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Archive for the ‘Koch Industries’ Category

Exclusive: California Grand Jury Probing Shadowy Money Groups

Jul 17, 2013 1:16 PM EDT

A California grand jury has been convened in a probe that began when a PAC didn’t disclose the sources of its spending, as required by California law. Peter Stone reports.

A grand jury is now involved in a high-stakes California probe that is looking into whether a PAC and three so-called dark-money groups—including one with ties to the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch—broke a campaign disclosure law by funneling $11 million from secret sources to influence ballot initiatives in the state’s 2012 election, The Daily Beast has learned.

The state grand jury, previously unreported, is part of an expanding investigation that’s been spearheaded by the state’s attorney general and the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), according to two people familiar with the probe, who requested anonymity since they weren’t authorized to discuss the ongoing grand jury proceedings, which are secret.

The existence of a grand jury, something typically convened to obtain sworn testimony from witnesses, appears to signal increased prosecutorial interest in the inquiry to uncover the actual donors. Launched last fall, the probe could lead to eight-figure civil penalties and possible criminal charges, according to statements last year from the A.G.’s office and the FPPC, the state’s election watchdog agency.

Neither Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, nor Ann Ravel, the head of the state FPCC, would comment on the probe or the grand jury’s activities.

The inquiry, focused on three out-of-state dark-money groups and a California business PAC, was triggered when the PAC, the Small Business Action Committee, reported in October 2012 spending $11 million on two ballot initiatives—but did not reveal its donors’ names, a legal requirement in the state for contributors to ballot initiatives.

The PAC used the funds in what turned out to be two losing efforts: opposing Proposition 30, a measure supported by Gov. Jerry Brown to temporarily raise the state income tax as well as the person tax for wealthier voters, and supporting Proposition 32, which would have barred unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political spending.

Since the probe’s inception, the FPPC, in tandem with the A.G., has issued subpoenas for documents and financial records to the PAC and the dark-money groups as well as individuals and other groups suspected of involvement in channeling the funds for the ballot drives, according to a person familiar with the inquiry. In recent weeks, the A.G.’s office, which has been ramping up its involvement, sent out another round of subpoenas, according to the same person.

Charles R. Schwab, the chairman of the Charles Schwab Corp., or an entity affiliated with Schwab has received a subpoena, according to a person familiar with the probe. In 2011 Schwab was one of about 30 wealthy donors who was cited in a speech by Charles Koch as having given at least $1 million the prior year to Koch backed conservative projects.

A spokesperson for Schwab declined to comment, as did Jason Torchinsky, a lawyer who has represented the PAC and also the three dark-money groups.

The involvement of a grand jury often indicates that an inquiry is intensifying. Grand juries are commonly used in cases where prosecutors are moving to bring chargesor pressuring targets to cut deals, say white-collar lawyers. It’s not known whether any of the three dark-money groups, the PAC, or others have received target letters, which often signal that charges are in the works.

“The largest contribution ever disclosed as campaign money laundering in California history.”

“The convening of a state grand jury is as serious a step in a state investigation as a federal grand jury is in a federal probe,” white-collar attorney Stan Brand told The Daily Beast. “It’s not a foregone conclusion that someone will be charged, but it indicates a heightened level of prosecutorial interest.”

Brand added that California’s disclosure law for ballot initiatives would trump the IRS rules that allow dark-money groups that have “social welfare” tax status to keep their donors secret.

Other lawyers concur. “The Internal Revenue Code would not prevent California law from requiring disclosure of donors,” said Marc Owens, the former head of the IRS tax-exempt unit and now a partner at Caplin & Drysdale.

If prosecutors do move forward, their investigation could shine light on parts of the burgeoning network of conservative “social welfare” outfits that spent hundreds of millions in the last two elections. Under IRS rules, social-welfare groups can engage in political activities so long as that work is not their primary purpose, a loosely enforced rule often interpreted to mean that 49 percent of a group’s spending can go toward political work.

One of the three groups that allegedly channeled the funds to California was the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights, founded in 2009 by Koch operative Sean Noble, who has emerged in recent cycles as a big player in conservative political and fundraising circles. Noble has spoken at least twice at the billionaire brothers’ biannual conferences aimed at tapping other wealthy conservatives for their favorite projects, and he has been a key strategist at small Washington meetings with other GOP allied groups such as the Karl Rove-founded American Crossroads.

“Sean is the wizard behind the screen” for the Kochs and their network of wealthy donors, said one GOP operative familiar with Noble’s political work.

In 2010 and 2012, Noble’s Center appeared to act mainly as a cash conduit, shipping millions to allied conservative groups. In the 2010 cycle, for instance, it channeled almost $55 million—a sum almost identical to its revenues—to a couple dozen conservative bastions including Americans for Tax Reform and the American Future Fund, according to the group’s filings with the IRS. Most of that largess went to pay for advertising backing GOP candidates or attacking Democrats.

“We had no involvement whatsoever, financial or otherwise, neither directly nor indirectly, on anything to do with Prop. 30 or Prop. 32,” a spokesman for Koch Industries, Rob Tappan, said in an email. Tappan, however, indicated he spoke only for Koch and not “independent entities,” such as Noble’s Center. Asked if the Kochs had received subpoenas from the grand jury, Tappan said it was company policy not to comment on “the existence or nonexistence of investigations.” Noble did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Koch Industries, a sprawling energy and manufacturing conglomerate, is the country’s second-largest privately held company, with annual sales of about $100 billion and some 70,000 employees.

The circuitous routes apparently used to funnel the $11 million into the state were deemed “the largest contribution ever disclosed as campaign money laundering in California history” by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

But the PAC only disclosed that the funds came from a group in Arizona, Americans for Responsible Leadership, a two-year-old “social welfare” entity that had never before spent funds in California. When the FPPC asked the Arizona group for more information and was rebuffed, the commission went to the California Supreme Court, which ordered the outfit to reveal where it received the funds.

To comply, the Arizona group said the $11 million came initially from another dark-money group, the Virginia-based based Americans for Job Security, which is registered with the IRS as a “business league,” which like social-welfare groups can shield the names of its donors.

Making the money trail even murkier, the Virginia group passed the $11 million along to Noble’s Center to Protect Patient Rights which, in turn handed it over to Americans for Responsible Leadership. (Notably, Noble’s Center donated $4.8 million to Americans for Job Security in a separate 2010 money transfer, according to the center’s IRS filings.)

As the California probe has intensified, it has sparked the hiring of some of Washington’s high-powered election-law specialists. For several months, Jason Torchinsky was representing the PAC and the three dark-money groups, but other lawyers with big-name firms are now involved on behalf of unspecified clients. One firm, not previously reported, is Patton Boggs, whose attorneys include Ben Ginsberg, the famously plugged-in election lawyer for numerous GOP campaigns and committees, and William McGinley; also involved in the case is Wiley Rein, home of Jan Baran who for many years has represented Koch in election-law matters. Both McGinley and Baran declined to discuss their clients or the probe.

The grand jury and the widening California probe has stirred considerable unease among some Koch allies and in certain conservative quarters, according to multiple GOP operatives who asked not to named. “People are very puckered up about it,” said one such operative.

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GOP-Statistic

By: RmuseMay. 3rd, 2013

Politicususa

The concept of America as a representative democracy has worked relatively well for over 2 centuries, and it is ultimately superior to other forms of government that are oppressive and despotic; Americans can thank the Founding Fathers for protecting this country from becoming an authoritarian dictatorship. It is difficult to imagine many Americans agreeing to abandon democracy for another form of government, but there are a frightening number of citizens who hate America’s representative democracy with such passion that they are leaning heavily toward overthrowing the government and installing a fascist dictatorship. The group in question is not an extremist militia organization and they are not  concealing their plans from plain view, and in fact, have begun the transition to fascism from within the conservative movement with full cooperation and assistance from establishment Republicans in Congress and state legislatures around the nation.

The idea that America’s democratic form of government could fall to an authoritarian regime began taking shape shortly after the election of Barack Obama, and after a little over four years of constant propaganda by Republican politicians incensed that their reign came to an end in 2009, almost half of Republicans believe “an armed revolution might be necessary to protect our liberties.” A recent poll reveals that it is worse than it seems because more Republicans believe armed revolution might be necessary to overthrow the legally elected government than believe is not required, and GOP politicians have been hard at work inciting their base and putting the brakes on democracy since January 2009.

On Tuesday, a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll revealed that despotism is rampant among the Republican rank and file who are following the lead of Republicans in Congress who have taken extraordinary steps to bring America’s democracy to a halt through not-so-devious machinations and with stunning impunity. In the Senate, for example, the inordinate use of the filibuster has given minority Republicans control of the upper legislative chamber, and around the nation Republican-controlled states are taking extraordinary steps to bring an end to free and fair elections for non-Republican voters. If Americans are foolish enough to believe the Republican’s use of armed revolution to install a permanent Republican government is predicated on the right to unrestricted firearm possession, democracy is already doomed and all that is left is ceding control of the government to the Koch brothers and their fascist regime.

MORE HERE

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Think Progress Justice

By Rebecca Leber  on Aug 14, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS (an affiliate of the super PAC American Crossroads) and the Koch brothers’ Americans For Prosperity have spent more on TV ads than every super PAC combined, according to a ProPublica analysis of CMAG data. Unlike super PACs, these groups do not have to disclose donors. That has allowed a handful of unknown billionaires  — like Sheldon Adelson and the Kochs — to funnel millions into attack ads through outside groups.

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Think Progress reporter Lee Fang interviewed David Koch in a sidewalk ambush last year.

February 20, 2012 10:00 AM

Crooks and Liars  By- Susie Madrak

Boy, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, huh? What a swell family those Kochs are:

Billionaire David Koch has vowed to defend Wisconsin governor Scott Walker against the union-backed recall election underway in that state. In aninterview with the Palm Beach Post, Koch said that, “We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.”

The we in question is Koch and his equally well-off brother Charles, who together have financed much of the conservative tea party movement through their group Americans For Prosperity.

Koch also told the Post that “there will be no stopping union power” if they win the recall election versus Walker, who jammed through legislation that strips public employee unions of their power to collectively bargain.

In the interview, Koch lavishes praise on his father Fred Koch who was a founding member of the far-right John Birch Society.

Fred Koch once wrote that the “colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America” and claimed welfare was designed to create a “vicious race war.”

The John Birch Society was founded in opposition to the civil rights movement, and promoted numerous conspiracy theories of a UN-led “one world” government. The group also famously opposed fluoridation of water, which it described as a communist mind-control plot.

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Think Progress- By Josh Israel  on Feb 2, 2012 at 10:45 am

In recent years, billionaire oil magnates David and Charles Koch have bankrolled the Tea Party movement, Republican candidates, and efforts to deny the existence global warming.  But less noticed have been their series of twice-yearly strategy coordination meetings for wealthy right-wing donors.  These secret confabs have attracted Republicans like Govs. Rick Perry (R-TX) and Rick Scott (R-FL), as well as former Fox News Channel talker Glenn Beck, Supreme Court JusticesAntonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and executives from the oil, banking, and health insurance industries.

The most recent meeting attracted two newcomers: Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.  Between them, the Las Vegas casino-owner and his wife have reportedly plowed $10 million into a pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC and have donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican party committees and candidates already this cycle.

A Center for Public Integrity report suggests this may just be the beginning:

Adelson has recently indicated strong interest in backing other GOP allied groups, say fundraisers familiar with his giving. In 2010, Adelson wrote a seven figure check to Crossroads GPS, a non-profit advocacy group that doesn’t have to disclose its donors publicly which was co-founded by GOP super consultants Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie.

The story quotes unnamed fundraisers “familiar with Adelson,” the American Crossroads super PAC and the 501(c)(4) Crossroads GPS, as expecting Adelson to “pump a few million dollars more” into one of the Crossroads groups this year, to help defeat President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. They also say Adelson is also considering writing a check to the American Action Network, former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)’s non-profit, to help preserve the Republican majority in the U.S. House.

Between the Kochs and the Adelsons, voters around the country should expect to see what voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida have seen in recent weeks: a seemingly unending stream of dishonest attack ads, paid for by billionaire-funded super PACs and tax-exempt organizations.

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Let’s go back in time to this great article:

The powerful Koch boys from Kansas

Bill Berkowitz

WorkingForChange

02.09.06

Last year, in a move that does not bode well for the nation’s forests, the Koch brothers of Kansas engineered a $13.2 billion buyout of forest products producer Georgia Pacific Corporation, making their company, Koch Industries, the nation’s largest privately held company.

According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, Koch’s purchase of Georgia Pacific would vault Koch past food producer Cargill Inc. as the largest privately held company in the United States, with $80-billion in revenue and 85,000 employees in 50 countries.

The Koch Boys from Kansas are smart, focused, and incredibly wealthy. For years they’ve been pushing both a libertarian and free-market agenda through tens of millions of dollars in contributions to conservative causes, candidates and organizations.

In a way, the Georgia Pacific acquisition “completes the circle” for Koch, Scott Silver told me in an e-mail interview. “The ideologues running the land management agencies are the product of the think tanks created by, and funded by, the Koch family,” Silver, the executive director of the environmental group Wild Wilderness, pointed out.

“Those ideologues are now in a position to permit Koch’s newest acquisition, Georgia-Pacific, to further rape and pillage the public’s lands. These think tanks promote the Free-Market ideal when it serves their interests to do so, but in reality, they are firmly committed to the ideal of enriching private interests at enormous direct cost to the American taxpayer.”

The Koch (pronounced “coke”) brothers, Charles, David, William and Frederick are sons of Kansas. Thirty-eight years ago, Charles took over the company from his father, company founder Fred Koch. According to a recent piece in Business Week, Charles, 70, and David, 65, now “own the bulk of the company after elbowing out their other brothers … in 1983,” buying out William and Frederick for $470 million and $320 million, respectively. In 1998, in a chilling display of family disunity, “the two sets of brothers walked silently past one another in court as William and Frederick lost a lawsuit to extract more money from Charles and David.”

In 1940, Fred Koch founded the company as an oil refiner. A graduate of MIT, he was an original member of the anticommunist ultra-conservative John Birch Society, founded in 1958. The sons did not fall far from the tree: Both Charles and David graduated from MIT and have been deeply involved in conservative politics.

According to “Axis of Ideology,” a 2004 report by the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy, the two dominant Koch boys have “a combined net worth of approximately $4 billion, placing them among the top 50 wealthiest individuals in the country and among the top 100 wealthiest individuals in the world in 2003, according to Forbes.”

MORE HERE

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And, this article:

Koch’ed Up

2011 March 12
by Cowboy Dre

Koch Brothers Increased Wealth by $9 Billion Last Year As They Fund Laws to Make Working Class Poorer | Buzzflash

Based on a recent Forbes survey, Rachel Maddow revealed that while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is stripping away the financial security of workers, the Koch brothers increased their wealth by $9 billion last year. Together, Maddow notes, they would rank as the fourth-wealthiest person ($44 billion) in the world.

Meanwhile, the Koch brothers and Karl Rove, among others, are using front organizations to pit working people, who are being exploited, against unions. It’s the ultimate in class warfare: make the working class fight each other over an increasingly smaller piece of the financial pie, as the super wealthy run off with the bakery.

That’s why ads in Wisconsin – and stories on Fox – are trying to get Wal-Mart low-wage workers to resent that union members receive better benefits, which of course – on a logical level – reinforces to many of us exactly why unions are needed: to prevent the impoverishment of people who labor for a living.

What’s not mentioned in these ads, or the right-wing media echo chamber, is why the government is subsidizing the wealthy who don’t pay their fair share.
More…

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Copyright Permission from my friend, Stephen Pitt

Is the Shadowy World of ALEC and the Koch Brothers Leading the GOP’s Charge to Suppress the Youth Vote?

Submitted by BuzzFlash on Mon, 04/04/2011 – 11:55am.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BuzzFlash at Truthout suggests you read the well-received first column on ALEC, Smart ALEC: Dragging the Secretive Conservative Organization Out of the Shadows.”

Nearly forty years after a constitutional amendment conferring voting rights on eighteen year-olds was passed into law, and signed by President Richard Nixon, the American Legislative Exchange Council is doing all it can to make it difficult for young people to vote.

Nearly forty years after a Constitutional Amendment giving 18-21 year-olds the right to vote, Republican legislators across the country are trying to disenfranchise youth under the subterfuge of combatting “voter fraud.” However, as Christina Francisco-McGuire recently pointed out at progressivestates.org, instances of *voter fraud “are so rare that one is more likely to be struck by lightening.” Amongst the legislation being pushed in various states are photo id requirements, the abandonment of election-day registration, and the redefining of student residency requirements.

“The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization linked to corporate and right-wing donors, including the billionaire Koch Brothers, [see "Smart ALEC: Dragging the Secretive Conservative Organization Out of the Shadows" -- http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/12551] has drafted and distributed model legislation, obtained by Campus Progress, that appears to be the inspiration for bills proposed by state legislators this year and promoted by Tea Party activists, bills that would limit access of young people to vote,” Tobin Van Ostern reported in Campus Progress in early March (“Conservative Corporate Advocacy Group ALEC Behind Voter Disenfranchisement Efforts” –http://campusprogress.org/articles/conservative_corporate_advocacy_group_alec_behind_voter_disenfranchise).

Van Ostern wrote: “According to research by the Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) and Campus Progress, in the past six years, seven states have enacted laws that disenfranchise students or make it more difficult for them to vote. This year, 18 additional states are considering similar laws, while other states are proposing voter ID laws that would depress turnout among other groups of voters — particularly those who traditionally lean left.

“These requirements run the gamut from requiring in-state driver’s licenses, to banning school IDs, to prohibiting first-time voters – essentially every college-aged voter – from voting by absentee ballot. All together, these barriers create new logistical and financial barriers for many people attempting to vote.”

Van Ostern’s investigation found that “Many of the state proposals appear to stem from model legislation known as the Voter ID Act (also known as Photo ID) that was developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

MORE HERE

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