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Rachel Maddow: "It's our country too, even if we don't get invited to your Billionaires’ Party in Palm Springs every January."
You may think that since Rachel Maddow has spent so much time these last few weeks wrapped up in reporting on the continuously breaking scandals out of New Jersey, that she hasn’t had time to think about that billionaire-duo of behind the scenes politics known as the Koch brothers. But you’d be wrong. The last time Rachel went on a full out rant about the Kochs’ escapades was at the beginning of this month. If you happened to catch that glorious segment when Rachel Maddow Spoke Truth to the Powerful Koch Brothers, you might think it doesn’t get any better than that. You’d be wrong. Rachel Maddow ended Monday night's show with a powerful segment pointed squarely at the influential brothers. If you missed it, you can watch it online, or if you prefer to savor every word by reading a transcript, just jump over the orange squiggly.

The segment starts with quotes from news reports that the Koch brothers helped accumulate $400 million that was spent to defeat President Obama and Congressional Democrats in the 2012 and then points out how the endeavor failed miserably. It's just amazing that the Koch brothers wasted their money having they lawyers attempt to muzzle Ms. Maddow. She even quotes the press coverage of the last time she tied the Koch brothers to the conservative networks they have created around the country, and specifically in Florida. Politifact had rated her assertions as "Mostly False" last time. Her response? More documentation that her reporting was factual.

Makes you wonder how the Koch brothers ever became successful billionaires, doesn't it? They blew $400 million on the 2012 election, and they wasted money on attorneys trying to force Rachel Maddow to retract her reporting. Fail! Fail! Fail! Why don't they just take their toys and go home? Seriously? When one thinks of all the good that money could have done, and yet it was used to wage a losing battle. The war isn't over because the Kochs plan to fight even more battles in the coming months as the 2014 election cycle gears up.

Don't think you can spare the time to watch a 15-minute video or read the long transcript? Read the end and then reconsider that thought.

The new Politico reporting on the Kochs' otherwise secret plans is that the Kochs, whose operation already rivals the Republican Party, they are now reshaping their operation in ways that could end up reshaping the Party itself, starting with raising as many millions of dollars as possible this weekend in Palm Springs. The Koch brothers are spending and organizing the spending of more money than almost anyone in history to influence American politics. They also fight vociferously to limit real reporting on how much they spend, how they spend it, and what the impact that spending has on our polity.

They want to influence American politics. And they are influencing American politics. But they do not want to be known for what it is that they do. And at one level this is one small fight about one group pushing one laughably terrible policy from Florida. But this is also about how American politics works now. And whether it stays in the light or whether it is allowed to go underground. Because how they are working their side of politics now is millions and millions and millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars that are intentionally made difficult to trace, funneled to networks that build networks that you can disown when you want to if you want to.

Does that intentionally opaque political activity get reported on now, or doesn't it? They have tried to make it as hard as possible for that reporting to get done. I say we do it anyway. It's our country too, even if we don't get invited to your Billionaires’ Party in Palm Springs every January.

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to Rachel Maddow's reporting after she receives another ton of lawyer papers in response to this segment.

Elaborate network obscures Koch influence
Rachel Maddow traces part of the vast network of Koch-funded groups and initiatives to show their influence on conservative politics.

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So the weather this weekend obviously was perfect if you live anywhere near Palm Springs, California. Maybe you played some golf on the manicured desert greens, enjoyed a cool drink by the pool. January in Palm Springs means look, 75 degrees and sunny. You feel like a million bucks. Or maybe you feel like several billion bucks.
Rachel Maddow: "January in Palm Springs means look, 75 degrees and sunny."
And a few weeks ago The Washington Post tallied up all the money the Kochs and their network raised for the 2012 election cycle [See Koch-backed political coalition, designed to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012 by Matea Gold, The Washington Post, 5 Jan 2014]. And by The Post's accounting, it looks like something on the order of about $400 million just for the 2012 election, torn down into a rabbit warren of essentially unGoogleable, hard to trace, opaque non-profits and organizations, most with seemingly unrelated names and spread out all over the country and good luck sorting it out.
Rachel Maddow: "The Washington Post tallied up all the money the Kochs and their network raised for the 2012 election cycle."
Around this time every year the conservative activist billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch get together with other very wealthy people somewhere around Palm Springs in order to talk conservative politics and conservative causes. Charles and David Koch try to hold these regular seminars in as much secrecy as possible because otherwise, the scene outside where they’re meeting ends up looking like this. [Video of protestors.]
Rachel Maddow: "This was outside the Koch's desert summit in 2011, and that was an off year for politics."
This was outside the Koch's desert summit in 2011, and that was an off year for politics. But that year people did find out in advance where they were going to and when they were going to be there, and so there was sort of a welcome party in reverse for the Kochs and their rich allies that year. That was 2011 when the Kochs and their friends were presumably planning their strategy for the next election cycle. The next election cycle, of course, was 2012.
Rachel Maddow: "At $400 million it was among the most mega of all the mega-money in that election."
The Post says found quote a labyrinth of tax-exempt groups and limited-liability companies helping mask the sources of the money, much of which went to voter mobilization and to television ads attacking President Obama and Congressional Democrats. What the Koch brothers helped fund in time for the 2012 election was a huge deal. I mean, at $400 million it was among the most mega of all the mega-money in that election. What they helped build for 2012 was very impressive … on paper. But in real life it flopped. The Kochs and their wealthy allies wanted Mitt Romney to become president, of course. In that effort, they failed. They also tried to put the Republicans back in control of the Senate, and they failed. They tried to get more Republicans into the House as well, and they failed at that too.
Rachel Maddow: "2012 was such a disappointment to the Kochs."
Twenty-twelve was such a disappointment to the Kochs that they delayed their plans for the 2013 summit [See Kochs Postpone Post-Election Meeting by Robert Costa, National Review Online, 11 Dec 2012]. Again, they usually troop off to Palm Springs in January. But after the 2012 election they pushed it back from January until April so they could have more time to try to figure out what to do.
Rachel Maddow: "that cash infusion was found by the state of California to be illegal."
But still, they were not yet done with the pain from that 2012 election cycle. In October, California officials announced that two groups they described as part of the Koch brothers network had broken campaign finance rules in the way they shuffled money around. A huge last minute infusion of cash into two California ballot initiatives (one to gut union rights and one to shield the richest taxpayers for a tax hike), that cash infusion was found by the state of California to be illegal [See Group Linked to Kochs Admits to Campaign Finance Violations by Nicholas Confessore, The New York Times, 24 Oct 2013].
Rachel Maddow: "One of the groups ... got a heap of cash from donors at the Koch's Palm Spring Summit in 201."
One of the groups dumping money into those fights in California reportedly got a heap of cash from donors at the Koch's Palm Spring Summit in 2012 [See Koch World 2014 by Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico.com, 24 Jan 2014].
Rachel Maddow: "...those groups agreed to a record fine, handed down by the State of California."
And in October those groups agreed to a record fine, handed down by the State of California. For their part, the Kochs insisted they had nothing to do with that scandal in California. They said they did not control those particular outfits and did not give money directly or indirectly to any nonprofit in that particular California election. But of course, they did still end up with their name in this headline [See Group Linked to Kochs Admits to Campaign Finance Violations by Nicholas Confessore, The New York Times, 24 Oct 2013].
Rachel Maddow: "The Washington Post attempting to chart the Koch backed election machine for 2012."
And in this one; this is The Washington Post attempting to chart the Koch backed election machine for 2012 [See Inside the $400-million political network backed by the Kochs, The Washington Post, 5 Jan 2014]. You can see one of the groups that got its wires crossed in California is right there in the middle of the web; in the middle of the Koch-backed network.
Rachel Maddow: "But what makes the Kochs' genius, is that they help grow networks."
For the Koch brothers, the news out of California presents a different and worrying kind of challenge. I mean, they can write impressive checks. They can get other rich people to write impressive checks. But what makes the Kochs' genius, is that they help grow networks; networks that then grow other networks. And in so doing they create a web of immense influence that seems decentralized. So when someone at the end of the org. chart does something that gets noticed, either for good or for bad, well then it's your call as to whether or not you say you’re proud to take credit for what they did or whether you tell everyone that you’ve got no connection to them whatsoever. Change the world; sway elections, but keep your hands clean. You don't have to answer questions about it. You don't have to face scrutiny as to your motives or anything else and it cuts down on those annoying protesters outside your swanky resort meetings. If you are writing checks alongside the Kochs you get to be part of this leviathan, far reaching, well funded nest of networks and no one has to know that about you unless you want them to.
Rachel Maddow: "...the maze of linked groups and money did not win them the 2012 election."
The Post called it quote a maze of groups that cloaks its donors. But again, in 2012 the maze of linked groups and money did not win them the 2012 election, and they had that problem in California with the network going sideways and getting busted by that state there. So what happens this year? What do the Kochs try to sell in their desert retreat this year, which happened just this past weekend in Palm Springs?
Rachel Maddow: "...look for the hotel where all the rooms are booked and suddenly the restaurant is inexplicably off limits."
It was kind of fun watching the local press trying to figure out where the meeting was going to be held this year [See Koch brothers expected to hold desert conference by Erica Felci, The Desert Sun, 24 Jan 2014]. Hint, look for the hotel where all the rooms are booked and suddenly the restaurant is inexplicably off limits. Politico.com broke the news on Friday about the Kochs' pitch this year. Quote This year, the Koch’s 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 [See Koch World 2014 by Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico.com, 24 Jan 2014].

So the Kochs are reportedly selling more influence over which candidates are running and more control over the network. All the non-profits with the hard to follow anonymous-sounding names that have been freelancing out there, right? More control. And good on Politico for being able to report that out in advance of the meetings this weekend because we know how secret they like to keep this stuff.

I've got to say, though, when that story broke I always wonder now, every time I see somebody report something new on the Koch brothers and particularly on what the Koch brothers fund, I wonder if they are getting buried under a ton of lawyer papers every time they report this stuff too. Or whether the Kochs just do that to us.

Rachel Maddow: "Being a political actor means being subject to political scrutiny. If you don’t want to be known for it, DON'T DO IT."
[Video clip  from The Rachel Maddow Show 3 Jan 2014]:
… we will not stop reporting on the political actions and the consequences of the political actions of rich and powerful men even if they send angry letters every time we do it. I will not read scripts provided to me by anyone else. I do not play requests. I will happily make corrections when I do get things wrong. We do it on this show all the time. But I will not renounce or retract reporting that is true even if the subjects of that reporting don’t like it. Being a political actor means being subject to political scrutiny. If you don’t want to be known for it, DON'T DO IT.
So a few weeks ago we reported on this show about forced drug testing for people on welfare in the State of Florida. It's a Rick Scott policy in that state. It has not been going well in that state. And that's of wider political interest for two reasons. One is that Florida Governor Rick Scott's running for re-election and he's making that policy part of his re-election effort; even as a federal judge has just struck down that policy as unconstitutional. Also, though, the second reason, that story may not just be about Florida anymore. Between the time that the forced drug testing thing got signed into law in Florida and the time that the federal judge first struck it down, a Florida group called the Foundation for Government Accountability started marketing that forced drug testing law around the country, trying to talk other states into doing it as well. They went to public hearings in Georgia to share the good news about Florida's terrible policy [See The Right Presses On For Welfare Drug Tests The Rachel Maddow Show, 2 Jan 2014].

They went to public meetings in Georgia to share the good news about Florida’s terrible policy [See RELEASE: Think Tank Shares Florida’s Welfare Drug Testing Success at Georgia Public Hearing, Foundation for Government Accountability, 15 Feb 2012]. They went to a national meeting of the group ALEC in Arizona to market Florida's terrible policy to state legislators from all over the country [See RELEASE – Think Tank Featured at ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force, Foundation for Government Accountability, 5 Dec 2011]. So we reported that a few weeks ago. The problems with that forced drug testing policy had as a policy in Florida, its problems legally in Florida, and the efforts of this Koch brothers-affiliated group, the Foundation for Government Accountability, to nevertheless try to sell this very bad policy nationwide.

PolitiFact gets it wrong!
The Koch brothers responded by telling us that they had nothing to do with the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability, they rejected any effort to link them with what that group does and with the policies that that group promotes. The Koch brothers say they have nothing to do with the issue of drug testing for welfare benefits, nothing to do with that Florida law, and nothing to do with this Florida group, the Foundation for Government Accountability. Quote an attorney for Koch Industries … says Koch foundations have no connections to the Foundation for Government Accountability [See Rachel Maddow claims Florida group that backs drug-testing welfare recipients is affiliated with Koch brothers, PolitiFact, 9 Jan 2014]. A spokesman for the Koch Company says, quote Koch has not contributed to the Foundation for Government Accountability. We have had no involvement whatsoever with the foundation for Government Accountability or the Florida law [See MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Hunkers Down on Koch Bros. Claim by Erik Wemple, The Washington Post, 8 Jan 2014].

No involvement with the Foundation for Government Accountability whatsoever. They do not want to be associated with the work of this group or the policies this group supports. They do not want to be tied to them. They do not want you to hear forced drug testing in Florida and think about the conservative networks that have been spawned by the Koch brothers.

The Institute for Humane Studies is a non-profit.
Here's the thing. This is the website for The Institute for Humane Studies. The Institute for Humane Studies is a non-profit. They list Charles G. Koch of Koch Industries as their chairman [See Institute for Humane Studies income tax exemption form (pdf)]. And one thing this Koch-chaired non-profit has done is offer the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellows Program. The Koch summer fellowship is a paid public policy internship. Quote at the state level the fellowship strengthens the institutional capacity of market-oriented think tanks. You and I might not get invited to the Kochs' fund-raising party in the desert. We don't get to watch them building their network. But every so often we get a glimpse of the Kochs' network itself building.

[Audio recording of Heather Lakemacher, Policy Programs Director, Institute for Humane Studies, Students for Liberty/Youtube 2 Feb 2013]

Next .. and this is my personal favorite, because it's the one I direct … is the Koch Summer Fellow Program. And the Koch Summer Fellow Program is run by the Institute for Humane Studies, and here are the basics, and obviously, I can go into a lot more detail in the Q&Q session. It's a paid internship program which pairs you with opportunities throughout the entire country. So we work with State Policy Network, and one of the advantages that we have there is many of the state groups aren't able to pay internships. They only have unpaid internships. And so through the Koch Summer Fellow Program we actually provide a stipend for the summer. So it's an opportunity to work with a group and get paid for it.
That was a nice-sounding lady from the Koch-chaired Institute for Humane Studies talking to students from a Koch-funded organization last year. She's talking about sending Koch fellows to the State Policy Network, which is a group of think tanks which includes the Foundation for Government Accountability. That group in Florida that the Kochs say they have nothing to do with.
Rachel Maddow: "State Policy Network says it is very excited about these liberty-loving interns."
State Policy Network says it is very excited about these liberty-loving interns who get a stipend, housing assistance, and travel scholarships as part of their Koch fellowship [See SPN News January/February 2013 Updates]. In full disclosure I should tell you that a lot of corporations also give money to the State Policy Network including our corporate owners at Comcast. But not all of them send interns to these groups as Charles Koch fellows.

[Audio recording of Heather Lakemacher, Policy Programs Director, Institute for Humane Studies, Students for Liberty/Youtube 2 Feb 2013]

You can use, like, the Koch Summer Fellow Program if you go to our website, we've got what we call the host search. And it's a listing of all of the organizations that we work with.
Rachel Maddow: "And oh, hey, look, that group that the Koch brothers say they and their foundations have absolutely no involvement with whatsoever."
That's how the Koch Fellows people tell you to find out where you can work if you get one of these paid Koch fellowships. You go to the Koch fellows host search page. You can search it by policy interest or by region. And oh, hey, look, that group that the Koch brothers says they and their foundations have absolutely no involvement with whatsoever, The Foundation for Government Accountability; that group in Florida that has been pushing that drug test the poor law. Look, there they are. Same guys; same guys the Kochs say neither they nor their foundations have anything to do with. Anyone who reports out new information on the political activities of the Koch brothers, particularly on what they fund and who they're linked to, tends to get acquainted with their teams of lawyers and spokesmen very quickly. They challenged our original report this month about the Foundation for Government Accountability and them being a Koch-affiliated group.
Koch spokesman accuses Maddow team of trying to change the subject.
We stand by our report. Then we asked them about this other very bright link between the Koch brothers and the Florida group they want to say they're not affiliated with whatsoever. We asked them about this other link. And they said essentially, Hey, quit changing the subject. Their spokesman telling us, quote rather than admit you are wrong about that Florida group you are shifting the focus to a new line of flawed reasoning that isn't relevant to your previous coverage. But the Koch network is the whole point of the previous coverage and all the coverage we've ever done of these guys.

Again, the Kochs say they have nothing to do with drug testing for welfare benefits or with the Florida law but the group that is promoting that Florida policy around the country is affiliated with the Koch brothers and benefits from being part of their network of conservative political groups. And that matters. And reporting it despite their threats; matters.

Kochs' otherwise secret plans is that the Kochs, whose operation already rivals the Republican Party, they are now reshaping their operation in ways that could end up reshaping the Party itself.
The new Politico reporting on the Kochs' otherwise secret plans is that the Kochs, whose operation already rivals the Republican Party, they are now reshaping their operation in ways that could end up reshaping the Party itself, starting with raising as many millions of dollars as possible this weekend in Palm Springs. The Koch brothers are spending and organizing the spending of more money than almost anyone in history to influence American politics. They also fight vociferously to limit real reporting on how much they spend, how they spend it, and what the impact that spending has on our polity.

They want to influence American politics. And they are influencing American politics. But they do not want to be known for what it is that they do. And at one level this is one small fight about one group pushing one laughably terrible policy from Florida. But this is also about how American politics works now. And whether it stays in the light or whether it is allowed to go underground. Because how they are working their side of politics now is millions and millions and millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars that are intentionally made difficult to trace, funneled to networks that build networks that you can disown when you want to if you want to.

Does that intentionally opaque political activity get reported on now, or doesn't it? They have tried to make it as hard as possible for that reporting to get done. I say we do it anyway. It's our country too, even if we don't get invited to your Billionaires’ Party in Palm Springs every January.

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