The Billionaire Base of the GOP

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The media villagers and Beltway bloviators are dispensing the conventional wisdom of the Washington media bubble that Democratic Party organizations are out-fundraising Republican Party organizations giving Democrats a financial edge this fall.

The conventional wisdom of the media is, of course, bullshit.

First, there is the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision which allows corporations, including foreign-owned corporations, to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. This money is spent through independent expenditure committees, not donated to political parties. Most of this money will be spent late in the campaign and will not even show up on FEC financial disclosure reports until after Election Day.

Secondly, Republicans have established outside fundraising groups to bypass the embarrassing ineptitude of the Republican National Committee under the leadership of Michael Steele. Karl Rove and former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie formed the 527 organization American Crossroads for this purpose. They claim it is a "grassroots" organization. This is, of course, bullshit.

Virtually all of the $4.7 million raised by American Crossroads was contributed by just four billionaires, three of whom are based in Dallas, Texas, and two of whom made their fortune in the oil and gas industry. "Grassroots" Rove-linked group funded almost entirely by billionaires – War Room – Salon.com

The IRS filing of American Crossroads, an outside 527 group that was conceived by Rove and ex-RNC chair Ed Gillespie, gives a good taste of who is funding the GOP effort to make big gains in the House and Senate come the fall.

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And despite the group's description of itself as "grassroots," Salon's review of its IRS filings show that four billionaires have contributed 97 percent of the $4.7 million it has raised to date. There are no limits on how much corporations, unions, and individuals can donate to 527 groups. Here's a guide to American Crossroads' four donors:

  • Trevor Rees-Jones, president of Dallas-based Chief Oil and Gas, gave a $1 million donation to American Crossroads just as the group was starting in April. That's small money for Rees-Jones, who, Forbes estimated in 2009, amassed a $1.5 billion fortune investing in gas prospects around America. He has also been a big donor to John McCain and the Texas Republican Party, Politico reported.
  •  Bradley Wayne Hughes, chairman of Public Storage Inc, is American Crossroads' biggest donor, contributing $1.55 million to date. Hughes founded Public Storage in 1972 and the company has grown into a self-storage behemouth with over 2,000 locations. Worth $3.9 billion, he lives in Lexington, KY, where he actively raises thoroughbred horses at Spendthrift Farm. (Hughes' son, B. Wayne Hughes Jr., is on the board of former Senator Norm Coleman's new conservative group, the American Action Network.)
  •  A company called Southwest Louisiana Land LLC donated $1 million to American Crossroads in June. It turns out Southwest, which doesn't have much of a public footprint, is owned by Dallas billionaire investor Harold Simmons — no stranger to conservative causes. Since the 1980s, he has ponied up for everthing from Oliver North's defense fund, to Newt Gingrich's PAC, to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, to the American Issues Project, a group that ran ads attempting to tie Obama to Bill Ayers in 2008 (Simmons was the sole funder of the Ayers effort, giving nearly $3 million.) Simmons is worth $4.5 billion.
  •  TRT Holdings, owned by Dallas' Robert Rowling, gave American Crossroads $1 million. Rowling, whose firm owns Omni Hotels and Gold's Gym, got started at his father's successful company, Tana Oil & Gas. He's now worth $4.4 billion. In 2004 Rowling gave $1 million to Progress for America, an outside group backing President Bush's reelection.

It's also important to note that American Crossroads has set up a partner organization called  American Crossroads GPS that, because it has a different tax status, does not have to reveal any donor information and is also more limited in spending its money on campaigns (Politico has more on this). American Crossroads GPS took in over $5 million in June, and we'll likely nver know who is putting up the money.

Billionaires who believe the political system exists to serve their personal financial interests is nothing new. I've told you previously about the Koch brothers, David and Charles, who are a new definition of "evil." Meet the billionaire brothers who bankroll the radical right. The brothers are the money behind think tanks like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. They are also the money behind Americans for Prosperity and Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, the corporate sponsors of the supposedly grassroots Tea Party.

The New Yorker recently spotlighted the tentacles of the Koch brothers in The billionaire Koch brothers’ war against Obama : The New Yorker:

Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said, “The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”

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Members of the John Birch Society developed an interest in a school of Austrian economists who promoted free-market ideals. Charles and David Koch were particularly influenced by the work of Friedrich von Hayek, the author of “The Road to Serfdom” (1944)…  lately, Tea Party supporters have championed his work. In June, the talk-radio host Glenn Beck, who has supported the Tea Party rebellion, promoted “The Road to Serfdom” on his show; the paperback soon became a No. 1 best-seller on Amazon.

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Charles and David also became devotees of a more radical thinker, Robert LeFevre, who favored the abolition of the state but didn’t like the label “anarchist”; he called himself an “autarchist.” LeFevre liked to say that “government is a disease masquerading as its own cure.” In 1956, he opened an institution called the Freedom School, in Colorado Springs. Brian Doherty, of Reason, told me that “LeFevre was an anarchist figure who won Charles’s heart,” and that the school was “a tiny world of people who thought the New Deal was a horrible mistake.” According to diZerega, Charles supported the school financially, and even gave him money to take classes there.

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As their fortunes grew, Charles and David Koch became the primary underwriters of hard-line libertarian politics in America. Charles’s goal, as Doherty described it, was to tear the government “out at the root.” The brothers’ first major public step came in 1979, when Charles persuaded David, then thirty-nine, to run for public office. They had become supporters of the Libertarian Party, and were backing its Presidential candidate, Ed Clark, who was running against Ronald Reagan from the right. Frustrated by the legal limits on campaign donations, they contrived to place David on the ticket, in the Vice-Presidential slot; upon becoming a candidate, he could lavish as much of his personal fortune as he wished on the campaign. The ticket’s slogan was “The Libertarian Party has only one source of funds: You.” In fact, its primary source of funds was David Koch, who spent more than two million dollars on the effort.

Many of the ideas propounded in the 1980 campaign presaged the Tea Party movement. Ed Clark told The Nation that libertarians were getting ready to stage “a very big tea party,” because people were “sick to death” of taxes. The Libertarian Party platform called for the abolition of the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., as well as of federal regulatory agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Energy. The Party wanted to end Social Security, minimum-wage laws, gun control, and all personal and corporate income taxes; it proposed the legalization of prostitution, recreational drugs, and suicide. Government should be reduced to only one function: the protection of individual rights. William F. Buckley, Jr., a more traditional conservative, called the movement “Anarcho-Totalitarianism.”

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After the 1980 election, Charles and David Koch receded from the public arena. But they poured more than a hundred million dollars into dozens of seemingly independent organizations. Tax records indicate that in 2008 the three main Koch family foundations gave money to thirty-four political and policy organizations, three of which they founded, and several of which they direct. The Kochs and their company have given additional millions to political campaigns, advocacy groups, and lobbyists. The family’s subterranean financial role has fuelled suspicion on the left; Lee Fang, of the liberal blog ThinkProgress, has called the Kochs “the billionaires behind the hate.”

Over the past 25 years, the Koch Family Foundation has funneled $132 million into right-wing attack groups, including Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. This election cycle, Americans for Prosperity is running a $4.1 million dollar TV advertising campaign attacking those politicians who oppose outsourcing jobs and privatizing Social Security and Medicare, including here in Arizona.

The Arizona Democratic Party is shining a light on these Koch-roaches who hide in the shadows in a press release today:

BREAKING NEWS: Billionaire enters
Arizona congressional races, via New York

PHOENIX — Arizona has a brand new congressional candidate, and he’s a Republican strategist’s dream: aggressive, rich, and eager to go negative and spend whatever it takes to win in Arizona.

We’ve just discovered his campaign material and bio:

Koch7

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