Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and their network of 300 political cronies are laying an insidious money trail across the country in an attempt to buy the 2016 federal and state elections.
In January, the Koch group announced it would spend an unprecedented $889 million on the 2016 campaign — that’s a third more than the total spent in the 2012 national election by the Republican National Committee and its two congressional campaign committees combined! At nearly $900 million, the Koch group is expected to spend about the same amount as that of the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees — effectively transforming the Koch organization into a third major political party.
Smoke and mirrors
But unlike political parties that have to operate with a measure of transparency, the Kochs operate behind nonprofit groups created under tax codes that shield donors, and how much they give, from the public. This makes it almost impossible to tell how much of the money is provided by the Kochs themselves or by those they recruit to their causes.
These nonprofit groups with innocuous sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners, Concerned Veterans for America, Generation Opportunity, and Libre Initiative buy influence by pouring unprecedented amounts of money into television ad buys — enough money to thoroughly saturate the airways and sway voter opinion. Through these front groups, the Kochs will wage the largest drive in history to influence legislation and campaigns and advance an agenda that includes repealing the Affordable Care Act, expanding Right to Work, eroding clean air and water standards, advancing an anti-science agenda on climate change, pushing for corporate tax cuts, and further decimating campaign finance disclosure laws.
The Koch brothers and their ilk hide behind these groups for a reason. Polling finds that while voters might be initially swayed by such ads, once they understand who is actually behind them they tend to discount them substantially. Even some corporations are turned off as seen in the recent rash of defections from the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Last fall Google and several other high tech companies quit ALEC over its extremist opposition to climate change policies. Companies like British Petroleum and Occidental Petroleum, that would on the surface appear to benefit from Koch-backed policies, are cutting ties, as well, in order to avoid potential consumer backlash that association with ALEC could bring.
Stopping the damage
As mentioned on page 5, the December 2014 Gallop Poll found that most Americans distrust business executives: only 17 percent rate the honesty and ethical standards of business executives as “high or very high.” This stands in stark contrast to the 80 percent who deem nurses as having high standards of honesty and ethics. Nurses, with our high degree of public trust, must use our voices forcefully to educate the public and show that the Koch brothers’ emperor has no clothes.