The two multi-billionaire petrochemical moguls, David and Charles Koch, have committed to spend nearly $1 billion in the 2016 election to drive their extreme agenda. That agenda includes union busting, opposition to environmental protections, climate denial and the repeal of Obamacare. The “Kochtopus” refers to the network of tentacles extending from various anonymous dark money groups (dark money is untraceable, hiding donor’s names) funded by the Kochs.
These front groups’ tentacles reach into every state, including Iowa, directing millions of dollars to defeat Democrats nationwide. The Kochs channel their money through harmless sounding non-profits like Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners Action Fund, Concerned Veterans for America and others to promote Republicans and defeat Democrats with slash-and-burn negative advertising.
Iowa Democrats are concerned because the Kochs have chosen not to support Donald Trump in 2016 and instead have promised to divert their millions into House and Senate races as well as local statehouse races. So far in 2016 the KochPac has donated nominal amounts to Republican House members Rod Blum and Steve King. But could the Kochtopus still unleash millions in dark money to elect Iowa Republicans as we approach November?
Democrats are still smarting over Bruce Braley’s loss in 2014 to Joni Ernst. It was Koch money spent in the 2014 Republican primary that first elevated Ernst from anonymity and helped her win that primary. Then it was Koch money spent through super PACs against Braley that contributed to his defeat in the general election. In a story in Politico following the 2014 election, Ernst was quoted for thanking the Kochs, “The exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you — that really started my trajectory.”
The Kochs are using their vast wealth accumulated from their dirty fossil fuels mega-empire to promote candidates friendly to their agenda. The Kochs made a great buy in Ernst as she has used her Senate office to oppose the EPA clean water protections, the President’s Clean Power Plan and has been a climate change denier. She has been quoted as saying she hasn’t seen “proven proof that [climate change] is entirely man-made.” So far she has shown she is in lockstep with the extreme Koch agenda. The Kochtopus money seems to have been well-spent in persuading Ernst to legislate for the Koch’s extremist agenda.
Koch industries is currently running ads across the country including Iowa in an attempt to soften their image as a corporate bully. One ad shows one of their employees touting a clean water project in Brazil. While the Kochs are running ads promoting clean water in Brazil they’re cynically fighting the EPA efforts to clean up the water in Iowa and the Midwest.
One must assume the Kochs are currently shopping for Iowa Republican candidates to be their next Joni Ernst clones that they can fund before November. Senator Grassley probably has sufficient resources to dominate advertising. Grassley has $6 million on hand, about 10 times the amount his Democratic opponent Patty Judge has available. Grassley probably doesn’t need the Koch’s help.
However, both the 1st District race, Blum vs. Vernon, and the 3rd District race, Young vs. Mowrer, are predicted to be competitive. Koch-funded PACs could swoop in and drop buckets of money to swing one or both of those races to the Republican. Likewise, nationally the Kochs have been concentrating on the flipping of statehouses to Republicans. They see control of local statehouses as an easier flip which can drive their anti-government agenda at the local level. Sometimes a few thousand dollars spent in a statehouse race can make the difference in swinging a race. A Koch specialty is negative advertising spent just prior to an election. That tactic prevents the victim of the attacks time to respond which can be a game changer. The Iowa Senate is controlled by the Democrats by a one vote margin which must appear at the top of the Koch shopping list for a take down.
The Koch’s efforts in Iowa aren’t just limited to manipulating elections with dark money. They promote their anti-worker, union busting tactics by funding another Kochtopus tentacle Americans for Prosperity (AFP) here in Iowa. AFP operated a fairly significant ground game (phoning and door knocking) in Iowa in 2014. It’s assumed that AFP has ramped that up for 2016 by taking their issue advocacy directly to voters. The Iowa AFP has recently spoken in opposition to the Democrats’ statewide efforts to raise the minimum wage. Democratic Supervisors in several counties (Johnson, Lee, Linn, Wapello and Polk) have either raised their counties minimum wage or are proposing increases.
On August 16, 2016, The Des Moines Register published a piece by the AFP Iowa State Director attacking the Iowa State Education Association. He intentionally misrepresented the ISEA PAC accusing them of using Iowa Teachers Union members dues to promote political activities. Politifact regularly fact checks AFP for truthfulness. The latest Politifact fact checks gives AFP statements the following scores:
- 6% true
- 13% half true
- 38% mostly false
- 31% false
- 13% Pants on Fire
Obviously, Iowa Democrats must keep a close watch on the Kochtopus cronies tentacles slithering back into Iowa to distort, misrepresent and manipulate Iowa voters. On this Labor Day, Democrats must recommit to fighting the Koch’s union busting and anti-labor agenda.
by Rick Smith