Kansas is not a state you’d readily connect with Kremlingate yet it’s home to three very powerful entities — two individuals and one pair of brothers. While their Russian connections vary according to their status and magnitude of power, all are members of the Republican Party with strong links tying them together.
The brothers are Charles and David Koch who hail from Wichita, Kansas, also the site of Koch Industries HQ. Where they intersect with Trump and his (mis)administration is extreme politics and big oil. Oil is the foundation of Koch Industries. It links them with Russia in the first instance and with the Trump cabinet, particularly their friend Rex Tillerson, the part-time Secretary of State.
One of the companies that will profit immensely by Keystone’s construction is Secretary of State and Vladimir Putin loyalist Rex Tillerson’s company Exxon Mobil. Owners of the Republican Congress, Koch Industries will also profit because besides being the largest land owners of Canadian tar sands, the Kochs own refineries contracted to refine the Canadian tar into diesel oil which is in high demand in Russia and China.
Alternet picks up the story:
And herein lies the core of their authoritarian attraction. [They] know that responsible action on climate change to limit global temperature increases to a still punishing two degrees means that $2 trillion worth of fossil fuels must be kept in the ground. Most of those extreme fuels consist of higher cost U.S. shale oil, Canadian oilsands, Russian conventional oil and Arctic reserves.
And any move to keep these resources in the ground would spell the end of ExxonMobil, Russian energy giant Gazprom, the Koch brothers and Putin himself.
Ergo, Putin’s priority interests align exactly with the Kochs’ priority interests and neither want to sacrifice future wealth to a concern for the Earth and future generations. As Penn State University Professor Michael Mann observed:
[Climate scientists] thought evidence and reason would rule the day, but that’s not how wealthy czars or bloody cartels behave. Power is not something they surrender like some piece of cake. “What we didn’t take into account was the ferociousness of the moneyed interests and the politicians doing their bidding,” admitted Mann.
“We are talking about a direct challenge to the most powerful industry that has ever existed on the face of the earth. There’s no depth to which they’re unwilling to sink to challenge anything threatening their interests.”
As well as that describes Putin, it also describes Exxonmobil and the Kochs.
Charles and David Koch inherited their father’s business (renaming it Koch Industries) along with his extreme politics (Fred Koch was a charter member of the John Birch Society). From the Rolling Stone article “Inside The Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire”:
With Republicans and Democrats united in regulating the oil business, Charles had begun throwing his wealth behind the upstart Libertarian Party, seeking to transform it into a viable third party. Over the years, he would spend millions propping up a league of affiliated think tanks and front groups – a network of Libertarians that became known as the "Kochtopus."
CEO Charles talked David into standing as the VP candidate for the Libertarian Party in 1980. His platform strikes familiar chords in Trump’s EOs, Cabinet chiefs’ objectives for their departments and current GOP policies.
- We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.
- We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.
- We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.
- We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.
- We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.
- We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.
- As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.
- We support repeal of all law which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.
- We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.
- We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.
- We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.
- We support abolition of the Department of Energy.
- We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.
- We demand the return of America's railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.
- We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.
- We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.
- We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.
- We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
- We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
This is not the full list (it would take up too much space) but every one of these is either on the chopping block or currently in the works since January 3 this year. Note particularly their support of private over public schools and put this together with their many years of political partnering with the DeVos family. Also note their objectives for privatising transportation, a perfect reflection of Elaine Chao’s overarching objective to sell off US infrastructure.
In 1984 they broke with the libertarians and joined the GOP. How did the Koch brothers then get republicans to adopt their agenda? Money, lots of it. It opened doors wide, giving them unparallelled opportunities to further their personal agenda.
[T]he Koch brothers conducted a concerted campaign to undermine U.S. democracy by weaponizing philanthropy. In the process they disguised corporate self-interest as a populist revolt against government political elites. As documented by Jane Mayer in her excellent book Dark Money, the Koch brothers used charities and think tanks to champion unfettered oil production, mock climate change and sow doubt about the role of government. All echoed their libertarian grievances against the state.
Tim Dickerson, Rolling Stone
Echoed libertarian grievances under their newly-acquired GOP umbrella.
Essential and central to the plan was an investment of untold billions to buy republican politicians at every level of government. In congress and at state level, there’s no doubt they’re the majority owners and among their most favored pets is Mike Pompeo, Trump’s nomination for CIA Chief.
From The Nation article “The Koch Brothers’ Favorite Congressman Will Be in Charge of the CIA” by John Nichols:
Pompeo came out of the same Wichita, Kansas, business community where the Koch family’s oil-and-gas conglomerate is headquartered. Indeed, Pompeo built his own company with seed money from Koch Venture Capital.
Congressman Mike Pompeo was the single largest recipient of campaign funds from the Koch Brothers in 2010. After winning election with Koch money, Congressman Pompeo hired a Koch Industries lawyer to run his office. According to The Washington Post, Congressman Pompeo then introduced bills friendly to Koch Industries while Koch hired outside lobbyists to support them.
The head of the CIA is crucial post from the Trump-Russia perspective. It had to be someone they could trust to shut down any investigations of Trump, his family or their various business associates. Clearly the Kochs wanted Pompeo in the Cabinet but it wasn’t the brothers who went to Trump personally with their man, it was another of their paid-for politicians, Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, the most overlooked and underrated political ringleader in the country.
Kobach was one of the early members brought onto the transition team though nobody seems to know how or by whom. Outwardly Kobach is state, not federal, and had no apparent links to the Trump campaign until you dig a little — turns out he was a prominent voice on the platform committee at the GOP convention. An even deeper excavation reveals that Kobach has fingers in multiple pies and none of them are the emblematically-patriotic American apple pie.
The Washington Post April 2016:
Most secretaries of state are longtime bureaucrats who focus quietly on overseeing their state’s election processes and become known to the wider public only if something goes awry on Election Day.
Kobach is different. With degrees from Harvard, Yale Law School and Oxford University, where he earned a doctorate in politics, he has turned his perch in Kansas into a powerful national platform for his ideas.
Kobach certainly sticks out from the usual SoS crowd. He came up with the idea of “self-deportation” for illegal immigrants, an idea Mitt Romney unsuccessfully took into his 2012 campaign. He also wrote Arizona’s strict “show me your papers” immigration law and contributed to the Republican Platform at last year’s GOP convention.
As a delightfully sarcastic Christopher Brauchli wrote for The Huffington Post:
One of his accomplishments was getting language inserted into the platform that addresses the border wall Donald Trump has proposed. The language that he caused to be inserted states that: “The border wall must cover the entirety of the southern border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.” The Platform Committee also responded favorably to Mr. Kobach’s suggestion that the platform condemn the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court opinion legalizing gay marriage, a decision he called “obviously incorrect.”
At a meeting with Trump in late November 2016, Kobach presented him with a document titled "Strategic Plan for the First 365 Days". As ABC News reported, the document
...called for the reintroduction of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System to track "all aliens from high-risk areas."
Kobach helped create the controversial system to track students, tourists and visitors from 25 countries while working for President George W. Bush's Justice Department after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The document, which was only partially visible, also called for stopping the admission of Syrian refugees into the United States.
In an interview with Reuters, Kobach said
… [he] had discussed drafting executive orders for the president-elect's review "so that Trump and the Department of Homeland Security [could] hit the ground running."
It’s highly probable then that Trump’s Muslim ban EO was either based on Kobach’s draft or provided by him in full which is why it was ready to go so soon.
But Kobach’s talents aren’t limited to devious anti-immigration ideas. His real forté is voter suppression. Does the term “Crosscheck” ring a bell?
The data is processed through a system called the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which is being promoted by a powerful Republican operative, and its lists of potential duplicate voters are kept confidential. But Rolling Stone obtained a portion of the list and the names of 1 million targeted voters. According to our analysis, the Crosscheck list disproportionately threatens solid Democratic constituencies: young, black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters – with some of the biggest possible purges underway in Ohio and North Carolina, two crucial swing states with tight Senate races.
That powerful Republican operative has to be Kris Kobach, the architect of Crosscheck. He also writes laws for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — another Koch-funded group — and disseminates them to republican states so he’s very well known to them all. (Almost all major republican legislation at state level is written for them by ALEC.)
He’s also the most travelled of all the state SoSes, touring various red states, no doubt checking in to see if they have met their Crosscheck targets and advising his fellow SoSes of his latest electoral strategies. If you’re looking for the Election-Rigger-in-Chief — and those of us concerned about electoral fraud should be — Kris Kobach has to be the #1 suspect.
Funded by the Kochs, given extraordinary powers by Governor Brownback, organiser of and adviser to republican secretaries of state and the Trump transition team, he’s the obvious mastermind yet he’s largely gone under the radar of mainstream media. They’ve reported on bits here and pieces there but none so far have joined all the dots to get the big picture, perhaps because the MSM is so unwilling to concede that electoral fraud exists at all.
Currently Kobach is back in the news. Federal Judge James O’Hara has ordered Kobach to turn over a copy of the proposal he took into that Nov 20 meeting with Trump. But Kobach doesn’t want to turn it over and that, of course, has fueled suspicions that there’s something in it that a judge would consider legally reprehensible.
It’s Kobach’s own fault. It wouldn’t have come to light at all if it hadn’t been for his own brash egotism. Instead of sliding the pages inside the document folder he carried, Kobach just slapped it on top of the folder, in full view of photographers taking his picture with Trump. An Associated Press photographer was particularly curious and captured a close-up of the visible front page, partially obscured by Kobach’s arm. It was enough.
As the Wichita Eagle reported,
The photograph also revealed that the documents included a reference to voter rolls.
The American Civil Liberties Union sought its disclosure as part of an ongoing lawsuit against a Kansas law that requires voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, when they register to vote. The ACLU argued that if Kobach lobbied Trump on changes to the National Voter Registration Act, then the documents may contain material relevant to the case.
If — and it’s a very big if — Kobach does hand over a genuine copy of the document photographed, then it’s just possible that it will lead to revelations that
- Kobach is the ringleader of a republican cadre specifically organised to rig elections;
- Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell know of its existence and use it to their advantage;
- the Russians also knew of its existence which is why their election interference was confined to stealing data and false messaging but stopped short of tampering with the votes themselves.
This was always the biggest gap in Russia’s scheming — why did they not infiltrate the voting process itself to guarantee the result they wanted? There was no reason for them to not go there — and it certainly wasn’t due to an attack of conscience. The only reason they would not do so is because someone else was taking care of it. The person best placed to coordinate vote-rigging on a multi-state scale is Kris Kobach.
And Kris Kobach is funded and backed by the Kochs who distanced themselves from the Trump campaign. That was supposedly because Trump and the Kochs don’t like each other, an unconvincing argument in light of the fact that even a superficial knowledge of these players would adequately inform anyone paying attention that they would readily put aside enmity for gains in power and profit. It’s more likely that the Kochs were well aware of Trump’s criminal associations and did not want to get caught in that net.
But they did want a big helping of the republican pie they’d helped bake as Politico noted:
From White House Counsel Don McGahn and transition team advisers Tom Pyle, Darin Selnick and Alan Cobb to Presidential Inaugural Committee member Diane Hendricks and transition-team executive committee members Rebekah Mercer and Anthony Scaramucci, Trump has surrounded himself with people tied to the Kochs.
People tied to the Kochs and with Russian connections — and that’s just a small portion of a list that also includes Betsy DeVos, Rex Tillerson and yes, Mike Pompeo.
The Kochs frequently attracted the attention of media prior to the ascension of Donald Trump. They will be enjoying this break from the limelight — it’s so much easier to operate nefariously on the quiet and Kansas is an ideally unlikely state for a hideaway. But we see you Charles and David Koch. We see you Mike Pompeo. We see you Kris Kobach. And you can be certain of this: we will persist.