President Obama signed a debt deal at 12:30 a.m. averting a catastrophic debt default in the nick of time.
In a city of manufactured crisis it is sometimes hard to distinguish real issues from fake ones, but the debt ceiling deadline is a serious issue. Since Congress failed to pass a budget, the Treasury Department ran out of authority to borrow months ago. October 17, 2013 was the day that the Treasury Department said it would be unable to juggle the accounts to pay the nation’s obligations.
The consequences of a default to the economy would be catastrophic, stocks and pension funds would crash as interest rates would jump. Just the two-week government shutdown and the threat of default took a $24 billion dollar bite out of the economy, says the S&P.
“There are certain weapons that are just improper to use against humanity,” Warren Buffet told CNBC on October 16 as the stalemate continued in Congress. “It is a political weapon of mass destruction and both sides should say we’re not going to touch it, just like with poison gas or nuclear weapons. It’s too powerful.”
Extremist Tea Party reactionaries in the Congress led our nation to the very brink, passing a deal hours before midnight on October 16.
As the very real threat of a catastrophic debt default loomed this week, the Koch Brothers were running for cover. Koch Industries sent a letter to Congress saying the corporation controlled by two of the richest billionaires in the world was not responsible for the shutdown.
David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity group helpfully clarified that it did not support the strategy to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it just wanted to repeal it.
It’s time for a fact check. The Koch family foundations and the newest known Koch vehicle — Freedom Partners, which is staffed with by operatives connected to the Kochs and housed in the same building as Charles Koch’s foundation — have bankrolled practically every group working to create a fake grassroots uprising against the ACA. Many of the groups linked to the Kochs have also pushed an extreme “shut-it-down” position that led the U.S. to the brink of a historic government debt default.
Here is a field guide to some of the Koch O’ Nuts and what is known about their funding.
Americans for Prosperity’s Goal Is the Repeal of “Obamacare”
Freedom Partners funding in 2012: $31,600,000. Plus an additional $4,278,000 from Center to Protect Patient Rights in 2011. The total amount of funding from David Koch himself directly to AFP versus filtered through Freedom Partners is not disclosed.
AFP was founded by David Koch in 2004, when Koch’s “Citizens for a Sound Economy” split into FreedomWorks and AFP. Known funders in the past include Koch family foundations, the Scaife Foundation and the Bradley Foundation. Today it is one of the largest beneficiaries of a previously unknown stream of money from Freedom Partners
According to AFP: “Americans for Prosperity has led the charge against Obamacare implementation throughout the summer, with events around the country and millions spent in television and radio ads.” The New York Times reports that AFP has run $5.5 million in television advertising against the law over the past three months.
According to USA Today (September 19, 2013): “Between July 1 and Sept. 16, Americans for Prosperity led all advertising [on the subject of ACA, either for or opposed], running more than 3,200 spots to slam the law, according to a tally of advertising by Kantar Media.”
These ads include:
- Ad titled “Questions,” July 2013: The Hill reports, “Americans for Prosperity is launching a $1 million ad campaign opposing Obamacare.” The ad is the first in a 2013 summer/fall series of TV, radio and web ads opposing the ACA.
- Ads titled “My Daughter” and “Doctor Questions,” September 2013: AFP announced a “seven-figure ad buy” in Texas markets.
- Ad titled “Tricia’s Story,” September 2013: The Hill reports: “Americans for Prosperity launches $3M anti-Obamacare ad featuring cancer survivor.”
According to AFP, its state groups held a total of 150 “healthcare related events” in the months of August and September, including town hall style events featuring members of Congress like Pennsylvanian Congressman Pat Meehan. Campaign websites include ObamacareRiskFactors.com and JustExemptMe.com.
Controversial Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who spearheaded the effort to shutdown the government over the ACA, was featured at AFP’s national “Right Online” conference last month, where he advocated the repeal of the ACA through defunding it and tying that defunding to the budget fights.
Video of Ted Cruz’s speech at the David Koch headlined conference is available here.
The Executive Director of AFP, Tim Phillips, praised Jim DeMint for his efforts at the Heritage Foundation to “do what’s right” (Heritage Action, as noted below, was a primary advocate of the shutdown). He also praised Cruz, his featured speaker, for sticking to the agenda of “we’re going to do what’s right from day one,” like DeMint, plainly referencing their fight against the ACA.
Heritage Action for America Helps Ted Cruz Get His Stump Speech Ready
Freedom Partners funding in 2012: $500,000. Total amount of direct funding from the Koch family fortune is not known.
The Heritage Foundation has received an undisclosed sum from the Koch family fortune over the years, but it has close ties to the Koch agenda and David Koch’s AFP strongly endorsed the Heritage Foundation’s agenda as Congress returned from summer recess.
Heritage Action for America gives Heritage Foundation’s new Executive Director, former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), a big platform for a reactionary political agenda.
Heritage Action has pushed the extremes in its effort to defund Obamacare at any cost with weekly Action Alerts demanding that their supporters call Congress and reject any deal that did not defund Obamacare. On the night before the government default deadline the group continued to urge no deal the “proposed deal will do nothing to stop Obamacare’s massive new entitlements from taking root — radically changing the nature of American health care” and told Congressional leaders their votes would be scored.
“Heritage Action was also responsible for running internet ads against 100 Republican politicians who failed to sign a letter to House Speaker John Boehner encouraging him to defund Obamacare at any cost,” reports the Business Spectator.
For Heritage Action the war has been many months in the planning. It launched a “Defund Obamacare Town Hall Tour,” nine events held from August 19-29 featuring DeMint and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. Jim DeMint: “We have an opportunity to change the direction of our nation by defunding Obamacare and advancing conservative policy solutions that will help place us back on the path toward fiscal responsibility.”
Tea Party Patriots Push for the Extremes
Freedom Partners funding in 2012: $200,000. Total amount of direct funding from the Koch family fortune is not known.
David Koch’s AFP has funded numerous events advancing the Tea Party agenda. The Tea Party Patriots are one faction of the Tea Party. Tea Party Patriots have been among the most extreme “shut it down” factions of the far right. The group produced a “Defunding Obamacare Toolkit for Activists” with talking points, sample social media posts, and more. “We’ve pushed very, very, very hard, and we’re doing that because we understand that this law [Obamacare] is having very real effects on millions of Americans right now,” National Coordinator Jenny Beth Martin told Politico. The Tea Party Patriots joined FreedomWorks’ paid political consultant Glenn Beck at a Saturday rally on Capitol Hill with Sarah Palin and others.
On the brink of default on October 16, the Tea Party Patriots were urging no deal. “The Ruling Elites in Washington, D.C. have completely abandoned the American people,” said Martin. “The deal cut in the Senate does NOT protect the American people from this unfair and unworkable law.”
Center to Protect Patient Rights Acts as a Conduit
Freedom Partners: $114,678,000. Total funding from the Koch family fortune is unknown.
The New York Times describes the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR): “Run by a political consultant with ties to the Kochs and listing an Arizona post office box for its address, the center appears to be little more than a clearinghouse for donations to still more groups, including American Commitment and the 60 Plus Association, both ardent foes of the health care law.”
CPPR is at the center of a probe by the California Elections Board on “dark money” spent through shell groups to influence two ballot initiatives, among other concerns that have been raised about it.
The 60 Plus Association, a Big Money Front Group Focused on Seniors
Freedom Partners funding in 2012: $114,678,000. Plus an additional $14,029,000 from the Center to Protect Patient Rights in 2011. Total amount of funding from the Koch family fortune is unknown.
The 60 Plus Association has long campaigned against Obamacare. The New York Times reports that it was “among a handful of groups calling themselves the ‘Repeal Coalition’ that sent a letter in August urging Republican leaders in the House and the Senate to insist ‘at a minimum’ in a one-year delay of carrying out the health care law as part of any budget deal.”
On September 23, the organization called for a budget with no Obamacare, “Pull the Plug” said their release and on September 25, as Ted Cruz began his “filibuster” the 60 Plus Association issued a statement in support to Cruz and his efforts on the Senate floor to stem the funding and implementation of Obamacare.
American Commitment Pushes Tea Party Candidates
Freedom Partners Funding: $6,260,000. Total amount of funding from the Koch family fortune is unknown.
American Commitment is run by another Koch operative Phil Kerpen. Kerpen was the “legislative strategist” at Americans for Prosperity for over five years. The group has opposed the requirement in the ACA that requires all Americans to purchase health care and has supported legislation to require members of Congress to subscribe to the plan.
On its website it has ads in support of Steve Lonegan who was defeated by Cory Booker last night for the New Jersey U.S. Senate seat. Lonegan was the State Director of the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity and ran for governor of New Jersey in 2005 and 2009. Lonegan was passionately opposed to Obamacare and on October 10 boasted that his election would end the shutdown: “When I win, Obama will fold.” “My victory in this election on Wednesday will send a message to Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi that the American people want an end to Obamacare and the rest of the President’s radical agenda,” said Lonegan.
Generation Opportunity, Another Dark Money Group Marketing to Youth
Freedom Partners funding in 2012: $5,040,000. Total amount of funding from the Koch family fortune is unknown.
One of the most well-known and most misleading anti-Obamacare ads comes from a new group called Generation Opportunity. The ad portrays Uncle Sam giving a woman a gynecological exam and calls for people to “opt out of Obamacare.”
Generation Opportunity purports to be “the voice of young people in Washington and in local communities and we will act to protect our future.” But its glitzy ad campaigns and its Freedom Partner funding reveals that it is another astroturf front group for powerful special interests.
Prior to joining Generation Opportunity as President, Evan Feinberg was Program Manager at the Charles Koch Institute, where he “Managed the institute’s efforts related to government spending.”
Generation Opportunity intends to host events at college football tailgate parties, music concerts and other events in the fall of 2013, urging young people to opt-out of Obamacare, which of course would net them a penalty.
Concerned Women for American Legislative Action Committee
Freedom Partners funding in 2012: $8,150,000. Total amount of funding from the Koch family fortune is unknown.
CWALAC got a surge in funding, a 300 percent increase (from 2M to 8M) for the 2012 election cycle, almost all from Freedom Partners, which no one knew about at the time, and then it they turned around and announced a $7 million ad campaign on “issue ads” critical of Obama in the summer leading up to the election.
The related Concerned Women for America is an overtly religious group that has opposed Obamacare, claiming its opposition is on the grounds of “religious liberty.” The president of the group alleges that the exchanges will charge enrollees an “abortion surcharge,” a minimum of $1 per month, which pays into an “abortion slush fund” obscured by a “secrecy clause.”
According to the Washington Post, CWALAC spent at least $3 million on 3,141 ads during the 2012 Presidential campaign, spending $1 million on ads in Wisconsin and more than $700K in both Iowa and Minnesota.
According to CWALAC, the group spent $6 million on an anti-ACA ad titled “Care” that aired in six states — Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Virginia and Wisconsin — in June 2012.
American Legislative Exchange Council Spearheads Opposition in the States
Koch Industry funding: More than $1 million.
Over the years, Koch Industries has given ALEC at least $1 million in addition to the substantial funding ALEC has received from the Koch family fortune, for example from the foundations it controls. The total amount of funding the Koch fortune has contributed to ALEC is unknown.
For the past two decades Koch Industries has been a leader of ALEC with a seat on its corporate board, and with Koch Industries playing an influential role bankrolling ALEC, the group has spearheaded efforts to push state legislators to “repeal Obamacare,” echoing the same message as David Koch’s AFP. ALEC has also urged state legislators to pass resolutions urging Congress to repeal the ACA, in addition to peddling numerous bills to defund or stop implementation of the ACA over the past three years, as detailed in its legislative handbook: “A Legislators Guide to Repealing Obamacare.”
Through these and other efforts, ALEC has sought to stop the ACA at the state and federal levels, while indoctrinating its legislative members with talking points that have been echoed by opponents of the law in state capitols and also in Congress during the debates over the budget this year. Congress has numerous ALEC alums among its ranks, including House Majority whip, Eric Cantor (R-VA), who was recently given one of ALEC’s highest awards for advancing ALEC’s agenda in Congress.