Koch Bros. are engineering a “merger & acquisition” of the Republican party

The quote in the headline is from digby, but I modified it somewhat. She called it a merger and acquisition of the “conservative movement.” But in my mind, the Koch brothers were already doing that, via campaign-funding groups like Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and its state chapters.

Now the Koch Bros. are moving in on the party apparatus itself.

There are several pieces to this story. The first is an important distinction. As I’ve noted before there are two Tea Parties in the country — Tea Party voters and Tea Party office-holders. These are not the same people, not by a lot.

As I wrote some time ago:

Read my earlier piece on the distinction between Tea Party voters (people with real beliefs) and Tea Party candidates (employees with bosses in a tightly controlled organization). It’s an important distinction in my view; these two groups should not be conflated with language like “the Tea Party.” There is no “the Tea Party” — there are true-believers without power, and people with power who use those believers. Both tend to be called “the Tea Party” but they’re two different balls of wax, at least as I see it.

The Kochs aren’t taking over the Tea Party voters, except to publicly position Tea Party candidates — via ad campaigns — as representing their real concerns. (Did you know that real Tea Party voters hate the bank bailouts as much as you do, and maybe more? Not so the Tea Party candidates.)

Second, the Kochs have been at war with the last-gen “leaders” of the Republican party — the Boehners and the McConnells, the Schmidts and the Norquists — for a while now. For example, listen to this conversation with Mike Papantonio and Ring Of Fire Radio or read my original write-up here.

Now the Kochs are upping their ante, increasing the support and funding mechanism for their preferred candidates. Politico (my emphasis; h/t the inestimable digby):

Koch World 2014

Is $35 billion enough for David Koch? He'd tell you no.

Is $36 billion enough for David Koch?
He’d tell you no.

If the Koch brothers’ political operation seemed ambitious in 2010 or 2012, wait for what’s in store for 2014 and beyond. …

The Koch political operation has become among the most dominant forces in American politics, rivaling even the official Republican Party in its ability to shape policy debates and elections. But it’s mostly taken a piecemeal approach, sticking to its sweet spots, while leaving other tasks to outsiders, or ad hoc coalitions of allies.

That’s changing. This year, the Kochs’ close allies are rolling out a new, more integrated approach to politics. That includes wading into Republican primaries for the first time to ensure their ideal candidates end up on the ticket, and also centralizing control of their network to limit headache-inducing freelancing by affiliated operatives.

The shift is best illustrated in the expansion of three pieces of the Koch political network expected to be showcased or represented at the three-day meeting in Palm Springs, whose evolving roles were described to POLITICO by several sources.

Center for Shared Services: a nonprofit recruiter and administrative support team for other Koch-backed groups, which provides assistance with everything from scouting office space to accounting to furniture and security.

Freedom Partners: a nonprofit hub that doled out $236 million in 2012 to an array of conservative nonprofits that is now expanding its own operation so that it can fulfill many of the functions of past grantees.

Aegis Strategic: a political consulting firm started last year by Koch-allied operatives who will recruit, train and support candidates who espouse free-market philosophies like those beloved by the Kochs, and will also work with nonprofit groups in the Koch network, like Freedom Partners, with which it has a contract to provide policy analysis.

How is this not a hostile takeover of the Republican Party? Simply put, the Koch Bros want to run it, the way they want to run, say, Georgia Pacific, after it too was folded into the loving arms of Koch Industries.

Third, they want to engage other billionaires with them in the effort. Which means, they want to drain support from billionaire donors to Republican party causes, and funnel that support through their own organizations. To do that, they’re running a conference in Palm Springs for like-minded rich folks. The Palm Springs Desert Sun (my emphasis and paragraphing):

Following a tradition started in 2003, conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are expected to hold a desert conference this weekend [the last weekend in January] that brings together some of the Republican Party’s most influential and deep-pocketed donors. Representatives of the Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries did not respond to repeated Desert Sun requests for details, however sources familiar with the conference told Politico that the conference will take place and is expected to last three days. …

The Kochs tend to buy out a Coachella Valley hotel during the last weekend of January for invitation-only summits that have attracted philanthropists, business leaders, presidential contenders and even U.S. Supreme Court justices. Their latest hotel of choice — the Renaissance Esmeralda in Indian Wells — has no available rooms for this weekend.

The hotel’s sales director, Kathy Daw, told The Desert Sun that the hotel’s restaurants will not be open to the public starting Saturday [January 27] — a privacy measure that has been used during previous Koch events.

As you read further in the Desert Sun article, note that the 2011 Koch conference attracted “125 federal judges who happened to be at the same hotel.” Happened to be?

What’s different about this year’s Koch Conference?

The Kochs have been doing this conference (one of two they host every year) since 2003. What’s different this time? First, read above about the new and newly integrated candidate support infrastructure — the Center for Shared Services, Freedom Partners, Aegis Strategic. Now add in the scale of the money involved. Politico (again, my emphasis and paragraphing):

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.

Still, the big question was whether the donors who attend the conferences would keep stroking big checks or scale back their efforts. There’s no way to measure that definitively, since most of the groups in the network don’t disclose their finances regularly or reveal their donors. Early indications, though, suggest enthusiasm is high. Groups in the Koch network — led by the brothers’ main political vehicle Americans for Prosperity — spent $25 million between the summer and early this month on ads bashing Democrats over Obamacare, which have been credited for hurting Democratic senators who are vulnerable in 2014.

James Davis, an official at Freedom Partners told POLITICO that his group has expanded rapidly, “and we expect to continue to grow.”

Three things to note about the Kochs, perhaps four:

One, they’re among the world’s wealthiest people. Forbes has them tied, individually, for 6th place. Together, they’re in 2nd place, just behind Mexico’s Carlos Slim and ahead of Bill Gates. And that’s before they cash in their $84 billion when Keystone tar starts to flow. (As I noted earlier, Bloomberg places their fortune at considerably more — in first place as a combined fortune — but at that level, does it matter?)

Two, they’re very very good at corporate strategy and control, as well as “mergers and acquisitions.” See here, here, here and here on the Koch takeover of the Cato Institute.

Three, they are willing to sacrifice control of Congress (temporarily) by running Tea Party candidates like Christine “I am not a  witch” O’Donnell in order to solidify their control of the Republican party first. For (former) party regulars like Steve Schmidt, people who try to win elections, that’s heresy. For the Kochs, it’s simply securing the perimeter before moving the machine forward to the next objective.

And the fourth? Look at the ROI on the dollar investment, in terms of the base net wealth. The Kochs own at least $72 billion — that’s the stack of chips they’re playing with. Five percent of that — a paltry portion  really — is $7 billion (EDIT: oops, $3.6 billion). Would you spend 5% of your net worth to own one of the two American political parties, and the one most likely to beat the crap out of the other one as hard as it possibly can? Look for that $400 million in 2012 to be small potatoes as this moves forward.

What’s the Koch goal?

The Republicans have the House, likely until 2020. Soon the Kochs will have the party, which will give the House to the Kochs (they and their Koch Conference friends). They have two good shots at the Senate, 2014 and 2016. And they’ve already set up their next shot at the White House by putting Koch (and Wall Street) favorite Paul Ryan in the 2012 Veep seat next to failed candidate Romney. As Rick Perlstein says, Republicans always nominate the “next in line.” Well, Paul Ryan has a strong claim to that, and a pretty face.

So what’s the goal? If I were the Kochs, I’d aim for a takeover of all three branches by 2016. Why not? Do these men think small? Ask yourself: Would you aim lower, if you were evil, greed- and power-obsessed, richer than god, very good at “mergers and acquisitions” — and if all the power in the country were actually within your reach in the next three years?

Didn’t think so. Stay tuned. We’ve entered “interesting times” indeed.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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56 Responses to “Koch Bros. are engineering a “merger & acquisition” of the Republican party”

  1. Kim_Kaufman says:

    “How is this not a hostile takeover of the Republican Party?” or the whole political process.

  2. Nathanael says:

    This is a completely ahistorical (false) view of ancient Egypt.

    The kings of ancient Egypt (Pharaoh is a foreign word, not the word the Egyptians used) understood that their responsibility was to keep everyone fed and employed. The population of Egypt were not slaves, not by a long chalk. They were paid workers.

    Of course, there weren’t a lot of options for jobs. There weren’t very many middle class or professional jobs (scribes, tanners, etc.) So most people didn’t have much option other than working in the fields

    But they were paid with food rations better than a sharecropper got. During the agricultural seasons, they worked in the fields. When the fields were flooded by the Nile, *they still needed jobs*, so the king’s “full employment program” had them build monuments. And they kept getting paid.

    In fact, the kings ruled ancient Egypt because in Egypt *everyone always got fed* and *everyone always had a job*.

    If the jobs and the food stopped, the king was overthrown pretty darn quick. In Egyptian myth, he had lost the favor of the gods and was no longer strong enough to rule.

    Think about this when you read about Republicans cutting food stamps. Think about this when you look at the unemployment rate.

  3. chaos_in_ashland says:

    Reminds me of how the Pharaoh’s ruled Egypt all that time ago… who back-then were probably even halfway successful at convincing the slave population that they were worthy of nobility…

    The other half was like ‘Why does this Pharaoh SOB get all the money?’

  4. FreeSpeechIsntCrime says:

    How Dumb Are The Koch Brothers?

    The Koch brothers are SO dumb that they thought ‘internet trolling’ involved a ‘tax bridge’.

    The Koch brothers are SO dumb- they thought ‘electronic mail’ was a ‘sex robot’.

    The Koch brothers are SO dumb- they thought the ‘State Of The Union’ was about Gay Marriage.

    The Koch brothers are SO dumb they thought the internet invented Al Gore.

    The Koch brothers are SO dumb- they thought ‘IT Technician’ was too vague a job description.

    The Koch brothers are SO dumb- that when they go to sleep at night- they check for ‘Truth’ under the bed.

    The Koch brothers are SO dumb- while hiring computer hackers- they asked how computers fit through the mouth.

    The Koch brothers are SO dumb- that they thought ‘call centers’ needed to be physically moved to the ‘right’.

    The Koch brothers are SO dumb that they thought the ‘Wright Brothers’ was a reference to their own conslurvative political machine.

    The Koch brothers are SO dumb that they thought internet spam was vacuum packed.

    The Koch brothers are SO dumb that their money has gone to ‘the head’.

    The Koch brothers are SO dumb- they thought America was a ‘commode-ity’.

  5. Anonymous says:

    That’s the Duck Dynasty cast btw. Country club golfers before their folksy makeover. Kinda like Bush!

  6. GaiusPublius says:

    Thanks, Jim. You’re not the only one to say that. Fixed.


  7. Bill_Perdue says:

    You missed the point – choose one or the other and you’re doomed.

  8. Drew2u says:

    Ha! It’s on, now! I watch her every weekday night. If I can’t, I’m subscribed to her video and audio podcast to catch up on any shows I might have missed.

    What I meant by “call them out” isn’t just the Koch bros, certain legislative members, and the corporations, but also those, say, the DA or those who would be able to investigate and possibly prosecute any corruption in ALEC.

    With that said, I love Ed Schultz’s attack on TPP and I’m glad he’s like a pittbull who isn’t letting go of that. It needs to be front-and-center, along with Net Neutrality, also.

  9. markpkessinger says:

    You obviously don’t watch Maddow very often. If you did, you would know that she has done countless segments on ALEC. It isn’t like covering the legitimate scandals of McDionnell and Christie are preventing her from covering topics such as ALEC.

  10. NMRon says:

    Rename Republican Party to Koch Party . . . completely appropriate.

  11. perljammer says:

    Gee, Bill, it’s hard to choose. Cancer is the perennial favorite, but hemorrhagic fevers have a lot of fans as well. I suppose it’s a matter of personal taste. Where would the Workers’ Party stand on this?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Tea Party leader: “I’m into murders & executions.”
    Tea Party voter: “Most guys I know who are in Mergers and Acquisitions really don’t like it.”

  13. vega ophiuchus says:

    Best way to win at monopoly is to own all the pieces, property and players.

  14. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    This cartoon sums it all up.

  15. Bill_Perdue says:

    You’re ignoring the fact that FDR and the Democrats, terrified of a turn towards revolution, hastily passed a series of bills to recognize unions and establish social security and a few other reforms. Now both parties are in the process of gutting those reforms.

    Unions and workers imposed the New Deal on the Democrats. It was a big deal because of unions, not because of Democrats.

    The standard of living of workers plummeted under Democrats Carter. cLinton and Obama and Republicans Reagan and the two Bushes. That attack on workers continues to this day.

  16. Jim says:

    You’re ignoring that for about thirty years after WW2 income inequality was going down.
    The New Deal was a Big Deal.

  17. Jim says:

    Hate to be picky, but 7/72 = approx 9.7%.

  18. Bill_Perdue says:

    Which, in your opinion, is worse, metastatic cancer or Ebola?

  19. Grand1 says:

    I do not concede that Republicans have the U.S. House until 2020. That overlooks the very real brand damage the Republicans incurred in 2013. That damage is lasting, if not permanent and will cost them seats in the House and Senate in 2014 and 2016. Further, the amount and quality of ammunition the Republicans gave to Democratic media strategists in 2013 is invaluable. I could write and produce 10 ads that would be devastating to the GOP candidates in 2014, No, the House of Representatives is very much in play in 2014 and the Senate, if they are smart, will stay in the Democrats column, along with the Presidency in 2016. Again, if they play it smart…
    Finally, any outreach to young voters, seniors, hispanics and African Americans will be seen for what it is, They all have their sheilds up and are immune to the kind of catering to their interests that words along convey. The actions of the Republicans (or inaction) on immigration, student loans, social security and women’s issues speak volumes to these groups. They know what the Republicans represent; and it is not their best interests.

  20. AnthonyLook says:

    All the money in the world, all the repackaging, all the pretty new wrapping paper and shiny bows will never hide the stink of what lies at the core of the Republican agenda. Let the Koch spend their wads of money all they want. Their ill gotten gains will be for not, they will fail in America to something that is stronger than money. The American vote.

  21. BillFromDover says:

    …coherence and spelling.?

    Hell, Fox News seems not to notice the difference between the letters R and D.

  22. karmanot says:

    Let go of the ‘lesser evil’ meme and pay attention to Gaius.

  23. karmanot says:

    Bridgeghazi is the new new.

  24. karmanot says:

    I think treason just about covers it. When law becomes treason it is known a policy.

  25. karmanot says:

    Pravada The American version.

  26. Drew2u says:

    Wow, last I heard was about the Green Energy bit, but now he’s just as bad as his brothers?
    Some people just want to watch the world burn; these are the real anarchists.

  27. Houndentenor says:

    I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt that it was not her decision to break away and she did her best to use the 10 seconds she had before the network pulled the plug on her to try to come off as a professional. That said, I have doubts about anyone married to a sociopath who sat at the feed of Ayn Rand (literally). Also, there’s her role in the Valerie Plame outing. But otherwise, yes, she’s always come off as better than what tends to pass for a journalist these days. Like too many others, however, she’s far to enmeshed socially with the people she is covering.

  28. Indigo says:

    Incompetent and complicit and also lazy. Many stories these days are merely downloaded by “reporters” seated in cubicle farm offices from a wire service and often not even edited for consistency and content, let alone coherence and spelling.

  29. Indigo says:

    I was under the impression that was all a done deal. The Koch Brothers have owned the conservative movement since Mittens ran for presedillident and before. Di’n’t they?

  30. perljammer says:

    You are, of course, correct. My point was that the Tea Party and Fox News do not have a monopoly on gullible, uneducated rubes.

  31. Drew2u says:

    You say that like both can’t be true.

  32. Drew2u says:

    Oh, how far Andrea Mitchell has fallen. She used to be one of the better newscasters.

    My question still stands, though. How do we get enough people educated and loud about ALEC being just as much of a corruption and fraud as McDonnell, Blagoevich, and Christie?

    Imagine, corruption so rampant that it’s quite literally the most corrupt organization in American history? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_members_of_the_American_Legislative_Exchange_Council

  33. nicho says:

    I wonder if the newspaper reporters are incompetent or complicit. To say that a bunch of judges “just happened to be there” after just saying that the Koch Gang took over the whole hotel is breathtakingly stupid.

  34. Houndentenor says:

    Meanwhile the same network had Andrea Mitchell cut off a Congressperson mid-sentence so they could go live the latest on Justin Bieber. This is what passes for news judgment in our country today.

  35. Drew2u says:

    Agreed. As much as Bridgegate is a scandal and I’m glad it got brought to light, I don’t need 4-6 news hours having segments dedicated to it. At a certain point it’s just redundant.
    It has become rather funny, though, see the “catch up shows” as I call it, start covering the same news stories after a major story breaks out on a, for the lack of a better word, better program, and stays with that story when the better program moves on to other topics, only to repeat that when the better program uncovers something else.

  36. Houndentenor says:

    msnbc seems to have made the decision to go after “bridgegate” in the same way that Fox went after Benghazi. It makes me turn off the tv. There are other important stories and unless there are new revelations, having a bunch of people sitting around yammering away about what might happen next is a huge waste of time. For whatever reason, tv news channels seem to only be able to cover one story at a time. If a little girl falls into a well, it’s as if nothing else happens in the world until they get her out. There’s really no point in 24/7 news channels since it’s mostly just the same 30 minutes of news repeated over and over all day long except when there’s a breaking story.

  37. iamlegion says:

    Even people who are dissatisfied with Obama are not very likely to move from Dem to Tea Party. The only people who vote TP are Republicans who don’t think the GOP is crazy-extreme enough…

  38. Mystermee says:

    Perhaps a bit too strong…. But it appears there must be something very substantial in place to deal with those individuals “who have sworn to do what is best for the American people” by taking office, whom then have chosen to serve themselves at the cost of the American people. Today’s tact does not seem to have any effect on corruption, as the lawmakers have “legalized” their own behaviors.

  39. Drew2u says:

    With you up until “treason”.

  40. Mystermee says:

    Corporate money/interests have already purchased both parties, lock stock and barrel.

    As long as this continues to be “the norm”… America will continue to deteriorate from the inside out.

    Money funneled to the top 1%, will never trickle down, as seen in 4 decades of stat’s on Americans income. The last 2 decades has brought America to “pre Great Depression” inequality. (funny how Americans “healthcare” has been handed to “insurance corporations” whom DO NOT provide healthcare!)

    Reinstate Glass Steagal, repeal Citizens United, reinstate corporate and wealthy tax rates of 1960, create a “living wage”, render ALL politicians under the very same tax rules ALL Americans must live by and give each lawmaker a $50,000 per year wage, any corruption is treason against America and the American people. And for crying out loud, break up these corrupt banks that own and control both political parties. Then instate “term limits” on all lawmakers.

    Take the money out of politics, and you will be left with honest people to run the country.
    This will never happen…..

  41. Drew2u says:

    So then why doesn’t Rachel Maddow call them out on it, if she’s going after Bob McDonnell (I remembered!) and Chris Christie this strongly?
    Alternatively, how can we make it a story to be picked up and ran with by traditional news media?

  42. Houndentenor says:

    Because the very people who should be policing such practices are participating in the corruption.

  43. Bill_Perdue says:

    It’ll be a huge fight between the Koch brothers and their billionaire pals and Goldman Sachs and their billionaire friends who own the Democrats. Ownership of these parties rests on the vast wealth of the rich, who’ve had absolute control of both parties since the end of the Civil War and the Great Betrayal of 1877. In that year Rutherford B. Hayes lost the election and to assume the presidency he entered into a slimy deal with Southern Democrats. He quickly set about ending Reconstruction, pulled Federal troops out and turned a blind eye when the Democrats began a racist campaign of mass murder and introduced Jim Crow laws.

    In the almost 140 years since that stark reminder of the power of the rich their contol over the Democrat and Republican parties has been unassailable. They’ve kept a stranglehold on both party machines and who either killed off or co-opted ‘populist’ challengers. All the reforms since 1877 have been imposed on the system by movements of women, unions and workers, people of color and the antiwar movement. There are no exceptions to that statement in spite of the adherents of this or that ‘lesser evil’ like Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and especially Obama to claim otherwise. In the recent period, since and including Carter, Reagan, the Bushes, the Clintons and Obama, both parties worked diligently to gut those reforms, especially Social Security and Medicare.

    The only way to break the iron grip of the rich is by the creation of workers parties and then a workers government. “Fifteen or fight” is the new rallying cry of organized and unorganized workers and both parties of the rich oppose, The rich want to drive down wages, eliminate benefits and leave people to the tender mercies of insurance companies, who, under the Romney/Obamacare law, still call the shots. Unions, the union left and leftists will lead the fight to end their rule.

    Gore Vidal had it right “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt — until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.

  44. Terry Cooper says:

    These Koch brothers are a reflection of their own father, Fred Koch. Their spawn have grown up under the authoritarian rules of their own fathers. If you take a look at the bios of Charles and David Koch, you won’t find much regarding their children at all. Charles Koch has a son and a daughter who are older “children”. There is no information at all regarding the daughter online. David Koch’s children are still young. Of course, none of these kids have ever had any ongoing exposure to anybody who was and is not part of the Koch machine, and likely never will. So, at best they will only reflect the same lack of social conscience that their fathers do, at worst, they will be bigger and better social and environment psychopaths.

  45. cole3244 says:

    once the koch’s complete this acquisition the dems will be much easier since they have shown no stomach for the good fight on any level, a few exceptions noted.

  46. Terry Cooper says:

    No, They can quote Rush Limbaugh and other talking heads at Fox, chapter and verse, and do at every opportunity.

  47. Drew2u says:

    The third brother that is never heard from apparently stays away from everything his brothers are doing. Too bad he won’t speak out.

  48. Drew2u says:

    Question: How is the Koch Bros’ ALEC legal for legislators to be a part of? I don’t see a difference between the trips, food, and gifts that ALEC gives its members and Gov. Ultrasound in Virginia taking all of those gifts. Is it because legislators pay membership dues to be in ALEC?

  49. zerosumgame0005 says:

    all it took was a party already for sale. and it looks like the Krotches planned the destruction of the repthug party to drive the price down, now they will out-source it to China…

  50. perljammer says:

    I’m guessing that most of the “gullible, undereducated rubes” who now regret having voted for our current President in the last election don’t spend a lot of time watching Fox News.

  51. perljammer says:

    Gaius, your point about the two Tea Parties — one made up of voters who are “true believers” in a set of ideals, and the other made up of politicians who use the voters and take their orders from a powerful group with its own agenda — is also applicable to the Democratic and Republican parties. Given the entrenched power of the Ds and Rs, you might want to give some thought to the question of which is worse for the country.

  52. iamlegion says:

    As I’ve noted before there are two Tea Parties in the country — Tea Party voters and Tea Party office-holders. These are not the same people, not by a lot.

    This is entirely correct. However, both groups are comprised of gullible, undereducated rubes who believe whatever Faux News and AM Radio Hatred tell them. That’s probably the best lever to use in hauling them back on the reservation…

  53. Henry Owen says:

    I have a question: Are the Kochs’ spawn also evil money-worshipers? If not, one consolation is that these two will die eventually, hopefully sooner than later.

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