High-Profile Tennessee Republicans Lash Out at Koch Brothers Group: 'We're Aggravated By It'
The Koch Brothers are America's most powerful siblings, heavily funding both political campaigns and a network of right-wing propaganda. They reportedly plan to spend up to a billion dollars on the 2016 election. But there are signs the Kochs' influence is starting to produce a backlash even in the Republican Party they finance.
Over the past few months, a group of Tennessee Republicans led by the state's governor Bill Haslam, tried to use federal Medicaid dollars to expand the number of people covered by health insurance. They narrowly failed, and much of the failure has been blamed on intense activism by Americans For Prosperity (AFP), a group financed by the Kochs.
In a long article published by The Tennessean, a series of high-profile Republicans finally lashed out at AFP, decrying its disproportionate influence over the state's politics.
First, there's Tom Ingram, top political adviser to Haslam:
Still, long-time political consultant Tom Ingram, Haslam's top political adviser, said what happened is also Exhibit A for outside groups' growing influence on state politics and state government.
"To some degree the same thing is going on nationwide," said Ingram, who blames the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that removed restrictions on independent political campaign spending by nonprofit organizations and corporations.[...]
"They (AFP) have a full-time staff, they've poured in a lot of money indirectly and directly," said Ingram, who was registered to lobby last session for a pro-Insure Tennessee business group. "It's largely to push whatever agenda they have and influence, frankly, our elected officials, our issues, disproportionately more than any of us as individual voters can. "I find something out of whack about that," Ingram added.
Ingram followed up by saying even if the Tennessee GOP isn't “intimidated” by AFP, it's at least “aggravated” by it. Meanwhile, Tennesee's House Majority Leader said AFP represents a small group of people and donors, and isn't a broad organization representing his state:
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who sponsored Insure Tennessee, said he felt AFP "very unfairly attacked Kevin Brooks in particular. He did not say anything publicly and so far as I know privately" about it.
Other than Brooks and the attacks on Holsclaw and Eldridge, McCormick said he felt "they did a pretty good job sticking with the facts and getting their argument out there."
This actually put them on the same page as the House Minority Leader, Craig Fitzhugh, a Democrat:
Fitzhugh, meanwhile, frets about what is happening as powerful national groups like AFP, often frustrated by their inability to make major changes at the federal level, instead rush into states. There they can achieve their goals on the cheap. And, Fitzhugh said, something may happen to the cherished concept of states as the "laboratories" of democracy.
What happens if the same groups with their undisclosed sources of funding are writing the same formulas for all 50 states to follow? he asked.
"There's good laboratories and bad laboratories," Fitzhugh noted. "In some of the horror movies you've seen, bad things come out."
This comes one month after a Florida Republican senator denounced that state's Koch front group, telling them they “serve no purpose.” It appears that, at least at the state level, there is a revolt from within the Republican Party against the Kochs.