The Debate Disaster and the Supreme Court’s “Chevron” Repeal Have a Money Trail Leading to Charles Koch

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 1, 2024 ~

Charles Koch

Charles Koch, Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries

It took the New York Times Editorial Board less than 24 hours to assess the political landscape after the disastrous presidential debate last Thursday evening and call for President Joe Biden “to announce that he will not continue to run for re-election.” The Times called President Biden’s view that he is the only candidate that can beat Donald Trump “a reckless gamble.”

But the New York Times is itself engaging in a reckless gamble with its unmoored bet that the Democratic Party would be able to amicably transition to a different presidential candidate who could win over the American people in the short span of four months left before the election. The Times is also gambling that this major disruption within the Democratic Party would not negatively impact down-ballot races and end up costing Democrats both the White House and control of the Senate, thus enabling Trump’s egregiously Swampy cabinet picks to sail through Senate confirmation.

There is also the possibility that an open Democratic convention could be a bigger embarrassment to Democrats than Biden’s performance on the debate stage. As The Atlantic’s David Frum contemplated in an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN yesterday:

“I am extremely skeptical that the Democratic Party, riven as it is along racial, sexual, ideological, class, regional lines, can come together at a convention and have a rational discussion and produce the best possible ticket.

“What you’re much more likely to have is a blood bath. This will be exactly one hundred years from the famous Democratic Convention of 1924, where they took more than 100 ballots [103 to be exact] to pick a candidate because they could not sort their differences between the pro-prohibition, pro-Klu Klux Klan and anti-prohibition, anti-Klu Klux Klan northern delegates. They tore themselves apart and [Republican, Calvin] Coolidge won in a landslide in 1924.”

That being said, President Biden’s early struggle in the debate, stringing together nonsensical words, raises the very real possibility that this could happen again – when there is no time left for Democrats to replace him as their candidate.


What was missing in The Times’ hand-wringing editorial over “how much of a danger Mr. Trump poses” to the country and why a stronger, younger Democratic presidential candidate is urgently needed to soundly defeat Trump, was any assessment of how American voters ended up with a man like Trump as a candidate for the highest office and safekeeper of the launch codes. Trump arrived on the debate stage freshly anointed with a jury conviction on 34 criminal felony counts for falsifying business records and a civil jury conviction for sexual assault, making it a total of at least 18 women who have accused Trump of sexual assault or sexual harassment. The convictions come on top of pending cases, one of which involves Trump’s purloining of top secret government documents to his resort hotel in Florida.

Trump maintained the Republican Party nomination after he had ably demonstrated his unfitness for office when it was revealed before the 2016 election that he had bragged on video that he could get away with grabbing women in their genital area because he was a celebrity. But because fossil fuels billionaire Charles Koch and his campaign financing network of the ultra-rich wanted to install Trump in the Oval Office in order to gut regulations on fossil fuels and other polluting corporations, as well as slash taxes on the rich, they protected their candidate.

CBS News reported in 2015 that “the political machine backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch on Monday told its allies that spending across its conservative network would approach $1 billion ahead of 2016’s elections.”

Charles Koch is the Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in the world with interests in oil refineries, pipelines, chemicals, commodities trading, and technology. Charles’ brother, David, who previously shared majority ownership of Koch Industries with Charles, died in 2019.

On August 31, 2018, we broke the news that in addition to the Koch brothers financing a labyrinthine string of political front groups, Koch Industries had purchased i360 – an Orwellian political data mining operation that it was staffing up with high paid scientists. 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.”

Recently, we learned from Federal Election Commission data that i360 is conducting “surveys” for Americans for Prosperity Action (AFP Action), a Super PAC with longstanding financial ties to Charles Koch. 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 ceased operations in 2019 after too much press 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.)

Americans for Prosperity is attempting to undermine President Biden while simultaneously attacking incumbent Senate Democrats in hopes of flipping the Senate to right-wing Republicans. See a typical attack ad here.

Another Koch-related front group during the 2016 presidential campaign, Freedom Partners, was able to seamlessly move their staffers into Donald Trump’s administration and control much of his agenda.  In a document titled “Roadmap to Repeal: Removing Regulatory Barriers to Opportunity,” Freedom Partners listed the laws and regulations it expected to be repealed in the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. The Trump administration dutifully followed the prescribed agenda, repealing the Paris Climate Accord; passing tax cuts for the wealthy; while slashing 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.

In addition, Koch Industries’ law firm, Jones Day, sent 12 of its lawyers to key spots in the Trump administration on Trump’s very first day in office.

With all that as background, consider how the Koch agenda continues to march forward in undermining American democracy because Trump’s three lifetime appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court have bolstered the 6-3 majority that is obediently handing out wins to Charles Koch and his minions.

Last Friday, the same day that the New York Times Editorial Board was in a panic over the possibility that Trump could return to the White House, the U.S. Supreme Court announced a decision that repealed 40 years of precedent known as the “Chevron doctrine.” The doctrine stems from the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the most cited cases in U.S. judicial history. The Chevron deference doctrine has required courts to defer to federal government agencies’ interpretations of laws when there are gaps or ambiguities in the wording of the statutes. The doctrine has allowed federal agencies to protect the water Americans drink, the air they breathe, food and drug safety and a vast range of worker protections.

The two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court that resulted in the overturning of the Chevron doctrine were – wait for it – tied to Charles Koch-related front groups. One front group is the Cause of Action Institute, whose lawyers represented the plaintiffs in the Loper Bright Enterprises, et al. v Raimondo case. According to SourceWatch, the largest donors to Cause of Action Institute have been the Koch-connected Donors Trust, which between 2012 and 2017 contributed $17.95 million. The Koch-connected Stand Together Trust chipped in $10.725 million between 2017 and 2021. (For critical background on Donors Trust and Charles Koch’s footprints, see our report: Koch Footprints Lead to Secret Slush Fund to Keep Fear Alive.)

The other case decided in tandem with Loper Bright was Relentless Inc. v. Dept. of Commerce, where plaintiffs were represented by the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA). According to SourceWatch, the Charles G. Koch Foundation contributed over $3 million to NCLA between 2017 to 2022, while Donors Trust contributed more than $5 million between 2018 to 2022 and Stand Together Trust contributed more than $1 million in 2022.

The Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Chevron doctrine was so outrageous that Justice Elena Kagan penned a scathing 33-page dissent, and was joined in the dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Calling the decision “hubris squared,” Kagan wrote:

“Today, the Court flips the script: It is now ‘the courts (rather than the agency)’ that will wield power when Congress has left an area of interpretive discretion. A rule of judicial humility gives way to a rule of judicial hubris. In recent years, this Court has too often taken for itself decision-making authority Congress assigned to agencies. The Court has substituted its own judgment on workplace health for that of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; its own judgment on climate change for that of the Environmental Protection Agency; and its own judgment on student loans for that of the Department of Education…But evidently that was, for this Court, all too piecemeal. In one fell swoop, the majority today gives itself exclusive power over every open issue—no matter how expertise-driven or policy-laden—involving the meaning of regulatory law. As if it did not have enough on its plate, the majority turns itself into the country’s administrative czar. It defends that move as one (suddenly) required by the (nearly 80-year-old) Administrative Procedure Act. But the Act makes no such demand.”

Champagne corks must have been popping among Charles Koch and his billionaire pals on Friday.

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