Why we’re “Uncloaking the Kochs.”

I’ve never met Charles and David Koch, or most of the other business executives and political activists who’ll be socializing and strategizing about our country’s future with them this weekend in Palm Springs. But I’ve read enough to know that they’re hardworking entrepreneurs, with firm convictions and a determination to advance them.

That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with making a lot of money or spending some of it on political activism. Nor is there anything wrong with the Kochs inviting people who share their ideas, or any other ideas for that matter, to get together for an exchange of views.

What’s troubling to me, what’s led Common Cause and other groups to call public attention to the Koch conclave and convene an alternative forum near theirs this weekend, is the Koch’s use of their considerable resources to advance public policies that will enhance their bottom line and endanger the rest of us and our country.

Thanks to some good journalism, particularly on the ThinkProgress website and in the New Yorker magazine, we know that the Kochs and many of those joining them have invested millions of dollars in groups like the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.

Through those groups and others, the Kochs and their network seek to eliminate laws that give us breathable air and drinkable water but which have cost the Kochs millions of dollars in fines. They work to discredit the scientific consensus that pollutants from manufacturing operations maintained by Koch Industries and other firms — even with clean air laws in place – are dangerously warming our planet. And they sponsor public events aimed at defeating cap-and-trade legislation, which would make Koch Industries and other companies pay for the air pollution that they create.

Of special concern to me, as the leader of an organization formed 40 years ago to fight for government that is open, honest and accountable to every citizen, is the Koch’s effort to dismantle campaign finance laws that since the days of Theodore Roosevelt have served as a check on corporate power.

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision last year, encouraged and then embraced by the Kochs, corporations and other special interests were able to pour more than $300 million into the 2010 elections.

More than $130 million of that came from secret donors, often using front groups like the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity.

That money is an investment in our democracy, calculated to give the people providing it and their companies a voice loud enough to drown out the concerns of everyday Americans. And like investors everywhere, the people and firms behind the money want a return, perhaps here in the form of tax breaks or the repeal of some of the regulations that cut into the Koch’s profits.

At the very least, Americans need to know who those investors are and how much each has put into our political system. We need to know when some of them, like the Kochs, meet with the politicians their money helped to elect and with judges whose legal opinions made their donations legal. Otherwise, we’ll be none the wiser when the politicians all that money helped elect begin to provide the return.

A final thought. I read in some conservative journals that concerns about the Kochs and about corporate involvement in politics are driven by a desire to muzzle conservative voices. That is absolute nonsense. The Kochs and all who share their views should speak up, as long and as loudly as they care to, about public policy. But they should be required to do so openly, like the rest of us, and they should not be allowed to use their corporate economic clout to drown out other voices.

That’s why I’ll be in Rancho Mirage this weekend.

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42 Responses to “Why we’re “Uncloaking the Kochs.””

  1. The Koch brothers are a greater threat to our democracy than the threat of terrorism. If our government is allowed to be turned over to secret donors and the interests of multinational corporations, we no longer have a democracy whose interests are the people, but a plutocracy desinged to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the poor, the environment, and the rights of future generations.

  2. The Koch brothers are a greater threat to our democracy than the threat of terrorism. If our government is allowed to be turned over to secret donors and the interests of multinational corporations, we no longer have a democracy whose interests are the people, but a plutocracy desinged to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the poor, the environment, and the rights of future generations.

  3. The Koch brothers are a greater threat to our democracy than the threat of terrorism. If our government is allowed to be turned over to secret donors and the interests of multinational corporations, we no longer have a democracy whose interests are the people, but a plutocracy desinged to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the poor, the environment, and the rights of future generations.

  4. I agree that the perverted use of power by insiders blind to consequences other than their own bottom line in the short term are the greatest threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the world today. It is sad that so many otherwise sane people are deceived by the cloak of respectability of these greedy robber barons and their anti-knowledge campaigns.

  5. I agree that the perverted use of power by insiders blind to consequences other than their own bottom line in the short term are the greatest threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the world today. It is sad that so many otherwise sane people are deceived by the cloak of respectability of these greedy robber barons and their anti-knowledge campaigns.

  6. I agree that the perverted use of power by insiders blind to consequences other than their own bottom line in the short term are the greatest threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the world today. It is sad that so many otherwise sane people are deceived by the cloak of respectability of these greedy robber barons and their anti-knowledge campaigns.

  7. It is so clearly time for a change! Everyday working class people need to stand up and just say no to such monsters. I think we are on our way.

  8. It is so clearly time for a change! Everyday working class people need to stand up and just say no to such monsters. I think we are on our way.

  9. It is so clearly time for a change! Everyday working class people need to stand up and just say no to such monsters. I think we are on our way.

  10. My dear friends of CC, it is with sadness that i suggest that we already are a plutocracy, and that what appears to be the democratic process is a farcical charade. The controlling puppet threads of the largest U.S. corporations are so thoroughly interwoven into our legislative fabric, that it will require a revolution of some form for the American citizens to regain control of their government. A separation of business and state, more complete than the separation of church and state is required to achieve a public responsive government. But, we can begin by inundating our congressional representatives, and the president, with demands that business not be allowed to contribute money to candidates. And, while were at it, demand that all public subsidies of traditional business be stopped. If old businesses can not stand on their own at this point, then they should be replaced with businesses that have brighter prospects, like renewable and clean energy.

  11. My dear friends of CC, it is with sadness that i suggest that we already are a plutocracy, and that what appears to be the democratic process is a farcical charade. The controlling puppet threads of the largest U.S. corporations are so thoroughly interwoven into our legislative fabric, that it will require a revolution of some form for the American citizens to regain control of their government. A separation of business and state, more complete than the separation of church and state is required to achieve a public responsive government. But, we can begin by inundating our congressional representatives, and the president, with demands that business not be allowed to contribute money to candidates. And, while were at it, demand that all public subsidies of traditional business be stopped. If old businesses can not stand on their own at this point, then they should be replaced with businesses that have brighter prospects, like renewable and clean energy.

  12. My dear friends of CC, it is with sadness that i suggest that we already are a plutocracy, and that what appears to be the democratic process is a farcical charade. The controlling puppet threads of the largest U.S. corporations are so thoroughly interwoven into our legislative fabric, that it will require a revolution of some form for the American citizens to regain control of their government. A separation of business and state, more complete than the separation of church and state is required to achieve a public responsive government. But, we can begin by inundating our congressional representatives, and the president, with demands that business not be allowed to contribute money to candidates. And, while were at it, demand that all public subsidies of traditional business be stopped. If old businesses can not stand on their own at this point, then they should be replaced with businesses that have brighter prospects, like renewable and clean energy.

  13. VLH VLH IS AT COMMONSENSEFORCOMMONGOOD.COM

  14. VLH VLH IS AT COMMONSENSEFORCOMMONGOOD.COM

  15. VLH VLH IS AT COMMONSENSEFORCOMMONGOOD.COM

  16. To the astute comments above I would only add that Common Cause might better focus more on the corruption of a Supreme Court whose members shoot domestically raised birds to watch them die with Dick Cheney, speak before radical political groups, insult the President by not attending the State of the Union address and rule that laws limiting or even identifying corporate political contributions are a violation of constitutional free speech.

    Has it occurred to no one that the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruling of January, 2010, enables foreign powers or coalitions of them to manipulate U.S. elections? A secret $100 million here, $200 million there — peanuts really — and eventually one of their operatives is in the White House. Voila! High treason courtesy of those five wild and crazy neo-con goons seated for life on the nation’s highest court: Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Scalia and Thomas.

  17. To the astute comments above I would only add that Common Cause might better focus more on the corruption of a Supreme Court whose members shoot domestically raised birds to watch them die with Dick Cheney, speak before radical political groups, insult the President by not attending the State of the Union address and rule that laws limiting or even identifying corporate political contributions are a violation of constitutional free speech.

    Has it occurred to no one that the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruling of January, 2010, enables foreign powers or coalitions of them to manipulate U.S. elections? A secret $100 million here, $200 million there — peanuts really — and eventually one of their operatives is in the White House. Voila! High treason courtesy of those five wild and crazy neo-con goons seated for life on the nation’s highest court: Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Scalia and Thomas.

  18. To the astute comments above I would only add that Common Cause might better focus more on the corruption of a Supreme Court whose members shoot domestically raised birds to watch them die with Dick Cheney, speak before radical political groups, insult the President by not attending the State of the Union address and rule that laws limiting or even identifying corporate political contributions are a violation of constitutional free speech.

    Has it occurred to no one that the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruling of January, 2010, enables foreign powers or coalitions of them to manipulate U.S. elections? A secret $100 million here, $200 million there — peanuts really — and eventually one of their operatives is in the White House. Voila! High treason courtesy of those five wild and crazy neo-con goons seated for life on the nation’s highest court: Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Scalia and Thomas.

  19. I attended the protest – it was fabulous. We need more activism against this evil.
    I was proud that so many turned out as this Desert can be a sleepy community – but we were all fired up and ready to go yesterday.

    Great job!

  20. I attended the protest – it was fabulous. We need more activism against this evil.
    I was proud that so many turned out as this Desert can be a sleepy community – but we were all fired up and ready to go yesterday.

    Great job!

  21. I attended the protest – it was fabulous. We need more activism against this evil.
    I was proud that so many turned out as this Desert can be a sleepy community – but we were all fired up and ready to go yesterday.

    Great job!

  22. Wish I could be there with you to protest these despicable corporate demons. I’ll just have to do my protesting on social media as I am currently unemployed and broke, thanks to these despotic corp. thieves.

  23. Wish I could be there with you to protest these despicable corporate demons. I’ll just have to do my protesting on social media as I am currently unemployed and broke, thanks to these despotic corp. thieves.

  24. Wish I could be there with you to protest these despicable corporate demons. I’ll just have to do my protesting on social media as I am currently unemployed and broke, thanks to these despotic corp. thieves.

  25. I worked for the Koch brothers for more than twenty years and found them not only hardworking, intelligent entrepreneurs, but very decent, generous human beings with a great belief in individual determination and liberty. To dismiss them as “evil corporatists,” as seems to be the chant today (the mild version) is hopelessly naive.

    What’s troubling to me is that Common Cause and other groups demonize the Koch brothers for the same political activism for which George Soros is equally fond. CC disagrees with the Kochs, and you’re free to do so. But, you’d be a lot more credible if you didn’t try to split hairs and give Soros and his ilk a free pass.

    Soros, of course, has invested millions of dollars in groups like Democracy Alliance and the Center for American Progress. What Soros wants, of course, is to reorganize American society in such a way that will benefit his investments, all of which stand to gain through increased regulation. Soros made a very long bet on the foolishness and naivety of the left, and the left’s troops haven’t figured it out yet.

    And not a peep from CC about the recycling of money from public union contracts, union PAC funding to campaign contribution payoffs to keep the left’s agenda front and center. Were CC really in favor of campaign finance reform, we’d hear you talk about transparency rather than throw around “corporate power” baloney and defective legal arguments. How much money was cycled through public union contributions last Fall? More importantly, post Citizens United, will that cash flow be any less between now and 2012?

    Please don’t preach about corporate economic clout unless you’re willing to apply the same standards to union economic clout and to the Soros’ of the world who, but for the fact they happen to fund the same leftist principles you espouse, are just as corporately wealthy as the Koch brothers.

    And since you experienced Rancho Mirage last weekend, have you had a chance to publicly disavow on CC’s behalf, the eliminationist, violent rhetoric of the demonstrators?

  26. I worked for the Koch brothers for more than twenty years and found them not only hardworking, intelligent entrepreneurs, but very decent, generous human beings with a great belief in individual determination and liberty. To dismiss them as “evil corporatists,” as seems to be the chant today (the mild version) is hopelessly naive.

    What’s troubling to me is that Common Cause and other groups demonize the Koch brothers for the same political activism for which George Soros is equally fond. CC disagrees with the Kochs, and you’re free to do so. But, you’d be a lot more credible if you didn’t try to split hairs and give Soros and his ilk a free pass.

    Soros, of course, has invested millions of dollars in groups like Democracy Alliance and the Center for American Progress. What Soros wants, of course, is to reorganize American society in such a way that will benefit his investments, all of which stand to gain through increased regulation. Soros made a very long bet on the foolishness and naivety of the left, and the left’s troops haven’t figured it out yet.

    And not a peep from CC about the recycling of money from public union contracts, union PAC funding to campaign contribution payoffs to keep the left’s agenda front and center. Were CC really in favor of campaign finance reform, we’d hear you talk about transparency rather than throw around “corporate power” baloney and defective legal arguments. How much money was cycled through public union contributions last Fall? More importantly, post Citizens United, will that cash flow be any less between now and 2012?

    Please don’t preach about corporate economic clout unless you’re willing to apply the same standards to union economic clout and to the Soros’ of the world who, but for the fact they happen to fund the same leftist principles you espouse, are just as corporately wealthy as the Koch brothers.

    And since you experienced Rancho Mirage last weekend, have you had a chance to publicly disavow on CC’s behalf, the eliminationist, violent rhetoric of the demonstrators?

  27. I worked for the Koch brothers for more than twenty years and found them not only hardworking, intelligent entrepreneurs, but very decent, generous human beings with a great belief in individual determination and liberty. To dismiss them as “evil corporatists,” as seems to be the chant today (the mild version) is hopelessly naive.

    What’s troubling to me is that Common Cause and other groups demonize the Koch brothers for the same political activism for which George Soros is equally fond. CC disagrees with the Kochs, and you’re free to do so. But, you’d be a lot more credible if you didn’t try to split hairs and give Soros and his ilk a free pass.

    Soros, of course, has invested millions of dollars in groups like Democracy Alliance and the Center for American Progress. What Soros wants, of course, is to reorganize American society in such a way that will benefit his investments, all of which stand to gain through increased regulation. Soros made a very long bet on the foolishness and naivety of the left, and the left’s troops haven’t figured it out yet.

    And not a peep from CC about the recycling of money from public union contracts, union PAC funding to campaign contribution payoffs to keep the left’s agenda front and center. Were CC really in favor of campaign finance reform, we’d hear you talk about transparency rather than throw around “corporate power” baloney and defective legal arguments. How much money was cycled through public union contributions last Fall? More importantly, post Citizens United, will that cash flow be any less between now and 2012?

    Please don’t preach about corporate economic clout unless you’re willing to apply the same standards to union economic clout and to the Soros’ of the world who, but for the fact they happen to fund the same leftist principles you espouse, are just as corporately wealthy as the Koch brothers.

    And since you experienced Rancho Mirage last weekend, have you had a chance to publicly disavow on CC’s behalf, the eliminationist, violent rhetoric of the demonstrators?

  28. I’d like to see a piece on George Soros and his Open Society donations, his think tank, his causes, his progressive activist blog sites, i.e. Huffington Post, Media Matters, etc., but I suspect this isn’t the forum for real insight into all sides.

  29. I’d like to see a piece on George Soros and his Open Society donations, his think tank, his causes, his progressive activist blog sites, i.e. Huffington Post, Media Matters, etc., but I suspect this isn’t the forum for real insight into all sides.

  30. I’d like to see a piece on George Soros and his Open Society donations, his think tank, his causes, his progressive activist blog sites, i.e. Huffington Post, Media Matters, etc., but I suspect this isn’t the forum for real insight into all sides.

  31. Mr. Pitcher.

    Let’s follow the money.

    Prove it. Prove you worked for the Koch’s.

    In what capacity?

    Put your mouth where you money is!!!!

  32. Mr. Pitcher.

    Let’s follow the money.

    Prove it. Prove you worked for the Koch’s.

    In what capacity?

    Put your mouth where you money is!!!!

  33. Mr. Pitcher.

    Let’s follow the money.

    Prove it. Prove you worked for the Koch’s.

    In what capacity?

    Put your mouth where you money is!!!!

  34. dusty, calm down. This took about 1/2 second to find.

    http://www.linkedin.com/pub/bill-pitcher/2/9a2/a3a

    Bill PitcherVP, General Counsel & Corp. Sec., Buckman Laboratories International

    Greater Memphis Area
    Contact Bill Pitcher
    Add Bill Pitcher to your network
    .Current•VP, General Counsel & Secretary at Buckman Laboratories International
    Past•Director, GC & Chief Compliance Officer at Entergy-Koch Ltd, London, UK
    •VP & Gen. Counsel for Koch Energy in Houston at Koch Industries
    •Assistant General Counsel at Koch Industries
    Education•University of Kansas School of Law
    Connections 154 connections IndustryChemicals
    ——————————————————————————–

    Bill Pitcher’s Summary
    Member, Tennessee, Texas, Colorado and Kansas bars, Energy Bar Association, Society for Corporate Governance Professionals, American Corporate Counsel, Society of California Pioneers

    Bill Pitcher’s Specialties:
    Mergers and acquisitions, worldwide commercial and financing transactions, government liason and corporate governance and compliance

  35. dusty, calm down. This took about 1/2 second to find.

    http://www.linkedin.com/pub/bill-pitcher/2/9a2/a3a

    Bill PitcherVP, General Counsel & Corp. Sec., Buckman Laboratories International

    Greater Memphis Area
    Contact Bill Pitcher
    Add Bill Pitcher to your network
    .Current•VP, General Counsel & Secretary at Buckman Laboratories International
    Past•Director, GC & Chief Compliance Officer at Entergy-Koch Ltd, London, UK
    •VP & Gen. Counsel for Koch Energy in Houston at Koch Industries
    •Assistant General Counsel at Koch Industries
    Education•University of Kansas School of Law
    Connections 154 connections IndustryChemicals
    ——————————————————————————–

    Bill Pitcher’s Summary
    Member, Tennessee, Texas, Colorado and Kansas bars, Energy Bar Association, Society for Corporate Governance Professionals, American Corporate Counsel, Society of California Pioneers

    Bill Pitcher’s Specialties:
    Mergers and acquisitions, worldwide commercial and financing transactions, government liason and corporate governance and compliance

  36. dusty, calm down. This took about 1/2 second to find.

    http://www.linkedin.com/pub/bill-pitcher/2/9a2/a3a

    Bill PitcherVP, General Counsel & Corp. Sec., Buckman Laboratories International

    Greater Memphis Area
    Contact Bill Pitcher
    Add Bill Pitcher to your network
    .Current•VP, General Counsel & Secretary at Buckman Laboratories International
    Past•Director, GC & Chief Compliance Officer at Entergy-Koch Ltd, London, UK
    •VP & Gen. Counsel for Koch Energy in Houston at Koch Industries
    •Assistant General Counsel at Koch Industries
    Education•University of Kansas School of Law
    Connections 154 connections IndustryChemicals
    ——————————————————————————–

    Bill Pitcher’s Summary
    Member, Tennessee, Texas, Colorado and Kansas bars, Energy Bar Association, Society for Corporate Governance Professionals, American Corporate Counsel, Society of California Pioneers

    Bill Pitcher’s Specialties:
    Mergers and acquisitions, worldwide commercial and financing transactions, government liason and corporate governance and compliance

  37. To: Bill Pitcher

    A lot of us on the left have ben pushing for total public financing of political campaigns, at least for presidential and congressional campaigns, for many years. TV and radio stations should be absolutely REQUIRED to give free air time to all serious candidates. “Serious” candidates are candidates who have garnered at least a few hundred (maybe even a few thousand) signatures and “small donors”.

    The biggest amount of money used in most campaigns is for expensive “media buys”, particularly for TV and radio ads.

    I see nothing wrong with a law PROHIBITING contributions to a candidate representing a district that a donor does not actyually LIVE in. Such a rule would put a huge dent in the total amount of money floating around in politics.

    I believe CC supports public funding of campaigns and is not enamoured of any “big bucks” players (including unions) using it’s cash clout to steer (or steal) elections.

    You conservatives seem to be okay with just making big contributions from donors “transparent”. Sorry but I simply don’t believe that is enough.

    If money equals “free speech”, then people like the Koch Brothers and George Soros have a right to talk incessantly to millions of people while a minimum wage earner barely has a right to get a word in to the political dialogue at all.

    I suspect you are alright with that, Bill.

    Well, I’m not.

  38. To: Bill Pitcher

    A lot of us on the left have ben pushing for total public financing of political campaigns, at least for presidential and congressional campaigns, for many years. TV and radio stations should be absolutely REQUIRED to give free air time to all serious candidates. “Serious” candidates are candidates who have garnered at least a few hundred (maybe even a few thousand) signatures and “small donors”.

    The biggest amount of money used in most campaigns is for expensive “media buys”, particularly for TV and radio ads.

    I see nothing wrong with a law PROHIBITING contributions to a candidate representing a district that a donor does not actyually LIVE in. Such a rule would put a huge dent in the total amount of money floating around in politics.

    I believe CC supports public funding of campaigns and is not enamoured of any “big bucks” players (including unions) using it’s cash clout to steer (or steal) elections.

    You conservatives seem to be okay with just making big contributions from donors “transparent”. Sorry but I simply don’t believe that is enough.

    If money equals “free speech”, then people like the Koch Brothers and George Soros have a right to talk incessantly to millions of people while a minimum wage earner barely has a right to get a word in to the political dialogue at all.

    I suspect you are alright with that, Bill.

    Well, I’m not.

  39. To: Bill Pitcher

    A lot of us on the left have ben pushing for total public financing of political campaigns, at least for presidential and congressional campaigns, for many years. TV and radio stations should be absolutely REQUIRED to give free air time to all serious candidates. “Serious” candidates are candidates who have garnered at least a few hundred (maybe even a few thousand) signatures and “small donors”.

    The biggest amount of money used in most campaigns is for expensive “media buys”, particularly for TV and radio ads.

    I see nothing wrong with a law PROHIBITING contributions to a candidate representing a district that a donor does not actyually LIVE in. Such a rule would put a huge dent in the total amount of money floating around in politics.

    I believe CC supports public funding of campaigns and is not enamoured of any “big bucks” players (including unions) using it’s cash clout to steer (or steal) elections.

    You conservatives seem to be okay with just making big contributions from donors “transparent”. Sorry but I simply don’t believe that is enough.

    If money equals “free speech”, then people like the Koch Brothers and George Soros have a right to talk incessantly to millions of people while a minimum wage earner barely has a right to get a word in to the political dialogue at all.

    I suspect you are alright with that, Bill.

    Well, I’m not.

  40. George Soros, Peter Lewis, John Sperling, Herb and Marion Sandler. Those names ring a bell? Think clandestine meeting at Aspen Institute in August 2004. Wrap your minds around the notion of a cabal of really old, really really rich left wing activists creating a funding mechanism for all the anti-Bush 527s in an effort to determine the outcome of the 2004 presidential elections. But for the SwiftBoaters, it might have worked. Best two hundred bucks I ever spent.

    Oh, and SEIU’s Andy Stern was also at this covert conclave. Talk about your strange bedfellows.

  41. George Soros, Peter Lewis, John Sperling, Herb and Marion Sandler. Those names ring a bell? Think clandestine meeting at Aspen Institute in August 2004. Wrap your minds around the notion of a cabal of really old, really really rich left wing activists creating a funding mechanism for all the anti-Bush 527s in an effort to determine the outcome of the 2004 presidential elections. But for the SwiftBoaters, it might have worked. Best two hundred bucks I ever spent.

    Oh, and SEIU’s Andy Stern was also at this covert conclave. Talk about your strange bedfellows.

  42. George Soros, Peter Lewis, John Sperling, Herb and Marion Sandler. Those names ring a bell? Think clandestine meeting at Aspen Institute in August 2004. Wrap your minds around the notion of a cabal of really old, really really rich left wing activists creating a funding mechanism for all the anti-Bush 527s in an effort to determine the outcome of the 2004 presidential elections. But for the SwiftBoaters, it might have worked. Best two hundred bucks I ever spent.

    Oh, and SEIU’s Andy Stern was also at this covert conclave. Talk about your strange bedfellows.