Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Looming Invasion Of The Koch-Suckers

Fred Koch, one of the founding members of the John Birch Society, has gifted the nation with his offspring. The middle two of the four siblings are particularly noxious: Charles and David. This pair of Koch-Suckers have parlayed inherited wealth to create Koch (-Sucker) Industries. The Koch-Suckers plan to funnel nearly $1B into the campaign of the Sucker's annointed choice as the Dumbo nominee in 2016. The Roberts Court — with the Citizens United decision — has delivered this nation to the highest bidder. Eags is encouraged by the rejection of the Koch-Suckers by Montana voters, but it is mere temporary setback to a pair of a$$holes. If this is is a (fair & balanced) rejection of tycoonery, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap
The Plutocrat Primary
By Timothy Egan

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While the political press was obsessing over what Hillary Clinton had for lunch, the real action this month in the interminable run-up to the presidency was taking place at the knees of the Brothers Koch, David and Charles. Turns out, we may get an election after all, albeit one that will be decided by a pair of septuagenarians whose combined worth is more than the richest person on the planet.

We are in the “invisible primary,” an apt term for the age of oligarchs and dark money. It’s invisible, this suck-up campaign, because it’s happening behind the closed doors of a wealthy few, as a half-dozen or so Republicans audition to win the blessing of billionaires. It should be called the Plutocrat Primary.

Having already pledged to put together a political network that would spend close to $900 million to determine who runs the country, the Kochs are getting close to selecting a favorite for president. Normally, the Kochs stay out of presidential primaries. But this year, they’re cutting to the chase, trying to pick a nominee and a president.

On Monday, the Brothers K seemed to tip their hand, gushing over Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Election over, call it a campaign. Why bother to go through the motions of voting? The Kochs have spoken.

But then, Walker went full Glenn Beck, while talking to Glenn Beck, and appeared to come out in favor of curbing legal immigration, a new position to go with his complete flip-flop on illegal immigration. The Kochs need immigrants, both at the low end and the high end of their vast empire of energy and related companies. And of course, as one of the nation’s top corporate polluters, they’ve always needed politicians.

So, David Koch has now clarified the position of the electorate of two. It’s down to five candidates: Walker, Jeb Bush, and Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. The billionaire brothers will withhold their backing until one of the five says the most Koch-friendly things. “What we expect them to do is compete on who has a more positive message for America,” David Koch told USA Today.

The Kochs’ political views are like an invasive weed growing in every crack of the country, spreading through think tanks, corrupt academics and talk radio shills. In economics, the Koches have long professed opposition to letting a single entity — usually government — pick winners and losers in the market.

But with this bigfoot move into the Republican primary field, the Kochs are determined to pick a winner from the throne room of their family monarchy — free market and free election be damned. At the same time, a secret Koch memo unearthed by Politico shows that the family-run political machine plans an exhaustive ground game, embedding hundreds of staffers in communities across America, starting this year.

Walker would seem to be a premature choice. On several levels, he’s doomed, and surely the Kochs, or the people they pay to help them think, can see that. Immigration is the most troubling area for him. Remember, in the brief moment of introspection after Mitt Romney lost the Latino vote by a whopping 44-point margin in 2012, how Republicans vowed to change their image as a party of aging white xenophobes?

That lasted about as long as oatmeal on a grill. After flirting with joining the majority of Americans who feel that illegal immigrants should have a path to citizenship — similar to the long-stalled Dream Act — the Republican presidential field is back to pandering to its old white-guy base. The exception is Jeb Bush, and to a lesser degree, Senator Rubio. Walker’s positions would open an even wider gulf between Hispanics, who make up 10 percent of the electorate, and Republicans.

At home in Wisconsin, Walker’s ratings continue to plummet, with a majority disapproving of his job as governor and not wanting him to run for president. (He has yet to declare.) He barely survived a recall campaign, and his name is toxic among working Americans who dare to seek better wages through collective bargaining. And as a topper, a former consultant, Liz Mair, has been dogging him on Twitter about his latest “Olympic-quality flip-flop.”

The other four Koch favorites are now back in play, auditioning in the months leading up to a summer summit by the brothers. This opens the door to a shunned outsider, someone like Mike Huckabee, who can play the victimized rube card that he has used to enrich himself. The Kochs would crush him, but it would be instructive to watch it happen.

There is another Republican plutocrat still to please — Sheldon Adelson, the carrot-haired octogenarian casino magnate. He spent $100 million in 2012, and may match that in 2016, purchasing a sycophant. Three words will get you close to Adelson: Israel, Israel, Israel.

At some point, you would think that average Americans would be appalled by a few rich guys trying to buy the next presidential election. And — hope alert! — you did see a great pushback against the Koches in red-state Montana this month. There, Koch-funded surrogates tried to keep poor people from getting health care, through the Medicaid expansion option of Obamacare. Koch agents were booed at one hearing. And they were shamed at another, for the stark cruelty of two people worth a combined $80 billion dollars trying to deny a basic human decency to people who earn $11,000 a year. Health care is on the way in Montana.

As a political party of two, the Kochs may end up spending as much money to get their way next year as either of the actual political parties. But as the prickly, independent-minded folks of Montana showed, purchased politicians come with a weak warranty. Ω

[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]

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