Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

America Has a Koch Problem

Popular

By Richard Eskow

When the history of Donald Trump's Administration is written, people may point to the appointment of a Koch brothers' operative to a little-known White House position as a turning point in Trump's evolution from unorthodox Republican candidate to doctrinaire corporate politician.

Meet Trump Legislative Director Marc Short

Think of it as a merger or an acquisition. His administration hires suggest that Trump, who ran a heterodox and intermittently populist (if consistently bigoted) campaign, has been joining forces with the more established corporate extremism of the Republican Party establishment.

Marc Short.

Consider Marc Short's appointment as Director of Legislative Affairs. According to the White House website, the Office of Legislative Affairs "serves as the President's primary liaison to the United States Congress and is responsible for advancing the President's legislative agenda on Capitol Hill."

The Director of Legislative Affairs has typically been an obscure figure, plucked from a staffer job on Capitol Hill. And while the position calls for "working with Senators, Representatives and their staffs to promote the President's priorities" (as the White House website puts it), Great Britain's Prince Phillip may have captured a key aspect of the job more pithily when he was introduced to one of Short's predecessors some years ago:

"Ah," Prince Philip said, "the spear catcher."

But Marc Short, who is reportedly Donald Trump's choice to fill the position, is more accustomed to doling out cash than he is to catching spears. It's true that Short has some Hill experience, as chief of staff to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) and then-Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN).

Short isn't really a policy wonk. He's an operative in Republican and right-wing circles. After serving as finance director for Oliver North's failed senatorial campaign, Short reportedly helped Pence run the House Republican Conference, managed the Reagan Ranch and was a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security under Bush.

The Kochs' Dark Money

Short is best known for his tenure as president of the Koch brother's Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the political fund organized by the Koch brothers to advance their far-right, pro-corporate, anti-environmental agenda. While the group describes itself as a "business league," the Center for Media and Democracy noted that its fundraising cycles much more closely resemble those of a political party, complete with high-tech voter lists and opposition research.

The Washington Post described the organization as "carefully constructed with extensive legal barriers to shield its donors" and said it operated "de facto banks" that were "feeding money to groups downstream."

Freedom Partners has reportedly cut checks for as much as $63 million to support campaigns and causes beloved by the Kochs and their allies, including anti-environmental groups, the National Rifle Association and two different groups working to repeal Obamacare, the 60 Plus Association and the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR) run by Koch money man Sean Noble (who renamed the group American Encore).

CPPR/American Encore created some bad headlines for the Kochs.

It was forced to pay huge fines as part of a settlement with California Attorney General–now Sen.–Kamala Harris for activities that were described as "campaign money laundering," although Noble and the Kochs denied wrongdoing. Three other groups that received Freedom Partners funding were fined by the Federal Election Commission last year for violating campaign regulations.

This is classic dark money behavior and Short was in the middle of it.

Short doesn't just give money away. As president of Freedom Partners he received a lot, too. The latest IRS filing for the organization shows that Short was paid $1,110,328 in 2015 by the nonprofit, and received another $48,444 in "other compensation from the organization and related organizations." The last person to hold his White House job reportedly received $172,200 per year—an excellent standard by most measures, but a step down from Short's former salary.

The Kochs' Dark Money Man Peddled a Plan to Take Down Trump

Short's path to the White House was not without a surprise or two. He left Freedom Partners in 2016 to join Marco Rubio's campaign, a move that was interpreted by some as a sign that the Republican establishment wanted to stop Trump at all costs.

If the right-wing National Review is to be believed, Short was so determined to stop Trump that he personally presented Charles Koch with a plan for blistering ads "a detailed, eight-figure blueprint for derailing (Trump) on Super Tuesday," but was rebuffed.

He's come a long way since then.

So why the change of heart?

Perhaps because the candidate Short once wanted to stop is now poised to deliver on key elements of the Koch brothers' agenda. Trump is appointing oil industry executives and lobbyists to a number of top positions and denies the reality of climate change. His xenophobic and bigoted rhetoric fuels the kind of fear that does great things for gun sales.

Like Freedom Partners, Trump is pushing deregulation. And Trump, together with his congressional allies, is poised to repeal Obamacare.

Recently, the Kochs' "grassroots" group Americans for Prosperity, is telling potential donors (with typically hyperbolic capitalization) that the Kochs' three-part agenda consists of "1. REPEALING OBAMACARE; 2. FIXING OUR BROKEN TAX SYSTEM"—that is, tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy—and, "3. CUTTING FEDERAL SPENDING."

Freedom Partners gave more than $130 million to organizations that supported Obamacare's repeal in 2012 along, according to its IRS filing. $115 million was given to the CPPR and $15.7 million went to the 60 Plus Association, which also lobbied heavily against it. CPPR funneled money to other groups as well, creating a fake storm of "grassroots" opposition.

Freedom Partners and Americans for Prosperity routinely used Obamacare as a hot-button issue, targeting key Democrats with "issues ads" in their re-election races—which, of course, means that they were aiding Republicans in those races. American Encore also spent millions the same way.

A Friendly Koch Takeover

Short is not the only Koch person to join the Trump Administration. Vice President Mike Pence is a Koch ally and he has been helping stack the cabinet with a coterie of Koch friends. Pence may become the most powerful vice president in U.S. history—outstripping even Dick Cheney in influence.

And while Trump has differed with the Kochs on some key issues—including trade, Social Security and Medicare—they have always agreed on deregulation, privatization, the climate, taxes and Obamacare. Trump's appointments suggest that he may be moving closer to the Kochs on other issues as well.

One thing seems clear already: the Kochs and their big-money allies seem poised to gain more influence than ever during a presidency they once tried to prevent.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The south Asian paradise tree snake can launch itself into the air and glide from one tree branch to another. Thai National Parks, CC by 2.0

Did you know that some snakes can fly?

The south Asian paradise tree snake (Chrysopelea paradisi) can launch itself into the air and glide from one tree branch to another. And when it does, it moves its body in waves in something known as aerial undulation. Scientists have long known how the snakes moved. But they didn't know why. Until now.

Read More Show Less
A diver swims with sharpfin barracuda, one of the many ocean species under threat from global warming, in Australia, Queensland, Great Barrier Reef. Pete Atkinson / The Image Bank / Getty Images Plus

The oceans could look much emptier by 2100, according to a new study that found that most fish species would not be able to survive in their current habitat if average global temperatures rise 4.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Women walk from Santa Monica beach after a social media workout on the sand on May 12, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Independence Day weekend is a busy time for coastal communities as people flock to the beaches to soak up the sun during the summer holiday. This year is different. Some of the country's most popular beach destinations in Florida and California have decided to close their beaches to stop the surge in coronavirus cases.

Read More Show Less
Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans and others who suffer from PTSD. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Arash Javanbakht

For some combat veterans, the Fourth of July is not a time to celebrate the independence of the country they love. Instead, the holiday is a terrifying ordeal. That's because the noise of fireworks – loud, sudden, and reminiscent of war – rocks their nervous system. Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans.

Read More Show Less
Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs. Mathias Appel / Flickr

Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs, warns a year-long inquiry into Australia's "most loved animal." The report published by the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) paints a "stark and depressing snapshot" of koalas in Australia's southeastern state.

Read More Show Less
NASA is advancing tools like this supercomputer model that created this simulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to better understand what will happen to Earth's climate if the land and ocean can no longer absorb nearly half of all climate-warming CO2 emissions. NASA/GSFC

By Jeff Berardelli

For the past year, some of the most up-to-date computer models from the world's top climate modeling groups have been "running hot" – projecting that global warming may be even more extreme than earlier thought. Data from some of the model runs has been confounding scientists because it challenges decades of consistent projections.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A child stands in what is left of his house in Utuado, Puerto Rico, which was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria, on Oct. 12, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios. Flickr, CC by 2.0
By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

To hear many journalists tell it, the spring of 2020 has brought a series of extraordinary revelations. Look at what the nation has learned: That our health-care system was not remotely up to the challenge of a deadly pandemic. That our economic safety net was largely nonexistent. That our vulnerability to disease and death was directly tied to our race and where we live. That our political leadership sowed misinformation that left people dead. That systemic racism and the killing of Black people by police is undiminished, despite decades of protest and so many Black lives lost.
Read More Show Less