By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 2, 2018 ~
Since 2010 we have been investigating and reporting on activities of the billionaire Koch brothers’ political funding network to subvert democracy in the United States.
In 2011 we broke the news that Charles Koch had entertained sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at Koch’s private club in California. Thomas would later rule in favor of the Citizens United decision which opened the spigots to unlimited corporate money in U.S. political campaigns. In the same article we reported that while the Citizens United case was pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Virginia Thomas, the wife of the Justice, created a nonprofit Tea Party advocacy group, Liberty Central, Inc., with a former lawyer for the Charles G. Koch Foundation, Sarah Field, acting as her General Counsel and a former Koch lobbyist, Matt Schlapp, serving on her board at inception. The nonprofit received over $500,000 from anonymous sources in a short period of time.
In 2010 we broke the news that a nonprofit with Koch footprints all over it had secretly funded a $17 million campaign to keep fear of Muslims alive in the weeks prior to the 2008 presidential election by pumping out 28 million DVDs of a race-baiting movie that was distributed through more than 100 newspapers and a direct mail campaign to swing-voter states.
As our “Related Articles” listed below indicate, we have been a thorn in the side of the Koch network for the past eight years. During the presidential campaign of 2016 we started to receive loud, threatening, pounding knocks on our front door, despite the fact that we had a doorbell. There was a very prominent sign at the entrance to our community making it clear that solicitations were not allowed, thus, we didn’t answer the door. When we would later leave the house, we would find a brochure from Americans for Prosperity stuck in the side of the door. (See our report The Koch Empire and Americans for Prosperity to understand the insidious relationship or watch this video to see David Koch stand at the podium of an Americans for Prosperity convention.)
An article today at Bloomberg/BusinessWeek reminded us of those threatening knocks on our door. Reporter John McCormick writes that Americans for Prosperity team members are using “the i360 voter database the Koch network built” which allows them to tap on their smartphone and “pull up a detailed map of each neighborhood, showing addresses, names, and ages of voters.” The group is using that sophisticated technology in a door-to-door campaign to turn out Republican voters in the midterms.
While cable news has been reporting 24/7 on the Special Counsel probe into Russia’s attempts to subvert democracy in the U.S., reporting on massive infiltration into the Trump administration by Koch-related individuals has been left to more courageous voices.
In November of last year, the nonprofit watchdog group, Public Citizen, issued a detailed report which found that 44 Trump administration officials have close ties to the Koch brothers. One Koch-related name that repeatedly turned up on the list was Freedom Partners (a/k/a Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce). In 2013, Politico described Freedom Partners as the Koch brothers “secret bank.”
The Koch brothers wealth derives from their majority ownership of Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in the world. According to the Freedom Partners website, all but one of its 9-member Board of Directors is a current or former Koch company employee. That includes Mark Holden, Chairman of the Board, who is Senior Vice President of Koch Industries, Inc., as well as General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. The website notes that Holden is also President and COO of the Legal Division of Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC, “which provides legal, and government and public affairs services to Koch Industries, Inc. and its affiliates.”
According to SourceWatch, the following individuals who previously worked at Freedom Partners are now working in the Trump administration as of April 2018:
- Marc Short is White House Director of Legislative Affairs and Assistant to the President. He served as the President of Freedom Partners from 2011 to 2016;
- Edward Ajaeb, former Freedom Partners Analyst, works in the Office of National Drug Control Policy;
- Brittany Baldwin, former Deputy Director of Writing at Freedom Partners is now Special Assistant to President Trump and Speechwriter;
- Luke Alexander Beckmann, former Freedom Partners Analyst, works at Department of Homeland Security;
- Samantha Dravis, former Legal Counsel for Freedom Partners, worked in Trump administration as Senior Policy Counsel and Associate Administrator For Policy at the EPA but resigned this month;
- Stephen J. Ford, former Director of Writing at Freedom Partners, works in the Office of the Vice President, Mike Pence;
- Andrew D. “Andy” Koenig, former Vice President of Policy for Freedom Partners, became Special Assistant to the President and Policy Special Assistant;
- Gary Michael Lawkowski, former Legal Counsel at Freedom Partners, now Counselor in Department of the Interior;
- Michael P. McKeown, former Analyst at Freedom Partners, works in Department of Homeland Security;
- Michael A. “Mike” Roman, former Vice-President at Freedom Partners, now in White House Office;
- Bethany Scully, former Deputy Director Member Relations Freedom Partners, now at White House Office;
- Cooper James Smith, former Research Associate at Freedom Partners, now at Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In addition, according to Public Citizen, Kellyane Conway, the media face for Trump, formerly consulted for Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners. Public Citizen also reports that Ann Donaldson, one of those 12 Jones Day lawyers who joined the Trump administration all at one time on Trump’s inauguration day of January 20, 2017, counted among her clients Freedom Partners and the Koch network’s data firm, i360. Donaldson is Chief of Staff to the White House Counsel. And finally, Trump’s White House Counsel, Don McGahn, also one of the pack of Jones Day lawyers, previously represented Freedom Partners and its affiliated Super PAC according to Public Citizen.