The Love Of Money

The Guardian recently had an article with the headline “How the Koch Brothers Built the Most Powerful Right-Wing Group You’ve Never Heard Of.”

Actually, most regular readers of this blog–at least those who comment–have heard of Americans for Prosperity, and understand what it is intended to do. But with midterms rapidly approaching, it may be useful to revisit what we know about the organization.

The article began by recapping Scott Walker’s attacks on Wisconsin’s public-sector unions.

At first blush this might seem like a years-old local issue in a US state that rarely lights up the international headlines. Yet events in Wisconsin are crucial to understanding how a little-known, billionaire-funded organization, called Americans for Prosperity (AFP), has tilted American politics to the right. It is intertwined with, and rivals in size, the Republican party itself.

Where did Walker’s ultra-conservative labor agenda come from? As a candidate, Walker barely mentioned collective bargaining or union busting. And we know this plan did not come from voters. Before the legislation popped up on the agenda, Wisconsinites generally supported collective bargaining. Nationally, only about 40% of American adults favor curbs to public sector bargaining rights, and in Wisconsin, this minority level of support was about the same.

The article in the Guardian was the product of a group of Columbia and Harvard-based researchers who spent five years investigating precisely how the Koch brothers have used Americans for Prosperity to influence US politics, and especially how they have managed to destroy unions. (The Koch’s desire to make lasting changes to the American political system requires permanently weakening organizations supportive of liberal candidates and causes – especially the labor movement.)

That war on unions, waged by politicians like Walker who are beholden to the brothers, has largely succeeded.

Since the passage of the anti-union bill, public union membership rates in Wisconsin have plummeted by more than half, falling from around 50% in 2011 to around 19% by 2017. With fewer members and revenue, the political clout of the labor unions has fallen sharply. Campaign contributions by teachers’ unions to state and local races have fallen by nearly 70%.

In presidential elections, Democrats lose around three percentage points after the passage of anti-union legislation, and turnout dips by around two points. So while there are many factors that might explain Donald Trump’s surprise win in Wisconsin in 2016 by a mere 23,000 votes, a weaker labor movement less able to turn out Democratic voters might have been one important contributor to Trump’s victory.

As the article points out, wealthy people have always thrown their weight around to influence elections and policy. What is new, and painfully effective (especially at the state level) is the rise of organized big donor collectives through which hundreds of billionaires and millionaires invest in organization-building intended to change the electoral landscape.

Organized political mega-donors can get much more leverage through persistent organizations than from scattered, one-time contributions to particular politicians.

The Kochs are fantastically wealthy and their generous funding of Americans for Prosperity has allowed them to influence policy in ways that have increased that wealth. It has been a very good investment for them.

The article is lengthy, but well worth reading in its entirety. I do think the following paragraphs sum up the threat Americans for Prosperity poses to working-class Americans and to democracy itself:

The Koch brothers have created a vehicle that is perfectly positioned to reshape American politics. AFP focuses on both elections and policy battles at all levels of government, from city councils to Congress and the White House. Although its activities are mostly centrally directed from its headquarters in Virginia, AFP has active local, state and regional offices that reflect the federated nature of US politics. And even though grassroots participants do not have much say in the direction of the group, AFP has nearly 3 million citizen activists signed up to mobilize for candidates and policy causes. Activists participate in rallies or protests and contact elected officials at the direction of more than 500 paid staffers nationwide.

Taken together, AFP’s grassroots volunteers and staffing rival those of the Republican party itself. However, AFP is not a free-standing political party – but instead is an extra-party organization that parallels and leverages Republican candidates and office-holders. By providing resources to support GOP candidates and officials, and exerting leverage on them once elected, AFP has been able to pull the Republican party to the far right on economic, tax and regulatory issues.

The Koch network has retarded the implementation of the Affordable Care Act–especially the expansion of Medicaid in states like Missouri and Tennessee. It has succeeded in rolling back state efforts to address climate change in Kansas and West Virginia, and of course, it has succeeded in passing state and federal tax cuts that have primarily benefitted wealthy individuals and companies.

The love of money evidently leaves no room for consideration of the public good.


  1. “The Kochs are fantastically wealthy and their generous funding of Americans for Prosperity has allowed them to influence policy in ways that have increased that wealth. It has been a very good investment for them.”

    I wish I could remember which multi-millionaire American man made the statement, “A steak can only taste so good and a bed can only be so comfortable.” That says my view of having money means; what use do you put it to? Those who donate to charity for humanitarian reasons often have much less money than those who donate carefully selected recipients which provide a tax write-off. I have only seen or read of three American men with multi-multi-millions in their many accounts who have stated publicly that they are NOT paying enough taxes. Those men are President Barack Obama, Warren Buffett and Stephen King.

    I believe it says somewhere in the Bible, “Love of money is the root of all evil.” This must be a Chapter and Verse the current Trump administration missed; not surprised at any of them but Pastor Pence should be familiar with this one.


  2. You failed to mention Indiana’s love of the Koch brothers. AFP is just one vehicle – the Koch’s have many vehicles at their disposal. Who do you think we’re building multi-million dollar ports along the Ohio River for? 😉

    Does everybody remember when Mitch Daniels dropped the Right to Work bomb on Hoosier employees? Mitch wasn’t a complete Koch puppet until that action when he handed over the baton to the Nazis in their party.

    Indiana Policy Review is also funded by the Koch’s which connects university shills with the business world and provides local newspapers with droves of commentary. Since the media has been gutted by Gannett, they get free credentialed shills to supplement their right wing free market lunacy. And in our case, the local billionaires add their stamp of approval by adding their designation to the shills. The Ball State Board of Trustees approve. 😉

    And of course, many of the illiterates speak up in defense of the Koch’s because of “SOROS”. They simply have no clue which would explain why the German people followed Hitler. If you read his book, Hitler didn’t think highly of the people either. He knew propaganda was his weapon and it would be used well against the people.

    It works well on U.S. citizens as well. The Koch’s have been using it en masse. Their propaganda is very convincing to the anti-government crowd. It’s also why they dropped the Tea Party name once it became a liability.

    The Boomer Generation was easy prey, but the young minds were elusive. This is why they started funding universities across the country (150+) like Ball State in Muncie. Think Mike Hicks in all of the Gannett owned properties. Up until recently, it was the Koch/Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurs. All right wing free market ideology. Think Indiana State legislators.

    Sadly, our population is so easily persuaded (gullible), the Koch’s don’t have to spend as much on political ads, but guess why the media keeps their mouth shut about exposing these guys and their networks?

    Ad BUYS.

    The IndyStar could completely take down the Koch network in Indiana, but they won’t. I’ve tried numerous times to get the “investigative news” crews from Indianapolis to take on BSU over the school district heist, but not one of them were interested. They’re great if you have a local slumlord taking advantage of granny, but old rich white Oligarchs stealing our democracy means nothing to our “free press”.

  3. Todd; have you read the by-lines on every article in the INDIANAPOLIS Star? All are listed by name as Indianapolis Star, USA TODAY NETWORK, all capital letters is the actual listing. The mini-version of USA Today we receive daily since Gannett, Inc., purchased that publicans is to provide us with national and international information but is sadly lacking…probably to urge us to subscribe to the “real thing” and make more money for Gannett. Local information is in Section A, also sadly lacking in both quantity and quality, so the BSU “school district heist” would be local. Try contacting USA Today for a response rather than the Indianapolis Star which no longer has any responsibility to provide news at any level. It appears that their print factory, now located in Circle Centre Mall downtown, has the primary responsibility to remain the Mall anchor as other businesses gradually move out due to failing business.


  4. I’ve save this, written by Robert Greenwald and Jesse Lava
    READ THE LAST # 10… it’s so telling! I’m sure the $ numbers of their worth, have increased since this writing too!
    1. Koch Industries, which the brothers own, is one of the top ten polluters in the United States — which perhaps explains why the Kochs have given $60 million to climate denial groups between 1997 and 2010.
    2. The Kochs are the oil and gas industry’s biggest donors to the congressional committee with oversight of the hazardous Keystone XL oil pipeline. They and their employees gave more than $300,000 to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2010 alone.
    3. From 1998-2008, Koch-controlled foundations gave more than $196 million to organizations that favor polices that would financially enrich the two brothers. In addition, Koch Industries spent $50 million on lobbying and some $8 million in PAC contributions.
    4. The Koch fortune has its origins in engineering contracts with Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union.
    5. The Kochs are suing to take over the Cato Institute, which has accused the Kochs of attempting to destroy the group’s identity as an independent, libertarian think and align it more closely with a partisan agenda.
    6. A Huffington Post source who was at a three-day retreat of conservative billionaires said the Koch brothers pledged to donate $60 million to defeat President Obama in 2012 and produce pledges of $40 million more from others at the retreat.
    7. Since 2000, the Kochs have collected almost $100 million in government contracts,mostly from the Department of Defense.
    8. Koch Industries has an annual production capacity of 2.2 billion pounds of the carcinogen formaldehyde. The company has worked to keep it from being classified as a carcinogen even though David Koch is a prostate cancer survivor.
    9. The Koch brothers’ combined fortune of roughly $80 billion is exceeded only by that of Bill Gates in the United States.
    10. The Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs accused Koch Oil of scheming to steal $31 million of crude oil from Native Americans. Although the company claimed it was accidental, a former executive in this operation said Charles Koch had known about it and had responded to the overages by saying, “I want my fair share, and that’s all of it.”
    That last quote — “I want my fair share, and that’s all of it” — encapsulates the unbridled greed driving the Kochs’ political activism and business dealings. Democracy cannot thrive with so much power being in the hands of men like this. If we care about democracy, we have to work to take it back.

  5. I have asked this question before: How much is enough? The Kochs have more money than they can spend for several generations, but still want more. Every time you walk into a store, you are surrounded by Koch products. I do my best to limit the number of their products I buy, but I can’t escape them completely.

    By the way, Indiana is a perfectly fertile ground for the Kochs, as their daddy worked with the candy maker Welch to start the John Birch Society right there in good old Indy. You could say we got in on the ground floor of the anti-people campaign.

    Change things!


  6. One thing that annoys me is the failure of many to distinguish the radical philosophy of the Koch brothers and others with “conservatism”.

    They seek to assert private property rights as the highest value, insulate them from the reach of government, and take back what was long public (schools, prisons, western lands and much more). Their philosophy sees government as theft and redistribution of the wealth of the capitalist class. It seeks to go well beyond “limiting” government to rolling back its programs. When theses efforts are thwarted it seeks to at least sow chaos and division within the political arena paralyzing government.

    It relies intentionally on stealth because the majority would never support the premise of the political philosophy and it is not in their economic interest to do so. It also focuses on “changing the rules” because it can never gain permanent democratic support as reflected in political parties and politicians who rely on voters’ support to gain and maintain power.

    This is clearly not conservatism.

    Sourced from Nancy MacLean

  7. There are conspiracies and there is accidental confluence of major forces. I believe that the Koch Bros became as successful mining the country with their make more money regardless of the impact on others influence because they happened to need that when other wealthy people created our absolutely pervasive entertainment network and Rush Limbaugh then Fox News became available as brain washing tools. The Koch Bros financial need to kill science which was in their way of making more money with their revelation of the unaffordable effects of fuel waste on the climate when the means became available, buying Republican votes through entertainment media, to support anti science AGW denial. The political influence that they had at their disposal then created the host of Republican parasites now living off that largess including Trump, their proudest achievement.

    Can they still be defeated? Can democracy be saved? Still unknown. November 6 will provide a major update on the answers to those questions.

  8. So many union workers are upset with right to work laws. Especially because they went beyond the public sector which they used to get the public to pass them. Many new employees are getting representation without paying dues.
    What’s hurting the average person is healthcare. Huge deductibles are hitting public employees. Unions are fighting to hang on to what they have now which is really worse than 10 years ago. Teachers are losing their shirts and they after a few years leave the profession.
    It’s safety nets vs socialism in politics, what does the average person want. It’s not the Koch’s view nor what Soros wants. So many union workers are being squeezed by Koch’s influence and lost great healthcare plans to the adverse laws to raise taxes to pay for the ACA.
    Everytime public policy get changed people need to adapt to policy changes slowly overtime. The ACA has turned many people inside the unions to becoming no voters or independents.
    The Koch’s are certainly out to turn the public against unions and union voters need to hear this about the Koch’s to get back into the voting booth.

  9. Back during the days of the Roman Republic it was learned by the Oligarchs of that era, might made right in the form of the Army. Julius Caesar was one of these Oligarchs, with an army behind him. The Praetorian Guard (Emperor’s personal body guard) and the Army realized this fatal weakness. Emperor’s were assassinated, and civil wars were fought as these factions sacrificed the Empire for their own personal greed.

    Today, we do not have armed soldiers determining who leads the USA. The Oligarchs now control politics through their own personal wealth via campaign contributions and lobbyists. A binary two party system, electoral college, gerrymandering, voter suppression and triangulation allows the system to be exploited.

    The Russians have been in some quarters identified as source of electoral interference in our elections.
    Any possible Russian interference pales in comparison to the control exerted by our own 1% over We the Proles. The McMega-Media here in the USA ignores this corruption. All the money spent by PACs, and SuperPacs on campaign ads is a profit center for them. The McMega-Media has no reason to point out the obvious that we have a corrupt system, because they profit from it.

    The Steroid Capitalism we have here in the USA demands that anything that interferes with profits must be eliminated, ignored or neutered.

  10. Today’s deeply disturbing blog reflects the information published by Naomi Klein (“Shock Doctrine”) and Jane Mayer (“Dark Money”) that point out in great detail the history and mechanism of the Koch family and their drive to destroy democracy. Sheila cited my latest book, “Why Angels Weep: America and Donald Trump”, wherein chapter 14 includes the infamous letter by Lewis Powell to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce calling for corporate/banking America to literally purchase all aspects of American government. He wrote that in 1971 when there were fewer than 2,000 lobbyists in Washington. Today, there are over 40,000.

    The Tea Party gave the Kochs the perfect vehicle to promote their horrific agenda that attacks labor and all public services. Add to that the embracing of supply-side economics (Milton Friedman) by the Reagan administration and we have the perfect storm for fulfilling Marx’s predictions of how capitalism will fail. The thing is, the Koch brothers WANT capitalism to fail. They see it as their opportunity to lead the oligarch class to rule the land and create the latter-day Lords v. Serfs environment that so tickles their pathetic egos.

    We the people have only one recourse, short of outright revolution: VOTING. Why labor needs to have leadership to get them to the polls is beyond understanding. These capitalist bastards are dedicated to destroy labor’s lives as well as the middle class. It’s the capitalist disease that drives this train.

    As John D. Rockefeller and J. Paul Getty have said, when asked how much wealth is enough, replied, “Just a little more.” It’s not that complicated. AFP is akin to the Nazi party in its insidiousness to destroy peoples’ lives and livelihoods.

  11. The underlying but relatively unspoken fact is that the Kochs are neither conservatives nor Republicans but rather libertarians who bring us nihilism in government, and why not, since government, like unions and progressives, represents an obstacle to the accumulation of wealth, whatever the expense to the rest of us and the common good? The Kochs, Mercers and their libertarian ilk are presently running the government with their captive Republican Party running interference with their union-busting, no-tax, no regulation, trickledown nonsense which, I hope, will invite a political backlash that even trillions of propaganda dollars cannot derail in the upcoming election when a blue tsunami overwhelms Goebbels-speak and reform such as reinstatement of an even stronger Dodd-Frank, a stronger Sherman Antitrust Act, stronger Wagner Act, drastic changes in the bankruptcy act and internal revenue code, single payer, an end to Taft-Hartley, and a laundry list of other progressive acts finally arrives to foil the libertarian money mongers and reinvigorate our now teetering economy and democracy.

    Pipedream? Can’t be done? Wrong. It already has been done. Consider the lead up to 1929 (where we are now) and what happened when FDR assumed the helm. It can be done, demonstrably, so let’s do it, starting in earnest on November 6, 2018.

  12. I remember well the ads for Scott Walker against his opponent a few years back (neighboring state and all); It featured the voice of Morgan Freeman talking about how Scott Walker was going to take down the Unions… because of their ‘corruption’ and crime elements… uh ya right! I have family that is IBEW, .. And I at one time was an Apprentice Sheetmetal worker (left to start a small print shop.) Without union schools – the training, safety and skills go out the window. That is what this operation wants – like I keep saying: trump wants to destroy this country – he told you that, maybe it is that I hear it differently – but his works are sure proving me right!

  13. I heard that DJT is going to issue an Executive Order to blame Democrats and abolish hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. The DJIA is expected to do something and voter rolls are being purged.

  14. I used to tell students that, given a choice between money and power, I would take power every time. To achieve just causes that is. A accumulation of huge wealth is a.mental illness based on deep seated fear, an anxiety and incurable obsession.

  15. “We have enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.” — unknown wise person

  16. Thanks to Heidi Jo Beans for the Charles Koch quote she found: “I want my fair share, and that’s all of it.” It’s been quite clear for some time that the neo-feudalists, excuse me, conservatives, actively deny the very existence of any such thing as a public good. Because if any such thing existed it would interfere with their goal, which has always been nothing more than to funnel all the money upward.

    The younger Koch brother David, now 78 (forced out of the family business this past summer, or retired – take your pick), ran as a Libertarian in 1980. His platform was basically to eliminate all constraints on private activity. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Check out their objectives then then and compare it to the policy prescriptions of AFP. A partial list is available on Bernie Sanders’ site (N.B. – Bernie is too kind when he says “The agenda of the Koch brothers is to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years”. In fact, it would have undone not only the 20th century, but the 19th century [abolish public education!], and even the 18th century [abolish the USPS!])

    The endpoint of the libertarian “paradise” envisioned by the Kochs et. al. is exactly feudalism.

  17. A couple of days ago, Amazon announced it had purchased property in Johnson County for a facility that would employ about 1200 persons, making a minimum of $14.00 per hour. Last evening, on a local TV news show, some representative of the local business community there was whining about how terrible this would be because Amazon would lure away workers who were making much less. How terrible this will be when people can make decent wages and actually have something close to a choice for a decent-paying job with benefits instead of being forced to work for low-wage, no-benefit jobs with no future. Look for Amazon to have all sorts of problems getting its business up and running.

    All of the local news outlets are part of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, which has members who support the Koch Brothers agenda. That’s why there is no real journalism in this community, why no newspaper ever investigates whether our tax dollars are wisely spent. This is also why every local news outlet provides free publicity for those events the GIPC members support, but not for others. Even the weather report is in on the deal: they put the logos of the sports teams under the high-low readings, reminding viewers that there will be a Colts, Pacers, Indians, etc game on that day, and so forth. Another GIPC agenda: police and firefighters are heroes. Never mind that IMPD shot Aaron Bailey 11 times, in the back, while he was running away, because the poor cops who killed him feared for their lives. Once you understand the agenda of the GIPC, you’ll stop watching local news and reading the Indy Star, too.

  18. Once upon a time, the awkward nuptials between capitalism and democracy went forward without objection and neither a divorce nor a trial separation is any longer possible. There is nothing in capitalist philosophy that suggests that any portion of a nation’s wealth should be shared with people who are not captains of industry. That’s why the Kochs have such unconditional love for a system that demands so little and gives so much. That’s why they can conduct themselves like predators, comfortable that democracy’s “rule of law” will protect them. After all, isn’t that the beauty of having enough money to buy the laws you want?

  19. One other thing: like the Koch brothers’ consortium, the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee operates under the radar, accomplishing their goals by stealth.

  20. Another empty promise but the followers of President Agent Orange and his angry gang of Trumpter’s will cheer him on.

    What’s Happened to the Big Wage Increases Promised by Republicans?
    The real wages (that is, wages adjusted for inflation) of average American workers are declining.

    But, in reality, nothing like that has materialized. Instead, as the U.S. Labor Department reported, between the second quarter of 2017 and the second quarter of 2018, the real wages of American workers actually declined. Indeed, the second quarter of 2018 was the third straight quarter―all during the Trump administration―when inflation outpaced wage growth.

    Why did the Republican promises go unfulfilled? A key reason for stagnating wages lies in the fact that U.S. corporations used their windfall derived from the slashing of the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent under the 2017 GOP tax legislation to engage in stock buybacks (thereby raising their stock prices) and to increase dividends to share-holders.

    So let’s stop saying that Republican rule in the United States―from the White House, to the Congress, to the Supreme Court, and to the states―has been dysfunctional. It’s been very functional―not for American workers, of course, but certainly for those people Bernie Sanders has referred to as “the billionaire class.”

  21. As Gerald and Warren have pointed out, the Koch brothers are Libertarians, but Libertarians of the religious/philosophical, Ayn Randian persuasion — a justification for pure, unrestrained greed.
    The Libertarians of this brand remind me of my old political science professor’s definition of Calvinism – you must give total deference to The Elect, who can be recognized because they are rich and powerful. He was a former Calvinist minister, who according to him, one day realized he didn’t believe what he was preaching, returned to university for his PhD, and became a communist.

    Whether true belief or mere justification, they have an iron-clad “proof” that their unbridled greed is correct. Just read Ayn Rand’s novels.

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