By Pam Martens: May 14, 2013
For years now, journalists have been doing the heavy lifting in investigations of Charles and David Koch using their billionaire status to fund faux grassroots groups to push their far right agenda on the country — an agenda that effectively boils down to deregulation of corporations to the detriment of the working class, the environment and wealth equality in America. It’s about time the IRS investigated.
According to the 2013 Forbes List, Charles and David Koch are each worth $34 billion. Their wealth derives from Koch Industries, a private global conglomerate with a presence in over 60 countries. The company’s business interests include oil, refining, pipelines, paper products, chemicals, fertilizer and trading. Because the company is not publicly traded, despite the Koch brothers’ stated devotion to free markets, we have no idea what goes on in the sprawling Koch enterprises because they are not required to make public filings.
In April 2010, Koch Industries issued a statement denying involvement in the creation of the Tea Party movement: “…no funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the Tea Parties.” Technically, they might be correct; the Kochs funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) which then created the Tea Party groups.
In this video, David Koch appears before an annual convention of chapters of Americans for Prosperity, and states “…my brother Charles and I provided the funds to start the Americans for Prosperity.” Later in the video, members of the state chapters report to David Koch on how many Tea Party groups they have created. One man states: “…hey folks, we’ve held 29 Tea Parties”; another says his chapter has “organized dozens of Tea Parties.” Another woman reports her Americans for Prosperity group turned out 10,000 people at a Tea Party rally in California.
Americans for Prosperity has worn many more masks than just the Tea Party. The group or the AFP Foundation have spawned the following identities in recent elections:
DefendingtheDream.org (D.C. summit for right wing strategizing and rally);
SayNoCapandTrade.org (kill tax on production of greenhouse gases);
NoInternetTakeover.com (attacks on the Federal Communications Commission);
SickofSpending.com (“…how to recruit, educate, organize, and mobilize fed up Americans to stop the radical left-wing agenda…”);
RegulationReality.com (“…educate citizens about the EPA’s attempt to implement radical global warming regulations…”);
NovemberIsComing.com (phone bank; go door to door to beat back those liberals);
TaxCutsForAll.com (don’t raise taxes on the rich);
SpendingCrisis.org (shrink the Federal government);
United4NoOn4.com (killing an Amendment in Florida that would give voters more say in local legislative decisions; an ironic position for people who say they want to promote more liberty).
Americans for Prosperity also created PatientsUnitedNow.com and orchestrated hundreds of rallies to help kill the public option in health care reform.
On October 26, 2010 we exposed how a secretive nonprofit group with Charles Koch’s fingerprints all over it bankrolled a group called the Clarion Fund, which used the funds to distribute 28 million DVDs of a race-baiting, Islamophobic documentary titled “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” in swing voter states just seven weeks before the Presidential election of 2008. The DVDs were inserted into approximately 100 newspapers and magazines in the U.S., including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, and St. Petersburg Times along with a direct mail campaign.
Not everyone was fooled that this was anything more than a propaganda campaign. A commenter at Democratic Underground using the moniker MrMickeysMom posted the following: “Okay – Who ELSE just picked through the Sunday advertisements and viewed this DVD today?…They’re here to warn us about the declaration of war on Western Culture and to bring down Christianity and Judaism – just in time for the election. So, this is the heat, folks. This blitz DVD is one more step – the biggest, boldest step I can see to orchestrate fear, hatred and to change your vote…It told me that the White House will be changed and become the Muslim House…that America has to wake up and that America is strangling itself with ‘our political correctness.’ ”
The $17.7 million funding to the Clarion Fund in 2008 for the DVD campaign, which represented 96 percent of its total funding that year, came from a tax-subsidized nonprofit called Donors Capital Fund, which has a sister organization, Donors Trust. We reported the following at the time:
“There are shades of Charles Koch all over Donors Capital and Donors Trust. Two grantees receiving repeat and sizeable grants from Donors Capital are favorites of the Koch foundations: George Mason University Foundation and Institute for Humane Studies. Another tie is Claire Kittle. A project of Donor’s Trust is Talent Market.org, a headhunter for staffing nonprofits with the ‘right’ people. Ms. Kittle serves as Talent Market’s Executive Director and was the former Program Officer for Leadership and Talent Development at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Then there is Whitney Ball, President of both Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust. Ms. Ball was one of the elite guests at the invitation-only secret Aspen bash thrown by Charles Koch in June of this year, as reported by ThinkProgress.org. Also on the guest list for the Koch bash was Stephen Moore, a member of the Editorial Board at the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Moore is a Director at Donors Capital Fund. Rounding out the ties that bind is Lauren Vander Heyden, who serves as Client Services Coordinator at Donors Trust. Ms. Vander Heyden previously worked as grants coordinator and policy analyst at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.”
Prior to publishing our article in 2010, we gave the Kochs’ legal counsel a one week lead time to respond to our request for clarification of the Kochs’ relationship with Donors Capital and Donors Trust. There was no response.
In 2011 we reported that Scott Markley, Public Information Specialist at the Supreme Court, had confirmed our research that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was “hosted by Charles and Elizabeth Koch in Indian Wells, California, at the Vintage Club” in 2008. The dinner came amidst the Justice’s all-expenses-paid, four-day luxury trip to the January 2008 Koch brothers’ annual political confab in the Palm Springs area of California. According to Justice Thomas’ 2008 financial disclosure form, his expenses for that trip were paid by the Federalist Society, a conservative nonprofit that the Koch foundations gave $1.9 million to from 1991 through 2009.
Eight days after Justice Thomas voted in favor of the Citizens United decision on January 21, 2010 – a decision which allowed almost unlimited corporate funding of the nation’s elections – Cleta Mitchell, a partner of the law firm Foley & Lardner, filed an application with the IRS for a nonprofit on behalf of Justice Thomas’ wife, Virginia Thomas. The group was called Liberty Central, Inc., another Tea Party group.
Mitchell was the same lawyer who had filed an Amicus brief in the Citizens United case on behalf of the American Justice Partnership and Let Freedom Ring, supporting the corporate funding of political campaigns. Mitchell’s law firm, Foley & Lardner, are registered lobbyists for more than two dozen corporations.
Acting as General Counsel in 2010 for Virginia Thomas’ Liberty Central, Inc., was a former lawyer for the Charles G. Koch Foundation, Sarah Field. A former Koch lobbyist, Matt Schlapp, served on her board at inception.
Virginia Thomas ran Liberty Central out of a post office box in a UPS building in Burke, Virginia. It subsequently moved to 12587 Fair Lakes Circle, Suite 331, Fairfax, Virginia, another post office box in another UPS building.
According to IRS tax filings, Liberty Central, Inc. received $550,000 from anonymous donors in 2009 and was anticipating the receipt of $2,014,000 in 2010. Virginia Thomas eventually stepped down from an official post, stating she would serve as a consultant.
The debate right now should not be the ethics of the IRS investigating Tea Party groups – the debate should be why the U.S. Department of Justice has not brought any criminal prosecutions.