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Brad Woodhouse Headshot

Dark Money Fueling a Dark Agenda

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Nearly half of Americans are now familiar with the infamous conservative donors the Koch brothers. Their trail of dark money funds a broad and complex political network that has one goal in mind: driving a conservative agenda that enriches the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle and working class.

This agenda is nothing new. Charles and David Koch's political activism and their attacks on programs that support and bolster the middle class date back to a failed 1980 vice presidential run by David Koch on the Libertarian ticket, running to the right of conservatives' now revered icon Ronald Reagan. The brothers' policy agenda -- attacking Social Security, Medicare and the minimum wage, and protecting corporate tax breaks -- has barely changed since. Its newest addition: efforts to take America back to the days of insurance companies making decisions about patient care.

Americans for Prosperity, the centerpiece of the Koch machine, spent $122 million in 2012, as detailed in Bridge Project's recent report on "Conservative Transparency," including a whopping $33.5 million on their failed effort to defeat President Obama. This cycle, AFP has already spent more than $30 million in states with competitive Senate races. As the Kochs work to advance their self-serving agenda, voters should keep a keen eye on the true motives behind their attacks.

Attacking Social Security, Medicare, & the Minimum Wage

When David Koch ran for vice president in 1980 on a ticket with Libertarian candidate Ed Clark, Koch funneled two million dollars of his own into the campaign, which had a platform attacking Social Security. More recently, the Kochs have supported privatization -- an effort to dismantle the program and turn what's left over to Wall Street. The Koch-aligned and funded Cato Institute supports Social Security "reform" through privatization, which George W. Bush proposed in 2005 and which also has the support of AFP. Nowadays, the Kochs support policies that would change Medicare so dramatically it would end the program as we know it. In addition to attacks on Social Security, this same 1980 Koch campaign also called for abolishing the minimum wage, and their current network of organizations actively works to oppose increases in it. In North Carolina, for example, the Koch network helped Republicans win control of both the governor's mansion and the statehouse -- leading to a minimum wage bill trapped in committee, and a Republican state house speaker running for U.S. Senate who has said he would consider eliminating the minimum wage entirely.

Ruthlessly Exporting American Jobs

The Cato Institute's Koch-funded policy agenda also supports protecting tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas, with which the Kochs have firsthand experience. In 2010, a Koch-owned company was cited as one of the most ruthless exporters of American manufacturing jobs to foreign countries. Another key Koch Industries subsidiary received an award for shipping American jobs to China. The Kochs also fund other organizations that support its mission of corporate tax breaks for job-outsourcers. One such organization that receives Koch funding, the Tax Foundation, has defended tax breaks that encouraged shipping jobs overseas. Americans for Tax Reform, which also receives Koch funding and is well known for its candidate pledge opposing "any and all tax increases," has attempted to deny that companies receive tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas.

The bad old days of health care

This year, the agenda behind Koch-funded AFP attacks is clear: they want to take us back to the bad days of health care when insurance companies made decisions about patient care. That the ads run by AFP on the Affordable Care Act have been repeatedly found to be false, made up out of whole cloth or highly misleading, matters not a whit to the Koch brothers, who continue to double-down on these false and misleading claims with even more dark money for additional attacks.

For over thirty years, the Koch agenda has remained strikingly consistent: dismantle vital government programs, protect corporate tax breaks, and rig the system for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. At the end of the day, the Kochs care more about destroying government than they do winning any individual Senate seat. It's at the heart of their recent, relentless attacks on health care reform. In this critical election year, voters must remember what these Koch-fueled efforts are intended to do: enrich the wealthy Koch brothers by creating a plutocracy that only looks out for their own interests.