Rachel Maddow: Koch Brothers 'Pop Up In Every Scummy Political Scandal'
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Monday, Think Progress released a videothat showed Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown slavishly fawning over David Koch and begging him for money. "Your support during the election, it meant a ton. It made a difference and I can certainly use it again," said Brown on the tape.
Brown's gross display of subservience is only the latest reminder of the right-wing billionaire brothers' shockingly outsized influence on our politics. Over the past year, progressive journalists, including AlterNet's Adele Stan, have documented the Koch brothers' role in promoting the conservative agenda, from helping fund the Tea Party movement to supporting Gov. Walker's union-busting efforts in Wisconsin. Thanks to a prank in which blogger Ian Murphy posed as David Koch in a phone call to Governor Walker, the Koch brothers have become more visible than ever. Signs calling Walker a "Koch-conspirator" and, more bluntly, a "Koch-whore" have proliferated at pro-labor rallies in Wisconsin and throughout the country.
(In a comically tone-deaf response in aNY Times interview, David Koch lamented that the prank may have hindered his ability to get immediate access to any politician he wants to in the future:
I was thinking to myself, "My God, if I called up a senator or a congressman to discuss something with them, and they heard ‘David Koch is on the line,’ they’d immediately say, ‘That’s that fraud again — tell him to get lost!'" he said with a laugh.
Last night, Rachel Maddow chronicled all the ways the brothers have interfered in recent political developments. The transcript is below, followed by a video of the segment.
Rachel Maddow: Wanna see one of the Koch brothers get begged for money by a real, live, sitting U.S. senator on tape? Want to?
Scott Brown: Your support during the election, it meant a ton. It made a, it made a difference and I could certainly use it again. Obviously...
David Koch: When are you running for the next term?
Brown: ’12, it's coming I’m in the cycle right now, so we’re already banging away.
Maddow: Already banging away. Think Progress posted that clip of Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown – my senator – telling the real David Koch how important that Koch brothers money was to him, and how he could really, really, really, use some more, please. And the Koch brothers have in fact been very good to Scott Brown. In November 2009 when Scott Brown’s race was really the only impending Republican Senate race, David Koch gave just over $30,000 to the Republican Party Senate Campaign Committee, the NRSC. The brothers' Koch industries PAC gave the committee another $15,000 at that time, and they gave Mr. Brown’s campaign $5,000 directly. The Koch Industries PAC has also given tens of thousands of dollars to another Republican Scott -- this guy, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, which is probably why impersonating David Koch was able to get Governor Walker on the phone last month for 20 minutes in the middle of what was supposedly a very engrossing state budget crisis.
Repercussions from the prank call to Governor Walker continue reverberating for the governor. Not least because in that call he tipped his strategy. He explained how he would try to trick Democrats into coming back to the state capitol, thus affording the senate a quorum to pass his union stripping thing. He also explained how he would use the threat of laying off state workers for its political effect. Well, now that prank call is giving Governor Walker a whole new headache. Wisconsin state Democrats have filed an ethics complaint over what Governor Walker said to the guy he thought was David Koch, over what Governor Walker said to the man he believed was the oil billionaire who had funded his campaign, and specifically they are raising ethical concerns about this part:
Audio of phone call between Scott Walker and blogger Ian Murphy impersonating David Koch
Walker: The other thing is more long-term and that is after this, um, you know, the coming days and weeks and months ahead, particularly in some of these more swing areas, a lot of these guys are gonna need, they don't necessarily need ads for them, but they're going to need a message out reinforcing why this was a good thing to do for the economy and a good thing to do for the state, so the extent that message is out over and over again, that's obviously, that's obviously a good thing.
Maddow:Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker suggesting to the fake David Koch that the real David Koch should get out the message for Republicans, raising the idea of a little Koch-funded independent expenditure to support the state’s Republican senators, particularly in swing districts. You know, that’s the thing though about independent expenditures; if a politician suggests them, they are no longer independent. Wisconsin Democrats say Mr. Walker was not only illegally coordinating campaign expenditures in that moment, he was soliciting David Koch’s financial help from the governor’s office inside the state capitol. You are not supposed to solicit campaign contributions from your public office.
You know, talking about the Koch brothers in 2011 is starting to feel a little like talking about Karl Rove in 2004. If you care about progressive politics or even just fair play in 2011, you really can’t get away from the Koch brothers. They’re becoming way too ubiquitous. Their names pop up in every scummy political scandal, one after another, from the Wisconsin union busting and the phony astroturf bus tours, to the questionable partiality of America’s Supreme Court justices. Feels like every time a really gross new political scandal erupts, big or small, there’s the Koch brother with the chair pulled up to the table. I do not want it to be true, I am sick of these guys already, but every time you turn over a political rock, there they are.
Another example: The new consumer products safety commission database that was scheduled to go online this week: it is a no-brainer. It is an online searchable database the public can use to find out about safety concerns for household products. Like I said, sort of a no-brainer, it passed the House of Representatives unanimously in 2007. It passed the Senate by a mile. The legislation creating it was signed into law by George W. Bush to precisely zero controversy, because dear lord, who is going to object to consumer product safety information being put online?
This guy will! (Showing Mike Pompeo campaign ad, with "Vote American" slogan.) The Vote American slogan here has to do with the fact that Mike Pompeo was running against an Indian American opponent in the last election. Vote American. Even though the other guy is American too, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to run, but you know what I mean. Mike Pompeo was elected thanks in large part to his largest campaign contributors, the Koch brothers and their PAC.
Koch Industries is based in Mr. Pompeo’s district in Wichita. After the Koch brothers spent many many thousands of dollars lobbying on the issue of that dastardly consumer products safety database, suddenly America found one congressman who was willing to try to kill it: Mike Pompeo, Republican of Koch Brothers -- I mean Kansas. Mr. Pompeo has tried to spike this database. The Kansas City Star reported that it looks like he will fail in those efforts, but I’m sure the men upstairs appreciate his efforts anyway.
I do not want to keep talking about the Koch brothers. Really I do not. I always want to say it's "Kotch" because of the way it’s spelled. They’re awkward, they’re boring, I’m not interested in talking about them. I don’t want to keep putting their names in the spotlight. But dude, these guys are earning it every single day.
Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post.
Maddow: Gene, it is great to see you.
Robinson: Great to be here, Rachel.
Maddow: Um, are Koch Industries and the Koch brothers earning this reputation they’re getting like I think they are? I mean, I am prepared to be told that they’re sort of just boogey men and they are being blamed for more than they are responsible for.
Robinson: Rachel, they’re out there working for you, every single day! And look, the difference between the Koch brothers and Karl Rove, or Lee Atwater, or others who may have played a villain role, is that these are the money guys. These are the guys with all the money in the world. These are the guys who own the biggest private company, or second biggest depending on how you calculate it, in the country. Their combined personal fortune is third to that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. So you have not heard the last of the Koch brothers.
Maddow: And does that explain the timing? Because we have entered in the post-Citizens United universe, into an era in which there really are unlimited horizons in terms of what money can buy you in politics. I mean they’ve been politically active for a long time, but they really have turned it up to 11. They really are doing a lot more than they used to be doing. Does that explain the timing?
Robinson: Partly explains the timing. Everyone has cottoned on to the Koch brothers. They did a lot of stuff for a while that we didn’t really hear about. It's not that they just turned libertarian. One of them founded the Kato Foundation, the other founded Americans for Prosperity. They’ve been out there working, it's just that we’re paying attention, frankly. And yes, they are doing more.
Maddow: Are we, because people are sort of cottoning to them, are we getting to the point that a Koch brother’s endorsement starts being a liability for either candidates or causes that they endorse?
Robinson: I don’t think we’re quite there, but we could get there. I think some candidates, for example Scott Brown in a state like Massachusetts, that’s embarrassing to him. That’s a problem, I think. Given that has to run in essentially a blue state. For other candidates, it wouldn’t be a problem. I frankly think the Koch brothers would be just as happy to kind of fade into the background and let their money do the talking and not be out front at all.
Maddow: I thinks that’s maybe what has changed, that they were able to successfully sort of keep everything quiet about them. They’ve been convening these major donor/conservative strategy sessions for years, and you sort of knew about them vaguely in a conspiratorial sense, but it was buried behind the scenes, and now all of a sudden it’s not and they seem very angry about that. But I do wonder if that means that they can marginalize criticism about them as always being liberal and therefore hysterical.
Robinson: I think they can try. But I think what people have to do is look at what they’re actually doing. Now, it wasn’t a real Koch brother talking to Governor Scott Walker for example, it was a fake Koch brother, but I think people will start looking at things like independent expenditures, in connection with the Koch brothers. Because now that we know they’re doing all this stuff, let’s see if it's all on the up-and-up. Even post-Citizens United, there are rules.
Maddow: Congressman Pompeo has a long history with the Koch brothers. They not only helped him get elected, they helped him get rich by investing in a firm that he founded. Do we yet have a sense of who the Koch brothers' caucus is in Congress? Obviously Mark Pompeo is the chairman, Scott Brown is a ranking member, but are there others -- we are getting a sense of who they influence.
Robinson: We certainly don’t have a full sense, but I think we’ll be trying to put together that database, and maybe even put it online someday along with the other databases that they want to keep offline. That’s an amazing story.
Maddow: Consumer products safety. It’s unbelievable.
Robinson: We can’t have that. We can’t have that, Rachel.
Maddow: Not if the Koch brothers say we can’t. Not in America.
Robinson: Absolutely. Now you understand.
Maddow: Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst. Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post. It’s great to see you, Gene. Thank you for being here.
Robinson: Great to be here, Rachel.
Watch the segment below: