In a newly released audio recording, obtained by The Undercurrent, a man identified as a top Koch strategist warned that an increased minimum wage could turn the United States to a fascist state. At a Koch Brothers-hosted secret strategy conference of right-wing millionaire and billionaire political activists in June, Koch Industries executive vice president Richard Fink apparently made the slippery-slope argument.
After explaining that when he sees people on the streets, he tells them to “get off your ass and work hard like we did,” the man identified as Fink said that the culture of victimization is the ‘main recruitng ground for totalitarianism, for fascism, for conformism.” Raising the minimum wage, he claimed, would cost 500,000 people their jobs — a claim that has been disputed by some economists:
FINK: We’re taking these 500,000 people that would’ve had a job and putting them unemployed, making dependence part of government programs, and destroying their opportunity for earned success. And so we see this as a very big part of recruitment in Germany in the twenties. When the Germans were crushed by World War I, the allies put a very strong settlement on that. They lost their meaning in life. And if you look at the rise and fall of the Third Reich … what happens is a fascist comes in and offers them an opportunity.
He added that similar patterns were seen in “Lenin and Stalin Russia” and Mao in China.”
Watch the video:
At the same conference, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised those present that if his party regains a majority in the Senate this November, the body will no longer waste time on “gosh darn” minimum wage increases.
Koch Industries did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about the audio.
WASHINGTON — Though the network of conservative groups funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch are better known for spending millions on top-tier Senate and gubernatorial races, they may be having a more durable impact at the local level.
A report released Thursday by the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund compiles example after example of how Americans for Prosperity is mobilizing supporters to campaign against local tax increases and mass transit systems and for like-minded candidates running for school and county boards. Americans for Prosperity is a key player in the Koch-affiliated universe, with chapters in 35 states.
Among the local targets cited was a proposed tax increase to provide a permanent source of funding for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. After Americans for Prosperity’s Ohio chapter mailed fliers, made calls, ran radio ads and knocked on thousands of doors, the proposal was defeated.
"There is no issue we won’t get involved in if you’re going to raise taxes," Eli Miller, director of the Ohio chapter, told a local NPR affiliate in April.
The CAP Action Fund report suggests that the Ohio effort was aimed less at protecting local pocketbooks and more at protecting Koch-affiliated business interests in Columbus. Georgia-Pacific Chemicals, a Koch Industries subsidiary, would have seen its property taxes go up at one facility if the levy had passed.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D), who leads the action fund, said that the Kochs are interfering with the ability of local communities to “determine what’s right” for them.
"The local business community was largely supportive of the zoo levy," Strickland told The Huffington Post. "It’s kind of ironic, because some of the people who in the past have perhaps been cheerleaders for the Kochs, as they have attempted to use their wealth in order to get conservative candidates elected to office, are now perhaps a little unhappy that the Kochs are behaving in ways that are not consistent with their goals — and that was certainly true with what happened in Columbus with regards to the zoo levy. They’re willing to spend whatever they need to cripple and limit government."
The report also highlights a fight over a proposed mass transit system in Nashville. The Amp, a 7.1-mile rapid transit bus project, never received the go-ahead after Americans for Prosperity’s Tennessee affiliate encouraged state senators to introduce a measure aimed at preventing cities from establishing rapid transit systems that would use separate road lanes. Though a coalition of business and community groups were in favor of the proposal, it fizzled.
The report argues that in the Nashville example, the Koch network was motivated by a belief that public transit would threaten the brothers’ oil and gas interests.
Almost no issue appears to be too small for the Kochs’ activists. Americans for Prosperity jumped into an Iron County board of supervisors election in northern Wisconsin to attack candidates opposed to an iron ore mine. The group also flexed its organizing muscle over a 1.75 percent food and beverage tax in Fremont, Nebraska, to fund emergency capital improvement projects and a 1 percent tax increase in Gahanna, Ohio, to prevent cuts to the local police force.
"What does David Koch know about the city of Gahanna?" Strickland asked.
The Kochs, he argued, “are willing to spend vast sums of unreported money to interfere with the decisions that should rightfully be made by local communities. If you look across the country, they are using their wealth to try to control what happens at the local level, to the detriment of schools, teachers, firefighters and infrastructure development. If they are successful, if they achieve their goals, it will be detrimental to the country because the decision-making is coming from the top down.”
Local education issues are another area arousing Koch interest. The network has worked to roll back efforts aimed at integrating schools in North Carolina and promoted school board candidates in Douglas County, Colorado, who supported abolishing teacher tenure, benching teachers’ unions, implementing voucher programs and paying teachers based on the subject and grade they instruct.
The CAP Action Fund report also flags a Huffington Post story about the Youth Entrepreneurs nonprofit, funded primarily by Charles Koch, which pays public school students to take courses espousing lower taxes and fewer regulations and deploring higher minimum wages and social welfare programs.
Strickland framed his group’s report as an effort at raising public awareness about the “selfish” motivations of the Kochs’ political involvement.
"I think there are many people, even in the communities affected by these efforts, who are largely unaware that these wealthy outside interests are having an impact on what happens there," he said. "The Koch brothers are looking out for themselves and their own economic interests, but they cloak that in a kind of political and economic philosophy that allows them to pretend to be high-minded in their motivations. Their motivations are selfish and people need to know that. Once people understand the threat to the democratic process and understand the source of that threat, we will be better able to help local communities protect themselves from these efforts."
Americans for Prosperity has a different take. It sees its local campaigns as a way to reach voters who wouldn’t otherwise show up for a federal election and bring them into the network.
"It’s a little frustrating when someone says, ‘Oh, this is a political effort about the U.S. Senate,’" Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips told National Journal in June. “They don’t look at the totality of what Americans for Prosperity is doing.”
"We’re genuinely a long-term effort," he added. "We’re not about some election cycle."
Sen. Bernie Sanders is right on in regards to the Koch Brothers’ stupidity.
A brief history of conservatives’ attempt to destroy America.
This is an attempt to present a timeline sequence of events and activities, over the last 64 years, beginning with the McCarthy Era. I believe we have evidence that the Republican Party of the United States of America has colluded, then planned and executed heinous financial and social crimes against the people of the United States of America. The Republican Party has, with the intention of complete social upheaval and financial domination, undermined the very institution of the United States government. At its most basic level, this is a case of cause and effect. Think of it as a root cause analysis. Evidence included.
McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means “the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.
McCarthyism and the Red Scare was thwarted by a gutsy journalist by the name of Edward R. Murrow. Murrow was not restricted by political ties – he asked the hard questions and spoke the truth. When was the last time you saw this level of journalistic courage in the United States of America?
“One of the most prominent attacks on McCarthy’s methods was an episode of the television documentary series See It Now, hosted by journalist Edward R. Murrow, which was broadcast on March 9, 1954. Titled “A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy”, the episode consisted largely of clips of McCarthy speaking. In these clips, McCarthy accuses the Democratic party of “twenty years of treason”, describes the American Civil Liberties Union as “listed as ‘a front for, and doing the work of’, the Communist Party”, and berates and harangues various witnesses, including General Zwicker.”
Fast forward to 2012. Sound familiar? It should:
“I have here in my hand a list of 205 communists …”
-U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Florida.
Now to 2013
IS SENATOR TED CRUZ OUR NEW MCCARTHY?
“Last week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s prosecutorial style of questioning Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary, came so close to innuendo that it raised eyebrows in Congress, even among his Republican colleagues. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, called Cruz’s inquiry into Hagel’s past associations “out of bounds, quite frankly.”
You will soon see the connections…where we were in the 50′s and why we’re seeing it again. It’s all by design. But now it is for money. For “business.”
Fred R. Koch (1900-1967)
Koch started his career with the Texas Company in Port Arthur, Texas, and later became chief engineer with the Medway Oil & Storage Company on the Isle of Grain in Kent, England. In 1925 he joined a fellow MIT classmate, P.C. Keith, at Keith-Winkler Engineering in Wichita, Kansas. Following the departure of Keith in 1925, the firm became Winkler-Koch Engineering Company.
Extended litigation which he eventually won effectively put Winkler-Koch out of business in the U.S. for several years. Koch turned his focus to foreign markets, including the Soviet Union, where Winkler-Koch built 15 cracking units between 1929 and 1932. The company also built installations in countries throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia. In the early 1930s, Winkler-Koch hosted Soviet technicians for training.
Having succeeded in securing the family fortune, Koch joined new partners in 1940 to create the Rock Island Oil & Refining Company, which is today known as Koch Industries. Rock Island Oil & Refining had no public relations department, having no relations with the public, and the Koch family went out of its way to avoid doing business with the government. In 1966 he turned over day-to-day management of the company to his son, Charles Koch. As of this writing, Koch industries is valued in the neighborhood of $100 biillion dollars.
Koch’s anti-Soviet views led him to become a founding member of the John Birch Society. Koch claimed that the Democratic and Republican Parties were infiltrated by the Communist Party, and he supported Mussolini’s suppression of Communists. Koch wrote that “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America” and characterized welfare as a secret plot to attract rural blacks and Puerto Ricans to Eastern cities to vote for Communist causes and “getting a vicious race war started.”
Consider those words for a moment. This is the genesis of where we are today.
The John Birch Society
The John Birch Society (JBS) is an American political advocacy group that supports anti-communism and limited government. It has been described as radical right. Businessman and founder Robert W. Welch Jr. (1899–1985) and oil tycoon co-founder Fred R. Koch developed an elaborate organizational infrastructure (consider today’s right wing structure) in 1958 that enabled them to keep a very tight rein on the chapters. Its main activity in the 1960s, says Rick Perlstein, “comprised monthly meetings to watch a film by Welch, followed by writing postcards or letters to government officials linking specific policies to the Communist menace.”
One might surmise that if they had such a problem with “Communism” they would also have a problem with our goods being manufactured in Communist countries. In fact, they don’t. Remember, Fred Koch helped develop Communist infrastructure in the Soviet Union. Fred Koch hated the Soviet Union and he hated Communism. In fact, during his years of litigation in the lawsuit he eventually won, he learned to hate organized government. The words “greater good” were lost on him. Fred Koch was not only an oil tycoon, he was also a racist, as evidenced by the quote above. He had no regard for the black man in America and certainly no sense of social justice or the value of contributing to the system. He did, however, value money and power above all else and passed those (and his anti-communism/anti-minority) attributes on to his sons. This is our first clue as to what this might really be all about. And why we are where we are now.
Fast forward; the 60′s
The free-wheeling social times of the 60′s concerned many businessmen. Numerous social concessions had been made by the Right in the ’60′s; women’s fight for equal rights, the rise of significance of the black contributions to America, equality for blacks in America. The rise of Cesar Chavez who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association on the west coast occurred during this time. Not insignificantly, a man by the name of Ralph Nader pushed for safety in the American automobile industry after years of slaughter on America’s Eisenhower-era interstate highways. One man, Lewis Powell was particularly disturbed by the trend. Powell decided to do something about it. Engineer a game plan. A blueprint that, if followed precisely, would ensure government empowered corporate domination over the American people for the forseeable future.
The Powell Memorandum – the Blueprint
In 1971, Lewis Powell, a successful tobacco lobby attorney, penned a document that is known as the “Powell Memorandum.” In this document, which was sent to Eugene Sydnor, Jr., the Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Powell extolled the virtues of blending business interests with political interests. It was a win-win if government could be a partner with business. A win-win for business and government, and an undeniable lose-lose for the citizens of this country. Powell was smart – knew how to cover all the bases and he was in it for the win:
Attack on all fronts - Education / Regulation / Media
Think about the ills of our society today. American men and women just like you and me, all affected, in some way. From income disparity (union busting, lack of labor rights) to right wing media ownership (all major media conglomerates) to the perpetuated myth of trickle-down (how’d that work for us?), to the de-valuation of science, to the massive deterioration of our public school system, to our crumbling infrastructure, to the fact that you will not hear this story in mainstream media - we, you, me, our children, our grandchildren, and our very earth are literally living the results of the success of the Powell Memorandum today.
What this is really all about
Coincidentally, in the fall of 1972, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) made a surprising announcement: It planned to move its main offices from New York to Washington, D.C. As its chief, Burt Raynes, observed:
We have been in New York since before the turn of the century, because we regarded this city as the center of business and industry. But the thing that affects business most today is government. The interrelationship of business with business is no longer so important as the interrelationship of business with government. In the last several years, that has become very apparent to us.
The organizational counterattack of business in the 1970′s was swift and sweeping — a domestic version of shock and awe. The number of corporations with public affairs offices in Washington grew from 100 in 1968 to over 500 in 1978. In 1971, only 175 firms had registered lobbyists in Washington, but by 1982, nearly 2,500 did.
Boy howdy, did they jump on the DC bus, and boy howdy, did they find willing participants. In their quest, the funds changed hands quickly, and the selling out of us - the people who elected them - began in earnest. The new, collaborative group of our elected politicians and business executives became colluding partners. Here’s the short list:
- they funded & built lobbyist groups, in reality, politician cash-exchange groups.
- they funded & built central messaging entities: The Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute, American Enterprise Institute, ad nauseum.
- they identified & funded elected politicians who were willing to relinquish OUR Democracy for their cash and power (1995 Legislative / 1980 Executive)
- the politicians inserted complicit attorneys into the judicial system (Executive -> Judicial 1986/1988/1991/2005/2006)
- they created & passed legislation to change the media rules – eliminated the Fairness Doctrine 1987-Judicial 1999-Legislative
- they identified & promoted their wedge issues, i.e. identify domestic and foreign “enemies” (abortion, guns, God, gays, Communist, Muslim, poor, unions, teachers, women’s rights, unemployed, black, Hispanic…)
- they teamed with the religious right. A monumental combining of dogmas, which would prove to be invaluable when support of the Republican Party would have to rely on faith alone. Clearly, they hooked the religious right on wedge issues. The religious population was already faith-based. It’s not a stretch to create a faith-based political party. They already deny facts and evidence. Brilliant.
- with regulations lifted, they were able to create a conservative media propaganda voice (Fox “News” – 1996), fueled by wedge issues to control the hearts and minds. (side note: Roger Ailes pitched the idea to Nixon, but Nixon turned his nose at the idea calling it “too expensive.”)
- they fueled & promoted a hatred for the Government created for US by OUR founding fathers. (Remember drown it in the bathtub?) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grover_Norquist
- they ensured that outright lying in media would be legal. (2003, 2007)
- they attained a strong Supreme Court majority (2005)
According to the Vanderbilt Law Review study, this politicized hiring trend reinforces the impression that the Supreme Court is “a super-legislature responding to ideological arguments rather than a legal institution responding to concerns grounded in the rule of law.”
- Corporations achieve “personhood.” Decided January 21, 2010
- The Judicial branch guts campaign finance laws. Decided April 2, 2014
- The Judicial Branch allows corporations to dictate medical insurance coverage based on the religious ideology of the corporate executives. Decided June 30, 2014
It becomes obvious that the Powell Memorandum game plan has been executed magnificently. The Judicial Branch now has a majority, and the House of Representatives, with the help of re-districting (they can’t win if they don’t cheat), has shown it has the power to shut our government down. Hopefully you are beginning to see by now that accusations of “Communism” and “Socialism” are now nothing more than a means to an end. And we’ve seen another tact executed with precision: Demonize anyone not in line with their agenda. Think about how our president has been treated. Our first lady. How progressives are treated. How rape victims are treated. How anyone not in line with their agenda is treated. Have you noticed a trend yet? Does Fox “News” make sense to you now?
Next Step: De-legitimizing the Body of Government
The combined corporate/conservative political body could not destroy the entity that controls it (our government) from within unless the government itself is de-legitimized – convince the citizens to hate their government, so that they could wrest control from the citizens. They got to work on it. You know how many hearts and minds have been converted if you’ve been paying attention. You might even have family members who have been converted. Here’s how they did it.
The Target: Congressional Intelligence
This is the successful effort to dumb-down the body of Congress, with Newt Gingrich at the helm:
“It’s true that both parties have outsourced much of their policy development over the years. Groups like the Center for American Progress to some extent do for Democrats what Heritage does for Republicans (or did prior to Jim DeMint’s takeover), and plenty of lawmakers from both parties take their policy instructions from Wall Street lobbyists. But whereas for Democrats the outsourcing of policy has happened more by necessity, for Republicans it’s been by design. Newt Gingrich began the process in the 1990s with his attacks on in-house congressional expertise. Leaders like Tom DeLay in the House and Rick Santorum in the Senate advanced that process in the 2000s with the “K Street Project,” an organized effort to place GOP Hill staffers in key jobs in the most important D.C. law firms and trade associations.”
The Target: The Institution of Government
What strategy would you use to ensure the turnover of our government to corporate institutions? One tact is to de-legitimize government as an entity. The success of this particular tact is evidenced by the low popularity of Congress, and it is absolutely by design: The Lofgren Corollary
“A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly)what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.”
And then there’s ALEC
American Legislative Executive Council – Conservative legislation pre-written to satisfy the pro-business/anti-citizen agenda, now adopted by states with conservative majorities. This legislation has little to no regard for human lives or environmental consequences.
Funding and spending (you’ll see the Koch name again):
Privatizing of education (remember the Powell Memo)
Are any politicians in your state members? (Note the overwhelming political affiliation)
1985 to 2008
Starving the Beast - the transfer of public wealth to private interests
The most heinous crime of all – the Right’s bloating (transfer the wealth) and subsequent (social program) defunding our Federal Government (socialize the losses). A transfer of wealth to the tune of $12 trillion.
“I believe that to a large extent our current budgetary problems stem from the widespread adoption of an idea by Republicans in the 1970s called “starve the beast.” It says that the best, perhaps only, way of reducing government spending is by reducing taxes. While a plausible strategy at the time it was formulated, STB became a substitute for serious budget control efforts, reduced the political cost of deficits, encouraged fiscally irresponsible tax cutting and ultimately made both spending and deficits larger.”
And don’t believe anyone who says the Democratic Congress did it.
2008 to Present
Getting the Citizens on the Bandwagon
With the debt run up to the multi-trillions thanks the Starve the Beast and the (by design) global recession, AND a black man in the White House it was time to seize the moment – create an opposition to the government by leveraging the circumstances (not to mention execute the final phase of Starve the Beast)…it was time to pull the pin on the grenade they called the Tea Party. They had willing participants in the South. To the Johnny-rebs a black man in the White House was an abomination (Obamanation). They were in the (tea)bag. To others, the massive debt had finally become evident. Most seemed to miss the fact that Obama’s predecessor had been starving the beast at record rates. But they were easily manipulated into believing it was the Liberals, or even Obama himself who had run up the debt. How easy are they to convince? Here’s one example.
2009 to Present
The Tea Party
Funded and strengthened by Americans for Prosperity - Koch front group
- Leveraged unimaginably high debt incurred by Starve the Beast
- Repurposed old John Birch Society talking points
- Enough candidates were elected in 2010 to shut down OUR government
- In states with conservative majorities, laws have been implemented in record time with the effect of shutting down family planning centers, shutting down unions, liberalizing gun laws.
2013 to Present
Groundswell – the 30 Front War – Now They’re Just Rubbing it in Our Faces
Without a doubt, Groundswell is the most blatant conflict of interest in the history of the United States Supreme Court.
The wife of Justice Thomas, Ginny Thomas:
Believing they are losing the messaging war with progressives, a group of prominent conservatives in Washington—including the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and journalists from Breitbart News and the Washington Examiner—has been meeting privately since early this year to concoct talking points, coordinate messaging, and hatch plans for “a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation,” according to documents obtained by Mother Jones.
As if their policies haven’t ALREADY fundamentally transformed our nation.
That was the cause. The following is the effect.
The Damage – incalculable
What have they done?
- Monetary and Social Damage – Starve the Beast – Increase debt to reduce social funding: cost – trillions – leave the citizens holding the debt
- Transferring the wealth at the state level – See the Kansas crisis for details
- Blame our president for their actions
- Leveraged, cultivated, and promoted racism.
- Transfer of public funds to private interests by way of the General Fund (Social Security): cost – trillions
- Reduced Revenue – In line with starving the beast: cost – trillion
- War for Profit – Half a million human lives lost, hundreds of thousands of displaced families: cost – trillions. Cost to families, incalculable
- Tanked the Economy – Loosened regulations, enabled endemic wall street fraud, “temporary” tax cuts, massive unemployment: cost – trillions
- Created massive unemployment: cost – half a trillion in benefits alone
- Consolidated media – Control the message
- Cultivated, promoted and celebrated ignorance - Split American families - truth no longer matters (you might even have examples in your family.)
- Manufactured Christian heresy (Jesus was a Republican) is now accepted as truth. (would Jesus let children starve when He could stop it? Would Jesus stand at our border and scream at children “We don’t want you here either!”)
- Promoted extremism (private militias, Bundy)
- With the help of the NRA, promoted armed revolt
- Attempted to de-legitimize science
If you’re still with me here, focus on the following sentence. Read it twice.
We have come to the point of time in our history where facts no longer have merit, where laws are selectively broken if they in some way show support for our president or the government he represents…and those tentacles run deep INTO our federal government – both bodies of Congress and the Supreme Court.
From our vantage point today, we have an immensely powerful opponent. The opponent owns two thirds of our government. The opponent has virtually limitless funding. The opponent owns the media. The opponent owns the minds of millions of citizens.
However. The founding fathers created the United States government FOR us. The only real power they gave us was our vote. Individually, we are weak. Collectively, we are an unbeatable force.
It’s time to turn this abomination around.
Please vote for Democrats at every level of government. Yes, Democrats have been sucked in, we all must admit that and we have plenty of evidence. But unlike Republicans, there are some Democrats who represent what our founding fathers had in mind. Bernie Sanders. Cory Booker. Elizabeth Warren. Al Franken. Tammy Duckworth. Dennis Kucinich. Russ Feingold. Alan Grayson. Sherrod Brown. John Lewis. Bruce Braley. Joaquin Castro. Elijah Cummings. And plenty more.
It’s time for our government to represent us again. Our only real voice is our vote and I urge every capable and qualified American citizen to vote Democratic at every level of government. A statement must be made and it can ONLY be made by us.
I can think of no Republican to name as survivor. Is there a remaining Republican politician who has not voted in-line, who has not obstructed, who has opened his/her mouth and spewed the Tea Party->Koch->John Birch Society->Senator Joseph McCarthy line? No.
The expiration date for the Republican Party is November 4, 2014.
Let’s all make that happen. And recruit a new, blue voter in November. A niece, a nephew, or even a friend who has never voted.
We must overwhelm to win.
h/t: John Prager at AATTP
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ended this Supreme Court session with a bang, writing the majority opinion in two cases that gave for-profit corporations the right to make religious liberty claims to evade government regulation and set the stage for the fulfillment of a central goal of the right-wing political movement: the destruction of public employee unions.
Neither of the decisions were particularly surprising. Samuel Alito is the single most pro-corporate Justice on the most pro-business Court since the New Deal. Still, Alito’s one-two punch was another extraordinary milestone for the strategists who have been working for the past 40 years to put business firmly in the driver’s seat of American politics.
Many would suggest that the modern right-wing movement began with the failed presidential bid of Barry Goldwater. But there’s a strong case to be made that it begins in earnest with a 1971 memo by Lewis Powell, who argued that American businesses were losing public support and called for a massive, continuing campaign to wage war on leftist academics, progressive nonprofit groups, and politicians. The memo by Powell, who was later appointed to the Supreme Court via a nomination by Richard Nixon, inspired a few very wealth men like Adolph Coors, John M. Olin, and Richard Mellon Scaife, who set about creating and funding a massive infrastructure of think tanks, endowed academic chairs, law schools and right-wing legal groups, including the Federalist Society, which has nurtured Alito’s career.
Chief among the right-wing movement’s tactics has been building sufficient political power to achieve ideological dominance over the federal judiciary. As activists like Richard Viguerie recruited foot soldiers to help win elections for the GOP, the Federalist Society built the intellectual foundations for an extreme conservative legal movement that would gain traction when its members won confirmation to the federal bench. That process began in earnest during the Reagan administration and reached new heights during the George W. Bush administration with the ascendance to the Supreme Court of John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
Samuel Alito was, is, and always has been a man of the movement, an ideological warrior with a clear set of goals. His commitment to achieving those goals by any means available to him is reflected in his record in the Reagan Justice Department, the White House Office of Legal Counsel, as an appeals court judge, and now as a Supreme Court justice, where he is helping to wage a legal counterrevolution aimed at reversing hard-won advances protecting workers, the environment, and the rights of women, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBT people.
He remains an active part of the political and legal movement that shepherded his rise to power. The Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo steered Alito’s Supreme Court nomination through the White House and Senate. Alito has returned the favor, participating in numerous events for the Federalist Society even after he became a member of the Supreme Court. He has shown no concern about positioning himself as part of the movement, telling listeners at a Federalist Society dinner in 2012 that the Obama administration is promoting a vision of society “in which the federal government towers over people.” He has also helped raise funds at events for the right-wing American Spectator Magazine (where he mocked VP-elect Joe Biden), the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and the Manhattan Institute.
Alito’s class at Princeton was the last all-male class at the university, and when Alito was angling for a promotion within the Reagan-Meese Justice Department in 1985, he bragged that he was a “proud member” of Conservative Alumni of Princeton, a group that aggressively fought the university’s efforts to diversify its student body by accepting more women and people of color. (He developed a surprisingly thorough amnesia on the topic between his Justice Department days and his Supreme Court confirmation hearings.)
At the Justice Department, Alito was part of a team that pushed to limit civil rights protections and advance a right-wing legal ideology. Even in that hothouse of right-wing activism, he was an outlier, unsuccessfully trying to push Ronald Reagan to veto an uncontroversial bill against odometer fraud on the grounds of federalism. Alito argued that it is not the job of the federal government to protect the “health, safety, and welfare” of Americans. He continued to push that kind of federalism argument as a judge, dissenting from a ruling that upheld a federal law restricting the sale of machine guns. On the Third Circuit Court of Appeals he was often the lone dissenter staking out far-right interpretations of the law that consistently sacrificed the rights and interests of individuals to powerful corporate or other institutions.
Among the right-wing movement’s key long-term goals – from the Nixon era up until today – has been to rig the system to prevent progressives from being able to win elections and exercise political influence. They have sought to “defund the left” by starving government agencies and progressive nonprofits of funds and by weakening or destroying organized labor, which is a crucial source of funding and organizing efforts for progressive causes and candidates. For example, the DeVos family pushed anti-union “right to work” legislation in their home state of Michigan, and the Koch brothers and their political networks have poured massive resources into the political arm of the movement, exemplified by politicians who, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, are hell-bent on the destruction of public employee unions.
Alito’s recent decision in the Harris v. Quinn case was just the latest step towards that goal. In that case, Alito and his conservative colleagues invented a new employee classification in order to declare that one class of workers paid by the state are not subject to the same labor laws as other public employees. The decision was prefigured in a 2012 case, Knox v. SEIU, in which Alito led an attack on unions by deciding to answer a question that had not even come before them in the case. In essence, he and the other conservative justices argued that a system that allows workers to opt out of assessments for unions’ political work was suddenly unconstitutional, and required an opt-in. Justice Sotomayor slammed the Alito decision for ruling on an issue which the SEIU had not even been given an opportunity to address. That kind of right-wing activism moved People For the American Way Foundation’s Paul Gordon to write that the Court’s conservative judges “might as well have taken off their judicial robes and donned Scott Walker T-shirts in their zeal to make it harder for unions to protect workers.”
In his Harris decision, Alito went out of his way to invite right-wing legal groups to bring a more far-reaching case, one that would finally give him and his pro-business colleagues an opportunity to take a sledgehammer to public employee unions by eliminating, in the name of the First Amendment, the requirement (specifically upheld by the Supreme Court over 30 years ago) that workers benefitting from a collective bargaining agreement help pay for the costs of negotiating that kind of agreement. That would devastate union financing, sharply limiting their ability to protect their members and potentially setting up a death spiral as fewer employees would see the benefits of joining (and paying dues to) the unions. Not coincidentally, this would also severely weaken the progressive political organizations and parties that unions have long supported. Movement conservatives have long looked forward to checking that off their “to do” list.
Alito’s determination to re-write federal law in ways that strengthen corporate power and undermine workers’ rights was also on display a few years earlier, when he wrote an indefensible opinion – joined by his conservative colleagues – in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Alito ignored judicial precedent, common sense, and the clear purpose of the law in order to create an unreasonable deadline for making a pay discrimination claim, one that would be insurmountable for someone who was not immediately aware that they were being discriminated against. Lilly Ledbetter, a loyal Goodyear employee who learned she had been paid less than male colleagues for years, was, in the words of law professor and PFAW Foundation Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin, “judicial roadkill along the highway in the majority’s campaign to restrict, rewrite, and squash anti-discrimination law.” Alito also wrote the 5-4 majority opinion in last year’s Vance v. Ball State decision, which made it easier for companies to avoid liability in discrimination cases by declaring that someone who directs an employee’s day-to-day activities doesn’t count as a “supervisor” unless they have power to take “tangible employment actions” against them like firing them. As in the Ledbetter case, Alito ignored how workplaces really work in order to reach his result.
In Hobby Lobby, the other blockbuster case this week, Alito wrote a decision declaring, for the first time ever, that for-profit corporations have “religious exercise” rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In order to do so, Alito had to ignore common sense (for-profit corporations don’t have religion), to say nothing of the clear historical record and explicit statutory language that RFRA was intended to return the state of the law to the era before the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith (which many believed undermined protection for religious minorities). In the face of all evidence, Alito argued, in Ginsburg’s words, that RFRA was “a bold initiative departing from, rather than restoring, pre-Smith jurisprudence.”
In an effort reminiscent of the Supreme Court’s “applies only in this case” approach to Bush v Gore, Alito argued that his ruling was “concerned solely with the contraceptive mandate” and applied solely to closely held corporations.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t let him get away with it, calling Alito’s ruling “a decision of startling breadth.” Having created an entirely new legal avenue by which closely held for-profit companies (which includes about 90 percent of American businesses, hiring more than half of the nation’s workforce) can try to evade regulation, Alito has undoubtedly generated excited activity in right-wing legal organizations who are likely to use the ruling to try to claim exemption from anti-discrimination laws for business owners that oppose homosexuality or gender equality, or perhaps for evangelical business owners who believe the Bible opposes minimum wage laws and collective bargaining. And he gave no limiting principle on extending RFRA to for-profit corporations, leaving open the question as to whether an enormous publicly-traded corporation like IBM or GE would also count as a “person” with religious liberty rights under RFRA.
Alito’s insistence that the Court must accept the plaintiff’s claim of “substantial burden” on religious free exercise based on their belief that some forms of contraception cause abortion – in spite of the consensus of the medical and scientific establishment to the contrary and Justice Ginsburg’s explanation of why that belief does not translate into a “substantial burden” – was prefigured by an argument he made when working in the Office of Legal Counsel, where he helped write a memo arguing that, in spite of anti-discrimination provisions, employers in federally funded program could exclude people with AIDS regardless of whether or not their “fear of contagion” was reasonable.
Given that the Hobby Lobby case has been trumpeted by the right as a victory for “religious liberty,” it is worth noting that, in this year’s 5-4 Town of Greece decision, Alito joined his conservative colleagues in a decision that showed little regard for the religious beliefs of citizens of minority faiths whose public town board meetings were consistently begun with sectarian prayers. During consideration of his nomination to the Supreme Court, the editorial page editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution had written that Alito would be “likely to further erode the protections that have kept the majority from imposing their religious views on the minority.”
Alito also joined the Court’s 5-4 majority in last year’s decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, another long-pursued goal of the right-wing movement. That decision, in Shelby County v. Holder, is another example of the step-by-step shift in the law being pursued by the conservative justices. Shelby was built in part on a 2009 Voting Rights Act decision in which the Court declined to vote on the constitutionality of the provisions they threw out in Shelby, but in which Chief Justice John Roberts included language about “constitutional concerns” that he would later cite in Shelby. Earlier in his career, Alito made clear that he disagreed with Court decisions that established the crucial “one man, one vote” principle that undergirds many voting rights protections.
As a Supreme Court justice, Samuel Alito has demonstrated the traits of the right-wing movement from which he emerged: he denounces judicial activism while aggressively pursuing it; he is willing to twist laws, precedents, and established processes in order to advance his political goals; and he has often demonstrated contempt for those who disagree with him, as when he rolled his eyes and shook his head while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent in the Shelby County case.
Much of the initial news coverage of the Hobby Lobby and Harris cases focused on the description of them by their author as being “limited” rather than “sweeping” in scope. That ignores the clear evidence from those cases, and from the record of the Roberts court, that Roberts and Alito are playing a long game. They have decades in which to relentlessly push the agenda that has been fostered by right-wing legal and political groups for the past four decades. Their one-step-after-another dismantling of campaign finance law, from Citizens United to McCutcheon, makes it clear that Roberts and Alito see the value of patience and of presenting a public image of restraint while carrying out a revolution. But a revolution they are pursuing, one in which the First Amendment’s protections for religious freedom and free speech are manipulated in the service of undermining religious liberty, the rights of workers, and the ability of the government to regulate corporate behavior.
At least 15 Fox News personalities recently campaigned with organizations that were either created or heavily-funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.
WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) found a new charge to level at the billionaire Koch brothers Thursday: They lead a cult.
Reid was inspired by recent reports that David and Charles Koch held their latest donor and political organizing conference in California under tight security and secrecy, with no one talking publicly about what was discussed or decided there.
"Attendees were sworn to secrecy. High levels of security, concealment, an oath of silence," Reid said in a Senate floor speech. "That doesn’t sound anything like a typical conference. It sounds more like a cult."
But it’s not your normal cult, Reid said.
"Instead of being a religious movement or a secret sect, this is a cult of money, influence and self-serving politics," Reid said. "This is the cult of Koch."
Reid, who has made the brother oil barons the target of numerous floor speeches, went on to argue that they prove the need to pass a constitutional amendment that would restore caps on spending in politics. Reid said the level of secrecy around the conference, and the multiple groups the Koch brothers fund to promote their agenda without revealing where the money comes from, demonstrate the need to shine more light on their activities.
"Let’s put an end to the cult of dark money, and in this instance, the hidden dark money which is corrupting our elections," Reid said.
Last June, presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Ted Cruz traveled to Iowa for an event convened by David Lane, a political operative who uses pastors to mobilize conservative Christian voters.
Lane is a Christian-nation extremist who believes the Bible should be a primary textbook in America’s public schools, and that any politician who disagrees should be voted out. Lane’s events are usually closed to the media, but he has given special access to the Christian Broadcasting Network’s sympathetic David Brody. Brody’s coverage of the Iowa event included short video clips of comments by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who were identified only as members of Lane’s Pastors and Pews group.
CBN’s Brody reported, “The Wilks brothers worry that America’s declining morals will especially hurt the younger generation, so they’re using the riches that the Lord has blessed them with to back specific goals.” One of those goals may be David Lane’s insistence that politicians make the Bible a primary textbook in public schools.
Here’s Dan Wilks speaking to Brody: “I just think we have to make people aware, you know, and bring the Bible back into the school, and start teaching our kids at a younger age, and, uh, you know, and focus on the younger generation.” And here’s Farris: “They’re being taught the other ideas, the gay agenda, every day out in the world so we have to stand up and explain to them that that’s not real, that’s not proper, it’s not right.”
That was the first time we had heard of the billionaire Wilks brothers, who have become generous donors to right-wing politicians and Republican Party committees. While both Farris and Dan have given to conservative groups and candidates, it is older brother Farris whose foundation has become a source of massive donations to Religious Right groups and to the Koch brothers’ political network. Farris also funds a network of “pregnancy centers” that refuse, on principle, to talk to single women about contraception (married women need to check with their husband and pastor).
Like David Barton, Farris thinks conservative economics are grounded in the Bible. Like Mitt Romney, he says people shouldn’t vote for politicians who promise “free this, free that.” Like any number of Religious Right leaders, he saw Barack Obama’s re-election as a harbinger of the End Times and he believes God will punish America for embracing homosexuality. Unlike all of them, he’s on the list of the world’s richest people.
They’re Fracking Billionaires!
Dan and Farris Wilks became successful working in and then running the masonry business that was started by their father; they have now turned the company over to the next generation of Wilks men. But Dan and Farris really hit the big time when they got in on the ground floor with fracking, the controversial natural gas drilling technique that has boomed over the past decade.
The fracking boom has produced a surge in wealthy Texans. In 2002, the Wilks brothers created Frac Tech, which produced equipment used in fracking, or in industry parlance, “well stimulation services.” In May 2011, Dan and Farris sold Frac Tech to a group of investors led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund for $3.5 billion. Their share was reportedly 68% of that total, and they showed up on the 2011 Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans with an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion each. The most recent Forbes list put their estimated wealth at $1.5 billion each. (In our gilded age, that puts them near the bottom of the Forbes 400, and barely gets them into the top 40 in Texas. But you can still do an awful lot with $3 billion.)
The Wilks brothers have gone on a land-buying spree out West, amassing huge holdings in Montana, Idaho, Texas, Kansas, and Colorado. In December 2012, the Billings Gazette reported that they had amassed more than 276,000 acres in Montana, or more than 430 square miles; more recent reports say they own more than 301,300 acres in the state. Among their purchases was the historic 62,000-acre N Bar Ranch, which had been listed for $45 million.
The brothers reportedly started building an airstrip that summer across from the N Bar Ranch headquarters to make travel to their property on their 18-passenger corporate jet a little easier. The Wilks brothers have proposed a land swap with the Bureau of Land Management to consolidate their holdings; last month their attorney said they were “blindsided” when BLM said it would not trade the 2,700-acre Durfee Hills after hunters complained about losing access to the land and its elk.
In January 2013, they bought a nearly 18,000-acre ranch in Idaho, which brought their total in that state to almost 36,000 acres. In 2011, Farris was reported to have paid $16 million for what was then the most expensive ski-accessible home in the history of Snowmass Village, Colorado.
An Aspen newspaper reported in 2012 that Dan owned two homes in Aspen, one worth $8.3 million and another worth $4.9 million. At the end of 2012 they bought the Advancial Tower, a 17-story skyscraper in Dallas reportedly appraised at $16.25 million. And last August, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that the Wilks brothers had bought 122 acres of land in a business park in Southlake, Texas. Farris also reportedly paid to have a “world class” recording studio installed in his 20,000-square-foot home and to have his church’s audio-visual system similarly upgraded.
Members of the Wilks family have been philanthropists in their hometown over the years, funding, for example, a community center and mobile emergency command post for local fire departments. More recently they have distributing their wealth in support of right-wing causes and conservative politicians. According to Forbes, Dan has six children, Farris has 11.
A(nother) Foundation for the Far Right
The Wilks brothers and their wives have stashed a sizeable chunk of money in charitable foundations: Farris and his wife Joann created The Thirteen Foundation, while Dan and his wife Staci started Heavenly Father’s Foundation. The Thirteen Foundation has become a major funder to Religious Right organizations and to right-wing political outfits that are part of the Koch brother’s network.
In 2011, Farris and Joann each put $50 million into The Thirteen Foundation, and they started writing huge checks. In 2011 and 2012, the last year for which giving records are publicly available, the foundation gave away more than $17 million. Here’s where much of it went:
Media Revolution Ministries (Online for Life) $2,242,857
American Majority Inc $2,114,100
State Policy Networks $1,526,125
Focus on the Family $1,400,000
Franklin Center for Gov’t and Public Integrity $1,309,775
Life Dynamics Inc. $1,275,000
Liberty Counsel $1,000,000
Heritage Foundation $700,000
Family Research Council $530,000
Texas Right to Life Committee Education Fund $310,000
Texas Home School Coalition $250,000
Heartbeat International $197,000
Wallbuilders Presentations, Inc $85,000
National Institute of Marriage $75,000
These gifts amount to a massive infusion of funds into some of the most aggressive right-wing organizations that are fighting legal equality for LGBT people, access to contraception and abortion services for women, and promoting the Tea Party’s vision of a federal government that is constitutionally forbidden from protecting American workers, consumers, and communities by regulating corporate behavior.
American Majority, the Franklin Center, the Heritage Foundation, and the State Policy Networks are all part of the Koch brothers’ right-wing political network, promoting policy attacks on public employees and their unions, outsourcing public resources for private profit, privatization of public education, and more:
- The Franklin Center, closely allied to the American Legislative Exchange Council and other right-wing groups, produces and supports ideological advocacy sites that that it pretends is “nonpartisan” journalism.
- American Majority trains and supports Tea Party activist networks.
- The Heritage Foundation is a right-wing propaganda behemoth masquerading as a think tank. It promotes Religious Right social conservatism and Tea Party anti-government ideology, arguing that the two are “indivisible.”
- The State Policy Network comprises mini-Heritage Foundations – right-wing “think tanks” at the state level that work closely with ALEC and right-wing lawmakers.
The Thirteen Foundation’s gifts are a boon to some of the most extreme Religious Right groups in the country. Among the recipients:
- The Liberty Counsel, a legal advocacy group affiliated with Liberty University, is home to right-wing legal activist Mat Staver and the increasingly unhinged Matt Barber. Liberty Counsel promotes extreme anti-Obama and anti-gay rhetoric, warning that the country is descending into religious tyranny and on the verge of revolution. Staver and Barber support laws criminalizing homosexuality and call the Obama administration’s opposition to such laws in other countries “immoral.”
- The Family Research Council, designated an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, hosts the annual Values Voter Summit, the annual family reunion for far-right religious and political groups and right-wing politicians. FRC and its leader Tony Perkins oppose equality for LGBT Americans and promote the myth of anti-Christian persecution in the U.S.
- Focus on the Family, founded by James Dobson, is one of the largest Religious Right groups in the country. Earlier this year Vice President Tim Goeglein called gay rights movement “one of the great threats to our religious liberty.” President Jim Daly is reportedly scheduled to speak at the World Congress of Families’ summit scheduled to be held in Moscow in September.
- Wallbuilders promotes the historical revisionism of “historian” David Barton, whose claims have been widely discredited but who remains influential within the Religious Right and the GOP. In addition to his “Christian Nation” history, Barton argues that the Bible opposes the minimum wage, progressive taxation, capital gains taxes, the estate tax, and unions and collective bargaining.
See the section on the War on Women below for information about anti-choice organizations on the list. Other gifts supported Prime Time Christian Broadcasting, Inc., which runs God’s Learning Channel, “a satellite network dedicated to bringing the gospel of the kingdom into the entire world and teaching everyone about the Torah and the true roots of Christianity“; the Wounded Warrior Project; and a number of local churches that seem to be affiliated with the church at which Farris is an elder. One gift that seems like an outlier was $50,000 to the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which funds legal services for the poor, advocates for immigration reform, and filed a lawsuit on behalf of a binational same-sex couple.
Farris’s brother Dan and his wife Staci each gave $55 million to their Heavenly Father’s Foundation, according to the group’s 2011 990 form. That year the foundation reported $110 million in income but only $309,000 in disbursements, mostly to the Mountain Top Church in their hometown of Cisco ($287,000) with smaller amounts to a pregnancy center called the Open Door ($20,000) and to the American Diabetes Association ($2,000).
Its 2012 contributions were primarily to several churches but also included ministries that provide meals to the poor, a five-year pledge to a local domestic violence crisis center, $20,000 to the Open Door pregnancy center, $1.7 million to a drug and alcohol treatment center whose 30th anniversary celebration in May featured Mike Huckabee, and intriguingly, $100,000 to the Eastland County District Attorney’s office to cover “budget shortage.”
Of course, individual contributions that Wilks family members make to advocacy organizations are not publicly reported.
In Politics, Paying to Play
The Wilks brothers made a bit of a splash in Montana when it was revealed that they were the top donors to 2012 Republican legislative candidates in the state. A February 2013 report by the National Institute on Money in State Politics found that Dan and Farris Wilks and their wives “donated to more than 70 candidates, all Republicans, and generally gave the maximum contribution allowed by law to legislative candidates, $160 for a general election.”
The report said that 70 percent of Republican legislators got contributions from the Wilkses. (AP noted that all bills aimed at regulating fracking in the 2011 legislature were killed by Republican-led committees.) According to the Institute, 64 of the state-level candidates they supported won – 63 legislators and Attorney General Tim Fox.
The Wilkses also gave heavily to Dennis Rehberg, a former Republican U.S. congressman from Montana who gave up his seat to mount an unsuccessful challenge against Sen. Jon Tester in 2012, and to Steven Daines, the Republican who won the House seat vacated by Rehberg and who is now running to for U.S. Senate.
Collectively, Dan and Farris and their wives gave the Rehberg and Daines campaigns each $10,000 in 2012, with another $37,500 going to the Rehberg Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee that funneled money to Rehberg’s campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Farris and Joann have together given $10,400 toward Steve Daines’s 2014 reelection.
Their political giving has not been limited to Montana. In Texas, according to state campaign finance records, the brothers each gave $25,000 to Texans for Rick Perry in 2012. Farris also gave $2,500 to State Rep. Stefani Carter, the first Republican African American woman to serve in the state House; Farris and Joann also gave $5,000 to the failed Supreme Court campaign of Steve Smith.
Last year, Perry announced he would not run for a fourth term as governor. Earlier this year, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, reported nearly $31,000 in in-kind contributions from Farris and Dan for use of an airplane. Farris also gave $1,000 in January to the Texas Home School Coalition PAC.
This year, in the election for California’s 44th Assembly District, Dan, Staci, and Farris Wilks have given thousands to the campaign of Rob McCoy, a conservative evangelical pastor who is also backed by Rand Paul, Rick Perry, and Mike Huckabee. In the June 3 primary, the Wilks-backed McCoy came in second place to Democrat Jacqui Irwin, a City Councilwoman from Thousand Oaks, beating the more moderate Republican candidate, businessman Mario de la Piedra. Irwin and McCoy will face off in the general election.
During the 2012 election cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission’s database, the brothers and their wives together contributed $125,000 to the Romney Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee benefitting the Romney campaign and the Republican Party.
Joann also contributed $25,000 to the Faith Family Freedom Fund, a “soft money” fund run by a former Family Research Council executive and housed in FRC’s Washington, DC building. The fund makes independent expenditures for or against candidates; in 2012 it spent in support of Todd Akin, George Allen, Steve King, and other right-wing candidates, and against Claire McCaskill, Tim Kaine, Barack Obama, and other Democratic candidates.
In 2011, Farris gave the National Republican Congressional Committee $2,500, and he gave $7,600 to the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund between 2010 and 2012. In 2010 Farris gave Nevada Senate candidate and Tea Party darling Sharron Angle $1000 and in 2008 he gave $2,500 to the McCain-Palin Victory Committee.
Wilks and the War on Women
As Kate Sheppard reported last August for Mother Jones, The Thirteen Foundation’s 2011 gift to Life Dynamics, a Texas-based anti-abortion group, funded a campaign to mass-mail DVDs to lawyers encouraging them to sue abortion clinics into oblivion. Crooks and Liars blogger Karoli has noted that Life Dynamics “actively engages in espionage against organizations serving women” and operates campaigns to harass doctors who perform abortions.
The more than $2 million that The Thirteen Foundation gave to Media Revolution Ministries in 2012 allowed for a vast expansion of the group, which had only an $80,000 budget the year before. The group, also known as Online for Life, says it “implements cutting-edge Internet and traditional marketing outreaches to connect with abortion-determined women and men.” In other words, they try to “intercept” women who search for abortion information and send them to anti-choice “pregnancy centers.”
Those funds may have been used to help “pregnancy centers” buy ads on search terms like “abortion clinics” to “intercept” women who went online. NARAL Pro-Choice America cited Online for Life’s Google ads when it announced in April that its investigations had led Google to take down ads from crisis pregnancy centers that violated the search engine’s rules against deceptive advertising.
The Thirteen Foundation also gave $450,000 in 2011 to Care Net, a network of Christian “pregnancy centers” whose “standards of affiliation” include this requirement:
The pregnancy center does not recommend, provide, or refer single women for contraceptives. (Married women seeking contraceptive information should be urged to seek counsel, along with their husbands, from their pastor and physician.).
The Wilks are also backers of Open Door, a local Christian “crisis pregnancy center” to which the Thirteen Foundation gave more than $90,000 in 2012. Farris and Joann have also been benefactors of Texas Right to Life.
The Wilks Worldview
With the exception of the brief interaction with CBN’s David Brody, the Wilks brothers have generally been media-shy. But the worldview of Farris, the older of the two brothers, whose foundation is backing the Religious Right and Tea Party movements, is quite clearly revealed in the sermons he preaches.
In addition to his business ventures, Farris, the older brother, is also a pastor at the church founded by his father, The Assembly of Yahweh (7th Day). The church’s doctrine seems to be an amalgam based on the elder Wilks’ anachronistic interpretations of the Bible. It combines biblical literalism with a heavy emphasis on the Old Testament: The church celebrates its Sabbath on Saturday, follows the dietary rules laid down in Leviticus, and celebrates Jewish holidays but not “the religious holidays of the Gentiles,” which include “Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, White Sunday, Good Friday, and Halloween.” (I had to look up White Sunday, which is a traditional Samoan holiday. There’s a significant Samoan community in Texas). Women may not speak during worship.
The church’s doctrinal points align with the Religious Right on many policy issues. Abortion is “murder,” including pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. Homosexuality is “a serious crime – a very grievous sin.”
A number of Farris Wilks’ sermons can be heard through his church’s website. Back in November 2012, he was pretty despondent about the re-election of Barack Obama: “I do believe that our country died that Tuesday night, to all that’s honorable, that’s good, that’s ambitious, and that has justice. The old way of life that we will take care of ourselves, we will be self-sufficient as much as we are able, the pride in pulling your own weight, or paddling your own canoe.” The sermon includes small-government quotes from Thomas Jefferson, anti-socialist quotes from Winston Churchill, and a bootstraps approach to poverty. “The best way to get out of poverty is to go to work,” he says. “That is one of the simplest ways to make it go away.”
Wilks said he was “refreshed” by biblical texts about the End Times, speculating that the election went the way it did “because maybe it’s time to wrap up some things, maybe it’s time to move on to the next one thousand years.” And he warned of persecution against Christians:
I will tell you now that you need to be ready for a little bit more scoffing and ridicule than maybe we’ve experienced in the past, because I think not only us but the Christian community at large is coming under attack, not only in America but throughout the world. We see it on the late night talk shows. One man in particular. And some time you think, man, it would almost be nice if the judgment would happen so we can see what would happen to those people. …for the things they are saying, which are so vulgar and violent against Yahweh…his mercy must be inexhaustible to put up with that…
Several months later, after his participation in the David Lane event in Iowa, Wilks was feeling motivated to do more to impact the future of America. In a July 2, 2013, sermon he referred to claims made by discredited Religious Right “historian” David Barton about the country’s founders and Barton’s assertion that many of our laws come from the scriptures. And in a sermon he described as a “study of Sodom and Gomorrah,” he laid out his belief that the country is facing a clear choice:
As most of you probably know by now, we are in a battle for our society. Will we follow the secular religion of man, him being supreme, and evolving, or will we submit to Elohim, who has the right to give us laws and commandments to follow since he is the one who created us? Who is in charge? Is it man, or is it our creator?
He read scripture passages that referred to the story of God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in what he said was punishment for “base and demented” sexual practices, the tolerance of which in America “could bring about the end of our nation.” He warned that allowing same-sex couples to get married would soon lead to bestiality being promoted and accepted. “I do believe we live in a nation that will start to vomit some of its people out,” he warned. After reading a passage from Isaiah in which the land and its inhabitants are cursed for their depravity, he said:
I fear that that is where we are as a nation. We have been in the blessed part of our nation, but I think we’re coming to the point now…we’re going to reap what we have sown, and what we have sown has not been good…what it says here, that the earth lies polluted under its inhabitants. Think of all the murder that has happened in this country….all the babies that have been murdered…think of all the perversions in the realm of sexual perversion of all kinds…all the breaking of Yahweh’s covenant….and so you recognize that at some point Yahweh’s going to say it’s time to wrap up… it’s time to move on to a kingdom of people that want to serve me, that want to be redeemed, that want salvation…we have to draw some lines in the sand for ourselves….
He also mocked environmentalism and the effort to save certain animals or the polar caps. “We didn’t create the Earth so how can we save it?” When you realize that Yahweh is in control, “it’s much simpler,” he says. “You can turn over some of those responsibilities to him.” Maybe the melting of polar ice is us “getting a little scorched here” as a message from God.
Later last summer he returned to the Sodom and Gomorrah theme, denouncing the gay pride movement as an example of lust and defiance of authority described in the Bible. “What we’re fighting against today is not a sexual revolution particular to our own enlightened age, but it’s a return to pre-Christian pagan sexual immorality or perversion.”
And Farris sounded like the most extreme anti-gay Religious Right leaders in portraying gay people as child predators:
If we all took on this lifestyle, all humanity would perish in one generation…So this lifestyle is a predatorial lifestyle in that they need your children and straight people having kids to fulfill their sexual habits. They can’t do it by their self. They want your children….But we’re in a war for our children. They want your children. So what will you teach your children? A strong family is the last defense.
And, he said, they won’t stop, predicting that pedophilia and bestiality will soon be legal.
Just before Christmas he preached on spiritual apathy in America. He warned that apathy is closing church doors in America just as liberalism and secularism. He railed against people forgetting the Sabbath and spending too much time on entertainment. He warned that God would lift his “mantle of protection” against the U.S. because it is no longer protecting the family.
Earlier this year, Farris preached on “Government That We Can Believe In.” In that sermon, he proclaimed that he loves America but that all nations fail at some point. The founding fathers did a good job, but the nation’s cornerstones are now crumbling: “It’s because of the lack of morality, the lack of continuity of one like belief in our heavenly father – those are the things that are bringing our nation to its knees.”
But this sermon focused less on sexual immorality and more on the threat of socialism. Yahweh, he preached, is “someone who respects private ownership” and the Torah is “set up on the free enterprise system.”
He said “there are only two basic ideas in the whole world” – and those are free enterprise and socialism. The U.S., he warned, is “inching closer to socialism.” You either have more government or more freedom; the more money taken from you in taxes, the fewer choices you have in life. He acknowledged that he has a “personal stake” in this, saying he pays a “huge amount” in taxes.
He urged congregants not to vote for politicians who promise “free this, free that,” saying that would lead us to become one of the poor nations of the world. “Yahweh never intended for us as a people to be afraid and reliant on government.”
An Answer to Prayer?
Televangelist James Robison recently told participants in a Tea Party Unity conference call that he is praying for a merger of the Tea Party and the Religious Right. It’s enough to make one wonder where Robison has been for the past few years. There has always been a overlap between the Tea Party and the Religious Right movements. And since the early days of the anti-Obama Tea Party organizing, right-wing strategists like Ralph Reed and Rick Scarborough have been trying to more fully merge the organizing energies of the two movements into an electoral machine.
Groups like the Family Research Council and Heritage Foundation have worked hard to limit the influence of libertarians in the conservative movement by portraying social and economic conservatism as “indivisible,” while Republican activists like “historian” David Barton have claimed that there is a biblical underpinning for the far-right’s anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-government agenda.
Maybe the miracle Robison was really looking for was a big pile of cash to fund his next project. In which case, the answer to his prayers might be found in the person of Farris Wilks, preacher, right-wing activist, and billionaire.
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.”
“Reid’s repeated and mean-spirited attacks violate federal laws and Senate rules against using taxpayer-funded resources for partisan politics and he knows it, yet he repeatedly takes to the floor of the Senate and the media to attack those with whom he disagrees – and then turns around and devotes the Senate floor to a ‘talk-a-thon’ on a major donor’s key issue of climate change,” she continued.
The formal complaint to the Senate Ethics Committee will unsurprisingly not stop Reid from bashing Charles and David Koch’s political spending.
“We are shocked — shocked! — that a publicity-seeking, extremist Tea Party group which has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Koch brothers’ secret bank would attempt a frivolous publicity stunt to distract from the Kochs’ efforts to rig the system for billionaires like themselves,” Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson told Roll Call in response to the complaint. “The shadowy, billionaire Koch brothers are pulling out all the stops to get Senator Reid to stop shining a light on their efforts to buy our democracy, but he will not be silenced.”
Harry Reid has more integrity than either of the Koch Brothers would ever dream of having.
In recent years, North Carolina has become a showcase for the unfettered flow of money into American politics.
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
The Koch brothers’ main political arm intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives, according to a memo distributed to major donors and sources familiar with the group.
The projected budget for Americans for Prosperity would be unprecedented for a private political group in a midterm, and would likely rival even the spending of the Republican and Democratic parties’ congressional campaign arms.
The group has already spent more than $35 million on ads attacking vulnerable Democrats in key Senate and House races, according to sources, including Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. The $125 million projection comes from a memo obtained by POLITICO labeled as a “Confidential Investor Update” provided to major donors in March, but a source familiar with AFP called the figure a “very conservative estimate. We’re on track for more than that.”
An AFP spokesman declined to comment on its 2014 budget, but did not dispute the authenticity of the memo. It details the group’s efforts to beef up its field operation in key counties, and to deploy a new “closed-loop data system in which volunteer and membership information is automatically updated” for access by phone bankers and canvassers roaming neighborhoods with tablets.
The plans — combined with those of other groups in the sprawling political operation affiliated with the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch — more closely resemble the traditional functions of a national political party than a network of private nonprofit groups.
The goal of the network is a long-term movement to expand the political playing field for conservatives — both into new states and into non-traditional demographics including millennial, Hispanic and low-income voters.
AFP’s $125-million projected 2014 budget alone would also exceed the total 2012 fundraising hauls of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee or the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
As the Koch network prepares to gather its operatives and donors next month for an annual summer fundraising seminar, it’s implementing a series of adjustments based on lessons learned from 2012. In the run-up to that election, the network spent more than $400 million only to watch President Barack Obama win reelection and his Democratic allies retain the Senate.
Some megadonors wondered what their cash bought, and privately suggested they might look to spend their money elsewhere. The Koch operation undertook a forensic analysis of what went wrong designed partly to prove to donors that it could be trusted with their political donations going forward.
AFP identified “three key areas where the Left outperformed our efforts in the field,” according to the memo, which conceded they were “tough and painful lessons — but it’s important to remember that AFP is run like a business”:
• “Our data system was insufficient” and failed to quickly process information fed into it by thousands of canvassers and phone bankers contacting voters, causing “delays in updates, leading to some data inaccuracies during a critical phase of our organizing efforts.”
• “We were outmanned” by the left generally and Obama’s campaign, specifically, which, the memo notes “had 770 field staff on the ground” in Florida alone. By contrast, the memo notes that AFP and “other network partners” had about only 300 total field staff nationwide.
• “The Left had a superior messaging strategy and implementation that effectively identified their demographic targets, determined which issues resonated best with which groups, and delivered specific messages over TV, radio and online ads for those audiences.”
To remedy the messaging disadvantage, AFP developed “a sophisticated new media message-testing strategy to target specific demographics in specific locations we need to move on our issues,” according to the memo.
The resulting advertisements increasingly have used personal stories, often told by regular folks looking directly into the camera, to critique Democratic policies like Obamacare, and the politicians who support them. They’re part of a broader effort to project a kinder, gentler tone in espousing libertarian-infused government-slashing policies that sometimes risk coming across as coldhearted.
“If the presidential election told us anything, it’s that Americans place a great importance on taking care of those in need and avoiding harm to the weak,” reads the AFP memo.
Echoing Charles Koch’s opposition to the minimum wage, it asserts that free market, low-regulation policies “create the greatest levels of prosperity and opportunity for all Americans, especially for society’s poorest and most vulnerable.” Yet, the memo says, “we consistently see that Americans in general are concerned that free-market policy — and its advocates — benefit the rich and powerful more than the most vulnerable of society. …We must correct this misconception.”
The major contributors to the Koch network groups tend to skew much whiter and older than the population the groups are trying to reach. And while the emcee of the Koch donor seminars, Kevin Gentry, in April emailed a group of fundraisers for allied organizations that “we want our donors to be younger,” he added that “just doesn’t track with reality. So if we try to ‘force’ our donors to become younger – i.e., focusing our donor acquisition more at youth cohorts, we will likely have less efficient and less economically profitable fundraising.”
The Kochs’ major donors have shaken off any misgivings and returned in force, according to an operative who works with various groups in the Koch network. “They have been big with the early money and it’s obviously still flowing,” said the operative. “They’re up in all these states and their map keeps expanding.”
A Koch-backed nonprofit called the LIBRE Initiative — which is focused on educating “Hispanic communities about economic freedom principles and values such as free enterprise, limited government, and personal responsibility” — is hiring field directors in Colorado and Texas, as well as a coalitions coordinator and a “West Coast youth projects manager.”
Likewise, the Koch-backed youth advocacy group Generation Opportunity is looking to hire a slew of employees across the country — including state directors, events directors, digital staffers and volunteer coordinators — partly to “engag(e) the millennial generation to advance free market principles by growing grassroots networks that will supply advocates and local community volunteers.”
Plus, recruiting for data developers, engineers and analysts is brisk at both Themis, a nonprofit that supports the back-end data operations of Koch network groups, and i360, a for-profit company linked to Themis that provides similar services to Republican campaigns and party committees.
Perhaps the most significant organizational shift in Koch World is the increasing footprint of Freedom Partners, a nonprofit that served as a hub for other network groups in 2012, when it doled out $236 million to an array of conservative nonprofits. It’s now expanding its own operations, airing $2 million worth of ads last month targeting Democratic senators on Obamacare — a total expected to rise as the general election approaches. In the past eight months, Freedom Partners, which is technically a business league that receives dues of at least $100,000 from members, has doubled its staff. It now counts more than 100 employees and is on the market for a vice president of strategic communications to handle rapid response and a strategist to assist with its health care campaign.
“We’re really looking long term — beyond any given election cycle,” said Freedom Partners spokesman James Davis. “We’re focused on building out our capabilities to educate Americans on the benefits of a free society.”
Conservatives operatives are loath to publicly challenge the Koch network, because of its ability to steer huge amounts of funding. But some have complained privately that groups like Freedom Partners, AFP and others in the network aren’t having as much impact as their resources should allow because of their unwillingness in ads and other communications to explicitly urge the election of Republicans or the defeat of Democrats.
Instead, the groups, which cast themselves as nonpartisan, focus their ads on issue critiques, though they can sometimes seem just as hard hitting as the most aggressive negative ads.
An exception came in 2012, when AFP expressly opposed Obama. That year, the two nonprofits that constitute AFP, neither of which discloses its donors, spent $149 million — AFP’s biggest spending year since it was created with funding from the Kochs in 2004. But the source familiar with AFP suggested the $125 million 2014 budget included only the arm of AFP registered under section 501(c)4 of the Tax Code, meaning the group’s spending total could be far higher if the spending of the 501(c)3 Americans for Prosperity Foundation is taken into account.
According to tax filings, the two arms of AFP combined to spend a comparatively paltry $39 million in 2010 when the outfits were credited with helping Republicans harness the tea party protests to recapture the House of Representatives.
Mostly, though, the AFP donor memo touts the group’s role in recent conservative policy victories in five “model states” — Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina and Wisconsin — including enacting tax cuts, fighting Obamacare and restricting union power. This year, AFP is working to expand its program into eight new “pathway states,” including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, according to the memo.
Last year, AFP added new full-time chapters in South Carolina, Tennessee, Alaska, Louisiana and West Virginia — the latter three of which are home to competitive 2014 Senate races — and the memo boasts “we’re growing our full-time field presence in key counties and deploying a refined part-time staff infrastructure to optimize efficiency, reduce costs, and grow AFP’s volunteer base.”
But it makes clear, “AFP’s most significant near-term opportunity to advance policy is on the ground in the states, particularly those where the citizens, Legislatures and Governors are more supportive of free market issues.” The state battles, it concludes, have “a ‘ripple effect,’ influencing broader national policy.”
“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 report, Public 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.
Ever had one of those weeks you thought would never end?
For Fox News’ host Sean Hannity, the answer is a resounding yes.
After non-stop cheerleading for deadbeat domestic terrorist Cliven Bundy the previous three weeks, Hannity was forced to backtrack Friday after an interview with the New York Times revealed on Wednesday that Bundy has some “unique” views on people of color. Hannity has come under fire this week for his constant championing of Bundy, a man who owes over $1 million in grazing fees and has refused to pay them because he does not recognize the United States government. Hannity’s week got off on the wrong foot when he was called out by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show on Monday when Stewart pointed out the hypocrisy of Hannity supporting a self-confessed law breaker like Bundy but criticizing Occupy Wall Street protesters for essentially doing the exact same thing, minus the whole armed insurrection part. On his show Tuesday, Hannity responded by saying what he actually was saying was that the Bureau of Land Management’s disproportionate response to the situation was what made him support Bundy and his cause. So, of course on Wednesday Stewart went back to the vault to again to call out Hannity’s hypocrisy by showing a clip of Hannity supporting UC Davis policemen pepper spraying unarmed student protesters as well as supporting New York City’s stop and frisk policy. Stewart ended the show by calling Hannity’s show the “Arby’s of News” in that it is so unbelievable that it regurgitates the same garbage over and over.
As if receiving a vicious one-two punch from Stewart wasn’t enough, Hannity was then forced to deal with the fact that his media darling that he created had some antiquated views on the “Negroes.” Rather than admit fault, Hannity immediately claimed he was a victim in order to try and defuse the situation. It didn’t help that CNN later interviewed Bundy, who essentially said that he and Hannity have similar beliefs. Bundy said:
“You know, I don’t think I’ve been abandoned. I think they misunderstood me a little bit. I think Fox and I. I think Hannity and I are right on, and I have no doubt that he would support me if he understood my really what’s in my heart, and I think he does understand me. I don’t think there’s a question there.”
The fallout has gotten so bad for Sean Hannity that he is even losing support from his colleagues at Fox News. He first lost the support of Ann Coulter. Coulter, on CNN Friday, said that rallying around Cliven Bundy was a “stupid punchback” and she sent a not-so-subtle message to fellow Republican politicians and right-wing radio and television hosts that they need to “stop following the mob.” In addition, always humble Bill O’Reilly on his show Friday night said that ”Some commentators, including a handful on Fox News, rallied to Mister Bundy’s side. But most Fox News people did not. And that’s why we’re successful. We have a wide range of opinion, expressed in a vibrant way.”
So this begs the question: Why exactly did Sean Hannity support Cliven Bundy in the first place?
This was the exact question that was posed by Slate Magazine on Wednesday in an attempt to figure out the exact relationship between Sean Hannity and Cliven Bundy.It was this question that caused some media outlets to look at the funding behind the Sean Hannity’s popular Fox News program. In a Friday article posted by Media Matters, it was revealed that Hannity’s decision to elevate Bundy to national exposure may have been due to his own personal connection to Charles and David Koch and their Heritage and Tea Party Patriots Groups. The Koch Brothers have made no secret of their utter disdain for the federal government and have been making a recent push for states to gain control over federal land. What better way to promote this view then to use Hannity, who their groups support with funding and large ad buys, to hype up some Howdy Doody rancher feller to bring the issue of privatizing public land into the national spotlight?
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Cliven Bundy, an uneducated backcountry freeloader, becomes a simple pawn in a game played by a millionaire TV host and two billionaire Conservative kingpins. His story, one of simple tax evasion, is hyped by Charles and David Koch in an effort to draw attention to the issue of privatizing federal land. This draws in the cavalry via the Tea Party Patriots who are willing to use women as human shields to fight off the big bad government. Add to that, Fox News’ outright lie accusing Harry Reid of trying to steal Bundy land for his own personal gain and you’ve got the ingredients for a potentially explosive situation. What better way to make the case for your patriotic cause then to have some patsy rancher and a crew of faux patriots become martyrs at the hands of the Bureau of Land Management?
If true, and there’s no reason to see why it isn’t, then this whole incident should show us how dangerous Charles and David Koch have become. Without the use of a weapon, the billionaire brothers have almost singlehandedly caused another Waco. They found a random mooching rancher, built him up to cult-like status to attract the brain-dead Tea Party Patriots that they themselves created, and then used their own bought and sold on-air TV personality Sean Hannity to sell the story to the American public to get their support. Had there been shots fired, the Fox News story would have certainly been the government’s violent infringement upon the rights of a God-fearing, kind-hearted western rancher. It would have led to conversations about the Constitutionality of federal lands and without question we would have seen copycat issues in other regions backed by Koch allies.
Jon Stewart is correct to call out Hannity’s program for its blatantly hypocrisy, but he was far too kind. Hannity’s program isn’t simply regurgitated garbage. It does, in fact serve a purpose. Its purpose it to incite violence and armed insurrection on behalf of the political beliefs of Charles and David Koch. It is to advance their own personal agenda and to do so in a way that paints anyone who disagrees with them as the enemy. It is to use propaganda to create a world based on the sick and twisted vision of Charles and David Koch.
In other words, Sean Hannity is the 21st century American version of Joseph Goebbels.