UYGUR: Paul Ryan says the fight over the budget isn‘t some simple negotiation. He says House Republicans aren‘t just trying to score political points.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: Look at these people, look at these new people who just got here. You know, they didn‘t come here for a political career.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That‘s right.
RYAN: They came here for a cause. This is not a budget this is a cause.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: But what is that cause? Is it ideological or is it really financial? I.e., to help the richest people in the country. Look, that is a not a theoretical question, it‘s real, because there are people in this country who have decided that buying our government is a really good investment. And they are real people and two of them happen to be brothers. Their names are Charles and David Koch. They are the billionaire brothers who own Koch Industries, an oil and gas giant. The Koch brothers are everywhere. Now a new report from Tony Carrk at the Center for American Progress spells out the full reach of their political empire. The story starts in 1980 when David Koch was the libertarian party‘s vice presidential candidate. David Koch‘s platform was far, far right of Ronald Reagan. He wanted to eliminate corporate taxes all together. He wanted to abolish Social Security and are you ready for this? Koch even called for getting rid of public schools entirely.
But it didn‘t work out. They lost to Reagan, who was far too much of a lefty for their taste. So, the Koch brothers came to an interesting conclusion. If you can‘t beat them, buy them. Instead of trying to be politicians, they started using their money to influence politicians which proved to be a far more effective strategy. First, they needed to give their extremist ideology, the veneer of credibility. So, they began funding the so-called think tanks. And the last 15 years alone, they have given $85 million to 85 different groups. Some of the amounts are jaw-dropping. According to the Center for American Progress, they gave over $13 million to the Cato Institute during that period, 12 million to the citizens for a sound economy, four million to the heritage foundation. In other words, when you hear someone from the Cato Institute quoted in the news and he is casting doubt on global warming, keep in mind that Charles Koch actually founded the Cato Institute and that Koch Industries subsidiaries have paid millions in environmental fines.
That‘s not some neutral objective report you are hearing from the Cato Institute, it‘s a report that was bought and paid for by Koch Industries for a very specific purpose, so they can make more money by avoiding pollution regulations. The think tanks are to influence politician and it end the debate in D.C. But in case that‘s too subtle, they also decided to actually invest a lot of money directly into politicians themselves. They have given $11 million to federal candidates since 1990, 89 percent of that, of course, went to Republicans. Seeing that the strategy is working, they have actually stepped up their spending recently. Americans for prosperity, which reportedly gets millions from the Koch Brothers, spent $45 million in the last elections.
In that last election, Koch Industries Political Action Committee gave to 62 of the 87 freshmen House Republicans. And this is a Koch-fueled Congress. The Kochs and their affiliates gave to 13 gubernatorial candidates in the last cycle. Of course, ten of them were Republicans. They also gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association. The list of governors they helped to elect includes Scott Walker and John Kasich, both of them who just happen to be rabid union busters. And that brings us to where we are in politics today. Governor Walker attacks the unions. House Republicans go after the EPA and now Paul Ryan targets those pesky little safety nets, Medicare and Medicaid. The Koch Brothers are closing in on checkmate.
Advertise | AdChoicesAdvertise | AdChoicesAdvertise | AdChoices.Citizens United allowed them to pour an unlimited amount of money into political campaigns. And now they have announced plans to spend $88 million on the 2012 election. They figured out the matrix. Our politicians are up for sale and it‘s a good return on their investment and the Koch‘s plan to do a lot more buying.
With me now is Tony Carrk, he is the policy director for the Center for American Progress Action War Room and the author of that new report.
TONY CARRK, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Cenk, great to be with you.
UYGUR: Now first, it‘s great to have you here. This isn‘t just about the Koch Brothers, the promise anybody can buy these politicians, and a lot of billionaires and millionaires do, but they are a perfect example here. What I found interesting is the first thing they did was to go buy the think tanks, why do you think they did that?
CARRK: I think they wanted to number one, keep their money under the radar, so they were funding the right-wing think tanks that could start building the policy case for the agenda that they are trying to push and that agenda is one that puts their business interests above those of middle class families.
UYGUR: And they seem to have really stepped up their spending these days and they have a lot more public profile, partly because of some of the research that‘s been done on them, including by you guys, us, et cetera, but it seems like they were a little bit more brazen these days. Do you think that‘s because of Citizens United, or they think what difference does it make, we can buy these, you know, these elections anyway we like? Who care it is people know?
CARRK: I mean, I‘m not entirely sure if it‘s, I mean, I think Citizens United is a part of that but I also think it was just the situation, the environment that we are in now, where there was a lot of public anger in 2009 after the economy was brought to its knees and they were able be to, you know, help organize the Tea Party rallies and kind of use that public anger to help further their ideological agenda which is to get rid of government, and that will help pad their profits and at the same time, it‘s going to be hurting everyone else.
UYGUR: Yes, you know, it‘s I think a perfect storm. You got the Tea Party coming in, you‘ve got Citizens United that lets them spend unlimited money. And at the same time, this seems my God, this is a better return on investment than I imagined. The Republicans are giving us everything we wanted, right? So, when you put all that together, they think, OK, it is winning time, right?
CARRK: Exactly. And I think if you look at the success they had in the 2010 elections, if you look at now the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Koch Industries is the single largest oil and gas contributory to that committee and that committee is also the one that oversees energy policy in this country, which also regulates carbon emission, things they have a personal interest in because that is also what their business interest is.
UYGUR: Yes. You know, actually, I want to give the audience some facts on that, because that it is amazing. They have given to 22 Republicans on that committee, a total of $279,500. They have also given to five Democrats on that committee, a total of $32,000 because they are in the energy business, of course they‘re going to go buy the Energy Committee. And, you know there is a note from “The Hill,” which is great. House democrat Gerry Connolly says, he wants to change the title of the bill that would go after EPA to the Koch Brother appreciation act. How accurate is that? I mean, how swamped is that Energy Committee by Koch money?
CARRK: I mean, I think the facts speak for themselves like the numbers that you just threw out I think show exactly the type of influence that they have on that committee. And I would also add to that that the head of the Americans for prosperity co-authored an Op-ed with the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on just how bad the EPA would be to regulate carbon emissions. So, it‘s money on one hand but it is also the access that they have with the lawmakers as well.
UYGUR: Well, we saw that access in Wisconsin, when the fake Koch Brother called Governor Walker. Governor Walker spent 20 minutes with him, he‘s like, yes, let me tell you how we are going to bust the unions. By the way, if you bust the unions, the start public and then you go to private, hey, that lowers the cost for Koch Industries because they have to pay their employees less. So, it all works out for Koch at the end. But I want to ask you about the Tea Parties. You mentioned that earlier. How much are they involved in the Tea Party movement?
Advertise | AdChoicesAdvertise | AdChoicesAdvertise | AdChoices.CARRK: Well, I think, I mean, a lot of this, I would like to say is been a lot of research done by my colleagues at Think Progress, just when the Tea Parties began and who helped organize them, who helped give them materials and show them the way that, you know, protest government and to make their voices heard. When you look back at that, a lot of that went through Americans for prosperity which goes, you know, back to Charles and David Koch. So I think from the—even one employee said that their job was to stimulate the Tea Party, that they didn‘t necessarily create it, per se, but they definitely helped it along.
UYGUR: Right. And I got to be honest, it was a brilliant strategy, because I mean, they have got all these guys who are now doing them favors, they‘re trying to kill the EPA for the Koch Industries. You know, it is money well spent. Tony Carrk, great research. Thank you for joining us. Really appreciate it.
CARRK: Thank you for having me.
UYGUR: Thank you, man. And by the way, you know that the protests are funded by the Koch Industries when the huge buses show up that they have paid for, all right?