By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 28, 2022 ~
In September 1999 the U.S. Department of Justice filed racketeering charges against the major tobacco companies and two of their front groups. The court filings in that case carefully pieced together a half century of conspiratorial conduct and lies that gravely harmed the health of the American people, while lining the pockets of the tobacco industry, its lawyers and its paid shills.
The January 6 Select House Committee has that same, once-in-a-lifetime power in its hands. But that window of opportunity will close soon. The January 6 Committee can connect all the dots of the attempted coup leading to the doorstep of Charles Koch and expose his four decades of establishing front groups to shill for the fossil fuels industry and anti-climate change groups, or it can present a false and narrow view that this was all about the ego and narcissism of Donald Trump.
Charles Koch is the Chairman and CEO of one of the largest private companies in the world, Koch Industries, a fossil fuels and chemicals conglomerate that has been a serial polluter of the air and water for decades. According to Forbes, Koch has a net worth of $59.8 billion, making him the 17th richest man in the world. Charles Koch, and his late brother, David, functioned as backroom party bosses, behind the veil of a sprawling network of tax-exempt front groups, for 40 years.
Wall Street On Parade has already produced the evidence tying the groups involved in the planning of the January 6 event to Charles Koch. See our report: The Money Trail to the Siege at the Capitol Leads to Charles Koch and Koch Industries.
We have already written about how the Trump administration was staffed up with Koch-related people and took its marching orders from a Koch-related entity, Freedom Partners.
There is also documented evidence that the Koch network engaged in a multi-faceted strategy to discourage progressives and liberals from turning out in the 2016 presidential election, thus tipping the victory to Trump. Not only did the Koch network fund Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners Action Fund ads portraying Democrats as tax and spend bureaucrats but the Koch-controlled i360 voter database and voter-targeting operations may have demoralized the progressive base from turning out while those same operations spurred Republicans to the polls.
And, today, we will show how key collaborators in the attempted coup on January 6 – Jeffrey Clark, John Eastman, Ginni Thomas, Cleta Mitchell, and Kenneth Klukowski – the attorney who was air-dropped into the U.S. Department of Justice just 35 days before the end of Trump’s term – all have ties to front groups funded by Charles Koch or his related nonprofits.
Let’s start with Jeffrey Clark, the environmental lawyer at the Department of Justice with no criminal experience that Trump wanted to name U.S. Attorney General because he was willing to go all-in with the attempted coup. After the failed coup, Clark was out of a job at the Department of Justice. He was, in short order, named Chief of Litigation and Director of Strategy at a group called the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA). That’s a curious hire for someone likely facing a long criminal investigation and possible conviction.
NCLA has received millions of dollars from Charles Koch related entities. The Charles G. Koch Foundation gave NCLA $1 million in 2017, $1 million again in 2018, and $1 million again in 2019 for “general operating support,” according to its publicly-available 990 tax filings with the IRS. The Charles Koch Institute gave NCLA $1 million in 2020. Donors Trust, a dark money nonprofit with Charles Koch’s fingerprints all over it, gave NCLA more than $2 million from 2018 through 2020, according to its 990 filings.
In addition to needing a job after the failed coup attempt, Jeffrey Clark needed a plugged-in attorney. Somehow, he found his way to Harry MacDougald, a Managing Partner at Caldwell, Carlson, Elliott & DeLoach. The fossil fuels industry watchdog, DeSmog, describes MacDougald as follows:
“MacDougald was part of the legal team that worked with the Southeastern Legal Foundation to challenge the EPA‘s endangerment finding on greenhouse gases. In its lawsuit against the EPA, Southeastern Legal identified its allies in the effort as ‘like-minded organizations’ including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, and the Independent Women’s Forum, among others.”
DeSmog notes that MacDougald spoke at the Heartland Institute’s “America First Energy Conference” in New Orleans in 2018. The Heartland Institute is a climate science denier that has received more than $26 million from two Koch-related groups, Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust, according to the Conservative Transparency Project using publicly available 990 IRS tax filings. The conference was promoted as follows:
“The purpose of this event is to promote and expand energy freedom in the United States, as outlined in President Donald Trump’s bold America First Energy Plan, a proposal first released during the 2016 presidential campaign. The president’s plan marks a decisive change in direction from the Obama administration’s ‘war on fossil fuels’…”
Two of the allied groups mentioned above, the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, have long histories with Koch money. Charles Koch and his late brother, David, were actually secret owners of the Cato Institute for decades. Greenpeace has called the Heritage Foundation “Koch Industries’ Climate Denial Front Group” and reports that it has received $6,130,201 from Koch foundations from 1997 through 2017.
Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who was firing off all of those emails to Trump’s White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, to press for the attempted coup, had previously received $1,051,214 in compensation from the Heritage Foundation over a number of years. Clarence Thomas failed to report that compensation on his financial disclosure forms at the Supreme Court, even though he was required to do so.
The ties between Ginni Thomas and another attempted coup collaborator, Cleta Mitchell, run deep – with all roads leading to Koch money. As we reported in March:
In the emails that Ginni Thomas sent to Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, one of the people that she told Meadows to listen to was attorney Cleta Mitchell – a woman who has both a longstanding association with Ginni Thomas as well as with Koch front groups. Trump’s phone log for January 6 shows that Cleta Mitchell was one of the people that Trump spoke with at 7 :53 p.m. on the evening of the attack on the Capitol.
Cleta Mitchell has been in the news previously as the lawyer who was on the January 2, 2021 call with Donald Trump when he phoned the Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, and told him: “I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.” That call took place two months after the presidential election. (Mitchell stepped down from her long-term employment at law firm Foley & Lardner after her presence on that call was made public.)
Cleta Mitchell is also the attorney who filed an amicus brief in the Citizens United case before the Supreme Court that was decided on January 21, 2010. That case would be the tipping point to allow unlimited sums from corporations – like Koch Industries — in U.S. elections.
Just eight days after Justice Thomas voted in favor of that decision to open the floodgates to corporate money in campaigns, Cleta Mitchell made a move that looked very much like a quid pro quo to Ginni Thomas. Mitchell, then still a partner at Foley & Lardner, filed an application with the Internal Revenue Service to set up a nonprofit called Liberty Central, Inc. on behalf of Ginni Thomas. According to IRS tax filings, Liberty Central received a combined $1.478 million from dark money donors in 2009 and 2010.
On the IRS tax filings for Liberty Central for 2009 and 2010, Ginni (Virginia) Thomas is listed as President and CEO. The 2010 tax filing shows that Ginni Thomas received $120,511 in compensation from Liberty Central that year. She eventually stepped down from an official post at the nonprofit, stating she would serve as a consultant.
Liberty Central had the fingerprints of Charles Koch all over it. Acting as General Counsel in 2010 for Liberty Central was a former lawyer for the Charles G. Koch Foundation, Sarah Field. A former Koch lobbyist, Matt Schlapp, served on the Board of Liberty Central at inception.
Mitchell’s law firm, Foley & Lardner, employed three attorneys working as lobbyists for a Koch Industries affiliate, Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC in Madison, Wisconsin in 2011. The Koch-related lobbyists were Ray Carey, Jason Childress and Kathleen Walby.
Mitchell was a former lobbyist at the federal level in years 2005 through 2008 for the Alliance for Charitable Reform, a project of The Philanthropy Roundtable, another tax-exempt organization. Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, two dark money groups which also have Charles Koch’s fingerprints all over them, were spun off from the Philanthropy Roundtable in 1999. (See our report: Koch Footprints Lead to Secret Slush Fund to Keep Fear Alive.)
The financial disclosure forms filed by Clarence Thomas show that from 2011 through 2017, Ginni Thomas received a “salary” from the Daily Caller, a right-wing spin organization founded in 2010 by Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson and former Dick Cheney aide Neil Patel. Its creation was announced at a gathering at the Heritage Foundation. The Daily Caller’s affiliated News Foundation has received funding from the Koch Family Foundations and the Charles Koch Institute.
Despite the previous scandal over Clarence Thomas failing to report that Ginni Thomas had received income from the Heritage Foundation, there are no dollar ranges listed on his financial disclosure forms to show the range of “salary” Ginni Thomas actually received from the Daily Caller from 2011 to 2017.
From 2011 through 2020, Clarence Thomas shows that his wife was receiving “salary and benefits” from Liberty Consulting. But again, there is no range of salary and benefits shown. Instead, Liberty Consulting is listed under “Investments” and shows a “book value” of $100,000 to $250,000 in 2019, which then drops to $15,000 to $50,000 in 2020.
Then there is Ken Klukowski, the man air-dropped into the Department of Justice just 35 days before Trump’s term ended to work at the elbow of Jeffrey Clark. The Select Committee believes that Klukowski may have been involved in drafting the proposed letter to state officials which falsely claimed that the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns” about the vote totals in those states and the states should consider sending “a separate slate of electors supporting Donald J. Trump.”
Klukowski had been a writer at the right-wing outlet, Breitbart, which was formerly led by former Trump White House advisor, Steve Bannon. Bannon was the long-tenured filmmaker for Citizens United, the nonprofit involved in the history-making case at the U.S. Supreme Court that opened the floodgates to corporate money in campaigns. Bannon made right-wing propaganda documentaries for Citizens United like “Fire from the Heartland,” a glowing tribute to Michele Bachmann; “The Undefeated,” profiling the rise of Sarah Palin to national prominence and the darling of the Tea Party movement; “Generation Zero,” blaming the 2008 financial crash on liberals instead of the Wall Street bank executives who presided over the unprecedented frauds; and “Occupy Unmasked,” demonizing the young people attempting to remove their democracy from the iron grip of the one percent as sinister criminals.
Klukowski got his law degree from George Mason University, one of the largest and longest recipients of Koch money. In just the three most recent years that public 990 tax filings are available, they show that the Charles G. Koch Foundation gave a total of $46.89 million to George Mason University from 2017 through 2019.
In 2018, New York Times reporters Erica L. Green and Stephanie Saul wrote about how newly-released documents showed that Koch’s money came with strings attached at George Mason University:
“The documents reveal in surprising detail that for years, as George Mason grew from a little-known commuter school to a major public university and a center of libertarian scholarship, millions of dollars in donations from conservative-leaning donors like the Charles Koch Foundation had come with strings attached.
“As early as 1990, entities controlled by the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch were given a seat on a committee to pick candidates for a professorship that they funded, the records show. Similar arrangements that continued through 2009 gave donors decision-making roles in selecting candidates for key economics appointments at the Mercatus Center, a Koch-funded think tank on campus that studies markets and regulation. The appointments, which also created faculty lines at George Mason, were steered to professors who, like the Kochs, embraced unconstrained free markets.”
And, finally, there is John Eastman, the Trump lawyer who ranted on the stage before the crowd at the Capitol on January 6 about widespread voter fraud in the election and, according to the Select Committee, played a key role in the attempted coup.
Both Cleta Mitchell and John Eastman are tied to the Public Interest Legal Foundation. Mitchell is the Chair of the Board and Eastman is a Director. The New York Times has reported that it was Mitchell who “enlisted John Eastman, the lawyer who crafted specious legal theories claiming Vice President Mike Pence could keep Mr. Trump in power.”
Eastman is also Chairman of the Board of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) according to its website, a group opposing same-sex marriage. Wall Street On Parade looked into that group in 2011. We found multiple ties to the Koch network’s pursuit of the Citizens United decision at the U.S. Supreme Court.
When Ginni Thomas filed her registration statement for her own tea party group, Liberty Central, Inc., with the state of West Virginia on December 31, 2009, she listed her accountant as Neil Corkery with an address of 8665 Sudley Road, Suite 182 in Manassas, Virginia. According to a UPS store employee located there, there was no other business located at this site; just post office boxes. When Ginni Thomas filed her first IRS 990 form for tax year 2009 for Liberty Central, she listed her tax preparer as Conlon and Associates LLC.
These same two names, Neil Corkery and Conlon and Associates LLC, would end up on the 2009 tax filings of the National Organization for Marriage.
The IRS 2009 tax filing for the National Organization for Marriage, Inc. shows it took in $7.1 million and made five grants totaling $2,105,000. Stand for Marriage Maine received 93 percent of those funds, or $1,960,000. Stand for Marriage Maine waged the successful 2009 repeal of same-sex marriage in Maine, using the same tactics and, indeed, the same ad and marketing firm that was used in the California Proposition 8 battle.
Secret donors washing money through a 501(c)(4) tax exempt organization and then funneling it to a Political Action Committee in Maine brought a request for an investigation to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices by Fred Karger, founder of Californians Against Hate. The Commission initiated an investigation. Stepping forward to represent both the National Organization for Marriage and Stand for Marriage Maine PAC was the law firm Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom.
James Bopp of Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom is (wait for it) the lawyer who represented Citizens United in the lower courts and, hoping to gut campaign financing reform, maneuvered the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The law firm Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom is located in Terre Haute, Indiana. What is the statistical probability of it being sheer coincidence that an Indiana law firm is involved in a nonprofit advocacy group case in Maine involving secret donors; also involved in the Citizens United case before the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. involving secret donors; and the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas is using the same Neil Corkery and Conlon and Associates for her Tea Party nonprofit as Bopp’s anti same-sex marriage clients in the Maine case?
We strongly urge the January 6 Select Committee to provide the full, unvarnished truth to the American people.