The ‘Kochtopus’ plots its hostile takeover of America

What a shock (not). Governor Doug Ducey, the ice cream man hired by Koch Industries to run their Southwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Arizona, is attending the Koch brothers annual bacchanal for Plutocrats in Palm Springs.  But of course, he is their bought and paid for lackey.

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Ducey headed to Palm Springs for Koch Brothers conference:

Gov. Doug Ducey is once again headed off to the California desert to spend some time with the billionaire Koch brothers and the group of big-dollar donors they are gathering at Palm Springs.

Ducey press aide Daniel Scarpinato confirmed that the governor and chief of staff Kirk Adams are headed to the event today and will be returning Tuesday.

“Gov. Ducey is looking forward to attending this conference with other elected officials, policy experts and business leaders from all over the country who are advocates of limited government, innovation and the free enterprise system,” Scarpinato said in a prepared statement.

He said the pair are flying commercially and paying for the trip themselves.

The official host for the event is Freedom Partners, which has acknowledged its ties to Charles and David Koch.

Ducey’s ties to the brothers — and their money — actually predate his 2014 election.

During the campaign, American Encore put more than $750,000 into ads targeting Democrat candidate Fred DuVal and spent another $650,000 promoting Ducey.

That group is the successor to the Koch brothers-financed Center to Protect Patient Rights run by Phoenix political consultant Sean Noble. The group is organized under federal tax laws as a “social welfare” organization and does not disclose its donors.

But the links go back even farther.

In 2012 Ducey was leading the campaign to defeat Proposition 204, which would have implemented a permanent 1-cent sales tax, largely to fund education.

Americans for Responsible Leadership put $500,000 into killing that 2012 ballot measure. But facing charges of violating campaign finance laws in California, Adams, who headed that group at the time, had to reveal that its money came from the Center to Protect Patient Rights — now American Encore.

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This is actually Ducey’s third foray to the gathering. His first trip was during the gubernatorial campaign, where he was taped as saying, “I can’t emphasize enough the power or organizations like this.” He also made the trip in 2015, during his first year in office.

The New York Times reports, Koch Political Group Spent $400 Million in 2015, Officials Say:

The political network overseen by Charles and David Koch spent $400 million in 2015 to fund political and philanthropic organizations, officials announced on Saturday at the Koch’s annual winter conference in California.

The figure, which was reported by BuzzFeed and The Hill, puts the Koch political network just under halfway through a two-year spending goal announced last year, signifying a major expansion by the Kochs and the hundreds of right-leaning donors aligned with them. A spokesman for the Koch’s umbrella political organization, Freedom Partners, declined to comment on the spending figure.

KOchtopus

The money goes to fund a variety of educational groups, such as universities, think tanks, and issue groups, most of which are not required to disclose their donors. But the network also funds more overtly political organizations, such as Americans for Prosperity, a grassroots organization with chapters around the country. A “super PAC” associated with the Koch network, Freedom Partners Action Fund, reported on Sunday raising $11 million, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, including $3 million from a trust in Charles Koch’s name.

As their spending on conservative causes has accelerated, the Kochs and their allies have also moved to reshape public opinion about their motives, partnering with traditionally liberal organizations on issues like reducing prison sentences. The Koch’s have also granted a series of personal interviews with media outlets in recent months, something both brothers have avoided for years.

Charles Koch addressed the guests on Saturday night, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by a Freedom Partners spokesman.

“We have ideas that will make America better, and we need to share them, and we need to each stand up and be open,” Mr. Koch told his guests. Their network, Mr. Koch added, “isn’t some secret cabal.”

Buzzfeed and The Hill disclosed that their journalists were permitted to attend portions of the Koch’s donor seminar, held each winter in Indian Wells, Calif.,, so long as neither outlet revealed the names of any donors without that person’s consent.

Buzzfeed follows up on the latest from the bacchanal for Plutocrats. Hours Before Iowa Caucuses, Republican Donors Worry About Trump During California Retreat:

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, hundreds of GOP donors gathered in the California desert were trying to make sense of the presidential primary, nervously awaiting Monday night’s results and plotting their next move in case Donald Trump actually pulls off a win.

The donors attending the semiannual gathering of the political network affiliated with the Koch brothers — the largest one yet with about 500 attendees — were briefed behind closed doors on the 2016 landscape and on of each of the presidential candidates’ policy positions early Sunday morning by two of the top officials from the Koch network. Although the seminar stuck to policy during the 2016 briefing, presidential politics and the future of the party were on the minds of a lot of the donors.

“Absolutely, we’re worried about Trump,” said Liz Wright, a Denver-based donor who is backing Sen. Marco Rubio, in an interview with BuzzFeed News. “If he is the nominee, then who knows what will happen?”

Her husband, Chris Wright, who is the CEO of an energy company, added, “He doesn’t believe in freedom at all. He’s not a Republican, and he’s hurting our brand.”

But should donors have taken Trump more seriously early on and launched a campaign against him? “What could we have done?” Liz Wright responded. “Everything Trump said the media ate it up. Everyone is shocked.”

Despite Trump rankling donors for months, the Kochs’ political network and its members were reluctant to do anything that might cause him to launch a third-party bid, sources said this weekend. Also, there was concern that attacks from the Koch brothers and their allies could have potentially added to Trump’s momentum and his populist appeal with the GOP base.

But some donors, like the Wrights, said they’re still hopeful that once the field narrows and it comes down to about three candidates, then an anti-Trump campaign could actually be effective.

“Our view is that Trump has a high floor and low ceiling,” Chris Wright added. “But we’ll be worried if there are lots of candidates for a long time.”

The Koch network has already spent about $400 million of the $889 million it intends to spend on conservative causes and candidates in the run-up to the 2016 election. BuzzFeed News was one of six news organizations to accept an invitation to cover this weekend’s gathering after agreeing to a set of ground rules, including not identifying attendees unless they agreed to be interviewed.

None of the presidential candidates attended this weekend’s gathering, but donors got a refresher on their public statements on certain policies, including “fiscal responsibility, reducing barriers to opportunity, and keeping America safe,” during the briefing, according to a schedule provided to donors.

No candidate aligns perfectly with the Koch network’s principles, but five of them meet enough of the criteria: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, and Jeb Bush.

Unsurprisingly, Trump does not.

The billionaire has not only frustrated donors with his rise in polls at the expense of other candidates, but also with his quick change in policy positions based on his audience. In the candidate survey Trump’s campaign filled out for Freedom Partners, the umbrella organization of allied Koch groups, he said he was against ethanol subsidies, according to a network official.

But while campaigning in Iowa, Trump quickly reversed his position.

“Where are the ethanol people?” he asked the crowd in Des Moines at an event in December. “With the ethanol, really, [Cruz has] gotta come a long way because he’s right now for the oil.”

Donors say they haven’t questioned the network’s strategy of sitting out the GOP presidential primary and not going after Trump, but in recent weeks many of them have raised questions about the pro-Bush super PAC spending millions against Rubio — a move that has angered many who believe the former Florida governor’s allies are taking out the only establishment candidate who has a shot of winning the GOP nomination over Trump.

Harry McMahon, an investment banking executive and Bush backer, insisted it was too early to write off Bush, but he didn’t fully endorse the super PAC’s decision to attack Rubio.

“The tactics of these super PACs are difficult to understand,” he said in an interview. “You can infer from what they are doing that there’s a fight for third place. But it sure does seem like a lot of money.”

When asked if Bush should drop out depending on the results in New Hampshire, McMahon said he thought that might still be too early in an unpredictable election year. “I believe his supporters are sensible enough that once it becomes clear, they will make the tough decision.”

Greg Lucier, a biotech executive who has given to both Bush and Rubio, is still holding out hope that support in the polls will not translate to actual votes. “We have to see who actually ends up voting for Trump, and then we can figure out how to respond.”

But if it does, Lucier said donors should look beyond the federal level. “I don’t mean to minimize the federal election. But focus on the state level, where real change can actually happen.”

Although the GOP primary was a big part of the chatter among donors, it was largely ignored during keynote speeches and forums that were open to reporters.

In an hour-long presentation Sunday afternoon, Charles Koch explained in broad strokes a “framework” he believes America desperately needs to get back on track. But Koch refrained from getting into presidential politics, mentioning only Sen. Bernie Sanders once, as he discussed how “cronyism” has caused socialism to become popular again.

“This is why socialism is so important and growing in this country, and why Bernie Sanders is so popular because a lot of what he says is true,” he said. “The business people who are successful haven’t become successful because they helped others improve their lives. It’s because they helped rig the system. So if you’re a young person and you see this and say, ‘Well the government has made them all this money, then why do we need them as an intermediary? The government ought to just take it over.”

He then quickly moved on to the role of education and academic freedom.

Well, it takes a crony to recognize cronyism, but the brothers Koch are blind to this fault in themselves. They see themselves as super-patriots. They are not. They are wealthy Plutocrats corrupting democracy to impose a corporatocracy of  wealthy Plutocrats such as themselves who will run the country. And that is what gives rise to populist movements to overthrow our Plutocrat overlords and to restore democracy to the people.

2 responses to “The ‘Kochtopus’ plots its hostile takeover of America

  1. captain*arizona

    I wish michael anthony would knock on my door and hand me a million bucks!

  2. I wish we’d pass some campaign finance laws that forbid out of state money, and out of city money for that matter, from state and local elections.