Charles Koch, left, and David Koch have spent millions supporting conservative campaigns.
from koch industries/Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
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 —  

When a Phoenix teacher, way back in 2004, offered four students the option of learning marine science through textbook lessons or by building an underwater robot, the students chose the hands-on approach.

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
Courtesy American Bridge 21st Century
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.

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.

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