News & Politics

Koch Brothers Wealth Surges Past $100 Billion as They Try to Buy the Senate With Expensive Lies

The multibillionaires are currently using their vast wealth to influence the 2014 mid-term elections.

Photo Credit: Graphic by Rachel Dooley. Copyright In These Times magazine. All rights reserved.

The wealth of the Koch Brothers has surged past $100 billion dollars, a boost of $1.3 billion to their collective fortune based on a new industrial production forecast. To put that in perspective, that's enough money to buy 1,000 Boeing 757s or every NFL and MLB team. Together Charles and David Koch are majority shareholders in Koch Industries, a privately held corporation. 

The brothers have been criticized for using their vast wealth to change laws in order to fit their political views and to tilt the playing field in their favor. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich says that their efforts "are undermining our democracy" and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that their political activities are "un-American."

Reid was particularly upset by a television commercial featuring a leukemia patient who said she would die without medication and blamed the cancelation of her previous policy and another with a woman saying her policy costs rose $700 a month under Obamacare. When fact checked, both ads were found to contain spurious content. 

The Koch's are attempting to win the Senate back for the Republicans by airing a barrage of targeted television through their Freedom Partners fundraising network. Americans for Prosperity, one of those groups backed by Freedom Partners has been far outspending the top Democratic super PACs in nearly all of the Senate races the GOP is targeting this year. It has aired more than 18,000 broadcast TV commercials those states. 

More ads have been outed for proven falsehoods by many media watchdogs. One ad showed "real" residents of Louisiana opening letters from health care companies warning them of the evils of Obamacare. But no such letters were sent out and the people shown opening them aren't concerned residents of Louisiana, they're paid actors. In an opinion column for The Hill, columnist Mark Mellman noted: 

Were this an ad for Stainmaster carpet, a Koch product, Federal Trade Commission guidelines would require the ad to “conspicuously disclose that the persons in such advertisements are not actual consumers.” Moreover, the FTC would require them to either demonstrate that these results of ObamaCare are typical or make clear in the ad that they are not. 

Needless to say, the ad meets none of these requirements, thereby conforming to the legal definition of false advertising.

Koch Industries is a multinational corporation based in Wichita, Kansas. Under its umbrella are Invista, Georgia-Pacific, Flint Hills Resources, Koch Pipeline, Koch Fertilizer, Koch Minerals and Matador Cattle Company. Koch companies are involved in core industries such as the manufacturing, refining and distribution of petroleum, fertilizers, paper,  chemical technology equipment, ranching and commodities trading. 

Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor at AlterNet and served as a deputy editor at Consumer Reports. Twitter @cliffweathers.


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