Co-published by Newsweek
There’s something hinky about the governor’s climate leadership, an inconsistency that environmentalists warn will threaten his legacy.
The 42nd Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) got underway in earnest Wednesday at San Diego’s Manchester Grand Hyatt resort hotel. The mood was convivial and the attire corporate casual: Brooks Brothers suits without ties, Dockers and sports shirts.
Although this year’s star attractions — a GOP presidential frontrunner, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and a returning presidential contender, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee — weren’t scheduled to speak until Thursday, conference delegates had plenty to do yesterday.
ALEC, a secretive rightwing bill mill that gets its funding from the Koch Brothers and global multibillion dollar corporations, has been described as a legislative dating service that arranges hookups between mostly Republican state lawmakers and corporate lobbyists.
The actual “dates” occur at meetings like those unfolding in San Diego — a council spokesperson said 1,300 conferees were in attendance — and take place behind locked doors,
Last week’s announcement of a settlement between the state of California and two political campaign organizations linked to the Koch brothers fittingly coincided with the centenary of the first scientific explorations of Los Angeles’ La Brea Tar Pits. The history of the tar pits is pretty straightforward: For at least 38,000 years, thick, petroleum-based asphaltum has oozed up from fissures at the site, a noxious goo that long ago entrapped hapless animals as well as the predators that tried to feast on them.
Rather more recent and less explored have been the political intrigues of petroleum tycoons Charles and David Koch, although news of their ambitions is slowly rising to the surface, too. Last year a daisy chain of groups with Koch connections funneled campaign contributions into a pair of policy measures on the 2012 California ballot: Proposition 30, a tax-raising measure designed to restore much-needed funds to public education,
It should serve as more than mere cold comfort that Charles and David Koch – the oil billionaires with a desire to remake America according to their own Dickensian vision of society – are about to be fined $1 million by California’s Fair Political Practices Commission. Today’s Los Angeles Times reports that a pair of the brothers’ political money funnels, Americans for Responsible Leadership and the Center to Protect Patient Rights, unlawfully directed $11 million to a campaign account set up to defeat Proposition 30 and promote Proposition 32 in 2012.
The first proposition, which aimed to raise tax dollars for public education, passed; the latter measure, intended to cripple the ability of public employee unions to participate in politics, didn’t.
Benjamin Gamboa doesn’t know John Arnold, but they are linked by a shared concern over the fate of public-employee pensions in California.
“I’m proud to have a pension,” the 30-year-old Gamboa says. “I believe every American should have a pension.”
The two men live in very different worlds. Gamboa is a research analyst at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California. Arnold is a hedge-fund billionaire from Houston, Texas.
There’s another difference between them: Arnold recently had a representative present at a secret “pension summit” held at a Sacramento hotel, where strategies to limit public employee retirement benefits were discussed; Gamboa, a union member, did not – representatives of labor were specifically not invited.
“Pension reform” has become the latest battle cry in a seemingly endless war that has ostensibly been declared against tax-dollar waste, but whose single-minded purpose has been to slash the job protections and benefits enjoyed by California’s working middle class.
A specter is haunting Detroit — the specter of the Koch Brothers’ toxic brand of unregulated corporatism, as embodied in a cloud bank of pollution that recently blackened the Motor City’s horizon. Abby Zimet, writing in Common Dreams, describes the event as captured by a
[m]ind-boggling video of a billowing, high-carbon, high-sulfur cloud from the mountain of petroleum coke – waste from Canadian tar sands shipped from Alberta to Detroit, and the dirtiest potential energy source ever – illegally stored by the Koch Brothers along the Detroit River. Produced by Marathon Refinery but owned by Koch Carbon, the pet-coke piles have for months been producing “fugitive dust” – i.e.: thick black crud – that blankets the homes of outraged residents and lawmakers; analysis shows the dust contains elevated levels of lead, sulfur, zinc and the likely carcinogenic vanadium.
As we noted here last year,
For example, if we want less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we should tax carbon polluters. On the other hand, if we want more students from lower-income families to be able to afford college, we shouldn’t put a tax on student loans.
Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, congressional Republicans are intent on doing exactly the opposite.
Earlier this year the Republican-led House passed a bill pegging student-loan interest rates to the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, plus 2.5 percentage points. “I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the co-sponsor of the GOP bill, said.
Republicans estimate this will bring in around $3.7 billion of extra revenue,
The L.A. Times has not exactly been falling all over itself lately to curry favor with the city’s labor movement, with a seemingly endless stream of news stories, columns and editorials portraying unions in a less than sympathetic light. So the last thing one might have expected to see was a rally of workers and labor leaders coming to the defense of L.A.’s paper of record.
But desperate times call for desperate measures – and with the Koch brothers potentially poised to take over Spring Street, the present moment certainly meets the test.
In case you have tuned out the Times and every other source of local news, Charles and David Koch – patron saints of the Tea Party, best friends to climate change deniers and bankrollers of an endless parade of far-right causes – have set their sights on the Tribune Company’s empire. After emerging from a bankruptcy brought on by the rapacious practices of former owner Sam Zell,
From time to time we may gripe about individual stories or columns that appear in the Los Angeles Times, but it remains our city’s paper of record and a powerful source of investigative journalism – at a time when such journalism has rapidly given way to rumor-sourced blogs written by dilettantes or pundits. That the Los Angeles Times may become the private toy of America’s most partisan conservative interests is not just a bad dream — right-wing billionaires Charles and David Koch may actually soon be running the paper, and it’s up to all of us to stop them.
It’s difficult to overstate how damaging it would be if the Koch brothers succeed in buying one of the country’s most influential newspapers. The Koch brothers would almost certainly use the Times to promote their ultra-conservative agenda. That would mean the end of fair,
It’s official: Americans for Responsible Leadership, the shadowy dark-money outfit that funneled $11 million from Arizona into the campaign supporting California’s Proposition 32 and the effort to defeat Proposition 30, was little more than a courier service for the Koch brothers.
Today’s San Jose Mercury News carried news about the fast-developing story that has gripped Sacramento since October 16:
A group tied to David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who have played a huge role in spreading anonymous political cash around the country, was behind the shadowy Arizona group’s $11 million donation to a California business group.
That group is the Center to Protect Patient Rights, a known front for the Kochs’ political agenda. On October 25, a Frying Pan News post reported by Bill Raden first broke the story that the Kochs were probably responsible for the $11 million October Surprise.
California’s Proposition 32 proposes outlawing the use of automatic payroll deductions from union members and corporations for political purposes. Backed by such labor-hating billionaires as the Koch Brothers, Charles Munger Jr., and by anti-marriage equality crusaders like Howard Ahmanson and Larry T. Smith, the measure will decimate unions’ ability to participate in the political process—stripping them of their considerable clout in the state. But that doesn’t mean Prop. 32 is purely about union-busting. Instead, the measure provides its wealthy backers with a means to an end — to eliminate organized labor as the most significant obstacle to imposing a corporate and fundamentalist religious agenda on an otherwise stalwart progressive state.
Prop. 32 isn’t an end game. It’s the beginning of a much larger conservative agenda for California. The only way to truly understand the potential impact of Prop. 32’s passage is to analyze the agenda of its backers.
Here are the 10 most dire issues California can look forward to if Prop.
In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13 – a ballot initiative that rolled back property taxes to 1975 levels and capped future increases at two percent. More destructively, it mandated that all future tax raises in the state be approved by the legislature by a two-thirds margin. The law presaged a wave of anti-taxation measures across the country that continues to define the political landscape we inhabit to this day. Ironically, while Prop. 13 was an effective carrier of the anti-taxation message, the rest of America soundly rejected the draconian policies Prop. 13 put into place to block the raising of tax revenues.
“The specifics of Prop. 13 were largely not adopted in other states,” explains Lenny Goldberg, Executive Director of the California Tax Reform Association. “Hardly any states enacted the two-thirds majority rule. And very few states treat taxes on commercial properties like Prop. 13 does.
Brothers David and Charles Koch, and other libertarian billionaire backers of Proposition 32, including Charles Munger Jr., like to wrap themselves in the toga of individual freedom. However, despite their supposed ideological fervor for personal liberties, they have allied themselves with some of the nation’s most vociferously anti-gay religious activists – all for a campaign to outlaw the use of automatic payroll deductions from union members and corporations for political purposes. Although it is not widely seen as a “gay issue,” Prop. 32’s passage could have far-reaching consequences for California’s gays and lesbians.
“If we lose organized labor as a funded political ally in California, the LGBT movement is in big trouble,” says Courage Campaign founder and LGBT activist Rick Jacobs. “Would you rather have Howard Ahmanson thinking about your rights in the workplace, or organized labor? That’s what this is about. Mark my words, people like the Kochs and Ahmanson are not thinking about how LGBT people are welcome in the workplace and not discriminated against.”
Newspapers across California are calling out Proposition 32—a ballot measure that would outlaw using automatic payroll deductions from union members and corporations for political purposes. Editorial writers and columnists charge the initiative is dishonest for positioning itself as an anti-corporate campaign finance effort — even as supporters of the initiative have recently taken to union-bashing to frame their arguments. However, for a period of several months over the summer, Prop. 32 backers did their best to fool Californians with a disingenuous Occupy Wall Street-inspired “fight the power” advertising campaign. Let’s take a look at some vintage Trojan Horse political advertising.
0 minutes 05 seconds – Nice special effects. Michael Bay is impressed.
0:16 – Does that briefcase combination read “666”? Perhaps the flow of “special interest” money into politics is a deal with the devil. Only problem: The devil is wearing a wedding band. Given that such Christian conservative Proposition 8 backers as Howard Ahmanson and Larry T.
The Koch brothers entered California’s political fray September 14, a Friday, with a $4 million donation to a new pro-Proposition 32 political entity called California Future Fund. By Tuesday, September 18, the fund had released its first TV spot, titled “Telephoto.” What does $4 million in Koch cash buy? Let’s take a look at this half-minute spot, shot by shot.
00 min. 01 sec. – If we had millions of dollars of Koch brother money, maybe we could afford a telephoto lens too.
00:06 – Clearly not shot with a telephoto lens. Thematically, the scene should have been shot through the open window. Instead, our supposedly heroic cameraperson with a telephoto lens of moral clarity is physically inside the room with the shady suits. They look quite comfortable with his presence. A perfect metaphor for Prop. 32.
00:10 – “Big corporations and government unions control politicians,” our ominously-voiced narrator tells us.