Skip to main content

The truth about the Koch agenda

By Brad Woodhouse
updated 4:20 PM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
Charles Koch, left, and David Koch have spent millions supporting conservative campaigns.
Charles Koch, left, and David Koch have spent millions supporting conservative campaigns.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Brad Woodhouse says the Koch brothers are even more right-wing than they let on
  • He looks at a 1980 campaign where David Koch ran to defeat Ronald Reagan
  • Today, he says, instead of running a fringe party, they're driving the Republican party

Editor's note: Brad Woodhouse is the president of American Bridge 21st Century, a progressive research and communications Super PAC. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- The Koch brothers -- Charles and David -- have committed to spending $125 million to buy elections for the House and Senate this cycle.

What are they hoping to get for that hefty sum?

Likely, the same self-serving agenda items they have been after for more than 30 years: Tax cuts for the wealthy and big oil, eliminating the minimum wage, slashing Medicare and dismantling Social Security. You know, the usual agenda of the extreme, tea party candidates their money and organizations support.

Recently, The New York Times reported on new documents we uncovered detailing the Kochs' early political pursuits, including David Koch's 1980 Libertarian Party campaign for vice president. It was a role he sought in an attempt to skirt campaign finance laws that prevented the Kochs from otherwise pouring unlimited amounts of their fortune into their attempt to defeat revered Republican icon Ronald Reagan.

The David Koch/Ed Clark 1980 campaign platform was strikingly extreme. They ran to the far right of Reagan, attacking him for representing "no change whatsoever from Jimmy Carter and the Democrats."

They called Social Security "the most serious threat to the future stability of our society next to the threat of nuclear war." They wanted to abolish all minimum wage laws, while giving tax breaks to the rich and big oil. All in a self-serving attempt to drive the policy discourse further toward their extreme ideals to benefit their own bottom line.

Brad Woodhouse
Brad Woodhouse

Well, it's now more than 30 years later, and the Koch agenda hasn't budged. Only now, instead of running a fringe party, they're driving the Republican Party.

The organizations the Koch brothers fund, such as Americans for Prosperity, and the radically conservative politicians they support frequently espouse the same positions as the 1980 Libertarian ticket. To understand their priorities, look no further than their body of work.

AFP has repeatedly championed tax breaks for big oil companies, such as the Koch brothers' piggy bank -- Koch Industries -- and railed against standards to keep our air safe to breathe and our water safe to drink.

They've played cheerleader for Rep. Paul Ryan's extreme budget plans that would turn Medicare into a voucher program and cut taxes for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

They've poured money into statewide elections in Wisconsin and North Carolina to remake the statehouses in their mold -- then lauded their politicians as they gutted education and attacked women's rights.

Koch brothers vs. the constitution
Benghazi; Obama red state; Koch brothers
Kochs to spend $125 million in 2014

They worked to end a celebrated school integration program in Wake County, North Carolina, and fought to stop a fix aimed at helping Louisiana homeowners in high-risk flood zones avoid paying more for flood insurance.

This is the Koch vision of America, and their influence on lawmakers is undeniable. AFP keeps a scorecard of what it considers "key votes" so Republicans in Congress can make sure not to upset these extreme, secretive billionaires and their war chest.

As a result, the Republican establishment is becoming more and more extreme on key issues, cowering in the shadow of their power. AFP-backed candidates have supported slashing Medicare and giving more tax breaks to the richest Americans while opposing a raise for working families. Some have even called for eliminating the federal minimum wage altogether.

Voters deserve to know the truth behind the Kochs' self-serving agenda and just what they stand for. So, at American Bridge, we've launched RealKochFacts.com, a new research and rapid response resource to highlight the truth about the Koch agenda and what it means for working families in states around the country.

The Kochs may see their boundless political spending as free speech. But when you look at today's Republican candidates, their speech isn't free.

It's bought and paid for by secretive billionaires Charles and David Koch in a longstanding effort to enrich themselves.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
updated 3:38 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
updated 8:25 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
updated 7:28 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
updated 8:41 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
updated 6:11 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
updated 6:18 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
updated 1:30 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT