Our Common Good

The billionaire Koch brothers and their aptly-named political strategist Rich Fink spoke publicly about the family’s agenda in The Wichita Eagle this weekend. They insist that they’re the ones under attack in America. Sure, the Kochs have $62 billion and seven homes. And yes, their combined wealth has just about doubled under Obama. And there are now reports of intimidation at Koch Industries for employees who dare speak out against the brothers’ politics.

No matter: the world is lined up against these unfortunate souls. The corruption and machinations detailed in our film Koch Brothers Exposed are, apparently, child’s play compared to the nerve-wracking obstacles these guys face.

What obstacles?

Here’s Charles Koch, lamenting that Obama consultant David Axelrod called out the brothers’ massive investment in policies that promote themselves:

When you have Axelrod, one of [Obama’s] top campaign officials, saying we are contract killers—I mean, I don’t know how somebody in the administration can say that about a private citizen. It’s frightening because you don’t know what they’re going to do. They have tremendous power. They can destroy just about anybody, whether you are totally innocent or not.

And here’s David Koch: “[Obama’s] criticism can stimulate a lot of anger and dislike toward us. So there’s a huge security concern.”

And Fink: “We’re just besieged day and night with attacks and the more visible we are, and the more we’ve done, the more attacks we get.” Not that he expected anything less; he had warned the brothers from the outset that if they became major political players, “You guys will possibly risk the businesses that you have built and your family legacy, and there’s going to be a lot of fallback [sic] from this.”

My tiny violin is broken…

Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the nonprofit financed by David Koch and other wealthy Republican businessmen, has spent some $31 million on anti-Obama ads since April. The group recently opened 98 Get-Out-the-Vote offices, hired some 200 field staffers, and has been distributing its state of the art voter targeting technology on Samsung tablet computers to its volunteers. Now AFP is hoping to win hearts and minds with gifts of free gas.

AFP is hosting events at gas stations across the country to provide gasoline to motorists for the price of $1.84 per gallon. The group is paying for up to 15 gallons for 100-150 drivers at each station, telling them that the $1.84 price symbolizes the price per a gallon before Obama took office in 2009.

[…]

The Koch’s political operatives are hoping drivers forget the fact prices peaked over $4.00 under Bush, that the prices in January 2009 were artificially low because of the financial crisis, and that there’s little a president can do to affect oil prices. There’s also the hypocrisy problem. Koch Industries, the company that invented the oil derivative, considers itself one of the world’s biggest players, up there with Goldman Sachs, engaged in the type of commodity speculation that many experts believe is a key driver in rising gas prices. AFP is also providing free barbeque to at its anti-Obama rallies as well as gift cards to its phone bankers, which in the past have been as high as $200 each for the most productive volunteers.

AFP’s giveaways seem to be increasing at a time when other related groups are adding more incentives for people to volunteer against Obama. Last Thursday, the Republican Jewish Coalition, another undisclosed group associated with a small set of wealthy patrons, including Mel Sembler and Sheldon Adelson, began giving away iPads to its most active volunteers. The Huffington Post reported on the RJC’s efforts to “woo” volunteers:

Put in at least 20 hours at an official RJC phone bank in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York or here in Washington and receive a $100 American Express gift card. Up that to 30 hours and one gets an older model iPad 2 (worth about $200). And to volunteers who dial up Jewish voters for 50 hours or more, the RJC will give a new 32GB iPad 3, worth $599. Less time gets a lesser tablet, with 40 hours on the phone equaling a 16GB iPad 3 ($499).
 
Of course, some pro-Obama groups are providing minor gifts to their supporters as well. As far I know, it’s been limited to free pizza, or in one case, a $5 gift card for an evening of phone banking.

"People can invest what they want,” billionaire industrialist David Koch

President Obama’s reelection prospects look better in recent polls, but organizers from both parties report growing evidence that new voter-outreach programs funded by conservative groups could give GOP nominee Mitt Romney an edge if the race is close.

In the key battleground states, Obama’s celebrated network of organizing experts and neighborhood captains is being challenged by a conservative coalition that includes the National Rifle Association, the billionaire-backed Americans for Prosperity and a newly muscular College Republicans organization with a $16 million budget

The conservative groups “are fully funded and ready for hand-to-hand combat,” said Steve Rosenthal, a Democratic organizer.

We cannot take anything for granted. After you register to vote, please check in with the local Democratic Party headquarters, the local Obama campaign or another active political group in your district to see how you can help.  If you have never helped with get out the vote activities, you’ll be surprised at how much fun it can be.

stopkillingourworld:

Oligarchs are the wealthy few who benefit from the government and for all intents and purposes call the shots behind the scenes. Oilprice.com considers five key oligarchs and oligarch families who will shape the future. They may not be the most powerful, or even the richest, but their influence is undeniable. Oh, and they are not all Russians. Turkey’s oligarchs deserve a place on the list because of the geopolitics of energy and conflict, and you’ve probably never heard of them. America has its own oligarchs, too; they are just less romanticized and devoid of the newsworthy “bling”, but their political power is no less formidable and the November presidential vote is arguably their playground.

The Koc Family, Courtesy Turkey

Let’s start with the most benign, the one you might not have heard of, but which is nonetheless extremely powerful by way of being the owners of the largest conglomerate in a country that holds many keys to near-future geopolitical energy dynamics. Koc Holdings has its hand in everything from oil refining and banking to car manufacturing and electronics, among other things. This is Turkey’s wealthiest family, which has always enjoyed government benefits, not the least from the ruling AKP party elite. Three generations of Koc’s have continued to amass wealth in Turkey, beginning with the family’s founder, Verbi Koc, in the 1920s.

Most notably, the Koc family own the Tupras refinery, which holds a dominant position in Europe’s fuel market, has managed amazing performance even in the midst of a global economic crisis. Tupras is also Turkey’s only refinery and it also controls most of the logistics, including major ports and storage facilities. Tupras also owns 40% of the country’s second-largest fuel retail chain. It also sets prices, where its European-Middle East-Africa colleagues do not enjoy this advantage. Middle Eastern and Russian suppliers favor Tupras for these reasons, though Iran has in recent years out-maneuvered Russian to this end. That said, sanctions against Iran have forced Tupras to diversify somewhat into Saudi, Libyan and Iraqi supplies.

Are they oligarchs or just billionaires? They are oligarchs who refrain from directly interfering in the work of the government, while the government agrees to ensure a certain amount of regulatory liberality that will not interfere with the Koc’s continued accumulation of wealth. To be more specific, Tupras gets to set fuel prices, with the acquiescence of the government, but at the same time, the government makes sure that Tupras supplies the domestic economy first.

If you are a foreign investor, you enter Turkey only through one its oligarch families. Still, these are not your typical Russian oligarchs; they are more concerned about their reputation and cannot afford to be blatant. They take care of their minority shareholders, and make plenty of investments in the country’s social welfare—from hospitals to nursing homes.

Roman Abramovich, Courtesy Russia

Russian oligarchs are of course the most colorful. They have rarely been able to resist the lure of over-the-top luxury as they fleeced the country of uncounted trillions, fleeing to resort islands here and there to run their fiefdoms from beach palaces or yachts. Or, alternatively, ending up behind bars for misunderstanding the consequences of biting the official hand that fed them.

While there are plenty of colorful Russian oligarchs to choose from, we’ll settle for now on Abramovich, largely because he just won a major legal battle with our favorite fleecer of post-Soviet Russia, Boris Berezovsky, his one-time mentor.

Abramovich is the owner of the Chelsea Football Club (Chelsea FC) and the Millhouse LLC private investment company, and is much the darling of oligarchs, especially when compared to Berezovsky, whose external appearance is just too sinisterly “mafia”. Last week, Abramovich won a $1.3 billion legal battle with Berezovsky, who had accused him of “intimidating” him into selling his shares of Sibneft oil—a company the two started together, now Gazprom Neft—at an undervalued price. This is what happens when you fall out of favor with on-again-off-again Russian President Vladimir Putin. Berezovsky fell out with Putin, and Abramovich took advantage of this. Berezovsky said it was extortion. A London court disagreed, of course.

According to Forbes’ 2012 hot list of the wealthy, Abramovich—a former Russian governor and Duma member, is currently the 9th richest person in Russia and the 68th richest person in the world. His fortune is estimated at around $12.1 billion.

The Koch Brothers, Courtesy USA

Yes, there is such a thing as an American oligarch; in fact, to a very great extent, presidential elections are oligarch elections. And the 6 November election is nothing without the Koch Brothers (no relation, apparently, to the Koc family of Turkey, though we appreciate the similarity).

The Koch Brothers, led by David Koch and Charles Koch, have built their fortune on oil derivatives speculation. The family’s wealth was launched by Fred C. Koch, who founded Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the United States. The family has long contributed massive amounts of money to the Republicans and Libertarians, and also wields its influence through millions in donations to free-market and other advocacy groups through the Koch Family Foundations.

While the Koch brothers have tended to shift their funds to Republican presidential efforts through their foundations, so that they are not directly traced to them, in July they sort of stepped out of the funding shadows by hosting a $50,000-plate dinner for Romney in the Hamptons.

David Koch’s net worth? About $25 billion—and counting.

The Salverria Family, Courtesy El Salvador

We cannot ignore the Salverria family of El Salvador, due to their connection to Romney, who called on their assistance to raise funds for Bain Capital, the currently controversial private equity firm. This story begins in 1983, when Romney headed to Miami where he would win $9 million in pledges that would amount to 40% of Bain’s start-up capital. It was here that Romney, to borrow a dramatic page from the liberals, sold his sole to the devil; or more precisely, to the managers of Latin American death squads, the Salaverria family key among them.

The Salaverria family (and other oligarch families in El Salvador) has been accused of directly funding Salvadorian right-wing paramilitaries who were responsible for a majority of the some 70,000 executions that took place in El Salvador in the 1980s.

The Salverria family has made its fortune in cotton and coffee production, helped along by the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), which is a political party founded in 1981 by death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson. The reason for the death squads—in 1980, the government of El Salvador moved to implement some sweeping land reforms that called for the nationalization of the coffee trade. Essentially, this would have removed the coffee oligarchs from political power.

Harold Hamm, Courtesy of USA

We will avoid treading on the overwhelming territory of Big Oil and the power of Chevron, Exxon, the American Petroleum Institute and all their combined oil moguls who make the Koch Brothers look like car salesmen. Instead we will focus on one particular oil baron who stands out for his Bakken ambitions.

Hamm is the mastermind of Continental Resources, which is leading a massive campaign for drilling North Dakota’s Bakken formation. During the first quarter of 2012, Continental Resources “completed the equivalent of 43 wholly owned wells into the Bakken,” according to Forbes, and “unlocking those reserves helped Continental boost its proved reserves nearly 50% in the past year to 610 million barrels”.

Hamm is the 76th richest person in the world, with his 68% stake in Continental worth $7.7 billion. He plays a sizeable role in what we will call the “Romney Energy Team”, and has donated (on the record, at least), almost $1 million to the Restore Our Future Foundation, which is directly supporting Romney’s presidential bid.

For Hamm, it’s all about the Bakken oil boom, and of course, the Keystone XL pipeline, which will ensure a transit route for Hamm’s oil.

David Koch, the co-owner of America’s second largest private company, Koch Industries, an oil, pipeline, chemical, lumber, and finance conglomerate that has been called “the Standard Oil of our times,” has historically been press-shy. But he used the occasion of the Republican National Convention, which he attended as a delegate, to rebrand himself as a good citizen rather than one of the biggest and most secretive behind-the-scenes funders of the opposition to Barack Obama. (There are wealthy people backing Obama’s reëlection campaign as well, but as I reported in the magazine recently, he’s been having trouble on that front.) The fact that he’d take on the public role of a delegate was noteworthy on its own, but even more remarkable was that his week in Tampa culminated with an event billed as a “Salute to Entrepreneurs Building America,” which was really a kind of coming-out party that he threw himself in conjunction with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political group he co-founded.

“I … like to speak out,” Koch reportedly told a small throng at the event. Alas, Koch’s new interest in going public doesn’t yet include disclosure of how much he is personally spending on the 2012 campaign, since most of his donations go to a network of non-profits that hide the names of their donors.

[…]
Barone’s piece also chronicled Koch’s hurt feelings at facing public criticism for his extraordinary financial investment in American politics. A substantial portion of the four hundred million dollars—the brothers’ money, and that of their fellow conservative mega-donors—that Koch-related organizations plan to spend in this year’s elections is going toward financing scorching political ads, some of which have been condemned by non-partisan fact-checking groups as misleading. Yet asked how he felt about being criticized by opponents himself, Koch, who is seventy-two, told Barone, “It does not feel good.”


stfusexists:

That awkward moment when the Republican billionaire who basically bought Scott Walker’s election and is in Karl Rove’s circle jerk super PAC is way more moderate than Mitt Romney. 

On the day of Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech, a gaggle of Republican politicians pay tribute to David Koch, who tells a reporter that he is a very good person.

Mr. Romney is expected to pull in $3 million from an event at the Creeks, the estate of Ronald O. Perelman, the billionaire financier and Revlon chairman, where tickets range from $5,000 for lunch to $25,000 for a V.I.P. photo reception. Another will be held at the home of Clifford M. Sobel, an ambassador to Brazil under President George W. Bush, and a final dinner will take place at the Southampton estate of the billionaire industrialist David H. Koch, where the going rate for entry is $75,000 a couple and $50,000 a person.

Mr. Romney’s campaign seeks secrecy when it comes to its fund-raising events, but organizers suggested that these would not be the showstoppers of the Democratic events of yore. As one member of his finance team put it, “There’s enough interest in stopping Obama that you don’t need to hire entertainment and celebrity chefs.” Besides, the real estate should be entertainment enough.

At Mr. Koch’s estate, the guests will be treated to one-of-a-kind scenery as they wait for face time with a possible president. Tucked into the Southampton dunes, Mr. Koch’s home is valued at about $18 million by the real estate Web site Zillow, which reports that it has seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms. Its backyard is the sea.

But the jewel of the day is Mr. Perelman’s. With 9 fireplaces, 40 rooms and an expansive wine cellar, his estate makes the Koch spread look modest by comparison. Sitting on 57 acres, it was built for the painter Albert Herter in 1899, and when it last went up for sale in 1991 (for $25 million), The New York Times described it as “the largest and most spectacular estate in the Village of East Hampton, with more than a mile of frontage on Georgica Pond and a view of the Atlantic Ocean beyond.” That article also said that an American Conifer Society Bulletin — for tree enthusiasts — had called its grounds “the eighth wonder of the horticultural world” and “the most outstanding private conifer collection in the United States, a living work of art.”

(via On Twitter, Koch Group Offers Illinois Residents Free Food, Trips To Wisconsin To Support Governor Scott Walker)

Restoring American Exceptionalism” has recently become an important Republican slogan. It’s a featured theme for Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Glenn Beck. Mitt Romney and Ron Paul at least bow in its direction, as do Rick Perry and Sarah Palin. Last month, there were hundreds of “Restoring American Exceptionalism” events during National School Choice Week (Jan. 22-28, 2012), under the leadership of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, founded by David H. Koch.

The odd thing about this is that “American Exceptionalism” was originally a Communist doctrine motivating a moderate and reformist approach to revolutionary organizing, developed and fiercely argued in the 1920s and 1930s; and the term was revived, with a similar meaning but a different motivation and emphasis, by liberal political scientists in the 1950s.

So it was incredible when David Koch admitted in an interview with the Palm Beach Post that he planned to support Walker with spending by AFP. “We’re helping him, as we should,” Koch said of Walker. “We’ve gotten pretty good at this over the years. We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.”

The Post added: “By ‘we’ he says he means Americans for Prosperity, which is spending about $700,000 on an ‘It’s working’ television ad buy in the state.”

Could Koch really be admitting to a violation for the Internal Revenue Service code that says organizations such as AFP are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office”?

It certainly sounded like it. And, on the Koch Industries website, a statement by Koch several days later said that: “as the Palm Beach Post story indicated, my comments concerning support for Governor Walker related solely to Americans for Prosperity and its activities in Wisconsin.”

Complaints have been filed with the IRS and the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board alleging—in the words of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin“illegal use of tax exempt status by billionaire David Koch.”

There is no question that, based on what Koch has said, the complaints are legitimate. They come in the context of what will be an intense recall election. They should be investigated and addressed with an urgency that respects the timeline of that recall and the significance of threat posed to Wisconsin democracy.

Koch famously gave a double fist pump when then-presidential candidate Herman Cain called himself a Koch brother from another mother last fall. The Kochs haven’t endorsed any presidential candidates, but their Americans for Prosperity Foundation is behind millions’ worth of ad buys attacking the policies and leadership of President Obama.

Lately Americans for Prosperity has focused on drawing attention to the administration’s ties to failed green-­energy grantee Solyndra.

Asked about his efforts to sway public opinion, Koch acknowledges his group is hard at work in places such as Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker is facing off with public unions and grappling with a likely recall vote.

"We’re helping him, as we should. We’ve gotten pretty good at this over the years," he says. "We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more."

By “we” he says he means Americans for Prosperity, which is spending about $700,000 on an “It’s working” television ad buy in the state. It credits Walker’s public pension and union overhaul with giving school districts the first surpluses they’ve seen in years. The unions and the left see things differently.

[…]

"What Scott Walker is doing with the public unions in Wisconsin is critically important. He’s an impressive guy and he’s very courageous," Koch says after a benefit dinner of salmon and white wine. "If the unions win the recall, there will be no stopping union power."

think-progress:

NYPD’s posted outside of David Koch’s building. Your tax dollars at work!
(H/T @elliottjustin)

think-progress:

NYPD’s posted outside of David Koch’s building. Your tax dollars at work!

(H/T @elliottjustin)

manicchill:

Koch Industries’ Iranian Profits Used to Pay Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin
Yesterday, I wrote a post on Bloomberg Market Watch’s upcoming expose on the Koch brothers and Koch Industries. Well, that article made it online last night, and had a few more surprises for readers. It turns out that some, but not all, of the money that Koch Industries made in their deals with Iran is traceable. And I doubt you’ll be surprised about where Bloomberg’s reporters found it.
from Politicus USA:

Bloomberg revealed the deaths, bribes, felony charges, envelopes stuffed with cash, criminal violations, deliberate poisoning of the air with cancerous smoke, and hundreds of millions of fines behind the Koch Brothers. They revealed that employees are taught to cheat and steal under “The Koch Method.” Oh, and the Kochs sold millions of dollars in petrochemical equipment to Iran, a country recognized for sponsoring terrorism but also one of three countries in the George W Bush identified “Axis of Evil.”
It’s ironic that Sarah Palin, whom the Koch brothers money paid to speak on behalf of the “Tea Party,” has accused President Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” See, the money from those petrochemical sales funded Americans for Prosperity which funds the Tea Party which pays people like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck to speak. David Koch is in fact the founder of Americans for Prosperity. This money trail is no longer murky.
Based on an analysis of FEC filings and IRS disclosure, Kenneth P Vogel of Politico reported this morning, “POLITICO’s analysis of disclosures filed with the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission found that the large groups spend big bucks on salaries, like the $500,000 that FreedomWorks paid its chairman, Dick Armey, endorsements from radio hosts like Glenn Beck and Mark Levin, and speaking fees to movement heroes like Sarah Palin and Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, not to mention millions more on consultants and ad buys.”
Explaining how the groups like Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works fund the Tea Party, Vogel detailed, “All the groups say they provide training, yard signs or help planning rallies and booking speakers. The Express has held dozens of rallies around the country and in April reported paying a $750 honorarium to Wurzelbacher, while Americans for Prosperity in 2010 spent $1.9 million on event planning, and $253,000 on honoraria including a $128,000 payment to the speakers’ bureau that represents Palin, with whom AFP had contracted to speak at its Defending the American Dream Summit in Clarkston, Mich., in May 2010.”
AFP also paid Palin to go to Wisconsin to tell the Fox brethern how bad unions were. Clearly we can see how well her employers treat people. Why would anyone need a union? Then there’s Glenn Beck, paid by Freedom Works. The Kochs denied having anything “specific” to do with Freedom Works, but Karoli at Crooks and Liars traced Koch brothers money into the origins of Freedom Works.
Read More

Remember, about 6 months ago, when various celebrities began donating large sums of money they’d received as payments from the Gaddafi family? What do you think the odds are that we see Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin doing the same?
Read the Bloomberg Market Watch article online here

manicchill:

Koch Industries’ Iranian Profits Used to Pay Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin

Yesterday, I wrote a post on Bloomberg Market Watch’s upcoming expose on the Koch brothers and Koch Industries. Well, that article made it online last night, and had a few more surprises for readers. It turns out that some, but not all, of the money that Koch Industries made in their deals with Iran is traceable. And I doubt you’ll be surprised about where Bloomberg’s reporters found it.

from Politicus USA:

Bloomberg revealed the deaths, bribes, felony charges, envelopes stuffed with cash, criminal violations, deliberate poisoning of the air with cancerous smoke, and hundreds of millions of fines behind the Koch Brothers. They revealed that employees are taught to cheat and steal under “The Koch Method.” Oh, and the Kochs sold millions of dollars in petrochemical equipment to Iran, a country recognized for sponsoring terrorism but also one of three countries in the George W Bush identified “Axis of Evil.”

It’s ironic that Sarah Palin, whom the Koch brothers money paid to speak on behalf of the “Tea Party,” has accused President Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” See, the money from those petrochemical sales funded Americans for Prosperity which funds the Tea Party which pays people like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck to speak. David Koch is in fact the founder of Americans for Prosperity. This money trail is no longer murky.

Based on an analysis of FEC filings and IRS disclosure, Kenneth P Vogel of Politico reported this morning, “POLITICO’s analysis of disclosures filed with the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission found that the large groups spend big bucks on salaries, like the $500,000 that FreedomWorks paid its chairman, Dick Armey, endorsements from radio hosts like Glenn Beck and Mark Levin, and speaking fees to movement heroes like Sarah Palin and Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, not to mention millions more on consultants and ad buys.”

Explaining how the groups like Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works fund the Tea Party, Vogel detailed, “All the groups say they provide training, yard signs or help planning rallies and booking speakers. The Express has held dozens of rallies around the country and in April reported paying a $750 honorarium to Wurzelbacher, while Americans for Prosperity in 2010 spent $1.9 million on event planning, and $253,000 on honoraria including a $128,000 payment to the speakers’ bureau that represents Palin, with whom AFP had contracted to speak at its Defending the American Dream Summit in Clarkston, Mich., in May 2010.”

AFP also paid Palin to go to Wisconsin to tell the Fox brethern how bad unions were. Clearly we can see how well her employers treat people. Why would anyone need a union? Then there’s Glenn Beck, paid by Freedom Works. The Kochs denied having anything “specific” to do with Freedom Works, but Karoli at Crooks and Liars traced Koch brothers money into the origins of Freedom Works.

Read More

Remember, about 6 months ago, when various celebrities began donating large sums of money they’d received as payments from the Gaddafi family? What do you think the odds are that we see Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin doing the same?

Read the Bloomberg Market Watch article online here