Our Common Good
The Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank skeptical of climate change science, has joined with the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council to write model legislation aimed at reversing state renewable energy mandates across the country.

The Electricity Freedom Act, adopted by the council’s board of directors in October, would repeal state standards requiring utilities to get a portion of their electricity from renewable power, calling it “essentially a tax on consumers of electricity.” Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have binding renewable standards; in the absence of federal climate legislation, these initiatives have become the subject of intense political battles.

[…]

The Heartland Institute received $736,500 from Exxon Mobil between 1998 and 2006, according to the group’s spokesman Jim Lakely, and $25,000 in 2011 from foundations affiliated with Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, whose firm Koch Industries has substantial oil and energy holdings. Lakely wrote in an e-mail that the Koch donation was “earmarked for our work on health care policy, not energy or environment policy.” He added the institute had received financial support from the Koch brothers before 2001, but did not specify how much.


Climate skeptic group works to reverse renewable energy mandates - The Washington Post

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative organization backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, took aim at Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Monday, accusing him of working against his state’s interests with his apparent change of heart on Obamacare.

In a statement, AFP said that Scott’s recent signal that he was willing to consider implementing key provisions of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law was a step in the wrong direction.

[…]

Scott had stood as one of the most stubborn adversaries of Obamacare, even in the wake of the president’s reelection, which effectively secured the law’s existence. But after first vowing to reject moves to set up a state-run health insurance exchange and expand Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act, Scott said last week that he was ready to “have a conversation.” Leaders in the state legislature have also signalled a willingness to take steps toward implementation.

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…

The New Jersey Legislature passed a bill on October 18 creating a state-based online health insurance marketplace; it did so because under Obamacare a state must either create its own insurance marketplace or let the federal government do it. Christie vetoed a similar state-based insurance exchange bill in May, but he said last month he wouldn’t decide what to do about the new bill until after Election Day. Enter the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed conservative grassroots group. AFP-New Jersey is pressuring Christie to reject the state exchange bill and rebuff Obamacare’s requirements before November 16, the date by which states must submit its health insurance plans to the federal government.

Koch-Backed Group Warns Chris Christie | Mother Jones

The silly thing about AFP’s lobbying is that New Jersey will get a health care exchange regardless of whether Christie vetoes it. In that case, the federal government would set up an exchange for New Jersey instead of the state setting it up for itself, and the resulting exchange would be run by federal bureaucrats instead of state bureaucrats. So this is just ideological posturing. (via dendroica)

Arizona-based Americans for Responsible Leadership, having lost in California courts all the way to the Supreme Court, abandoned its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and revealed the true source of its $11 million contribution to a California initiative campaign.

The source of the money was the Koch-backed Americans for Responsible Leadership. It passed the money through another PAC, Center to Protect Patient Rights, based in Arizona. This is a 501(c)(4) non-profit “social welfare organization,” whose principal concern is the welfare of billionaires. Eventually, the money passed to Americans for Job Security. The money has been used to oppose Proposition 30 (education funding) and to promote Proposition 32 (hobbles union political spending).

California FPPC News Release

Sacramento - Americans for Responsible Leadership, the Arizona non-profit corporation that made an anonymous $11 million donation to a California campaign committee, today sent a letter declaring itself to be the intermediary and not the true source of the contribution. It identified the true source of the contribution as Americans for Job Security, through a second intermediary, The Center to Protect Patient Rights. Under California law, the failure to disclose this initially was campaign money laundering. At $11 million, this is the largest contribution ever disclosed as campaign money laundering in California history.

"The persistence and hard work of the FPPC has won a significant and lasting victory for transparency in the political process," said Ann Ravel, Chair of the FPPC. "We will continue in this matter and all others to ensure that the people of California know who is funding political activity in this State."

California’s Political Reform Act requires disclosure to the people of California of the true source of campaign donations. This information is required in most cases before the election, when it matters. The Act requires those who serve as intermediaries, or middlemen, for contributions to disclose their true source to the recipient of the contribution.

Americans for Job Security has ties to many GOP noteworthies, including Rove’s Crossroads GPS.

More coverage of this:

Road map of contributions in Arizona nonprofit case

The actual donors behind the $11 million that landed in California’s initiative battles last month remain a mystery, but two more layers became known Monday when the Arizona nonprofit in question revealed two other opaque nonprofits that routed the money its way.

Based on letters and campaign finance records, the money trail went like this:

On or before Oct. 15: Alexandria, Va.-based Americans for Job Security gave $11 million to Phoenix-based The Center to Protect Patient Rights.

Oct. 12 and Oct. 15: The Center to Protect Patient Rights served as an “intermediary” and gave $11 million to Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership.

Oct. 15: Americans for Responsible Leadership gave $11 million to the Small Business Action Committee PAC No on 30/Yes on 32.

California officials consider civil, criminal action in mystery donation case

California regulators and attorneys said today they are seriously weighing next steps - including criminal charges - against parties involved in the $11 million contribution whose known trail leads through three different out-of-state nonprofits.

A lawyer for Americans for Responsible Leadership, the Arizona-based donor at the center of the controversy, appeared to acknowledge the possibility of future legal action in a letter he filed this morning with the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Attorney Michael D. Bopp wrote that while new disclosures from Americans for Responsible Leadership and The Center to Protect Patient Rights may relate to state codes banning hidden intermediary contributions, the groups do not admit wrongdoing.

California’s Biggest “Campaign Money Laundering” Scheme, Revealed—Kinda

California’s elections watchdog has been fighting for weeks to unmask a secretive group that gave $11 million to defeat Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s temporary tax increase to fund schools, and to pass Proposition 32, which would kneecap state labor unions. That battle ended Tuesday morning in something of a stalemate.

Americans for Responsible Leadership, the Arizona nonprofit that made the $11 million donation, had refused demands by California’s Fair Political Practices Commission to name its donors. So the state watchdog sued ARL, and judges agreed that ARL needed to fess up. ARL relented Tuesday, but its response is far from satisfying: ARL’s $11 million originally came from…another shadowy group called Americans for Job Security, which is run out of an office in Alexandria, Virginia. To complicate matters more, Americans for Job Security had funneled the $11 million through a third nonprofit, the Center to Protect Patient Rights, before it finally landed in ARL’s coffers.

Think of it as a daisy chain of secret money. The Fair Political Practices Commission described the scheme as the largest case of “campaign money laundering” in California’s history. Money laundering is a misdemeanor in California, according to FPPC’s chair Ann Ravel. (The state attorney general has the power to take action against ARL.) But the real source of the money, the individuals or corporations that first gave it, remains a mystery. Disclosure, in other words, is not transparency.

Here’s what we know about Americans for Job Security and the Center to Protect Patient Rights. Founded in 1997, AJS is a nonprofit currently run by a little-known Republican operative named Stephen DeMaura. The group runs ads backing GOP candidates and does not disclose its donors. In 2008, staff attorneys at the Federal Election Commission found "reason to believe" that AJS violated the law by not registering as a political committee, but the FEC’s three GOP commissioners blocked any action against the group.

The Center to Protect Patient Rights, as first revealed by the Center for Responsive Politics, is an ATM for conservative nonprofit groups backing Republican candidates at the state and federal levels. The group doled out $44 million in 2010 to the likes of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the Club for Growth, and Americans for Prosperity. Those recipients all went on to slam Democrats and boost GOPers in the 2010 elections.

Who funds the Center to Protect Patient Rights is a mystery: As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the group does not name its donors. CPPR raked in $13.7 million in 2009, according to tax filings, but said in those same filings that it did not spend any money on fundraising in 2009.

CPPR is said to have ties to billionaires Charles and David Koch and their network of conservative donors. Sean Noble, who runs the group, spoke at a 2010 Koch donor conference; Politico has called Noble a “Koch operative” and the Los Angeles Times described him as a “key operative in the Kochs’ political activities.” However, no direct connection between CPPR, the Kochs, or their donor network has been established.

Even as it hailed forcing Americans for Responsible Leadership to reveal the trail of secrecy behind its $11 million donation, California’s Fair Political Practices Commission admitted the victory was bittersweet. “This case also demonstrates the need for reform to make sure true donors are disclosed and can’t hide behind innocuous committee names,” said Ann Ravel, the FPPC’s chair. “The people of California deserve better.”

overpasslightbrigade:

Ryan holds a key position in the upward redistribution of wealth. Romney is the new face of placeless of America, cast adrift by unfettered corporate greed and power. 
(photo by Wendi Kent).

overpasslightbrigade:

Ryan holds a key position in the upward redistribution of wealth. Romney is the new face of placeless of America, cast adrift by unfettered corporate greed and power.

(photo by Wendi Kent).

msnbc:

From Up w/Chris Hayes:

Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel came under fire this week for sending an email to his employees demanding that they vote for Mitt Romney and threatening to downsize the company if they don’t. But Siegel’s email isn’t an outlier. It fits a pattern of imperious CEOs attempting to marshal the support of their employees in pursuit of their own political interests.

As the secretive campaign against the three Florida Supreme Court justices up for merit retention took shape Monday, one of the targeted justices warned that the future of the state’s independent judiciary was under threat.

"This is the most stressful time I’ve ever experienced in my life,’’ said Justice R. Fred Lewis at a meeting of the Hillsborough County Bar Association. “There is an entire branch of government to protect and defend. We cannot sacrifice fairness and impartiality and the court system to political whims."

Lewis’ remarks came three days after the Republican Party of Florida announced it will oppose him and Justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince because of their “activist” and liberal views.

On Monday, Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group affiliated with the Koch brothers announced a political campaign they have been developing for months to highlight the judicial records of the justices. Starting Tuesday, the group will run television ads across the state chastising the justices for ruling against a 2010 proposed constitutional amendment intended by the Legislature to counter President Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act — the one Republicans dubbed ObamaCare.

“We’re not advocating for the election or defeat of any of the justices what we’re attempting to do is call more attention to them advocating from the bench,’’ said Slade O’Brien, president of the Florida chapter of AFP.

[…]

Lewis said the announcement by the RPOF shifted what had been a whisper campaign against the three justices into a frontal assault on the judiciary.

"The idea was to vote out all three justices so Gov. [Rick] Scott could replace them,’’ he said.

He urged the Hillsborough lawyers to come to the defense of the merit retention system, put in place under former Gov. Reubin Askew. He had responded to a long history of abuse and corruption in the judiciary when justices were elected to office.

"If we allow politics to overtake the three branches of government, we no longer will have the democracy we’ve enjoyed for 200 years,’’ Lewis said. "I’m trusting that somewhere in the middle there are fair-minded individuals who believe the court system is too valuable to kill through partisan politics."

The unprecedented move by the Republican Party was roundly rebuked by lawyers and former Supreme Court justices on both sides of the aisle on Monday.

[…]

Americans for Prosperity said that in addition to the ads to be aired in television markets of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Jacksonville, Daytona Beach and Tallahassee on Tuesday and Wednesday, they will launch a website to provide voters with information on the justices’ records: youbethejudgefl.com.

The 30-second ad accuses the court of rejecting a constitutional amendment written by the Legislature that would serve as a referendum on the Affordable Care Act on the November ballot. The justices ruled that the non-binding amendment included a misleading summary because it made numerous promises such as ensuring “access to health care services without waiting lists.”

When the state acknowledged the summary was misleading, it asked the court to replace the text of the amendment in the summary. The court ruled it did not have the authority to do that.

Alex Villalobos, the former state senator from Miami and president of Democracy at Stake, a nonprofit advocacy group working to support the justices, called the ad misleading.

“They blame the court for the decision but where’s the commercial that blames the Legislature for having done it wrong in the first place?” he asked.

Politicizing the judiciary….  Not something anyone, regardless of their personal politics, should tolerate.

The Republicans are offering up a blueprint for environmental ruin - more drilling, less wildlife and a climate gone crazy. It’s a suicide note.

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.

What do you call a mix of “black liquor,” biofuels, diesel, and a generous splash of tax subsidies? If you have Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho shake this cocktail vigorously and serve it in a golden goblet provided by corporate lobbyists, I’ve got the answer: Koch Brothers Moonshine.