Nel's New Day

June 17, 2014

Koch Brothers’ Secret Enclave Gathers Rightwing Extremists

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:17 PM
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What did you have to eat for dinner last night? I had a ham sandwich, some potato salad (thanks to leftovers from a potluck on Saturday), and an apple? And I felt lucky because I didn’t go to bed hungry like millions of people in the United States did.

Meanwhile several influential Congressional GOP members were recovering from a luxurious meal that included “oven roasted Angus natural filet mignon served in a fresh green peppercorn sauce served with braised fennel with truffle, asparagus tips, vegetable and mint quinoa.”  The setting for this meal was La Casa Pacifica, Richard Nixon’s former home now owned by Gavin Herbert, the founder of the pharmaceutical company Allergan. He is also a major funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council which provides GOP state and federal legislators with model legislation to break unions, repeal environmental protections, require voter ID, and increase gun access to guns to be used for “stand your ground.”

All this made possible by a member of the top 0.1 percent, the Koch brothers who hosted billionaires and wooed Republicans at St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort (Dana Point, CA), which the Koch brothers rented for $870,000 for the weekend. Some of those Republicans attending the secret conference, “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society,” included Reps. Tom Cotton (AR), Cory Gardner (CO), and Jim Jordan (OH) as well as Sens. Mitch McConnell (KY)—fresh from refusing people to refinance student loans—and Marco Rubio (FL).

The agenda included campaign finance, climate change, healthcare, higher education, and—of course—taking control of the Senate.

A goal of the conference was to raise at least $500 million from the potentially 300 billionaires to take over the Senate and “to make sure Hillary Clinton is never president.” They may have come up a bit short because the U.S. has only 492 billionaires.

Participants: 

McConnell spoke to the entire group on defending First-Amendment rights, presumably about keeping big money in politics.

Nancy Pftotenhauer, former director of the Washington office of Koch Industries, was a panelist on “Energy: Changing the Narrative.” That message was no doubt de-regulation to benefit the Koch brothers’ massive interests in oil, natural gas, and oil.

Amity Shlaes was interviewed about her recent biography on Calvin Coolidge, the president whose “inaction reflects strength” and is “our great refrainer,” according to Schlaes.

Charles Murray, libertarian author of the The Bell Curve, gave dinner remarks. His book, defended by Rep. Paul Ryan, advances the theory of racial differences in intelligence.

 Michael Lomax, strong promoter of the myth that charter schools are better than other schools perhaps because he profits from them led the first part of “The Foundation for Progress” called “Drive the National Conversation.” The Kochs recently gave him $25 million to create a program emphasizing free markets. Other sessions included “Leverage Science and the Universities” and “Advance in the States.”

Jeff Crank, formerly CEO of Americans for Prosperity and now head of a for-profit group recruiting candidates “principled on economic freedom issues,” interviewed  Cotton and Gardner in a session called “The Senate: A Window of Policy Opportunity for Principled Leaders.”

Senator Rubio was scheduled for a small group discussion on what was called internally “The Immigrant Experience” to finish the conference. Some interesting entries in it include “Texas: Sustaining a Culture of Freedom in the Lone Star State” and “Well-Being: What It Is and Why It’s Important.”

Dale Gibbens and Philip Ellender, Koch Industries employees, were to hold a special invitation-only, small group strategy discussion called “Employee Outreach: Engaging Your Workforce in the Cause of Freedom.” Almost two years ago, just before the November 2012 election, the Koch brothers sent letters to 50,000 employees telling them who they should vote for, evidently under the guise of Citizens United free speech rights for corporations. The result from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling is that companies can legally intimidate employees about their votes. Part of the material sent to employees included Charles Koch’s rating of presidents: Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge were at the top.

Coordinated by the Kochs’ financing arm, the conference was listed as “T & R Annual Sales Conference.”  The Koch brothers bought out the hotel, its restaurants, and access to its golf course from Saturday through noon today. Owners of adjacent residents who normally had access to the hotel were denied this availability with the excuse that it had been bought by a group of Obama supporters. President Obama gave a commencement speech at nearby UC Irvine on Saturday. Tight security demanded a no-cell phone policy.

St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort

The offices of Reps. Tom Cotton, Cory Gardner and Jim Jordan; Sens. Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio; and Michael Lomax did not respond to requests to The Nation for comment.

One announcement that came out of this conference is the formation of a new Koch Super PAC. The Freedom Partners Action Fund, designed to spend a mere $15 million, will give money directly to candidates instead of spending on issue ads. President of the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce Marc Short explained:

“The Freedom Partners Action Fund will support candidates who share our vision of free markets and a free society and oppose candidates who support intrusive government policies that push the American Dream out of reach for the American people.”

statue of libertyThe kick-off of the new funding group used huge heart-rending posters throughout the hotel of what appears to be an immigrant family of three from the back as they stare at the Statue of Liberty. The boy is pointing at it. The poster used the name for the conference, “American Courage, Our commitment to a free society.”

A different twist to this PAC is that it will have to disclose its donors to the Federal Election Commission. Names can still be sheltered, however, if donors give money through LLCs registered in states like Delaware which permit corporate officers to remain secret. Last year, the parent organization raised $250 million for issues ads.

Favored folk of former years were apparently missing. Last year Rep. Paul Ryan (WI), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA), and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez spoke last year to the gathering outside Albuquerque. American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks gave a speech last year on work as a source of happiness. Past attendees include Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas; media stars Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the late Andrew Breitbart; Govs. Chris Christie (NJ), Bob McDonnell (VA), and Rick Perry (TX); and Sens. John Cornyn (TX) and Jim DeMint (SC), now head The Heritage Foundation. Other attendees have been Sens. Ted Cruz (TX) and Rand Paul (KY) and Govs. Nikki Haley (SC) and John Kasich (OH). It’s almost like reading a list of has-beens.

In its march toward gathering $290 million for the 2014 elections, the Koch brothers had a January conference as well as smaller groups in places such as Palm Springs, Newport Beach, and St. Louis. They also have regular conference calls, sometimes including congressional members, to update donors and keep them donating. Recipients of the funds are politically active nonprofits such as Americans for Prosperity and Libre Initiative aimed toward Hispanics.

Now they’re fighting back against the $100-million climate change campaign led by progressive hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer. In their home state of Kansas, the Koch brothers have failed to roll back the state’s new standards requiring 20 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable by 2020. Even the fear campaign that they ran with seniors in Kansas didn’t succeed. When the Koch brothers refused to debate Steyer about regulations to curb human-created pollution, Koch spokesperson Melissa Cohlmia explained “we are not experts on climate change.”

Secrecy, money, and hypocrisy—those were the themes of the conference.

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