(Update) ‘Kochtopus’ spring retreat April 28-29 in Palm Springs

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

I posted last week about the fabulous "Kochtopus" Confab in Coachella (Palm Springs) going on right now. 'Kochtopus' spring retreat April 28-29 in Palm Springs. Mother Jones intercepted an email invite to the "billionaires caucus" retreat and wrote about it.

KochBrothersI am hoping that Mother Jones will score another insider audio-visual exclusive story like they did with Willard "Mittens" Romney. These cockroaches like to operate in the dark. The double super-secret "no media" retreat for the "billionaires caucus" will receive no media attention otherwise. (The Local Desert Sun newspaper doesn't even mention the presence of all the high rollers in town).

The best that I can find (so far) is this report by Peter Stone at the Huffington Post. Maybe the local Arizona political media could, you know, maybe follow-up with some investigative reporting on Phoenix-based "Kochtopus" political operative Sean Noble, who is under investigation in California for money laundering? Hello? New Koch Brothers Group Revamps Billionaires' Dark Money Operation:

The sprawling conservative network backed by the billionaire brothers
Charles and David Koch is being overhauled, with some key Koch
operatives moving to a fledgling "dark money" group that is poised to
become a chief financing vehicle for the mega donors' political and
ideological projects, The Huffington Post has learned.

The new organization, called the Association for American Innovation,
is expected to ultimately funnel millions of dollars to other dark
money groups nationwide. It's being staffed with Koch stalwarts,
including Marc Short, who currently oversees other Koch-funded projects,
according to a few GOP operatives familiar with the overhaul.

In a twist, the association has been established under Internal
Revenue Service rules as a 501(c)(6) business league, setting it apart
from many of the dark money groups into which the Kochs and allied
donors have in recent years poured hundreds of millions. Adding a
business league, which will have members, to the Koch-backed
conservative orbit could boost corporate funding, while still allowing
some political spending and letting donors remain anonymous, tax lawyers
say.

Koch-and-front-groups-300x172
By contrast, Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by the Koch
brothers and spent close to $140 million last year on electoral and
advocacy drives with little to show for it
, has two arms: It is a
501(c)(4) social welfare group — which can engage in some political
activity and keep its donors secret — and a 501(c)(3) charity.

The staffing-up at the business association comes at a sensitive
moment as several older 501(c)(4) groups face increasing scrutiny from
government regulators and private watchdogs about their political
activities. In California, officials are probing alleged money
laundering that might violate state election disclosure laws by a few
groups, including one run by Sean Noble, a prominent Koch operative in
Arizona
.

"501(c)(4) groups are getting a lot of heat these days, but (c)(6)s
are like mom-and-apple-pie organizations," said Ken Gross, a political
law expert at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The
U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many other business groups in Washington
have 501(c)(6) status.

* * *

[T]he new group is looking to enhance donor interest by rebranding
Koch-backed projects and to improve controls over their funding,
according to GOP operatives familiar with the plan. It also may help
Koch-backed efforts fly under the radar better and lower the Koch
brothers' public profiles
after last year's intense media coverage.

* * *

The GOP operatives who spoke to HuffPost requested anonymity because
they were not authorized to discuss the inner workings and funding of
Koch political projects, which are often shrouded in secrecy.

Starting on Sunday in Palm Springs, Calif., Charles Koch is hosting a
two-day strategy and fundraising conference for hundreds of wealthy
conservative donors and corporate executives
. Pitches to financially
help the new association and other Koch-backed outfits will be made, say
the GOP operatives. (The event is one of two that the Kochs hold each
winter and summer, but this year the winter event was postponed until
this weekend to finish a post-election analysis.)

Other topics on the agenda include the need to improve the
recruitment of "principled candidates to run for office" and to "more
effectively communicate" with key demographic groups such as Hispanics,
women and youth, according to an email invitation sent to donors by
Kevin Gentry, who coordinates Koch conference fundraising.

More broadly, Gentry's missive — first disclosed by Mother Jones
magazine — promised that conference attendees will have an opportunity
to "join the most strategic market-oriented minds in the business world
to advance a plan to defend our free enterprise system." To attract
donors and pry open checkbooks, the conference will feature some
big-name GOP governors, members of Congress and conservative
commentators.

The shakeup and shifts in the Koch-backed political network have been
underway for months. The realignment is designed to better position
conservatives to take on Democrats and some GOP moderates in the next
elections and to enhance the credibility of the Kochs' free market
messages.

* * *

The Association for American Innovation was set up and approved by
the IRS last year, according to public documents, with help from veteran
Koch operative Wayne Gable, who since the 1980s has held top posts with
the brothers' conservative outfits. Gable was once a senior lobbyist
with Koch Industries, the energy conglomerate that's enriched each
brother to the tune of over $30 billion, according to Forbes.

For now at least, the association is being spearheaded by
Kansas-based Alan Cobb, who previously spent several years leading the
state operations for Americans for Prosperity and is expected to focus
heavily on state free market programs to reduce the size of government,
as Politico first reported. Cobb also did a stint lobbying for Koch Industries.

It's another sign of the importance of the new effort that Short, who
has overseen political spending for the Kochs in Washington, is moving
to the association, according to the GOP operatives. They say that
Gentry, the Koch donor network's lead fundraiser, may also be shifted
there.

More broadly, the launch of the innovation group mirrors past
attempts by the Koch brothers to start new outfits to attract more
funding and increase their influence — efforts that also often involved
shifting around veteran Koch operatives.

Why the Kochs opted to set up the Association for American Innovation
as a business league isn't entirely clear, but there's no doubt that
the scrutiny of 501(c)(4) social welfare groups intensified during the
last election. Watchdog groups have sharply criticized several (c)(4)s
for their hefty political spending, charging that some have violated IRS
rules mandating that (c)(4)s cannot have politics as their primary
purpose. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will hold
hearings this spring to examine IRS oversight of (c)(4) groups
.

"It's possible that the Kochs think there's less audit exposure with a
(c)(6)," said Marc Owens, who used to run the tax exempt division at
the IRS and is now a partner at the law firm Caplin & Drysdale.
Owens added that there could be risks with the business association:
"It's not clear to me what line of business is furthered by an
innovation group. That could make it difficult to establish entitlement
to (c)(6) status with the IRS."

Some other experts echo Owens. "A dues or annual payment to a
business association isn't likely to raise questions," said Ken Gross of
Skadden. "But if the business league isn't actively promoting a line of
commerce and is acting more like an ideological group, the payments may
come under scrutiny."

KochNonetheless, the benefits of launching the association as a 501(c)(6) may outweigh other risks given the intensifying probe by California's Fair Political Practices Commission and the state's attorney general.
Working closely together, they have issued more than a dozen subpoenas
to groups and individuals in order to find the true source of $11
million that was funneled through three dark money groups — including
the Center to Protect Patient Rights run by Koch operative Sean Noble —
to influence two ballot initiatives last fall. Under California law,
donors to ballot initiative campaigns have to be publicly disclosed
.

In the last two federal elections, Noble's group also funneled more
than $60 million to some two dozen conservative groups, such as
Americans for Tax Reform, the American Future Fund and Americans for Job
Security, to buy television ads to help GOP candidates
. Noble is
expected to play a significantly smaller role in the Koch network going
forward, say GOP operatives.

In Palm Springs on April 28 and 29, donors will receive briefings from
various Koch operatives on the brothers' months-long post-election
review of what went wrong and hear pitches for new Koch-backed ventures
like the Association for American Innovation and for others. In the last
few years, the Koch donor network has stepped up its financial backing
for a few Hispanic and women's groups that take conservative stances on
lower taxes and less regulation
, efforts that should increase given the
GOP's poor 2012 results with these constituencies. Among those groups
receiving money from the Koch donor network, GOP operatives say, are
Concerned Women for America and the Libre Initiative
, which was launched
by Dan Garza, a former White House aide under President George W. Bush.

* * *

"We're going to study what worked, what didn't work and improve our
efforts in the future," David Koch vowed. "We're not going to roll over
and play dead."

The "Kochtopus" — adding new layers of obfuscation and bag men to launder the "dark money" of anonymous right-wing billionaires. So much corporate money, so little time to undermine our democracy.

Kochtopus

And let's not forget the "Kochtopus" funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Alec chart

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