In the 2010 midterms, Californians rejected wealthy, self-funded candidates for governor and the U.S. senate at least in part because voters were leery of candidates who felt they could “buy” the election in order to achieve power. In the Florida governor’s race and the Wisconsin U.S. Senate race voters made the opposite decision. There is every reason the swing voters who put Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Ron Johnson into office will soon regret those votes, but at least these candidates were elected, as much as is possible these days, in the open by a fair vote.
But while no one was looking, oil billionaires David and Charles Koch — behind-the-scenes funders of the tea party astroturf mobs — and their front group, Americans for Prosperity spent a little over $41 million during the election, quietly buying dozens of members of Congress, lock, stock and barrel.
Since the elections, the Kochs have taken control of their latest acquisition — the House of Representatives — with their first order of business being a directive to House Speaker John Boehner to populate the House Energy Committee, which regulates their core business, with members beholden to the new bosses.
The Kochs hate publicity, and this maneuvering has been done with utmost secrecy. So it must have been unpleasant for the brothers and their minions in the GOP on Sunday when the Los Angeles Times published a story about their purchase of the energy committee on its front page above the fold:
Wichita-based Koch Industries and its employees formed the largest single oil and gas donor to members of the panel, ahead of giants like Exxon Mobil, contributing $279,500 to 22 of the committee’s 31 Republicans, and $32,000 to five Democrats.
Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP Freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group’s separate advertising and grass-roots activity during the 2010 campaign…
The new committee members include a congressman who has hired a former Koch Industries lawyer as his chief of staff. Another, Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia, won a long-shot bid to unseat a 14-term moderate Democrat with help from Americans for Prosperity, which marshaled conservative activists in his district. By some estimates, the advocacy group spent more than a quarter-million dollars on negative ads in the campaign. “I’m just thankful that you all helped in so many ways,” Griffith told an Americans for Prosperity rally not long after his election.
Job one for the Kochs’ newest employees, the energy committee members, is to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, a major thorn in the side of the Kochs’ energy businesses:
The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA had the power to regulate greenhouse gases as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Pompeo, Griffith and others want to strip the EPA of that authority.
Until recently, Upton would have been an unlikely champion of that view.
In 2009, he told a Michigan newspaper: “Climate change is a serious problem that necessitates serious solutions.” Rush Limbaugh ridiculed Upton for his sponsorship of an energy-saving bill. Tea party groups opposed his bid for the committee chairmanship.
But as chairman, Upton said that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson would have to attend so many hearings before his committee that she would need her own parking space on Capitol Hill. In daily e-mail blasts, he hammered at the EPA’s “job-killing” regulations.
His bluntest rhetoric against the EPA came in late December, in a Wall Street Journal commentary he wrote with Phillips of Americans for Prosperity.
The EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, they wrote, “represents an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs — unless Congress steps in.”
In an e-mail statement, Upton denied that his position on climate change had shifted, and he explained his work with conservative activists. “Meeting with and listening to individuals and organizations that will be affected by the laws and regulations this committee oversees is one of our fundamental responsibilities,” he said.
The change on the committee is “like night and day,” said Jeremy Symons, senior vice president of the National Wildlife Federation, a nonpartisan organization that lobbied the committee to stem greenhouse gas emissions.
“In the past the committee majority viewed the Clean Air Act as an effective way to protect the public,” Symons said. “Now the committee treats the Clean Air Act and the EPA as if they are the enemy. Voters didn’t ask for this pro-polluter agenda, but the Koch brothers spent their money well and their presence can be felt.”
In 1980, one of the Koch brothers attempted to get into politics via the front door. David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate against that old liberal softy Ronald Reagan. After he and his ideas were soundly rejected fair and square by the voter, David and his brother Charles began building the political apparatus to seize control of the government by undemocratic means.
By secretly funding the tea party mob phenomenon in 2009 through FreedomWorks and other astroturf groups, they laid the groundwork for putting their minions in the GOP in charge of the House and thus the purchase of the Energy Committee, which is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries.
Oligarchs like the Koch brothers pose as great an existential threat to the American republic as any other group, foreign or domestic. The drive by these wealthy corporatists and their lackeys in the Republican Party, the GOP’s Fox propaganda channel and on right-wing radio to replace American regulatory capitalism with a return to 19th century “free enterprise” unregulated economic models — like the Southern plantation system and, later, the Dickensian horrors of the Gilded Age — is a clear and present danger that is going unacknowledged and all but ignored by the establishment media.
One reason the Koch brothers hate publicity is that they are terrified that regular Americans might realize what they are really up to and, at the very least, boycott products produced by Koch-owned companies, such as Invista, which makes Stainmaster Carpets and Lycra; Georgia-Pacific, which produces Brawny paper towels, Angel Soft toilet paper, Mardi Gras napkins and Quilted Norther toilet paper; Flint-Hill Resources, which operates oil refineries in six states; Koch Pipeline, Koch Fertilizer, Koch Minerals and Matador Cattle Company.
Another bad outcome from the publicity, arguably, is that independent swing voters who don’t want to see the American republic coopted by latter day robber barons might rise up and vote against candidates whom the Koch brothers have purchased, so we are herewith providing a handy list.