Just as the final word has come that our 2008 presidential race will in fact be between John McCain and Barack Obama, so it seems that the folks with the money are lining up for a two-sided Senate race here in Louisiana. Already in select markets ads are running for and against incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu and State Treasurer John Kennedy.
One thing that seems to be becoming the norm for this year’s election cycle is an amplified repeat of what we saw in last year’s state legislative and gubernatorial races (for any hardcore red-staters out there, gubernatorial means of or relating to a governor ;^). That is, we are going to see a lot of coordinated media campaigns being paid for by big money organizations with very little ethical control. This is a bit of a new age for our political spectrum. Instead of attacking each other, candidates now enjoy armies of special interest groups who attack their opponents for them. These groups have no need to be concerned with libel, proof, character, or anything else. They say what they please so long as it’s to the detriment of their candidate’s opponent.
Likewise, candidates are able to channel such attacks through outside groups and thus avoid being held accountable for misinformation or looking bad when poor judgment is used to their advantage.
Pro-Kennedy and anti-Landrieu radio spots have already hit southeast Louisiana and the New Orleans metro area — these sponsored by a group calling themselves ‘Americans for Prosperity.” This group is both a 501-c4 political organization and a 501-c3 charitable foundation. It’s a neat trick that allows them to pay for political ads under the guise of “educating the public”. According to sourcewatch, AFP is run and primarily funded by donations from the Koch Foundation — the charitable arm of Koch Industries.
David Koch is the executive vice president and a member of the board of directors for Koch Industries, Inc., based in Wichita, Kansas. He helped found Americans For Prosperity, and also serves on the board of directors for the Reason Foundation and the CATO Institute. David was the Libertarian Party candidate for vice president of the United States in 1980. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in chemical engineering from MIT.
Koch (pronounced ‘coke’) is the largest privately-held company in the United States, with annual sales of $90 billion.
They are a major player in the energy industry and are also a major polluter in places very close to home for us with their pipelines and operations, and as proven by the Department of Justice, Koch is responsible for over 300 major oil spills in the 1990’s alone.
The action, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, charges that, since 1990, Koch and its subsidiaries were responsible for more than 300 separate oil spills. The suit is being brought under the Clean Water Act, as amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The complaint seeks penalties and a court order to require Koch to take such actions as are necessary to protect U.S. waters and to eliminate future spills.
Fined $35 million dollars by the EPA, Koch had two possible plans of action — change their act, or change the government.
Koch Industries, Inc. will pay the largest civil fine ever imposed on a company under any federal environmental law to resolve claims related to more than 300 oil spills from its pipelines and oil facilities in six states, the Justice Department and the U.S. EPA announced. A settlement filed today requires Koch, the second-largest privately held company in the United States, to pay a $30 million civil penalty, improve its leak-prevention programs, and spend $5 million on environmental projects.
"This record civil penalty will put those who transport hazardous materials on notice -- you cannot endanger public health or the environment," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "We will not let you foul our water and spoil our land by breaking the law."
After winning election with Koch’s help, George W. Bush and John Ashcroft dropped 88 separate charges faced by Koch Industries, saving the company $352 million dollars in fines. Amazingly enough Bush later appointed two Koch executives to top posts at the EPA — the very agency he had kept from regulating the company, including the integral post of Inspector General.
From the Center for Public Integrity:
Despite its size and political largesse, Koch is able to dodge the limelight because it is privately-held, meaning that nearly all of its business dealings are known primarily only by the company and the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, it is the second largest private company in the country, trailing only food processing giant Cargill.
Koch also prefers to operate in private when it comes to politics and government.
Although it is both a top campaign contributor and spends millions on direct lobbying, Koch’s chief political influence tool is a web of interconnected, right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups funded by foundations controlled and supported by the two Koch brothers.
Among those groups are some of the country’s most prominent conservative and libertarian voices including the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Federalist Society. All regularly beat the drum in official Washington for the causes the Koch’s hold dear—minimal government, deregulation, and free market economics.
For the Kochs, conservative and libertarian views are a family tradition. Fred Koch, who founded the company’s predecessor in 1940, helped establish the ultra right-wing John Birch Society.
Some of Koch’s other political activities have been less exotic, but no less controversial.
For example, Charles Koch found himself under investigation by the U.S. Senate for his alleged role in funding so-called “issue ads” that helped conservative Republican congressional candidates in 1996.
Even critics seem awed by the Kochs’ ability to shape policy so effectively without drawing much attention to themselves.
“It’s astounding that so few people have ever heard of a family this rich and powerful and aggressive when it comes to policy and politics,” says Jeff Krehely, deputy director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, who co-authored a recent study on conservative think tanks, including those funded by the Kochs. “When you talk about Koch, most folks think you are talking about the soft drink company.”
Koch Industries did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails requesting interviews for this report.
David Koch, who ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980, in an interview with National Journal, has described his philosophy this way: “My overall concept is to minimize the role of government and to maximize the role of the private economy to maximize personal freedoms.”
These are the type of people — no these ARE the people who are getting involved in our elections and who will be playing a major role over the next few months. This is definitely going to be a time where taking things with a grain of salt will be necessary. Also, it might be wise to find out who all these groups paying for ads really are. With Kennedy, I would hope we as a voting populous would ask why a major polluter operating in and around Louisiana is so interested in supporting the success of someone whom in his current job should have had little to do with them. Seems to me that some promises have probably been made and despite these Kennedy ads purporting his drive and passion for helping the people of Louisiana, it seems his loyalties are already lining up outside of the interests of our state and like his newfound mentor Bush — with anyone who can lay the buck in his pocket.
Along with AFP and other groups, both sides — Democrat and Republican have their own more official crews readying the fight. Below are aired spots from both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee:
I have to say, it seems like the case against Mary is pretty weak if that’s all the Repub’s could come up with so far…