Saturday, November 01, 2014

The Koch Billions' Toxic Effect On American Democracy


Last week we talked about how Republicans were unleashing a barrage of attack ads against weak conservative Democrats, like John Barrow, for voting with Republicans. Democrats who crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans to cut Social Security benefits for retired people are now being bombarded with ads-- that are true, regardless of the disingenuous source-- pointing out that they are the enemies of working people. That's what Blue Dogs and New Dems like John Barrow-- he's both-- deserve anyway.

Taking it a step further, the Koch brother's Americans For Prosperity went after Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor this week for being out of touch with income inequality in America. Mindboggling! Pryor has had a repulsive tendency to vote for the same interests the Kochs promote-- even if he's doing it on behalf of even richer plutocrats than the Kochs-- the Walton family. Take a look at the trailer for Brave New Films Koch Brothers Exposed, 2014 immediately below this paragraph. "Day in and day out, we see the Kochs using their billions to purchase politicians-- and policy-- taking a terrible toll on democracy... stomping on poor people."

The enormity of the Koch fortune is no mystery. Brothers Charles and David are each worth more than $40 billion. The electoral influence of the Koch brothers is similarly well-chronicled. The Kochs are our homegrown oligarchs; they've cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House. Their political network helped finance the Tea Party and powers today's GOP. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million during the 2012 election, and aim to spend another $290 million to elect Republicans in this year's midterms. So far in this cycle, Koch-backed entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican efforts to take back the Senate... The company's troubled legal history – including a trail of congressional investigations, Department of Justice consent decrees, civil lawsuits and felony convictions-- augmented by internal company documents, leaked State Department cables, Freedom of Information disclosures and company whistle­-blowers, combine to cast an unwelcome spotlight on the toxic empire whose profits finance the modern GOP.

...[I]in the real world, Koch Industries has used its political might to beat back the very market-based mechanisms-- including a cap-and-trade market for carbon pollution-- needed to create the ownership rights for pollution that Charles says would improve the functioning of capitalism.

In fact, it appears the very essence of the Koch business model is to exploit breakdowns in the free market. Koch has profited precisely by dumping billions of pounds of pollutants into our waters and skies-- essentially for free. It racks up enormous profits from speculative trades lacking economic value that drive up costs for consumers and create risks for our economy.

The Koch brothers get richer as the costs of what Koch destroys are foisted on the rest of us-- in the form of ill health, foul water and a climate crisis that threatens life as we know it on this planet. Now nearing 80-- owning a large chunk of the Alberta tar sands and using his billions to transform the modern Republican Party into a protection racket for Koch Industries' profits-- Charles Koch is not about to see the light. Nor does the CEO of one of America's most toxic firms have any notion of slowing down. He has made it clear that he has no retirement plans: "I'm going to ride my bicycle till I fall off."

It's worth pointing out that, at least in passing, that Daniel Scarpinato, national press secretary for the NRCC, noted that some Democrats have been similarly masquerading as Republicans-- i.e., the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. 
Scarpinato sent HuffPo a dozen campaign ads to demonstrate his point. One is from Montana Democratic House candidate John Lewis, who brags about his high NRA approval rating and attacks his Republican opponent for supporting gun control. Another shows Nick Rahall (Blue Dog-WV)-- who the DCCC and their House Majority PAC have already wasted and unprecedented $5,020,316 on (including $702,799 just this week)-- denouncing the Environmental Protection Agency (and President Obama).

The Koch's are laughing their asses off as their extremist puppets, like Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Joni Ernest in Iowa, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Mike Rounds in South Dakota, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Shelly Moore Capito in West Virginia and Steve Daines in Montana are propelled towards the Senate takeover the Kochs are willing and able to underwrite. Vice President Henry Wallace warned about Koch-types that "the American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information." And that's exactly what the Kochs have been doing. Do you help bankroll them by buying their products? It's worth thinking about. So is Jon Stewart's welcome to the Koch's as a new advertiser on his Comedy Central show:

NOTE: Short of losing control of the House, which-- thanks to Steve Israel-- is an impossibility this cycle, no House result anywhere in America would damage the Kochs more than losing their Energy Committee chairman, Fred Upton, in MI-06. A dark money group they finance and control, "American Future Fund," has rushed hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race in the last few days to try to save Upton. Lawrence Lessig: "Fred Upton has already taken $2.1 million from Big Oil and energy interests and voted to give away billions in tax breaks for oil and gas companies. Now, a shadowy group that has been largely bankrolled by two billionaire oil barons is pouring money in Southwest Michigan to support him. Voters have a right to know if the hundreds of thousands of dollars AFF is spending to send Fred Upton back to Washington comes with strings attached... The Koch brothers have billions of dollars invested in the very industries that Fred Upton oversees as Chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. If they are funding a last ditch effort to save Fred Upton, voters deserve to know about it."

Steve Israel may be working to protect Upton but Alan Grayson just endorsed Paul Clements. "On Tuesday," he told his supporters today, "we have a chance to take out the reigning king of the polluters, Rep. Fred Upton, the Republican Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The Los Angeles Times has called Fred Upton "one of the biggest threats to Planet Earth on Planet Earth."

Upton has tried to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas pollution. He says that Congress's failure to act against climate disruption-- a failure that he is largely responsible for-- means that the EPA must sit on its hands, as well. Upton says that doing anything to fight carbon pollution would "hamstring our economic recovery."

But Upton's not all bad. He cosponsored a bill to make light bulbs more energy efficient. Then he led the fight to prevent President Obama from enforcing it.

Let me put it this way: When Upton was an infant, his first words were "drill, baby, drill."

...Upton's opponent is Paul Clements, a political science professor at Western Michigan University. Clements isn't pulling any punches: he says that environmental protection is THE issue. He is running against Upton because defeating Upton means defeating climate change. Clements wants to bring more clean-energy jobs to Michigan.

It looks like Clements has Upton on the run. A poll last week showed Clements down by only four points, within the margin of error, with ten percent of the voters still undecided. Clements has momentum. He can win. With our help, Paul Clements can beat Fred Upton.
Please keep Paul Clements in your prayers this week. Last minute contributions can be made here.

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