Who did the Republican Party choose to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union tonight? Someone who represents the anti-worker, corporate-influenced, Koch-dominated wing of their party: newly-elected Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA).
The Kochs also heavily fund ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the “Match.com” nonprofit that brings together state legislators and corporate lobbyists to write “model bills” which are then distributed to pass in state houses. ALEC “model bills” that became law include Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070, Michigan’s union-busting “right to work” law, and Florida’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” gun law.
Ernst was one of those state legislators who joined ALEC after her election to the Iowa Senate in 2011. In June 2014, Ernst told a group of Koch-affiliated donors at a closed-door meeting in California: “the exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you, that really started my trajectory.”
She wasn’t wrong. Ernst was enormous beneficiary of the Koch network from day one of her campaign, as PR Watch reports:
In her campaign for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat, Ernst was the underdog early in the crowded Republican primary, but soon became the darling of outside spending groups, maintaining a $12 million lead in outside spending over her Democratic opponent into the final weeks of the race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A few days after Ernst’s appearance at the Dana Point summit, Charles Koch and his wife, son, and daughter-in-law maxed-out on donations to Ernst, and much of the outside spending supporting Ernst or attacking her opponent came from Koch-tied groups like the 60 Plus Association, American Future Fund, Freedom Partners Action Fund, the National Federation of Independent Business, and Americans for Prosperity.
During the campaign, Ernst’s spokeswoman was Gretchen Hamel, who led the Koch-backed group Public Notice. Once elected, Ernst hired as her Chief of Staff Lisa Goes, a former VP at the Koch-backed National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), a group which, not coincidentally, ran radio and online ads on behalf of Ernst during the campaign.
So what do the Kochs and their network get for all this support? As a candidate, Joni Ernst opposed raising the minimum wage, and said she considered privatizing Social Security an “option.” She also signed the pledge from super-lobbyist Grover Norquist saying that she would oppose the elimination of tax breaks, including those for companies that ship jobs overseas. In fact, we found it difficult to identify a single policy difference between her campaign rhetoric and the ideas advanced by the Koch brothers’ network.
Today is National Voter Registration Day and while volunteers around the country will be on street corners, outside of groceries stores, at bus and subway stops and elsewhere to help people register, you can get started right now, right here with just one click.
If we’re going to beat back the attack on working families by the likes of Mitch McConnell, Scott Walker, the Koch brothers and other extremists, all of us—you and your family and friends—must be registered to vote.
The AFL-CIO has teamed up with TurboVote to make voting easy for you and for your friends and family. Not only can you register or update your registration, but TurboVote will help you with absentee ballots, vote-by-mail information, finding your polling place and even sending reminders by email and text so you won’t forget to vote.
In the past few years, 22 states have passed new laws restricting the right to vote and changing voter registration rules. So even if you’re already registered, you should double check that you and the people most important to you are prepared to vote this year. Have you moved since last Election Day? Make sure you’re registered to vote at your new address. Maybe your friends have moved recently and need to update their voting information.
You’ve heard of the Koch Brothers, the ultra-rich, corporate extremists whose deep pockets are flooding election-season airwaves. Too often, their goals are part of a political playbook to drive down wages, cut Social Security and Medicare and secure more corporate tax breaks at the expense of our environment. Their money may dominate America’s politics and lawmaking, but their values and ideals sure don’t.
We have a better alternative. Meet the Koch Sisters, Karen and Joyce, who share the same last name but not the same values as the infamous Koch Brothers. They’re not related to David and Charles Koch or to each other. But they’re sisters where it counts—in spirit, in solidarity and in their shared values. The Koch Sisters are bringing to the forefront of political debate the issues most Americans care about—from fair wages to protecting Social Security.
Karen Koch is a teacher and mother of two. As a college business professor at Mott Community College in Michigan, she has spent her career preparing students for internships and their first jobs. She is also a member of the Michigan Education Association and comes from a UAW family. Joyce Koch, also a mother of two, is a grandmother and is married to a retired AFT teacher. She spent most of her career as a social worker and an administrator for an anti-poverty organization in New York.
Like so many of us, Karen and Joyce have worked hard all of their lives and want to ensure their children and grandchildren have the same opportunities they did. They share the belief that the working families of this country should have every opportunity to get ahead. Unlike the Koch Brothers, the Koch Sisters don’t have billions of dollars and they certainly aren’t trying to buy our democracy. But they care about our country and what money in politics is doing to it. And they believe their voice, and the voices of millions more people like them—like you and me—are as important as the special interests who use their vast wealth to influence politics and policy.
Perhaps the Koch Sisters are so very different from the Koch Brothers because for Karen and Joyce it’s about people, not profits.
The Koch Sisters stand for the right things that matter most at the right time. I admire Joyce and Karen’s courage for making their voices heard in AFL-CIO television and online ads to get the word out. In fact, I’m a Koch Sister, too! Let’s all join them and become a nation of Koch Sisters! Sign up today at kochsisters.org.
In the latest video from the Koch Sisters, Karen and Joyce express their outrage that the Koch Brothers are attacking the minimum wage, saying that billionaires trying to control how much the lowest-paid workers in the country get is “almost evil.”
The Senate is poised to vote on the minimum wage this week. Call your senators at 888-492-8867 and tell them to vote “yes” on raising the minimum wage.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, the director of films like Roger and Me and Bowling for Columbine, and his wife Kathleen Glynn are separating after 22 years. The proceedings have revealed to the public the extent of Michael Moore’s finances, including a large mansion in Michigan.
Let’s be absolutely clear: that question is ridiculous.
First of all, someone with a blue collar upbringing can most certainly attain great wealth over the course of their life and still maintain the composure, sensibility, and ideals they were raised with. That’s common sense. It’s called economic mobility, and it is something that Americans have felt great pride in throughout our history.
But let’s make something else abundantly clear: Michael Moore and other critics of our economic system do not oppose wealth.
Seriously. This has been a libel against all economic progressives, displayed prominently during the 2012 election when Mitt Romney and others accused President Obama of opposing the very idea of wealth and success (thus the obsession with taking “you didn’t build that” out of context). It’s the insult hurled at anyone who criticizes big money in politics: we are told that we are “jealous” of the Koch Brothers’ massive wealth, because why else would we say mean things about them?
And The Today Show bought completely into this frame, calling Moore’s politics “contradictory” with his big house and his full bank account.
But it’s not contradictory, because Michael Moore doesn’t oppose wealth. Senator Elizabeth Warren, another target of these claims, doesn’t oppose wealth. The millions of Working America members who take action to address income inequality don’t oppose wealth, pursuing wealth, or accruing wealth.
What we oppose, and will continue to fight against, is the following:
• The use of massive wealth to rig our democracy in your favor. We respect the right of Charles and David Koch to grow their business, to hire workers and put out a product. But in addition to running a business, they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbyists, think tanks, and a constellation of political organizations to insure their company’s success at the expense of others.
For instance, there’s nothing “free market” about the Kochs’ efforts to tax consumers of solar energy in an effort to keep them addicted to the petroleum they produce. If Apple lobbied for a law that would add extra taxes for Android users, there would be an enormous outcry. This isn’t different.
• The use of massive wealth to destroy the ladder of economic mobility that helped create that wealth in the first place. Anyone who runs a business has the right to manage their workforce as they see fit, within the bounds of the law. But businessmen like the Koch Brothers, Art Pope, Rex Sinquefield, and Dick DeVos don’t stop there. Through campaign donations, TV advertisements, lobbyists, and other tactics, they have tried (and often succeeded) in changing laws that protect workers’ rights, wages, and retirement. The DeVos family’s near single-handed funding of the “right to work” effort in Michigan is exhibit A.
Knocking rungs off of the ladder of economic mobility doesn’t create wealth, it destroys it.
Warren understood that when information was presented clearly to consumers–without tricks, traps, and hidden fees–they would be better able to select the products that worked for them. That understanding would allow Wall Street companies to compete on a level playing field, with the best plans and products winning. If that’s not capitalism, what is?
So can Michael Moore criticize inequality while enjoying economic success? Absolutely. Moore just happens to be one of those wealthy people who doesn’t feel the need to use his wealth to destroy others’ ability to become wealthy as well.
That’s not being contradictory, that’s being decent.
Text JOBS to 30644 to join Working America’s fight for fair wages and corporate accountability.
We get it. It’s often uncomfortable to think about condemning private citizens in the public sphere. But when we talk about Charles and David Koch, it’s important to keep our eyes on the ball, and to wrap our heads around the sheer magnitude of the damage they have caused to wages, workers’ rights, and the integrity of our democracy.
The problem, as Robert Reich points out in this video, is not that the Koch Brothers are rich, and it’s not that they hold such strong beliefs. It’s that they have utilized that mass wealth to impose their views on the rest of us–undermining our democracy and enriching themselves in the process.
Remember Obamacare? Also known as the Affordable Care Act? With news of conflict and tragedy dominating the airwaves, recent news about the sweeping new health care law has been getting swept under the rug.
That’s too bad, because here’s the basic headline: the Affordable Care Act is working, and consumers have a lot to look forward to when the next open enrollment period starts in November.
Here’s the rundown:
1.) More insurance companies are joining the exchanges. The health exchanges set up under the ACA work best when more insurance companies participate. More companies means more competition for your business, which ultimately means lower prices for consumers.
For instance, last year in New Hampshire there was only one company on the state exchange–not a recipe for healthy competition. Even so, signups exceeded expectations, and other companies are diving in to swoop up consumer dollars. For 2015 open enrollment (which begins on November 15, 2014), there will be not one more but four more companies on the New Hampshire exchange.
That’s happening across the country. In Michigan, there will be 18 companies for 2015 open enrollment versus 13 in 2014. In Indiana, consumers will have double the options to choose from. Major carriers like United, Aetna, and Cigna are wading into California’s exchange, which they previously sat out. Again, more competition means more options and lower prices for consumers.
2.) The ACA is massively cutting the rate of uninsured. Between the creation of state exchanges, the expansion of Medicaid in half the country, and the end of disgusting insurance practices (like denying insurance to those with pre-existing conditions), the Affordable Care Act is succeeding at its main goal: reducing the number of uninsured Americans.
3.) A majority of Americans want to keep the ACA. The Koch Brothers, the Republican Party, and the health insurance lobby itself have all spent massive amounts of money on a barrage of misinformation to convince the country that Obamacare is a government takeover, a socialist conspiracy, a massive waste of money, or the “worst thing since slavery,” depending on who you ask.
But as more and more people gain the peace of mind that health coverage brings, the misinformation loses its effectiveness.
A Bloomberg poll released on June 11 shows that 56 percent of Americansthink Obamacare “may need small modifications, but we should see how it works,” vs. 32 percent for repeal and 10 percent for leaving it be. The poll also finds 11 percent oppose the law because it didn’t go far enough.
Since he took the role of Speaker in 2013, Tillis has helped pass a raft of corporate-friendly legislation. Many of these bills were based on ALEC models:
In 2013, after Republicans gained control of the North Carolina legislature and governor’s mansion for the first time since 1870, an array of right-wing legislation reflecting ALEC templates swept through the legislature. Both the Raleigh News-Observer and CMD found dozens of ALEC bills introduced in 2013, including measures that promote voter suppression, union busting, public funding of private schools, and the repeal of clean energy laws.
The onslaught of ALEC-influenced legislation in 2013 helped give rise to North Carolina’s “Moral Mondays” movement.
AFP has long been a member of ALEC, and both David and Charles Koch have made personal loans to ALEC and funded the group through their foundations. Additionally, a Koch Industries lobbyist sits on the national board of ALEC — along with Tillis.
Art Pope, a North Carolina mega-donor who funds two state-based right-wing think tanks (both of which have been members of ALEC) also reportedly is supporting Tillis’ candidacy. Not coincidentally, Pope serves on the board of AFP.
As we’ve written before, ALEC disrupts democracy not just because of the policies they promote. By writing corporate friendly bills while also funding and promoting the campaigns of politicians who support those bills, they essentially turn legislators into delivery systems – not public servants. But in supporting Tillis and attacking his would-be opponent to the tune of millions, Pope and the Kochs are showing Tillis’ other legislative colleagues that they could benefit by toeing the ALEC line.