From Joe Conason at Salon:
Is there a vast corporate conspiracy behind the Tea Party and the midterm resurgence of the far right? The most suggestive evidence involves the well-documented role of the billionaire Koch brothers, their Americans for Prosperity front group and other Koch-funded entities – but now a secret letter from Charles Koch shows that the tentacles of the “Kochtopus” include a high-level “network” of corporate, lobbying, nonprofit, and media organizations that meet regularly to plot right-wing strategy.
Dated September 24, 2010 and signed by Koch himself on company stationery, the letter urges recipients to join “our network of business and philanthropic leaders, who are dedicated to defending our free society” – and specifically to attend the group’s next meeting at a Palm Springs resort in late January. Most revealing is an attached brochure about the network’s most recent meeting, which occurred in Aspen last June 27-28.
According to that document, the Palm Springs meeting attracted such corporate and financial titans as Stephen Schwartzman of the Blackstone Group, Philip Anschutz of Anschutz Industries, and Steve Bechtel of Bechtel Corp., as well as representatives of Bank of America, Allied Capital, Citadel Investment, among many others – all of whom gathered to learn how to “elect leaders who are more strongly committed to liberty and prosperity” with a “strategic plan to educate voters on the importance of economic freedom.”
Explaining the network’s plan for November and beyond were David Chavern, second in command at the US Chamber of Commerce; Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity; Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; and Gretchen Hamel, the former Bush administration official who runs Public Notice, a group launched last spring under mysterious auspices to attack government spending.
But conservative journalists were the true stars of that June meeting, notably Washington Post columnist and Fox News pundit Charles Krauthammer (who spoke at a mountaintop dinner on “What’s Ahead for America?”), the National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru, syndicated columnist and author Michael Barone, and Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal editorial board. Glenn Beck of Fox News – who has lately been defending the Chamber of Commerce as advocates of “the little guy” – is also listed as a “presenter.”
Nobody was supposed to talk about the meeting, as the brochure’s “Confidentiality and Security” section emphasizes, so nobody was meant to know that Krauthammer, Ponnuru, Barone, Moore and Beck were flown out to Aspen, lodged in luxury accommodations, and presumably paid a handsome honorarium by Koch to entertain and enlighten the would-be saviors of the Republic.
Still more troubling is the same brochure’s boast that Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia have addressed past meetings of the Koch network. Why would two Supreme Court justices show up at a secret conclave of far-right activists and corporate lobbyists, impairing the transparency and impartiality of the nation’s highest court?
From THINK PROGRESS:
In 2006, Koch Industries owner Charles Koch revealed to the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore that he coordinates the funding of the conservative infrastructure of front groups, political campaigns, think tanks, media outlets and other anti-government efforts through a twice annual meeting of wealthy right-wing donors. He also confided to Moore, who is funded through several of Koch’s ventures, that his true goal is to strengthen the “culture of prosperity” by eliminating “90%” of all laws and government regulations. Although it is difficult to quantify the exact amount Koch alone has funneled to right-wing fronts, some studies have pointed toward $50 million he has given alone to anti-environmental groups. Recently, fronts funded by Charles and his brother David have received scrutiny because they have played a pivotal role in the organizing of the anti-Obama Tea Parties and the promotion of virulent far right lawmakers like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).
While the Koch brothers — each worth over $21.5 billion — have certainly underwritten much of the right, their hidden coordination with other big business money has gone largely unnoticed. ThinkProgress has obtained a memo outlining the details of the last Koch gathering held in June of this year. [...] The memo describes the prospective corporate donors as “investors,” and it makes clear that many of the Republican operatives managing shadowy, undisclosed fronts running attack ads against Democrats were involved in the Koch’s election-planning event:
– Corporate “investors” at the Koch meeting included businesses with a strong profit motive in rolling back President Obama’s enacted reforms. Several companies impacted by health reform [,] owners of fast food stores which have fought efforts to provide health insurance to their employees[,] the financial industry impacted by Wall Street reform [, and ] a corporation involved in the mortgage banking industry.
– Corporate “investors” at the Koch meeting included businesses with a strong profit motive in preventing progressive reforms promised by President Obama. Several executives at the meeting have an incentive to stop Democrats and President Obama from addressing climate change and enacting clean energy reform.
– Fred Malek, Karl Rove’s top fundraiser for his $56 million attack ad campaign against Democrats, attended the meeting, along with leaders of other secret attack groups. Heather Higgins, who leads the Independent Women’s Forum, a shadowy group that has spent millions of dollars in attack ads on health reform, attended the meeting.
– Participants collaborated with infamous consultants who specialize in generating fake grassroots movements, as well as experts on how corporations should take advantage of Citizens United. One session, about how to “mobilize citizens for November,” involved a discussion with Republican strategists Tim Phillips and Sean Noble, anti-union leader Mark Mix, and longtime Koch operative Karl Crow. Phillips — a veteran astroturf lobbyist who previously managed a deceptive grassroots lobbying campaign to help the Hong Kong-based Tan family maintain their forced abortion sweatshops in the Mariana Islands — now leads the day-to-day operations of Americans for Prosperity, the group ThinkProgress first reported to have helped organize many of the initial Tea Party rallies against Obama.
See the list of attendees at the THINK PROGRESS link.