Oh, the Koch brothers are spending millions to propagate lies? REALLY?! What ARE the odds???!!!
A couple of weeks ago, the Koch brothers, through their astroturfing corporatist front group Americans for Prosperity, attempted to roll out their latest attack ad on Gary Peters in the state Capitol Building. They literally planned to use the resources of the Michigan state government to propagate pro-business propaganda by holding a press conference in the Speaker’s Conference Room. Only after they were shamed into by Democrats did Republican leaders kick AFP out the door.
An editorial by the New York Times editorial board today excoriates the Koch brothers and AFP for the ad which they describe as “full of distortions and lies”.
[T]he group’s ad against Representative Gary Peters of Michigan, a Democrat who is running for an open Senate seat, is full of distortions and lies. It accuses Mr. Peters of lying when he said the law bars cancellations of insurance policies. Mr. Peters happened to be right, as millions of people who once faced losing all insurance after they got sick now appreciate. The 225,000 Michigan residents who the ad said received “cancellation notices” were actually told that they could change to a better policy; they were not told they could no longer have insurance, as the ad implies. And though the ad said health care costs are “skyrocketing,” national spending on health care is now growing at the slowest pace ever recorded, in part because of the reform law. […]
Naturally, Democrats are using the campaign to increase their own fund-raising, begging donors to give unlimited amounts to left-leaning super PACs and advocacy groups. But it is unlikely that they will be able to match the resources or the cunning of the Kochs, who are using vast pools of money earned through corporate revenues to build a network unrivaled in complexity and secrecy. […]
The Internal Revenue Service and several lawmakers are beginning to step up their interest in preventing “social welfare” organizations and other tax-sheltered groups from being used as political conduits, but they have encountered the usual resistance from Republican lawmakers. Considering how effectively the Koch brothers are doing their job, it’s easy to see why.
AFP is suspected by many to be one of the outside groups that Republican Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land referred to when she said “our campaign has talked to a lot of these people” in possible violation of federal election laws:
So, my husband and I, like I said, are committed to this. We’re out on the road, we’re raising money, it’s going to take a lot of resources to do this. It’s probably a $20 million campaign. But the reality is, we’ve got new folks out there who are raising money…
Now this is a whole new world and after, some of you remember, the Citizens United lawsuit that happened, which actually started here in Michigan. I don’t know if some of you know that it started here in Michigan. And that changed the dynamics of politics, restricted the parties, but it let individuals and others raise resources to do that.
Now, our campaign has talked to a lot of those folks. They’re committed to Michigan.
Republicans in Michigan recently passed a law expanding the the amount of cash that can be spent in our elections and codified language that exempts groups running so-called “issue ads” from revealing their donors. Land herself had a significant role to play in this blatant corporatist move: In 2004, as Secretary of State, she issued a ruling (pdf) that confirmed the ability of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce to spend money on issue ads without revealing its donors. When current Secretary of State Ruth Johnson proposed issuing a follow-up ruling that would reverse that, Republicans scrambled to revise their legislation the same day, prohibiting Johnson’s proposal when Governor Snyder signed it into law.
Now, ten years later, Land is benefiting from the same sort of “issue ad” — which is nothing more than a blatant attack on her Democratic opponent Gary Peters — being run by a group that hides the sources of its funding.
This effort by David and Charles Koch to buy elections across the country comes after their 2012 effort to elect Mitt Romney was shot down in flames by the superior campaign and candidacy of Barack Obama. In a revealing piece by Politico titled “Koch World 2014”, we get details of how the Kochs learned from their mistakes and refocused their attention on more local races:
The Koch network raised an astounding $400 million in the run-up to 2012, spending much of it assailing President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. After the Election Day letdown, the Kochs did an in-depth analysis to find out what went wrong and what they could do better. Among the areas identified for improvement were greater investments in grassroots organizing, better use of voter data and more effective appeals to young and Hispanic voters, according to sources.
It’s clear why Land has supported keeping “dark money” in Michigan elections all these years. It’s the same reason her Republican colleagues in our state legislature lept to prevent sunshine from being shined on secret campaign expenditures last fall: it benefits Republicans far more than Democrats when corporations and millionaires & billionaires are allowed to spend limitless amounts of money to buy elections.
One of the things that the Obama campaign proved was that there is only one thing that can effectively neutralize this insane level of campaign spending and that’s an effective grassroots ground game. Person-to-person, door-to-door, one-on-one conversations with our friends, coworkers, neighbors, and families can help diminish the impact of endless political attack ads.
Keep that in mind was we move forward in 2014. If you want to change the game in Michigan and seize back some control of our state government and national elected officials, get involved. Sign up to help a campaign and get your GOTV on. Do it today.
[Koch clowns image credit: DonkeyHotey | Flickr]