The Kochs freeze out Donald Trump – By KENNETH P. VOGEL and CATE MARTEL 7/29/15 5:16 AM EDT

Continued stiff-arming by the powerful Koch network could limit Trump’s ability to build a professional campaign operation.

OSKALOOSA, IA - JULY 25:  A security team stands guard as Republican presidential hopeful businessman Donald Trump speaks heads to a press conference following a rally on July 25, 2015 in Oskaloosa, Iowa. During his last visit to the state Trump sparked controversy when he said Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a former POW, was not a war hero.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Koch brothers are freezing out Donald Trump from their influential political operation — denying him access to their state-of-the-art data and refusing to let him speak to their gatherings of grass-roots activists or major donors.

Despite a long and cordial relationship between the real estate showman and David Koch, as well as a raft of former Koch operatives who are now running Trump’s presidential campaign, the Koch political operation appears to have concluded that Trump is the wrong standard-bearer for the GOP. And the network of Koch-backed policy and political outfits is using behind-the-scenes influence to challenge Trump more forcefully than the Republican Party establishment — by limiting his access to the support and data that would help him translate his lead in the polls into a sustainable White House campaign.

The Koch operation has spurned entreaties from the Trump campaign to purchase state-of-the-art data and analytics services from a Koch-backed political tech firm called i360, and also turned down a request to allow Trump to speak at an annual grass-roots summit next month in Columbus, Ohio, sponsored by the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity, POLITICO has learned.

In addition, Trump was not invited to the annual summer gathering of the network of hundreds of conservative mega-donors and operatives helmed by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. That’s despite the Trump campaign filling out a questionnaire detailing the candidate’s policy positions and submitting it to Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the Koch umbrella group organizing the summit. The three-day meeting in Orange County, California, will feature appearances from a handful of candidates whose politics reflect more closely the Kochs’ fiscally conservative worldview — including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker — and even long-shot Carly Fiorina. Rand Paul, who is also fondly regarded by some in the Koch operation, was invited, but he has not accepted and is unlikely to attend.

Continued stiff-arming by the powerful Koch network could limit Trump’s ability to build a professional campaign operation to mobilize supporters ahead of primaries and caucuses.

Trump’s surprising traction has prompted hand-wringing by the Republican Party elite, who fear that his bombastic rhetoric could damage the GOP’s prospects in the general election. But their ability to halt his momentum is limited by rules and traditions requiring them to stay neutral in open party primaries, as well as a fear of alienating the significant portion of the party base to which Trump appeals.

The Koch network — a coalition of individual donors and independent groupsand companies — intends to spend a whopping $889 million in the run-up to 2016, and is not obliged to stay neutral. While it appears increasingly unlikely that it will officially endorse a GOP primary candidate, it has nonetheless shaped the process by determining which candidates are granted access to i360’s data and the grass-roots activists convened regularly by groups including AFP and Concerned Veterans for America.


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The GOP’s demonic alliance: How the religious right & big business are dumbing down America Monday, Apr 27, 2015 02:59 AM PDT

It’s a tradition as old as the nation itself: The right rejects intellectualism in favor of a perverse religiosity


The GOP's demonic alliance: How the religious right & big business are dumbing down America

Mike Huckabee, David Koch, Ted Cruz  (Credit: AP/Charlie Neibergall/Mark Lennihan/J. Scott Applewhite/Photo montage by Salon)

Though presidential hopeful Ted Cruz was apparently a top student at Harvard Law, he has always been quick to distance himself from the organization, especially since the despised Barack Obama went to the same school less then a decade earlier. Back in 2013, at a conference sponsored by the Koch brothers, he said that “[Obama] would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.”

His reasoning:

“There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”

This claim was discredited by Harvard Law, but it certainly cannot come as a surprise that Cruz wants to distance himself from an academic organization that is generally thought of as liberal. His voter base, after all, is not a particularly highbrow community.

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The Kochs put a price on 2016: $889 million – By Kenneth P. Vogel 1/26/15 4:00 PM EST Updated 1/26/15 10:54 PM EST

Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch is pictured. | AP Photo

The Koch brothers’ operation intends to spend $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 elections — a historic sum that in many ways would mark Charles and David Koch and their fellow conservative megadonors as more powerful than the official Republican Party.

The figure, which more than doubles the amount spent by the Republican National Committee during the last presidential election cycle, prompted cheers from some in the GOP who are looking for all the help they can get headed into a potentially tough 2016 election landscape.

But while the leaked details seemed in part a show of defiance to Democrats, who had targeted the brothers as bogeymen, the spending goal also appeared to be a show of dominance to rival factions on the right, including the RNC.

A spokesman for the RNC did not respond to a request for comment Monday. Some Republicans, however, quietly grumbled about the continued migration of power and money from the political parties and their candidates to super-rich donors emboldened by recent court decisions loosening campaign finance restrictions.

The budget figure was shared with donors during a Monday morning session at the Koch network’s annual winter donor gathering at the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, California, according to an attendee.

In the run-up to 2012, the RNC spent $404 million, while it dropped $188 million during last year’s midterms. To be sure, the RNC’s spending was supplemented by congressional campaign arms, but one reason the Koch operation has an edge over the traditional party apparatus like the RNC is that the Kochs and their operatives don’t have to spread cash across the entire GOP political landscape.

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2014: The Year of Koch —By Andy Kroll | Thu Nov. 6, 2014 6:15 AM EST

And six other key takeaways on big money in the 2014 elections.

David Koch Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

The 2014 election season acquired its fair share of nicknames: the Nothing Election, the Seinfeld Election, and the Meh Midterms. Here’s another: the Year of Koch.

Big money from outside spenders like the Koch brothers’ political network and the pro-Democratic Senate Majority PAC dominated this year’s elections. In the battleground states, a voter couldn’t watch five minutes of television, listen to the radio, or cue up a YouTube clip without being bombarded by political ads, most of them of the minor-chord, attack-ad variety. Broadcasters in Alaska, North Carolina, Colorado, and other critical states collected money by the fistful. Major candidates galore had a deep-pocketed super-PAC or a political nonprofit in his or her corner.

Here are seven big-money takeaways from the second election since the Supreme Court’s landscape-changing Citizens United decision.

The price tag for 2014 will probably be the highest in American history.
Candidates, parties, PACs, super-PACs, and political nonprofits—those anonymously funded outfits including the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and the pro-Democratic Patriot Majority—were on pace to spend $3.67 billion on the 2014 races, according to projections by the Center for Responsive Politics. That would be a new record, surpassing the $3.63 billion spent in 2010.

When all the numbers are tallied, Republicans will likely outspend the Democrats—but not by much. CRP predicts that Republican candidates and their allies will unload $1.75 billion this election, while Democrats and their supporters will spend $1.64 billion. (The remaining dollars, according to CRP, went toward nonpartisan and third-party spending as well as overhead costs.)
Super-PACs and dark money are a bigger deal than ever.
All those attack ads clogging up the commercial breaks during your favorite show? Chances are they were funded not by a candidate but an outside group—a super-PAC, a labor union, or a political nonprofit.

The 2014 elections will be remembered as the cycle when outside groups handled much of the mudslinging, which traditionally was the responsibility of candidates and their campaigns. In Kentucky, for instance, a secretly funded group called Kentucky Opportunity Coalition ran 12,000 TV ads—many of which attacked Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, depicting her as an Obama clone. The group’s commercials accounted for one out of every seven ads run during that race, according to the Center for Public Integrity. On paper, Kentucky Opportunity Coalition was independent of the candidate it supported, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. But the group was run by a former McConnell aide and functioned effectively as an offshoot of McConnell’s campaign.

This pattern unfolded across the country, as outside spending ramped up. In all, outside groups pumped $554 million—$301 million from Republican-aligned shops, $225 million from Democratic allies—into 2014 races. And you guessed it: That, too, is a new record for a midterm election.
Koch and Rove: From zeroes to heroes
Two years ago, the biggest donors and operatives in the Republican money universe—Karl Rove, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, and the Koch brothers and their donor network—spent hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat President Obama and retake the Senate. They got nothing; it was an embarrassment.

This year, they won big.

Rove’s groups—American Crossroads, a super-PAC; and Crossroads GPS, its dark-money-funded sibling—spent heavily in 10 Senate races. The Republican won in at least six of those elections. If Republican Dan Sullivan defeats Sen. Mark Begich in Alaska (Sullivan was leading the vote count the day after the election) and GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy ousts Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana’s runoff next month, Rove will end up 8 for 10. The Sunlight Foundation calculates Crossroads GPS’s return on investment—that is, the success rate of GPS’s spending to elect or defeat candidates—at an impressive 96 percent.

The Koch brothers’ flagship organization, Americans for Prosperity, had an equally stellar Election Day. At least five of the nine AFP-backed Senate candidates won. The Kochs’ Freedom Partners Action Fund recorded an 85 percent ROI, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

By contrast, Senate Majority PAC, the super-PAC aligned with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that funded more ads than any other outside group, took a beating. It spent $47 million—the most of any super-PAC—but saw only two of the nine Republican candidates it targeted go down to defeat. Senate Majority PAC’s ROI: 9 percent.
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How Cheap Wind Energy Threatens To Upend The Kansas Governor’s Race And Upset The Koch Brothers – by Ari Phillips Posted on October 27, 2014 at 12:00 pm Updated: October 27, 2014 at 1:09 pmw

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback once supported wind energy, but that was before petrochemical billionaires and Kansas natives Charles and David Koch became his largest campaign donors. Now, Brownback and the Kochs find themselves enmeshed in a highly competitive governor’s race, one that has become a referendum on the much-heralded notion that scaling back government and slashing taxes for the wealthy will lead to economic growth.

Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress

A key aspect of this debate hinges on the role of renewable energy in the state and the future of the Kansas’ Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), a law requiring a certain portion of a state’s energy mix come from renewable sources. The Koch brothers have devoted a significant amount of time and money into repealing the standard and as of late, Brownback has wavered in his support. His Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, has taken a stand, sayinghe would “veto a bill that repeals our RPS” during the first gubernatorial debate.

“Kansas has some of the greatest potential for wind energy in the United States, but the future of wind in Kansas depends upon the continuation of the RPS,” Davis said in an email. “If Kansas were to repeal the RPS, it sends a very strong message to the wind industry that we are not open for business, and you will see people back away from Kansas in a big way.”

Davis said the RPS repeal is being championed by a very narrow group of far right special interests with heavy investments in the oil industry. He said this is despite the fact that the policy remains incredibly popular among everyday Kansans and public and private sector leaders who understand the importance of diversifying the state’s energy portfolio. In fact, Kansas’ RPS — which requires investor-owned utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020 — is almost entirely fulfilled several years ahead of schedule.

“Frankly, the RPS has become controversial because those who want to repeal the RPS have poured millions into Sam Brownback’s re-election campaign, which has caused him to suddenly change his position,” said Davis.

Named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which meant “south wind people,” wind has played a metaphorical role throughout Kansas’ history, with the tornado in the Wizard of Oz cementing this tumultuous imagery into American folklore. The wind blows through Kansas powerfully enough to meet the state’s electricity needs more than 90 times over. However, neighboring Iowa — with a lesser wind resource — is currently far outpacing Kansas in wind power capacity.

Wind advocates in Kansas say their competitive disadvantage comes from political attacks on policies that would boost clean energy development. For Kansas is not only home to plentiful wind resources, it is also home to the ultraconservative Kochs, whose affiliated groups have spearheaded many of the attacks on clean energy across the country.

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Koch donors uncloaked – By KENNETH P. VOGEL and MIKE ALLEN | 10/14/14 5:04 AM EDT

Charles and David Koch are shown. | AP Photos

The Koch brothers’ super PAC, Freedom Partners Action Fund, is a smash hit with donors. | AP Photos

The deep-pocketed political network created by the billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch this summer quietly launched a super PAC that can buy explicitly political ads supporting Republican candidates rather than the issue-oriented ads they‘d been airing for years.

The catch: For the first time, the network’s donors would be publicly identified if they gave to the super PAC.

Four months later and the results are in: The super PAC, Freedom Partners Action Fund, is a smash hit with donors. It has surpassed its fundraising goal and now says it is on pace to spend roughly $25 million on ads intended to help Republicans capture the Senate.

(From POLITICO Magazine: The pitchforks are coming… for us plutocrats)

POLITICO was allowed to review an advanced copy of the mandatory report the super PAC will file Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission that will formally reveal the names of some of the Kochs’ ultra-rich conservative donors. The report, combined with additional information voluntarily provided by Freedom Partners Action Fund, are illuminating, testing some of the conventional wisdom surrounding the Koch political operation.

New York hedge fund billionaire Bob Mercer wrote the largest check — $2.5 million — followed by Charles and David Koch, who each stroked $2 million checks from trusts in their names. The group received $1 million apiece from Arkansas poultry producer Ronnie Cameron, Wisconsin roofing billionaire Diane Hendricks and Nebraska trucking magnate Clarence Werner.

“I just felt like it’s time to stand up and put my money where my mouth is,” said Cameron, who made his donation in two equal checks through Mountaire Corp., the Arkansas-based poultry company he owns. Cameron donated at least $1 million in 2011 to non-disclosing groups in the Koch network, but the contribution to Freedom Partners Action Fund was far more than he’d ever given to any political committee that lists its donors. He admitted he thought long and hard “about getting the publicity because most of us are private — I work very hard to keep my name out of stuff.”

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Koch oil leftovers fire Mich. race – By ANDREW RESTUCCIA | 8/30/14 7:08 AM EDT

| The Koch brothers are pictured. | AP Photos

For a green-minded Democratic candidate, the symbolism is irresistible. | AP Photos


DETROIT — For a green-minded Democratic candidate, the symbolism is irresistible: Towering piles of an oil refinery’s dusty leftovers blighted a Detroit neighborhood, thanks to the Koch brothers — and a major Koch-backed political group is taking the side of his Republican opponent.

The four-story tall mountains of black petroleum coke are gone from the banks of the Detroit River, but they’re still providing a campaign weapon for Democratic Rep. Gary Peters in his Senate race against Republican Terri Lynn Land. Peters’ environmental supporters are also pounding the issue, filling the airwaves with images of Land, black waste piles and smiling Charles and David Koch in ads accusing the brothers of using Detroit as a “dumping ground.” Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s super PAC plans to pick up the theme, as well.

Peters and his supporters believe the city’s so-called petcoke plight remains a salient issue for voters.

“This is not something that will easily go away,” said Michigan League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Lisa Wozniak. “People are going to remember this.”

(PHOTOS: How well do you know Charles and David Koch?)

The residue stirred local anger when it appeared in an industrial neighborhood along the river in 2012. It was a byproduct of refining crude oil from the Canadian oil sands — the same kind of oil that would be transported in the Keystone XL pipeline if President Barack Obama approves that project. A Marathon Petroleum refinery in Detroit sold the petcoke to Koch Carbon, a Koch subsidiary, and it was stored by a company called Detroit Bulk Storage while awaiting shipment into the lucrative international market.

Residents and businesses complained that winds were kicking up a “petcoke cloud” and that the substance was blowing into homes and restaurants. Eventually, local leaders ordered Detroit Bulk Storage to remove the petcoke, and the last of it was hauled away last year.

But the ruckus gave Peters an opening to jump on another Koch connection: the millions of dollars that the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity has spent on ads attacking him, to the benefit of Land’s campaign.

“You’ve got to ask anybody who is willing to spend $6.5 million for a candidate what’s on their agenda, and I think it’s very clear that my opponent shares their anti-environment agenda,” Peters said in an interview in Michigan, where he’s trying to spread the message that Land wouldn’t protect the Great Lakes. “What they’re about is weakening environmental regulations, not making environmental regulations stronger to protect the public.”

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The Koch Brothers And Republican Party Have Just Joined Forces To Track Voters – by Josh Israel Posted on August 28, 2014 at 12:17 pm

 A secretive data and technology company linked to conservative oil billionaires Charles and David Koch has reached an agreement to share its information with the “voter file and data management company” that holds an exclusive agreement with the Republican National Committee. This will allow the Republican Party full access to voter data collected by the Koch’s Freedom Partners entities and clients — and entrenches the Kochs’ network even deeper into the GOP.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch  speaks in Orlando, Florida, in August, 2013.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch speaks in Orlando, Florida, in August, 2013.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Because political parties are not allowed to accept corporate contributions, it would be illegal for the Kochs to simply give their massive databases to the Republican National Committee directly. But the Republican National Committee has outsourced its database management to a company called GOP Data Trust. And that company joined forces Thursday with i360 (aka Themis), a firm reportedly backed by the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners and serving as repository for the data amassed by the Kochs’ political empire.

In a press release, the two companies claimed that the “historic data sharing partnership” will “allow Republican and Conservative campaign resources to be spent more efficiently than ever before.” They noted that “voter contact information gathered by clients of either The Data Trust or i360″ will be now used by both to “improve the data shared with all clients,” meaning “conservative groups and campaigns will have more information about voters at their disposal for their own activities than ever before.”

Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, told ThinkProgress that as long as the Republican National Committee pays fair-market value to its data vendor, it does not matter who that vendor coordinates with. “Campaign finance laws only regulate the committees themselves, not other freestanding entities,” he explained.

Ryan noted that this sort of coordination is not necessarily exclusive to GOP entities — and that it can be a real challenge in determining what is a “fair” value for voter data. He pointed out that the super PAC ‘Ready for Hillary’ is collecting a great deal of information on pro-Clinton donors. That information “would be immensely valuable to Hillary Clinton, if she decides to run for president,” he explained, but probably “less valuable to another candidate.” And, in the end, it would up to the Federal Election Commission to determine whether the RNC or a theoretical Hillary Clinton campaign is paying a fair amount for that information.

But in a time when the lines between the Republican Party and the Kochs were already blurred, this deal is another indication that the anti-government billionaire activists are leading the party.

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The Kochs’ commercial appeal – By DANIEL LIPPMAN | 8/24/14 4:05 PM EDT Updated: 8/24/14 10:41 PM EDT

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at Aug 25, 2014 12.56 1

The Koch brothers are showing up in so many campaign ads for Democrats, you’d think they were on the ballot.

The commercials are full of images designed to make ordinary Americans bristle, from private jets to limousines to handshakes in dark rooms. They often feature the same images of Charles and David Koch in blazers and ties — portraits that could have appeared in the billionaires issue of Forbes magazine. And many of the ads point out that the wealthy industrialist brothers are behind rival ads that support Republicans.

One spot, released Friday by the League of Conservation Voters, says the Kochs are “trying to buy a Senate seat for Terri Lynn Land,” the Republican candidate in that hotly contested race in Michigan.

Democrats’ decision to give the Kochs the Mitt Romney treatment highlights the degree to which the brothers’ unprecedented spending has upended American politics. This cycle, Koch-affiliated groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, are expected to spend up to a staggering $290 million to support conservative causes and candidates, much of it on advertising.


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The Kochs’ plan to beat Harry Reid – By KENNETH P. VOGEL and BURGESS EVERETT | 8/19/14 5:09 AM EDT

LAS VEGAS — Harry Reid’s reelection is more than two years off, but the Koch brothers’ political machine is already methodically laying the groundwork that will be used to try to take him out.

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at Aug 19, 2014 10.17 1

The efforts in recent months have been largely subterranean, but they are unmistakable. A handful of nonprofit groups in the vast political network helmed by allies of the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch have established or expanded permanent ground operations in Reid’s backyard. Focused on wooing key demographics like Latinos and veterans, they’ve alsopaid for ads assailing the Senate Democratic leader.

Reid, meanwhile, is ramping up his home-state political operation, quietly moving to undercut Koch-backed operations here, as well as working toneutralize potential GOP opponents.

(QUIZ: How well do you know the Koch brothers?)

Intensifying and complicating the competition is that allies of Reid and the Koch are assiduously courting the wild-card donor who could dictate the terms of his race, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. He is a friend and constituent of Reid’s, but sources say Koch operatives raised more than $20 million from him in 2012, and they’re working to secure additional funding.

The high-level jockeying on both sides is particularly striking given that there is so little top-tier political activity in Nevada this fall. Both camps insist they’re focused entirely on the policy repercussions of 2014 midterm elections across the country. But it’s hard not to detect an intensely personal tension underlying the Koch-Reid dynamic.

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