This International Women’s Day we are witnessing the growing influence of the billionaire Koch Brothers and their anti-woman, anti-healthcare agenda -- right here in New York City. You may know them from any one of their roles – energy producers, market speculators, privateers of water systems, makers of fertilizers and steel for grids for high-speed communication – but perhaps the most troubling, and the one for which they've gained the most notoriety, is their shadowy right-wing political financing operation.
Their funding network, which the New York Times calls “unrivaled in complexity and secrecy,” allows them to wield their clandestine influence against everything from environmental regulation to Medicaid at top levels of political power. More than one in four state legislators in the US are members of ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization largely funded by the Kochs for coordinating far right-wing legislative campaigns.
The Koch Brothers have women's health in their sights, as well. At the very time the Affordable Care Act kicks in to fund the expansion of Medicaid benefits – essential for poor and working mothers and single women, too – the Kochs are determined to shut it down. Above and beyond this, they have funneled millions of dollars into the campaigns, organizations, and candidacies committed to waging war on women’s reproductive rights.
While they seek to curtail or cut off healthcare for millions, they expand healthcare in their own back yard. David Koch, the younger brother and New York City’s wealthiest resident, lives within blocks of a new, $2 billion healthcare facility going up on Manhattan's East Side – a facility that will bear his name. Hospitals in communities with pronounced need face closure, while David Koch helps fund a facility in a neighborhood already lined with clinics and hospitals. Nurses see this as an assault on our patients.
David Koch's influence is ubiquitous in this city – in the arts, in healthcare and business. He sits on the boards of some of New York’s most cherished institutions, among them New York Presbyterian Hospital.
The gaping chasm between the "Two Cities" that defined the de Blasio campaign is the result of a generation of Koch-favored “business-friendly” policies that have helped elites accumulate to the detriment of the 99 Percent. On our day, International Women's Day, this year, we are calling for a new day in New York City. Let's close the chapter on the Koch Brothers. The right wing’s biggest bucks simply have no place here anymore.
A coalition of elected officials, labor unions, the NAACP, the Working Families Party, and community groups is coming together this Saturday, March 8 for a Cook Out to Get Koch Out. We’ll gather at 10AM on York Avenue, between 68th and 69th Streets, by the site of the forthcoming Koch Center for a pancake breakfast and a march on the Upper East Side. If you're in New York City this weekend, join us!
Jill Furillo is a registered nurse and executive director of the New York State Nurses Association.