The Koch brothers don’t just have their own political party, they have their own spy network

We already knew that the Koch brothers have planned a massive investment in the 2016 presidential race that will rival the Republican Party’s expenditures. And we already know that they’ve engaged in a hugely successful campaign to reshape politics at the state and local level. But Politico is reporting today that their political activity goes even deeper: these guys have their own intelligence network.

David Koch (source: NTD video, YouTube)

David Koch, via NTD video / YouTube)

The competitive intelligence team has a staff of 25, including one former CIA analyst, and operates from one of the non-descript Koch network offices clustered near the Courthouse metro stop in suburban Arlington, Va. It has provided network officials with documents detailing confidential voter-mobilization plans by major Democrat-aligned groups. It also sends regular “intelligence briefing” emails tracking the canvassing, phone-banking and voter-registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups and their allies, according to documents reviewed by POLITICO and interviews with a half-dozen sources with knowledge of the group.

In addition to delving into the left, the competitive intelligence team also monitors potential Koch network threats, according to sources familiar with it. It tracks people deemed suspicious outside the offices of Koch network groups, circulating be-on-the-lookout photos to internal network email lists, while keeping an eye on the network’s own ranks for possible leakers or disloyal employees.

As one organizer who previously worked in the unit described it, the network is like “a full opposition research operation, only at about 10-times the level of any political campaign.” Political organizations, especially political parties, spend quite a bit of money keeping tabs on each other. But expressly political organizations, especially political parties, have limits on just how much meddling is too much meddling (see: Watergate).

The Kochs are under no such constraints. While it would be a Very Big Deal for, say, the Democratic Party to get caught spying on Republicans and gathering intel about their field campaign strategies (which wouldn’t be that hard, considering that all they’d have to do is sit next to the guy at Starbucks with the elephant sticker on their laptop), the Kochs are just private businessmen spending their privately-earned money the way they see fit. If that includes tilting the scales to suit their business interests, then so be it.

It’s also worth noting that, while analogous groups do exist on the left, they don’t come close to approaching this level of scale or audacity. Just imagine the level of outrage on the right if they found out that George Soros was not only sending trackers to political events, but was also collecting data on where activists for conservative organizations were tweeting from.

We’d have congressional hearings for years.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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8 Responses to “The Koch brothers don’t just have their own political party, they have their own spy network”

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  2. Opinionated Cat Lover says:

    In my pen and paper roleplaying game setting “Dyscordia”, the 2020 election sees the first Low-Self-Directed AIs being used to do exactly what this process does — study people’s presence in physical- and virtual-reality and ascertain what their political affiliation is, and tailor the message to target individuals precisely. In the setting, LOCKE (Google’s artificially intelligent platform that did this ‘neuropolitics’) would give the Democrats a crushing advantage in the 2020 election, reversing a massive GOP advantage in the House and a narrow GOP advantage in the Senate and turning this into veto proof majorities for the Dems, and giving the narrowly elected 2016 President a commanding lead in 2020. This would be the last spark that led to succession of Conservative States from the United States in 2022, leading to the formation of the “Christian States of America”.

  3. hauksdottir says:

    Hilary Clinton has her own spy agency. Those emails ought to have been eye-opening. We’ve also been aware of the effect of bundled and massaged data, house by house, so a canvasser can individually target people. (Didn’t Ken Mehlman get caught with a CD of such information?) Now they can add massive, and stealthy, collection of our emotional reactions.

    “2016 presidential candidates have a new option in their quest to sway
    voters. “Neuropolitics” is the attempt to read your mind by scanning
    facial expressions and feeding them into an
    algorithm. Biofeedback—including heart rate, eye movements, and skin
    conditions—can also be captured and used for political purposes and,
    perhaps one day, for government purposes.

    Nonetheless, those eager to gain the power and influence that comes
    with being an elected official won’t let academic skepticism get in the
    way. They say that brain waves, facial expressions and neurobiology give
    true insight into a voter’s feelings and opinions. Many voters are
    reluctant to say how they feel about a candidate, but campaigns feel
    they should be able to get around the voter’s choice to keep their
    thoughts to themselves.

    Neuromarketing consultants are pushing their research in at least a
    dozen countries, including the United States. One firm said that it
    worked for a Hillary Clinton campaign, but a Clinton spokesman said they
    won’t talk about what methodologies they use or don’t use.”

    http://www.rawstory.com/2015/11/political-billboards-are-now-scanning-your-face-for-your-reactions/

    What privacy?

  4. FLL says:

    …a ripe target…

    “Overly ripe” = euphemism for “rotten.”

  5. Indigo says:

    If they were old school plutocrats of the Gilded Age, they would have covered their tracks much more sensibly, but their web presence would be incompetent.

  6. BeccaM says:

    What? We didn’t expect plutocratic oligarch billionaires to behave like what they are — ruthless authoritarian capitalists bent on subverting the tattered remnants of American democracy and popularly elected government?

  7. 2karmanot says:

    OCCUPY the KOCHS Anomous!

  8. Indigo says:

    Which brings us around to an unasked question, The Kochs sound like a ripe target for Anonymous, what’s the delay?

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