Peterson: In politics, America on Koch


Graphic: Kelsey Kremer/Iowa State Daily

Private funds have helped to put votes in the ballot boxes in recent years.

Ryan Peterson

I wouldn’t call myself a Democrat or a Republican and you won’t see me occupy anything or have a tea party. With the modern trends, I think both parties should be equally upset; we’re a republic after all, but we’re being run by totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is the condition where everyone thinks, acts and behaves the same. Our particular variety of totalitarianism is the fault of all of us, but some share more of the blame than others.

Individuals such as George Soros, the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch bear the brunt of the blame. They fund, campaign and advertise their private ideologies, influencing public policy. It’s done primarily by individuals such as the Koch brothers, those who can afford the campaigns, but anytime you engage private issues in the public you’re a guilty party. I focus on the Koch brothers not because of their ideology, but because they provide the best example.

Like most Republicans, they argue for deregulation of the economy because businesses create jobs and it’s in the public interest. Since they had accumulated more than $5 billion in 1999, their wealth has grown by more than 800 percent. In 2007, the brothers jointly owned $34 billion and Koch Industries employed 80,000 people. But as their wealth grew to $50 billion today, the employment of Koch Industries diminished to 67,000 employees. While their wealth has increased 36 percent, they’ve laid off 16 percent of their workforce.

They aren’t the only ones. ExxonMobil had 83,700 workers in 2005, but they currently employ 79,900. While their wealth has increased by 20 percent, they’ve laid off 5 percent of their work force. Exxon is the second-largest company in America; Koch Industries is the 57th, but the second-largest privately owned. They make $100 billion in revenue per year. With this mass of wealth, the brothers have spent $40 million in the 2010 Senate elections, and they hope to raise and spend $200 million for the 2012 presidential election, all for public interest.

With their money, they’ve founded a multitude of organizations. One of those is Americans for Prosperity, formally known as Citizens for a Second Economy, a 501(c)(4) founded by the Koch brothers in 1984. The group received $5 million between 1984 and 1990 alone. Now Americans for Prosperity serves as the primary organizer for the tea party. During 2009, the national summit leaders of AOP boasted their support for the tea party and bragged about having 33 state chapters with an estimated 2 million members.

When asked whose interests AOP were pursing, the president of Americans for Prosperity, Tim Philips, responded, “The interests of any American who wants economic prosperity and freedom.” Their mission statement states that their goal is to “engage citizens in the name of limited government and free markets.” The organization even funded Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and provided $500,000 for the anti-union campaigns this summer.

The Koch brothers have founded organizations such as American Legislative Exchange Council. The council brings lobbyists and legislators together three times a year to draft model bills, and for the past 20 years, Koch Industries has been on its corporate board. In 1994, Charles Koch was awarded the Adam Smith Award by ALEC for donations exceeding $1 million to the institute. Even though these meetings are held privately, we know some of their issues have included: Warming Up to Climate Change, Start Energy Independence Today, and Health Insurance Exchanges.

Many individuals suspect the Koch brothers of skewing politics toward private interests. Kert Davis is one of them as the president of research for Green Peace, and he asserts that, “Since 1998 we tracked over $50 million that they have sent to front groups and think tanks that have run a campaign against global warming and global warming science.” Davis also asserts that the brothers have spent upwards of $50 million on lobbyists since 2006.

The Koch brothers also fund think tanks such as The Cato Institute, co-founded by Charles Koch in 1977, and since its foundation it has received $14 million from the brothers. The Cato Institute’s main page has links on: “Let’s Prize Climate Skepticism,” “Abolish Central Banks” and “How Much Ivory Does This Tower Need? What We Spend On, and Get from, Higher Education.”

The voice of the people and the integrity of the republic grows quiet under the voice of private interests in political affairs, especially when they have billions to spend. Whether you consider yourself a Republican or a Democrat, no matter what your ideology, it’s your voice that matters. And yet, more than $2 billion a year are spent on lobbying and billions will go to campaigns for 2012. Money is the new voice of America, and we’re being convinced to think, act and behave in accordance with that.