Co-authored by John Amick

Recent commentators have rightly called out Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's obvious hypocrisy on cuts to Pentagon spending. This strikes us as a good time to step back and take a broader look at Pentagon spending, and deconstruct the spin coming from the Washington elites.

Historically, the United States has made cuts to the Pentagon budget once its major wars come to an end. It happened after the Korean War, Vietnam and the Cold War. And after a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now is the time to seriously consider significant cuts to a bloated, wasteful Pentagon spending machine. Yet those within the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex have been working hard to convince the American public that their perceived right to profit off of Pentagon spending is sacrosanct.

To fight the war profiteers, Brave New Foundation's War Costs campaign is producing several investigative films that will expose the financial and human costs of an ongoing war mentality in the U.S. Currently, we are pleased to release a series of short videos that examine key players in the lobbying effort to keep Pentagon spending high. Our first two videos include Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

The rhetoric about cuts to the Pentagon's budget -- which is five times larger than the next biggest defense spender, China, and about $100 billion more than then next ten nations combined -- has been excessive and hardly anything but fearmongering. Panetta, defense industry darling Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and others call it "doomsday," "catastrophic," a hollowing of the force, akin to a "brigade without bullets." Mitt Romney said these level of cuts "is like putting a gun to our head."

What about fiscal responsibility, Mr. Romney? What about all the waste, like marching bands or NASCAR sponsorships or the $50 billion in cancelled weapons programs – caused by industry business practices – that contractors get to keep? The Romney-Ryan proposed budget adds more money to an already-massive Pentagon reserve. Worries of more recessionary pressure on the American economy are mounting -- Pew now reports one in five Americans go without enough food in a time of record food stamp enrollment. Yet, the Romney ticket pledged this week to "retroactively" reverse any sequestration cuts to the Pentagon –- and push for the House budget that slashed funding for social programs, like food stamps -– all in an effort to protect profits for their war-profiteering friends.

And is sequestration a doomsday mechanism, as Panetta has claimed? Hardly.

In reality, sequestration cuts -- $55 billion reduction in defense spending in FY 2013 -- would return defense spending to 2006 levels, by all measures a healthy time for the Pentagon budget. This reduction in spending would mean the U.S. would still outspend the next ten top defense-spending nations combined by $45 billion.

Now is the time to urge your member of Congress, your friends, family and neighbors to call for substantial cuts to the Pentagon budget. The profiteering and waste must stop. Cuts have widespead support, regardless of party politics. It's our money, and we have the power to demand accountability in how it's used. These videos are the first in a series to explore these hysterical statements made by officials that want to keep the status quo. It’s time to expose the unnecessary items the Pentagon acquires that hardly make us safer or go to servicemembers. It's wasteful, it’s harmful, and we must speak up.

Let us know what you want to see War Costs examine in our effort to stop out-of-control war spending. Go to WarCosts.com or visit us on Facebook for more.

 

Co-authored by John Amick

Recent commentators have rightly called out Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's obvious hypocrisy on cuts to Pentagon spending. This strikes us as a good time to step back and take a broader look at Pentagon spending, and deconstruct the spin coming from the Washington elites.

Historically, the United States has made cuts to the Pentagon budget once its major wars come to an end. It happened after the Korean War, Vietnam and the Cold War. And after a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now is the time to seriously consider significant cuts to a bloated, wasteful Pentagon spending machine. Yet those within the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex have been working hard to convince the American public that their perceived right to profit off of Pentagon spending is sacrosanct.

To fight the war profiteers, Brave New Foundation's War Costs campaign is producing several investigative films that will expose the financial and human costs of an ongoing war mentality in the U.S. Currently, we are pleased to release a series of short videos that examine key players in the lobbying effort to keep Pentagon spending high. Our first two videos include Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

The rhetoric about cuts to the Pentagon's budget -- which is five times larger than the next biggest defense spender, China, and about $100 billion more than then next ten nations combined -- has been excessive and hardly anything but fearmongering. Panetta, defense industry darling Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and others call it "doomsday," "catastrophic," a hollowing of the force, akin to a "brigade without bullets." Mitt Romney said these level of cuts "is like putting a gun to our head."

What about fiscal responsibility, Mr. Romney? What about all the waste, like marching bands or NASCAR sponsorships or the $50 billion in cancelled weapons programs – caused by industry business practices – that contractors get to keep? The Romney-Ryan proposed budget adds more money to an already-massive Pentagon reserve. Worries of more recessionary pressure on the American economy are mounting -- Pew now reports one in five Americans go without enough food in a time of record food stamp enrollment. Yet, the Romney ticket pledged this week to "retroactively" reverse any sequestration cuts to the Pentagon –- and push for the House budget that slashed funding for social programs, like food stamps -– all in an effort to protect profits for their war-profiteering friends.

And is sequestration a doomsday mechanism, as Panetta has claimed? Hardly.

In reality, sequestration cuts -- $55 billion reduction in defense spending in FY 2013 -- would return defense spending to 2006 levels, by all measures a healthy time for the Pentagon budget. This reduction in spending would mean the U.S. would still outspend the next ten top defense-spending nations combined by $45 billion.

Now is the time to urge your member of Congress, your friends, family and neighbors to call for substantial cuts to the Pentagon budget. The profiteering and waste must stop. Cuts have widespead support, regardless of party politics. It's our money, and we have the power to demand accountability in how it's used. These videos are the first in a series to explore these hysterical statements made by officials that want to keep the status quo. It’s time to expose the unnecessary items the Pentagon acquires that hardly make us safer or go to servicemembers. It's wasteful, it’s harmful, and we must speak up.

Let us know what you want to see War Costs examine in our effort to stop out-of-control war spending. Go to WarCosts.com or visit us on Facebook for more.

The Koch brothers don't just have a gazillion luxury homes and boats. They've been using their wealth to shut out the voices of the 99% — pledging to spend at least $100 million on the 2012 elections. The pro-corporate policies they favor are, of course, antithetical to the public interest. But the TV ads they're airing so far in this election make it seem like they're on the side of regular Americans. "Maybe your family is like most, struggling to make it by…The private sector is not doing fine," says Americans for Prosperity, an organization the Kochs founded and fund. Watch the video:

Let's forget for a moment that the expression is "get by" or "make ends meet," not "make it by." What the Kochs want is to use their vast fortune to influence the political beliefs of people with a millionth their net worth, getting the middle class to buy into the notion that what's good for the rich is good for everyone. But if the financial crisis and recession have taught us anything, it's that the interests of the extremely-well-to-do are not the same as those of the general public. Feeding the top doesn't translate into food for the middle and bottom. 

Do we really think the Kochs are chiefly concerned about working families making five figures rather than expanding their own wealth? To ask the question is to answer it.

Co-authored by John Amick You know it's a big moment for defenders of the United States' bloated military budget when some of the all-time superstars of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex descend on Capitol Hill to fight for their perceived right to profit. The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to address the 2013 Defense Appropriations bill beginning Wednesday, which will go a long way in framing the later debate on automatic cuts to defense set to happen on January 2, 2013. The "sequester" was set into law -- via the Budget Control Act -- last year in an effort to compel Congress to reach a deficit-reduction plan. The automatic cuts would take the Pentagon's requested FY 2013 budget of $526 billion to $469 billion, reducing Department of Defense spending by around $1 trillion over the next decade. The Congressional Budget Office says that amount is "larger than it was in 2006 (in 2013 dollars) and larger than the average base budget during the 1980s." If you recall, 2006 wasn't such a bad year to be a defense contractor. Ahead of that floor debate, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.) -- the top benefactor of defense-industry contributions in Washington as Brave New Foundation's War Costs campaign has pointed out before -- will allow the likes of Lockheed Martin CEO Robert Stevens yet another platform -- after weeks crying foul over potential jobs cuts a reduced defense budget would mean -- to inject further panic and hype in front of a committee hearing Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill. Stevens has called the planned cuts "blunt force trauma" to the defense industry's economic well-being. Lockheed has also threatened to send layoff notices to employees ahead of Election Day, a craven attempt to scare workers and members of Congress with industry jobs in their districts. This is not to mention the$25.4 million Stevens made in 2011, the second consecutive year of record revenue and profit for the defense industry. Maybe Stevens could find money for his employees by cutting lobby expenditures? Lockheed spent $15 million on lobbying in 2011, up 19 percent from 2010. Lobbying by all defense contractors went up 11.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012, to $15.9 million. The idea that the likes of Lockheed Martin taking a cataclysmic tumble following the needed cuts to defense is about as unbelievable as how much taxpayer money that went to defense contractors in 2011, $373 billion, the second-highest yearly total ever. Here, Stevens and his ilk are at it again, pushing for more profits at the risk of further death and destruction, as War Costs has examined in the past. By the way, this is an industry that, from 2008 to 2010, paid an average annual tax rate of 17.5 percent, making it among the least-taxed sectors in the country. Boeing itself paid a rate of -1.8 percent, according to the Citizens for Tax Justice. On Tuesday, the Aerospace Industries Association unveiled an update to their 2011 study on the economic impact of such cuts. True to an industry attempting to protect their bottom line, the studies predict excessive job loss next year, around 1.09 million, if the cuts occur. Economists and academics have had a field day debunking this study, partly because, according to the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, defense spending creates fewer jobs compared to other forms of government spending -- on sectors like health care and education -- and even some tax cuts. (See more on these numbers at WarCosts.com.) Industry shilling is only part of the onslaught. Also on Tuesday, former Vice President Dick Cheney -- a scion of wasteful defense spending, profiteering and all that is the revolving door between government and industry in Washington -- was on Capitol Hill rallying Republicans to the cause. According to Politico, Senate Republicans described the meeting with Cheney as short on policy replacements for cuts and big on stressing the investments in place amid the defense industry. What a surprise. The defense industry has seen record profits this past decade marked by consistent warfare and little accountability, as a final report on the amount lost during the $51.4 billion Iraq war reconstruction program concludes. Enough of the propaganda. More defense money does not make the United States safer, as we've been told, and cutting a fraction of that money does not mean "doomsday" for the country as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has claimed. It's simply common sense that folks across the political spectrum agree on, even those in areas heavy on defense manufacturing, according to a new comprehensive study. Tell your members of Congress to support amendments in the bill that aim to reduce the defense budget, halt the war in Afghanistan and remove troops permanently stationed in Europe. It's time elected officials hear our voice. Stop the spending that bankrupts us at home and encourages violence and war abroad. Visit Brave New Foundation's WarCosts.com for more as the defense industry's cynical efforts unfold in the coming months.
Co-authored with Jesse Lava The victory on health care reform is a victory against the Koch brothers, who spent massive sums to defeat the Affordable Care Act at the Supreme Court. It turns out the Kochs can lose and democracy can win. Consider just how involved the Koch brothers had been in this case. When right-wing activists rallied at the Supreme Court in March for the "Hands Off My Health Care" protest, they were organized by Americans for Prosperity (AFP). As discussed in Brave New Foundation's latest film, Koch Brothers Exposed, AFP is Koch-founded and -financed. Indeed, David Koch is chairman of the group's supposedly nonpolitical wing. AFP is so much the Kochs' baby that the brothers recently created a firestorm by trying to turn Cato Institute -- another group that they started but has shown streaks of independence -- into an "intellectual ammo-shop" for it. No matter how much AFP likes to portray itself as being grassroots, the only reason it's in operation is two billionaires want it to be. Moreover, numerous groups that supported the legal effort to overturn health care reform are recipients of Koch money. Cato, to which the Kochs have given about $30 million over the years and which bears deep Koch DNA despite the recent family feud, joined an amicus brief. So did Freedom Works, which has received at least $5 million from the Kochs. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Pacific Research Institute, the Texas Public Policy Foundation -- all have received large sums from Koch-controlled foundations and petitioned the Supreme Court on this case. Indeed, the Kochs funded the very group that initially filed one of the lawsuits at hand. The National Federation of Independent Business has its name right there on the lawsuit against Kathleen Sebelius and the Department of Health & Human Services, and it secured Koch funding to the tune of $88,000. The health care effort is, of course, just one small piece of a broader Koch agenda to create a society where more wealth flows up instead of down -- where, under the guise of freedom, elites run the show and ordinary citizens lack any real say over their government and workplace. The brothers' network of organizations is expected to spend about $400 million -- and that's just what we know about -- to influence the 2012 election in the hopes of making this agenda increasingly a reality. But today, that agenda was dealt a serious blow. As powerful as the Kochs are, truth and common sense can win the day. And that's especially true when Americans organize. After all, Supreme Court justices are not superhumans who are immune to public opinion and the political debate. They watch the news. They read blogs. The Koch-funded Right was effective at mobilizing against health care reform, but countless other activists, despite not being as well financed, made sure the Right didn't monopolize the debate. So today, we breathe a sigh of relief. Tomorrow, we redouble our efforts to keep the Kochs from commandeering our country. Follow Robert Greenwald and Jesse Lava on Twitter: www.twitter.com/robertgreenwald
If any doubt was left about the power of big money in our politics, the Wisconsin election destroyed it. Charles and David Koch goosed Gov. Scott Walker's campaign with $10 million through their front group Americans for Prosperity, $1 million through the Republican Governors Association, and more from members of the "million-dollar donor club" of financial titans that meet regularly at Koch-hosted secret summits. Meanwhile, the official campaign of Democratic opponent Tom Barrett raised about $4 million. Is it any wonder that Walker climbed steadily in the polls and ultimately won? Yet as my new film Koch Brothers Exposed illustrates, the Kochs' political influence goes beyond buying the public debate. The Kochs have also been investing in suppressing the vote -- providing a one-two punch to democracy. First they try to change your mind, and failing that, they try to take your vote. The invaluable Lee Fang reveals at Republic Report that a $100,000 donation linked to the Koch brothers went to a Florida group called Protect Your Vote in 2010. The perversely named organization was formed to fight ballot initiatives demanding fair redistricting. Specifically, the initiatives -- known as Amendments 5 and 6 -- said district boundaries couldn't be drawn to favor a political party, deny minorities equal opportunity, or be gerrymandered. The initiatives ended up winning. But who could have opposed such sensible guidelines? Anyone with a vested interest in maintaining control over the political process instead of trusting the public to govern itself. Anyone, that is, who wants to preserve the illusion of public accountability while rigging results behind the scenes -- creating suppression in effect, if not in name. Could there be a more apt description of the Koch brothers' modus operandi? Indeed, Kurt Browning, the official who ran Protect Your Vote, is the man behind Florida's recent effort to purge the rolls of potentially eligible voters. Naturally, the disenfranchised folks are disproportionately likely to vote for Democratic candidates. The Justice Department has now demanded that Florida stop the purge in light of evidence that the list -- which at one point had around 180,000 people -- has numerous mistakes and is violating federal voter protection laws. So the man the Koch brothers backed shifted from shady redistricting to denial of the vote, removing even the appearance of fair democracy. The Kochs have supported outright suppression in the past. They are longstanding leaders in the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has pushed voter ID bills making it more difficult for vulnerable populations to vote. In 2011, 34 state legislatures introduced such bills, potentially disenfranchising up to 21 million voters. The Kochs, then, have a crafty strategy for commandeering the political process: spend vast sums not only for TV ads, "grassroots" campaigns, and think tanks that manipulate public opinion, but also on direct efforts to ensure that many of those who aren't fooled are unable to vote anyway. This is the Koch vote -- a constituency of two with the bullhorn of millions.
Why would the esteemed Ohio University host a talk by the likes of Roger Ailes? Maybe we should ask one of the talk's patrons, Charles Koch. Ailes, of Fox News fame, is giving his talk today. The guy who invited him says the point was to get "perhaps the most influential newsman in America" to spark a discussion about "free speech and the media," particularly given OU's "first-rate school of journalism." But Roger Ailes isn't a newsman and doesn't do journalism. He does political advocacy that's (very) thinly disguised as journalism. As Eric Boehlert of Media Matters says, "places of higher learning shouldn't help perpetuate the Fox myth while turning a blind eye to the lasting damage Ailes's enterprise is doing to journalism and to our national discourse." Might this act of selling out have something to do with the fact that the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation serves as an underwriter of the George Washington Forum, which is the OU group hosting the speech? As detailed in my film Koch Brothers Exposed, Charles Koch is a billionaire industrialist and one of the leading financiers of the American Right. He is known to meddle in educational institutions, infamously attaching strings to university donations by insisting he be able to veto a school's hiring decisions. Students and faculty at schools like Florida State University are fighting this corruption valiantly, but the encroachment on academic integrity and freedom remains a threat. In the case of Ohio University, the full extent of Koch's donations to the George Washington Forum isn't known. But we do know that Koch specifically underwrote a talk the Forum hosted by John Yoo, author of the Bush torture memos (belying Charles and his brother David's claims that their ideological activism is restricted to economic issues). We also know that through the Forum, the Charles Koch Foundation awards grants to students "interested in studying free market ideas" under an OU professor who researches conservative politics and economics. Students applying for the grant in the past have had to write an essay about a book by libertarian Henry Hazlitt. Is it just me, or does it look like Charles Koch is paying the university to spread his right-wing ideology? Not that Koch is the only problem. Indeed, Ailes himself is a big donor to (and alum of) Ohio University. If an institution of higher learning is willing to take money from an anti-journalist like Ailes for its communications programs, it will inevitably spread his message to students, one way or another. Today, as Ailes takes the mic at OU, those who believe in education should redouble our efforts to stop the slow erosion of academic integrity. This erosion is reflected in the influence wielded by wealthy ideologues like Charles Koch and his political bullhorn, Roger Ailes.
Co-authored by Derrick Crowe

This week, the three military contractors that do the most business with the Pentagon announced their quarterly profits for 2012. Their profits continue to grow while they push Washington, D.C. to protect their budgets at the expense of the rest of us.

Here’s the breakdown so far for this year: 

This week's announcement raises a fundamental question: Should people and companies be allowed to make huge profits from war? Even raising this question in today’s environment may seem trite, but we used to have different answers than those that prevail in modern-day Washington, D.C.

“I don’t want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt, May 22, 1940.

“Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the Nation while patriotic blood is crimsoning the plains of the South and their countrymen mouldering the dust.”  --President Abraham Lincoln

This last quote is particularly relevant to this week’s profit announcements. Lincoln referred to war profiteers making money by cheating the Union Army. Outrage at war profiteering during this period led to the passage of “Lincoln’s Law,” officially known as the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act is the very same law that two of the companies listed above, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, violated through price-fixing and double-billing the taxpayer, leading to their having to pay roughly $20 million in the first quarter of 2012 to settle suits brought by the U.S. government.

During Roosevelt’s time, the idea of a single contractor company making almost a billion dollars worth of profit in three months would have received short shrift. As Roosevelt’s quote above shows, the idea of people profiting from war’s “disaster” disgusted him, and during his presidency the Truman Committee relentlessly investigated and exposed war profiteers. The closest analogy in our time would be the Committee on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which found that up to $60 billion (as of September 2011) was lost to waste and fraud in military contracting in those conflicts.

And yet, despite this historical lack of patience for war profiteering, and despite the current record showing gross misconduct and waste, the U.S. government keeps shoveling taxpayer money at these huge corporations. Could it be that the $5 million in campaign donations and $32 million in lobbying dollars so far this election cycle from the military contractors keep Congress intentionally ignorant of the problem? 

President George Washington knew a few things about war profiteers, and he didn’t mince words:

“There is such a thirst for gain [among military suppliers]…that it is enough to make one curse their own Species, for possessing so little virtue and patriotism.”

As long as we continue to allow the profit motive to play a role in America’s war, virtue and patriotism--to say nothing of peace--will continue to be in short supply.

Help unmask the war profiteers by sharing our latest video with your friends. Then, follow Robert Greenwald on Twitter. 

Co-authored by Jesse Lava Charles and David Koch appear to be pushing their right-wing ideology to the bitter end. And it’s time for Americans to stop helping them. The Koch brothers are major backers of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate front group that drafts “model legislation” for state legislators. The Kochs have given ALEC at least $1 million—not counting a $500,000 loan—and their company, Koch Industries, has been a select member of the group’s board for nearly two decades. ALEC has recently come under fire for advancing bills modeled on Florida’s now-infamous “Stand Your Ground” law, and it has long been criticized for writing legislation that would undermine public schools, immunize corporations that harm people’s health, and impose onerous voter ID restrictions on the young, the old, the poor, and minorities. Corporations including Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Kraft, PepsiCo, Mars, and Intuit have all bailed on ALEC over the last two weeks, knowing that continuing to associate with the group would be toxic. This exodus is a testament to the strength of progressive groups like Color of Change and the Center for Media and Democracy, which have been working to expose what ALEC does. But the Kochs are doubling down. Their government affairs chief Philip Ellender says progressives’ complaints about ALEC are intended “not only to intimidate, but to silence supporters of free-market principles.” Of course, ALEC is already largely silent in that it keeps its proceedings and model bills a secret—presumably because the corporations backing them want to have plausible deniability about their involvement. Either way, the Kochs are staying put. That’s their right, but Americans have a right of their own: to boycott Koch products. Every dollar that we spend on goods made by Koch Industries is another dollar the brothers have at their disposal to support right-wing, corporate fronts like ALEC. The time has come for Americans to vote with their pocketbooks and stop supporting the Koch brothers’ agenda. Everyone willing to participate in a boycott should sign this pledge form, which says we’ll stop buying what Koch sells until Koch withdraws its membership in ALEC. The more people go public, the more this initiative will snowball. And if enough Americans of conscience avoid the Kochs, it just might put a dent in their bottom line. What products need to be avoided? Koch Industries makes myriad consumer goods, and there’s no space here to name them all. But the best place to start is their household paper products:
  • Toilet paper: Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Soft ‘n’ Gentle
  • Towels, napkins, plates, cups: Brawny, Dixie, Sparkle, Mardi Gras, Vanity Fair, Zee
These brands—made largely by Georgia Pacific, a Koch subsidiary—are easily recognizable and avoidable. Anyone can bring this short list to the store and find another company to buy from. Of course, ALEC is just one vehicle by which the Kochs are damaging American democracy; even if Koch Industries withdraws from it, we’ll still have a lot of work to do. But we have to start somewhere. Boycotting these products will allow Americans to take one important step toward reclaiming our democracy. The point is that Americans have great power as consumers—a power that today is going largely untapped. If corporations engage in egregious behavior and politicians won’t stop them, we have to take matters into our own hands. There is no one who better symbolizes corporate greed than the Koch brothers, and those of us who envision a fairer, more ethical world can put our money elsewhere if we wish.
Co-authored by Jesse Lava Everyone seems to be investigating Charles and David Koch lately, with exposés of their corrupt political behavior popping up in places like the New Yorker, AlterNet, ThinkProgress, and Brave New Foundation's film Koch Brothers Exposed. Naturally, the billionaire brothers don't like the attention, so they're responding to it by smearing the activists and journalists. In their panic, they have now taken out Google ads attacking me and plastered an ominous image of my eyes on their website, like so: They made me look like Emperor Palpatine. But who's really representing the Dark Side here? The truth is that the billionaire brothers bankrolling the conservative movement are using their wealth in a way that should be terrifying to anyone who thinks democracy is about more than pulling a lever every two years and letting rich folks take care of the rest. Accordingly, here are 10 facts that every American should know about who the Kochs are and what they're doing to our country. 1. Koch Industries, which the brothers own, is one of the top ten polluters in the United States -- which perhaps explains why the Kochs have given $60 million to climate denial groups between 1997 and 2010. 2. The Kochs are the oil and gas industry's biggest donors to the congressional committee with oversight of the hazardous Keystone XL oil pipeline. They and their employees gave more than $300,000 to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2010 alone. 3. From 1998-2008, Koch-controlled foundations gave more than $196 million to organizations that favor polices that would financially enrich the two brothers. In addition, Koch Industries spent $50 million on lobbying and some $8 million in PAC contributions. 4. The Koch fortune has its origins in engineering contracts with Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union. 5. The Kochs are suing to take over the Cato Institute, which has accused the Kochs of attempting to destroy the group's identity as an independent, libertarian think and align it more closely with a partisan agenda. 6. A Huffington Post source who was at a three-day retreat of conservative billionaires said the Koch brothers pledged to donate $60 million to defeat President Obama in 2012 and produce pledges of $40 million more from others at the retreat. 7. Since 2000, the Kochs have collected almost $100 million in government contracts, mostly from the Department of Defense. 8. Koch Industries has an annual production capacity of 2.2 billion pounds of the carcinogen formaldehyde. The company has worked to keep it from being classified as a carcinogen even though David Koch is a prostate cancer survivor. 9. The Koch brothers' combined fortune of roughly $50 billion is exceeded only by that of Bill Gates in the United States. 10. The Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs accused Koch Oil of scheming to steal $31 million of crude oil from Native Americans. Although the company claimed it was accidental, a former executive in this operation said Charles Koch had known about it and had responded to the overages by saying, "I want my fair share, and that's all of it." That last quote -- "I want my fair share, and that's all of it" -- encapsulates the unbridled greed driving the Kochs' political activism and business dealings. Democracy cannot thrive with so much power being in the hands of men like this. If we care about democracy, we have to work to take it back.