Are We Watching the Trial of Trump or the Invisible Hand of the Koch Machine?

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: February 11, 2021 ~

Charles Koch

Charles Koch, Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries

The shadowy escalations of Koch money and power in U.S. politics over the past four decades has far outpaced mainstream media’s ability to quantify it to the public. The media deludes itself that it is dealing with the problem by talking about the symptoms of corporate and billionaire money in political campaigns while ignoring the actual disease – the Party of Koch.

The rise of Trumpism is merely a symptom of the Party of Koch. The violent mob in the Capitol on January 6, attempting to overturn a duly conducted election, is merely a symptom of the Party of Koch. If Donald Trump is banned from ever again holding federal political office, and he should be, Congress still has done nothing to deal with the actual disease – the Party of Koch.

Charles Koch has been the Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries since 1967. According to Forbes, in 2020 he ranked as the 18th richest man in the world with a net worth of $38.2 billion. Charles Koch and the heirs of his late brother, David, who died in 2019, are the majority owners of Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in the world with interests in fossil fuels, refineries, pipelines, coal, chemicals, consumer paper goods, proprietary trading in currencies, commodities and stocks as well as numerous other pursuits.

For the past forty years, Charles Koch has been involved in creating and funding a sprawling network of front groups that seek to shrink the federal government in order to gut it of its regulatory powers over corporations and kill off federal programs like the U.S. Postal Service, Social Security and Medicare because they are popular with, and have earned the respect of, the American people. Charles Koch also holds semi-annual strategy meetings with like-minded billionaires and millionaires to plan how to sway election outcomes to their favored candidates.

In 2014, then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused the Koch brothers of trying “to fix every election in America to their liking.” That was the same year that Koch Industries launched its first ever nationwide marketing campaign – which since that time has enriched media outlets with millions of dollars in ads for its consumer paper products such as Dixie disposable paper plates, bowls and cups and its Northern Quilted and Angel Soft bath tissue.

While Charles Koch has tried to distance himself in the media from Donald Trump, he and Koch Industries were deeply incentivized to ensure that Donald Trump had another four years as President, because the Trump administration had been packed with Koch-friendly operatives.

A Koch nonprofit front group that played a major role in the 2016 presidential election was Freedom Partners. It shuttered in 2019. (Shuttering and reopening under a new name is standard operating practice by the Koch machine.) It was hard to decipher where Freedom Partners began and Koch Industries ended. In 2018, we perused its Board of Directors. We found that all but one of its Board Members was a current or former Koch company employee. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, Freedom Partners ended up with 12 of its former employees working in the Trump Administration.

Freedom Partners Action Fund, a related organization that pummeled Democrats in attack ads, had received at least $14 million from Charles Koch and his trust before it shuttered its operations.

Freedom Partners had outlined their marching orders for the Trump administration in a formal memo and their sycophants in the Trump administration quickly marched to the beat, from the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord to the massive tax cut for corporations.

Trump putting industry cronies in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency was no doubt to address the fact that Koch Industries has been serially charged, including a criminal conviction, with dangerously polluting the environment. On January 13, 2000, the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency announced the largest civil fine ever imposed against Koch Industries to resolve claims related to its “more than 300 oil spills from its pipelines and oil facilities in six states.” The company agreed to pay a $30 million civil penalty and spend $5 million on environmental projects. Daniel Schulman documented Koch Industries’ history of environmental abuses in his 2014 book, Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty.

Packing the Trump administration with Koch loyalists from Freedom Partners was just the beginning. Koch Industries’ law firm, Jones Day, sent 12 of its law partners to staff up key positions in the Trump administration on the very day Trump was inaugurated. Jones Day has since sacked the press release it issued at the time but you can read the reporting on it at the American Bar Association Journal.

One of the more outrageous aspects of Koch Industries’ brazen efforts to insert itself in political campaign outcomes is its ownership of a company called i360.

We broke the news in 2018 that Koch Industries had purchased i360. We obtained that information from an internal newsletter at Koch that was available online and from the fact that online help-wanted ads for i360 sent applicants to apply at Koch Industries. (The company hasn’t denied our reporting over the past two years.)

We reported the following:

“The i360 website says that its database now has information on 199 million voters from all 50 states; information on 290 million consumers with 700+ data points; information on precinct election returns as well as data from the Census, NOAA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and geo-spatial data; individual sentiment information on candidates and issues from its social media operations; and information from its grassroots groups (read Americans for Prosperity) and paid door-to-door knockers who are using a sophisticated hand-held device to update the database in real time in the pivotal weeks before an election.

“But i360 is far more than just a voter database. It has social media targeting operations and really scary data collection that reaches into people’s homes. Consider this from their website:

‘Through an exclusive partnership with D2 Media Sales, the strategic relationship between DirectTV and Dish, i360 is able to identify households that meet your target criteria and serve ads uniquely to those households – no matter which stations or programs they are watching. With dozens of i360 custom segments pre-matched to more than 20 million DIRECTV and DISH homes, campaigns can now reach the largest addressable TV advertising platform in the nation. One-to-one television targeting combines the emotional impact of TV advertising with the precision and accuracy of direct mail marketing – resulting in the most cost-effective and high impact buying solutions.’ ”

A growing number of Republicans running for office avail themselves of the services of i360. The public has no way of knowing if the fees these Republicans are paying to i360 for its database and campaign services are competitively priced or whether this Koch subsidiary is providing its services at below-market costs in order to put its finger on the scale for hard right-wing candidates.

Until Congress and mainstream media get serious about investigating Charles Koch and Koch Industries’ intrusions into the electoral process, representative government by the people of America will remain a quaint concept.

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