6 Reasons the Koch Brothers Had a Very Bad Week
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Were there a way for a few billion clams to wipe a week off the calendar, one imagines that Charles and David Koch, the multibillionaire principals of Koch Industries, would like to see the final week of March 2012 vaporized, at least in the public mind. For the Kochs, it was a week of bad news: a new documentary about their political activity and corporate negligence was making a splash -- on the same day a story broke announcing an FBI investigation of two Wisconsin groups tied to Americans for Prosperity, the political ground organization they founded and fund. (Full disclosure: AlterNet is a supporter of the documentary, Koch Brothers Exposed, and I appear in the film.)
Things got even worse the next day, Friday, March 30, when the billionaire brothers learned that a federal court handed down a decision that may ultimately require certain non-profit groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, to reveal their full donor list, and the New Yorker's Jane Mayer, who wrote a devastating profile of the brothers last year, reported on the Kochs' involvement in a barrage of anti-Obama ads sponsored by a tax-exempt non-profit called the American Energy Alliance, which may also now be required to reveal its donor list.
On the very same day, another federal court struck down portions of Wisconsin's controversial law that stripped collective bargaining rights from most of the state's public employees -- a law championed by Americans for Prosperity, and rammed through the state legislature a year ago by the AFP-supported Gov. Scott Walker. Here, we take a closer look at the Kochs' very bad week.
1. An FBI Investigation
Just hours before the premiere showing of Koch Brothers Exposed in Manhattan on Thursday, March 29, the Miwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice broke the news that the FBI was investigating possibly illegal activity by two groups led by Mark Block, former director of the AFP Wisconsin chapter, during his stint as campaign manager for former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain. (The Hermanator famously referred to David Koch as his "brother from another mother" at an event hosted by the oil baron in Washington, DC, last year.) Among documents Bice uncovered last year was a profit-and-loss statement for Prosperity USA, a nonprofit group headed by Block, which details travel costs for a visit last year with David Koch and Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips in Washington, DC.
While that's not proof of wrongdoing, it is proof of David Koch's link to Block, a shady character who has been prosecuted in the past for violating Wisconsin election law.
The Journal Sentinel reports: "FBI agents have been talking to donors and other individuals connected with Prosperity USA and Wisconsin Prosperity Network," both non-profits founded by Block while he was at the helm of AFP-Wisconsin. (AlterNet has published several reports involving the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, here, here and here.)
In correspondence with the Center For Public Integrity's iWatch News last year, AFP spokesperson Levi Russell acknowledged that “there were financial dealings with Prosperity USA and/or the Wisconsin Prosperity Network.”
2. Revelation of Koch Involvement in Group Running Anti-Obama Ads
Already, March 29 was looking like a tough day for the Kochs when Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel burst forth with an article revealing the involvement of the Kochs in an organization, the American Energy Alliance, that launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign against President Barack Obama on Friday. The ads put forth the specious claim that the president's policies are driving up gasoline prices.
According to Politico:
The group launching a $3.6 million ad campaign hitting President Barack Obama on gasoline prices has deep ties to the billionaire libertarian industrialists Charles and David Koch.
The groups are run by Tom Pyle, a former lobbyist for Koch Industries. Pyle regularly attends the mega-donor summits organized by the Koch brothers, including the 2012 winter summit in Indian Wells, Calif., where the Kochs raised more than $150 million to be directed to groups ahead of the general election.