The Koch Boys Are Everywhere.
Charles and David Koch, billionaire brothers who inherited an oil empire from their father, Fred, have had an immense impact on the nation’s political landscape. The Koch brothers have for years been spreading their wealth around promoting what they believe capitalism should look like. They try to do so in secret, always, but as the internet has expanded more and more of their efforts have been revealed.
The exposure is starting to bite. Most recently the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which bills itself as a non partisan organization but is anything but, has come under fire. Financially supported by large corporations and the Koch brothers, ALEC got some unwanted exposure from the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida last month. Apparently ALEC turned Florida’s Castle Doctrine into model legislation that was shipped to political allies throughout the country’s state legislators. The doctrine allows the use of deadly force in a public place if someone “believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm,” and removes the duty to flee a confrontation.
From a Bloomberg Businessweek article pointing out McDonalds, Coca Cola and Intuit have dropped their support of ALEC:
The American Legislative Exchange Council describes itself as a nonpartisan champion of free markets. But if you spend some time at an ALEC conference (Bloomberg Businessweek did, for an article last year) you will be hard-pressed to find many Democrats. And when the entire conference meets for lunch, you will hear from the podium nothing that would seem out of place in a press release from Eric Cantor’s office. Last year in New Orleans, for example, Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisana, told an ALEC annual meeting, “Defeating the president is crucial to defending our economy,” and “Obama has been a disaster.” I didn’t hear anyone boo. What I did hear was the sound of fevered applause when the conference played a videotaped greeting from Ronald Reagan.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to feverishly applaud Ronald Reagan. I am saying that only in the most thinly defensible, legalistic sense can ALEC call itself “nonpartisan.” And the council doesn’t really support free markets, either. It supports the companies that fund it. This is an important distinction, because the corporations that donate to ALEC aren’t doing so to protect markets. They’re protecting favored tax treatments and pushing regulations that lock in their market positions. As best as we were able to determine in reporting our piece last year, corporations propose bills at the state level and then push them up to ALEC, which has both corporate and legislative members. ALEC pushes the legislative members to the foreground, stamps the bills as “model legislation,” and then the corporations push them back out to other state legislatures. This may not be the case with all ALEC legislation, but it certainly was with the bill we followed.
So ALEC is not what it says it is. That’s not extraordinary: Few advocacy groups are what they say they are. In ALEC’s case, however, the fingers-crossed-behind-its-back description of itself is definitional. If the American Legislative Exchange Council operated with complete openness, it couldn’t operate at all. ALEC has attracted a wide and wealthy range of supporters precisely because it does its real work in a black box. Membership lists are secret. The origins of the model bills are secret. Deliberations and votes on model bills are secret. The model bills themselves are secret. The council has designed its entire structure to disguise industry-backed legislation as grassroots work from state legislators. If this becomes clear to everyone, there’s no reason for corporations to use it. And that is exactly what has been happening.
The Kochs have been actively funding a number of well known ‘conservative’ fronts in addition to ALEC. From an article in the Nation magazine:
The Kochs’ mistrust of public education can be traced to their father, Fred, who ranted and raved that the National Education Association was a communist group and public-school books were filled with “communist propaganda,” paranoia that extended to all unions, President Eisenhower and the “pro-communist” Supreme Court. Such redbaiting might be ancient history if fifty years later David were not calling President Obama a “hard-core socialist” who is “scary.”
The Kochs have not just multiplied the wealth of their dad; they’ve repackaged and amplified his worldview. David’s latest venture, Americans for Prosperity, subsidizes the Tea Party movement, which repeats this “socialist” smear. Charles is a member of the exclusive Mount Pelerin Society, inspired by Frederic von Hayek’s antisocialist polemic The Road to Serfdom. Through the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies administers the Hayek Fund for Scholars and sister programs to fund academics and staffers for like-minded groups across the country. “Charles G. Koch Fellows” and interns stock ALEC, and have gone on to direct ALEC task forces.
Another David Koch project, Citizens for a Sound Economy—which launched the effort to repeal Glass-Steagall protections keeping banks from gambling in securities—helped fuel the fight for “free trade,” an unpopular policy in the 1980s. The North American Free Trade Agreement passed with help from CSE and its corporate allies. ALEC resolutions for state legislators have long supported such trade agreements in the face of local concerns about job losses, and today the Koch free-market fantasy is reflected in ALEC’s support for free trade pacts with Korea, Georgia, Colombia and other countries. On just about every issue taken on by Koch’s CSE, ALEC has provided legislative tools to carry them through to state legislatures, from privatizing “federal and state services and assets,” as CSE put it, to blocking common-sense caps on unlimited credit card interest rates.
Beezer here. The Koch influence is being felt throughout the nation’s state legislatures and in Congress. What not long ago would be considered radical is becoming more mainstream, particularly in the GOP. This is a concerted, organized and extremely well funded organization with many different names, none of which give an honest representation of their true goals and all of which operate in secrecy. We’ve described efforts by the Kochs, and others, as the propaganda arm of a very real ‘fifth column’ in America. These folks are not capitalists, and they don’t really believe in free markets or democracy. They are wealthy and powerful and all these efforts are made to consolidate that power. One can only hope the public eventually becomes aware of what’s going on and then votes against these forces.