. It is also damaging to fish, wildlife, and vegetation. Some of the waste, known as “fly ash,” spews out of coal-plant chimneys into the surrounding air. “Bottom ash” is left behind in the furnaces, and often gets transferred to holding pits nearby. The Eden plant closed in 2012, to make way for another Duke Energy operation that ran on hydraulically fractured natural gas. The company apparently did not have plans to move the sixty-three years of ash that had built up in the old plant.

Suddenly, people across North Carolina began wondering if coal-ash ponds next to the plants in their neighborhoods were safe. Investigators quickly found that they were not. Probable violations of clean-water statutes were found at Duke Energy sites across the state, many in plants situated near poor or majority-black communities.

After the Dan River spill, more questions arose about Governor McCrory’s relationship with his longtime employer. Later in February, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina opened an investigation to look for evidence of outright corruption, which forced some embarrassing disclosures: Duke Energy worked with environmental regulators to keep information about potential dam breaches secret from the public, and caused deliberate failures on the part of the state’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (D.E.N.R.) to force Duke to clean up unlined coal ponds.

For fourteen of the twenty-nine years that he worked for Duke Energy, mainly in the human-resources and economic-development departments, McCrory simultaneously served as mayor of Charlotte, the state’s largest city. He resigned from the company when he ran for governor, but remained a shareholder. Duke Energy and its employees and subsidiaries spent three hundred thousand dollars on his bids for the governorship, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. (Serving as a mayor and holding a job in the private sector is “common throughout the state,” Joshua Ellis, a spokesman for McCrory, told me. “All North Carolina mayors are part-time.” He added, “This notion that Duke has been getting any favorable treatment is totally untrue.”)

The company does not seem to have suffered during McCrory’s time in office, however. One of his first moves as governor was to remake D.E.N.R., by installing John Skvarla III, a businessman who had been the C.E.O. of a company whose portfolio included cleaning up fracking sites, at the helm. D.E.N.R.’s budget was cut and federal offsetting grants were refused. Agency staff complained about a severe weakening in enforcement abilities; some were laid off and others resigned. Within months, Skvarla could brag about having turned “North Carolina’s No. 1 obstacle of resistance into a customer-friendly juggernaut.”

Before the spill in February, environmental groups had tried to bring a suit against Duke over improper coal-ash storage under the Clean Water Act, only to have D.E.N.R. intervene. The agency negotiated a settlement with Duke worth only ninety-nine thousand dollars, with no requirement for a cleanup. “Here, the normal relationship between the law enforcement and the law-abiding citizens was stood on its head,” Frank Holleman, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, which has been trying to sue Duke Energy over previous violations, said. “The law enforcer and the law breaker have been acting hand in glove.”

Duke—founded by the same family as the nearby university, but otherwise unrelated—makes no bones about its political involvement. Its activities range from donating millions to campaigns through its political-action committee, DUKEPAC, to encouraging employees to run for office, “generally, school boards and town councils,” a Duke spokesman, Tom Williams, said. “You know, the old mantra of a utility: citizenship and service.”

Indeed, the company has long enjoyed friendly and strategic relationships with both major parties. The chairman of Duke’s board, James Rogers, played an integral role in bringing the 2012 Democratic National Convention to Charlotte; after President Obama’s reëlection, the company passed the bulk of a ten-million-dollar line of credit to fund the event onto its shareholders. During this election cycle, the top recipient of the company’s contributions has been the National Republican Senatorial Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, but its top individual candidate recipient so far has been Kay Hagan, the Democratic incumbent.

Duke officials and McCrory’s office have said that they are complying with the dozens of grand-jury subpoenas filed so far. Duke’s C.E.O., Lynn Good, told a luncheon crowd on April 2nd, the same day the McCutechon decision was handed down in Washington, that the company is “committed to a fact-based and disciplined approach to addressing the long-term policies of ash-basin management and closing our ash basins at our coal plants.” Williams, the company spokesman, added, “We don’t believe there has been any inappropriate contact with D.E.N.R.” The company says that it will pay for the cleanup on the Dan River, but has said that the cost of removing and mitigating other coal-ash ponds could be passed on to customers. This week, McCrory’s office also announced that the Governor had sold off all of his Duke Energy stock, telling the press that the sale, the value of which was not announced, “eliminates the often repeated, ridiculous and false, partisan left-wing attacks challenging the intent of our decisions and policies.”

The Governor and the company are right to be confident. Proving political corruption in American courts remains almost impossible. In Citizens United, McCutcheon, and Skilling v. U.S., the Roberts court has limited the idea of what can be considered corruption in a legal sense: the only act a court can call corruption, Roberts’s majority in McCutcheon held, is “a direct exchange of an official act for money”—a bald-faced bribe. Historically, proving that has been tricky. U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker has his work cut out for him.

Yet, as the midterm electoral cycle moves into the fall, even the mere perception that something is rotten in North Carolina could carry costs. “The ‘appearance of corruption’ can make matters worse,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent in McCutcheon. “It can lead the public to believe that its efforts to communicate with its representatives or to help sway public opinion have little purpose. And a cynical public can lose interest in political participation altogether.”

Source: Jonathan M. Katz for The New Yorker

h/t: Kenneth P. Vogel at Politico

“These claims may sound outlandish – and they are – but the fact is, millions of Americans are absorbing this extremist propaganda, and it’s having a very real impact,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “These lies are being repeated in churches, legislative hearings and town hall meetings across the country.”

The reportPublic Schools in the Crosshairs: Far-Right Propaganda and the Common Core State Standards, was researched by the Intelligence Project and the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program.

Many Christian Right activists claim the Common Core will indoctrinate young children into “the homosexual lifestyle” and instill anti-American, anti-Christian values. Their fight has been joined by radical antigovernment groups like the John Birch Society, which claims the standards are part of a global conspiracy to create a totalitarian “New World Order.” Glenn Beck, meanwhile, describes the Common Core as “evil” and “communism.” U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has called it “dangerous.”

What’s more, it’s clear that some of the opponents, including national groups associated with the billionaire Koch brothers, are exploiting the Common Core in their broader fight against the public education system in an effort to promote school privatization measures.

“The 50 million children in our nation’s public schools, and the dedicated educators who serve them, deserve better than a debate that focuses on falsehoods and demonizes the very idea of public education,” said Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello. “There are legitimate concerns about the Common Core, but those very real issues are being obscured and distorted by the claims of extremists.”

Despite the claims of many critics, the standards do not mandate the use of any particular book or course of study. Those decisions remain with individual teachers and school systems.

The standards were developed under the auspices of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Forty-five states initially adopted the Common Core, but Indiana in March became the first state to withdraw.

h/t: Randy Turner at The Turner Report

h/t: Trevor LaFauci at PoliticusUSA

Right-wing media have been rushing to distance themselves from the Nevada rancher they’ve spent weeks championing after Cliven Bundy revealed his racist worldview, but two of Bundy’s biggest cheerleaders — Sean Hannity and Fox News — have vested corporate, financial, and political interests in the promotion of Cliven Bundy’s anti-government land ownership agenda.  

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy became Fox News’ favorite folk hero after he refused to comply with court orders directing him to remove his trespassing cattle from public land. Hannity and many other right-wing media rallied around Bundy and his armed supporters as they threatened violence against federal law enforcement officials attempting to impound Bundy’s cattle and collect the $1 million he owes in fines and fees after decades of noncompliance with the law.

Bundy has said he doesn’t recognize the existenceof the federal government nor its authority over the land and has attacked the federal ownership of lands as subverting Nevada’s “state sovereignty.” 

Hannity has promoted Bundy’s anti-government rhetoric, arguing that the federal government owns far too much land and pushing Bundy’s claim that not only does the federal government not have land-ownership authority but that they don’t need or use the land they claim to own. On the April 23 edition of his show, Hannity attacked the government for owning too much land, agreeing with Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano that they do not have the constitutional authority to own any of the land. Throughout the land battle, Hannity continuously argued that the government is irresponsibly fighting for land they have no intended use for — such as building hospitals, schools, or roads — and should focus their efforts elsewhere to rapists, murderers, criminals, and pedophiles.

Bundy and Hannity’s promotion of state ownership of federal lands gives airtime to an issue that conservatives have long been campaigning for but have had difficulty getting voters excited about — an issue in line with the land  interests of the Koch brothers. Slate reported on April 23 that the Fox News corporate, financial, and political interests being served by Hannity’s promotion of Bundy lie in the network’s connection to the Koch brothers:

Bundy’s anti-federal agenda is closely aligned with that of Charles and David Koch, major Republican donors who have been pushing for states to gain control over federal lands - so they can be sold or leased to people like the Koch brothers in deals.

Fox News Network and Sean Hannity have a particular interest in the promotion and realization of such Koch interests because their funding depends on it — Hannity receives major funding and large ad buys from Koch-affiliated Heritage and Tea Party Patriots.

Hannity’s Koch-affiliated funders have a long history of promoting the privatization of public lands and condemning the federal ownership of land. Tea Party groups have supported local efforts to transfer federal lands. Heritage has advocated shrinking the U.S. government’s control by selling its physical assets such as “huge swaths of land (especially out west).” Heritage was also a loyal promoter of the Federal Land Freedom Act of 2013, advocating for the transfer of federal land management to state regulators for energy resource development.

Giving airtime to an issue that is obscure but significant to his conservative funders makes perfect sense for Hannity. Politico reported that Heritage began sponsoring Hannity in 2008 and in 2013 Hannity began advertising for the Tea Party Patriots, “lending his name to fundraising drives, hosting its leaders on his radio and Fox News shows, and even using the Fox airwaves to promote the Tea Party Patriots website.”

The Koch brothers have been covertly funding right-wing organizations such as Heritage Action and the Tea Party Patriots through the non-profit business league Freedom Partners whose tax code status as a trade association allows the organization to conceal its donors. Freedom Partners is one of the largest donors of conservative groups and its board has deep ties to the Koch brothers with many of its members being longtime employees of Koch Industries and the Charles G. Koch Foundation.

The Koch-funded Freedom Partners made grants of $236 million in 2011; among many conservative groups its recipients include Heritage as well as the Tea Party Patriots. Heritage Action received $500,000 in 2011 from the Koch brothers through Freedom Partners and additional funds from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. In 2012, the Tea Party Patriots received $200,000 from Freedom Partners. 

The legislative efforts of such groups to transfer control of federal lands to states are ”nothing more than corporate-backed messaging tools” initiated by conservative groups like the Koch-affiliates. Such efforts are rooted in the interests of the Kochs and other conservative groups to use the land in whichever way is most profitable to them such as mining, drilling, and other resource extraction. 

h/t: Olivia Kittel at MMFA

h/t: Evan McMorris-Santoro at BuzzFeed