By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 19, 2018 ~
If Russia was the only major outside player to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election, why are so many of the spoils going to Charles Koch and his network of political operatives?
Koch is a mega billionaire (worth $51 billion according to Forbes) and sits atop one of the largest private corporations in the world — Koch Industries – with interests in fossil fuels, chemicals, paper products and commodities trading. For the past forty years, Koch has been at the helm of a stealthy network of front groups seeking to gut Federal regulations, downsize the government and give the wealthy and corporations more sway in deciding political races. Much of that work has been accomplished through dark money, where a donor can give tens of millions of dollars in just one year to a tax exempt front group and remain anonymous to the public.
On Monday, in a brazen nod to Charles Koch, the U.S. Treasury announced it would no longer require the names and addresses of donors to be supplied on Federal tax returns for 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) tax exempt organizations, the very kind that the Koctopus has used to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars through the tentacles of their election meddling web of front groups. The public has never had access to those names and addresses but now neither the public nor the IRS will have the information, making it impossible for the IRS to quickly spot patterns of fraud.
Two of those Koch-related front groups are Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and Freedom Partners. One man who owes his Senate seat to those groups is Ron Johnson of Wisconson, Chair of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs. In his tight 2016 race against former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, Americans for Prosperity and the Freedom Partners Action Fund ran ad campaigns for Johnson. AFP used its get-out-the-vote machinery to further boost his chances. Last year, Johnson saluted AFP in this ad.
According to SourceWatch, as of April, 12 people who previously worked at Freedom Partners are now working in the Trump administration. In addition, the perpetual on-air face of the Trump administration, Kellyanne Conway, formerly consulted for both Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, according to the public watchdog, Public Citizen. Then there was that strange hiring by Trump of an even dozen of Jones Day lawyers on the very day of his inauguration on January 20, 2017. According to Public Citizen, two of the main hires from Jones Day, White House Counsel Don McGahn and Ann Donaldson, Chief of Staff to McGahn, both previously represented Freedom Partners.
Yesterday, Johnson held a hearing at the Homeland Security Committee to discuss the next leg of what is effectively the Koch plan: dismantling the Federal government. The only witness to testify was Margaret Weichert, Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget. Weichert made it clear that some of the government reorganization will happen without the advice and consent of Congress. Under questioning by Democratic Senators, Weichert said 10 to 12 proposals for reorganizing the Federal government could move ahead without Congressional approval.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the ranking member of the committee, extensively grilled Weichert on why she was bringing vague proposals to the Senate without providing any cost benefit analysis or specifics on exactly what was being planned. By yesterday afternoon, Americans for Prosperity was giving payback to McCaskill, announcing a $1.8 million ad campaign against her 2016 re-election bid.
This is compatible with the marching orders put down by Freedom Partners at the beginning of Trump taking office. It provided a list of regulations it wanted gutted – like the Paris Climate accord (which Trump revoked on June 1, 2017) and numerous EPA rules – and threatened those lawmakers who didn’t get on board, writing that “Freedom Partners will hold lawmakers who oppose regulatory relief accountable for their positions.”
This is the thuggery that now passes for “free elections” in America.