Charles Koch’s Money Is Being Used in Elections in Ways Only Orwell Could Have Imagined

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 4, 2024 ~

Charles Koch

Charles Koch, Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries

On August 31, 2018 we broke the news that the fossil fuels conglomerate, Koch Industries, led by billionaire Charles Koch, had purchased i360 – an Orwellian political operation made all the more dangerous by the fact that it was affiliated with a billionaire who had been creating and funding political front groups for decades to push an anti-regulatory agenda and call it “liberty.” We wrote at the time:

“Quietly, and without any corporate press release on such an unusual acquisition, Koch Industries has purchased i360, a vast voter database and data harvesting operation. According to i360’s website, it has ‘1800 unique data points’ on 290 million American consumers as well as detailed information on 199 million voters from all 50 states. It brags that its data ‘shows you everything you need to know including the demographic and psychographic breakdown of your target market.’

“The propriety of a multinational industrial conglomerate with an anti-regulatory agenda having a stranglehold on a highly sophisticated voter data mining platform with unlimited funds to hire Ph.Ds., statisticians and computer scientists trained in artificial intelligence and machine learning, has yet to enter the national discourse.”

We decided to browse the most current Federal Election Commission (FEC) records and see what i360 has been up to lately. We learned that i360 has received $279,401.21 to conduct “surveys” for Americans for Prosperity Action (AFP Action), a Super Pac that hilariously calls itself a “grassroots” movement, notwithstanding that it’s funded by billionaires and multi-millionaires. According to FEC data, Koch Industries gave $25 million to AFP Action on May 19 of last year while Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, successor to the Koch-funded Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce (which folded its tent in 2019 after too much scrutiny) chipped in another $25 million eight days earlier. Alice, Rob and Jim Walton, billionaire heirs of the Walmart retail chain, each gave $5 million to AFP Action last year while former hedge fund titan, Stanley Druckenmiller, chipped in $1.5 million. (For those who have given $1 million or more thus far in the current election cycle, see here.)

Freedom Partners had a very large footprint in the Donald Trump administration.  In a document titled “Roadmap to Repeal: Removing Regulatory Barriers to Opportunity,” the Koch front group listed the laws and regulations it expected to be repealed in the first 100 days of Trump’s tenure as President. The Trump administration dutifully followed the prescribed agenda, repealing the Paris Climate Accord to the horror of our allies; passing tax cuts for the wealthy; and gutting federal regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency.

By the spring of 2018, 12 people who previously worked at Freedom Partners were working in the Trump administration. When we examined the makeup of Freedom Partners in 2018, we found that all but one of Freedom Partners’ 9-member Board of Directors was a current or former Koch company employee. The Board Chair of Freedom Partners at that time was the same Mark Holden that was the General Counsel of Koch Industries.

One of the Senate seats that AFP Action is currently targeting is that of Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the current chair of the Senate Banking Committee, who regularly calls out the moneyed interests’ attack on the working class. AFP Action is backing Republican Bernie Moreno, a man who has made “dubious claims” about his background in Bogotá, Columbia, according to The Guardian.

AFP Action attack ads against Senator Brown call him out for “a dangerous wide-open border.” What control the Chair of the Senate Banking Committee has over the border is not explained.

Targeting immigrants was a very successful strategy used by i360 to elect right-wing Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn to the U.S. Senate in 2018, as explained in detail by Lee Fang at The Intercept in 2019. Fang writes:

“Then-Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn aired at least four different television advertisements and a wave of social media advertisements focused on immigration, often with false or inflammatory language. She ended up beating out Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, who had been leading in the polls for months.”

This would be far from a novel tactic by Koch-related groups. In 2010 we broke the story of how Donor’s Capital Fund, the dark money group with Charles Koch’s fingerprints all over it, had donated $17,778,600 to the Clarion Fund to distribute 28 million DVDs of a race-baiting, fear-mongering film just weeks before the 2008 presidential election — when the first black candidate in history, Barack Obama, was the Democratic presidential nominee. The DVD was stuffed into the Sunday edition of some of the biggest newspapers in America as well as distributed through a direct mail campaign.

For additional background on how to prepare for what’s ahead in this election year, read our report: Charles Koch Attempts an Apology Tour after He and His Father Financed a Political Hate Machine for Six Decades.

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