Koch brothers

  • November 19, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    It’s not where he said it; it’s what Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito had to say about the ruling in Citizens United and the role of the federal government that warrants any kind of notice.

    Alito has long been defensive of the high court’s handiwork in a decision that gave more power to corporate interests to spend their expenditures on politicking. That 2010 high court opinion in Citizens United v. FEC overturned longstanding court precedent allowing for some regulation of campaign financing by corporations. During the 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama blasted the Court for trampling that precedent and added that it would become a boon for special interests, including foreign ones, and Alito was caught on camera uttering, “Not true.”

    Recently the severely conservative judge (he was far right as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit) again sounded a defensive note on Citizens United before the Federalist Society’s 2012 National Lawyers Convention. Alito, as reported by the Associated Press, said all kinds of newspapers and television news and opinion broadcasts, many owned by vast corporate interests, sound off on and provide endorsements of candidates.

    “The question is whether speech that goes to the very heart of government should be limited to certain preferred corporations; namely media corporations,” Alito said during a keynote address at the group’s 30th Anniversary Gala Dinner on Nov. 15. “Surely the idea that the First Amendment protects only certain privileged voices should be disturbing to anybody who believes in free speech.”

    Beyond defending the opinion, and shooting a few asides at critics of the opinion, Alito sounded what is a frequent Tea Party or rightwing talking point about ever-expanding powers of the federal government, saying that the views advanced by the administration in several cases before the high court revealed a vision of a society dominated by a towering federal government.

  • November 8, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    A growing chorus of lawmakers and civil liberties groups is ratcheting up pressure for the federal government to respond to a slew of new, rigid state restrictions on voting.

    Today, leading House members announced they will conduct a forum on Nov. 14 to explore the possible ramifications the restrictions will have on forthcoming elections. House members scheduled to participate include House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Administration Committee Ranking Member Robert Brady (D-Pa.), House Judiciary Constitution Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). See here for more information about the forum.

    Last week, Hoyer and Brady sent a letter signed by nearly 200 of their colleagues to state officials calling on them “to oppose new state measures adopted over the last year that would make it harder for eligible voters to register or vote.” Their action was preceded by Conyers (pictured) and Nadler urging the House Judiciary Committee to conduct hearings on the restrictive new measures.

    Brave New Foundation and the Advancement Project launched a project tagging the conservative group the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC with writing much of the new restrictions that have been implemented primarily by Republican controlled statehouses.

    The project includes a video, posted on both groups’ websites, which details the extent of the restrictive voting laws, and charges that Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who have bankrolled Tea Party activities and efforts, such as the one in Wisconsin, to undercut workers’ rights, as also being involved in the movement attacking voting rights.

    “The Koch brothers are behind these laws because they want to cut off the participation of people who are not behind their corporate agenda,” Judith Brown Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project said. 

    NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous said, “We are in a moment right now where we are seeing the most aggressive attempt to roll back voting rights in this country that we’ve seen in over a century.”

  • April 29, 2011

    In what is being billed as the first direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC opinion, a coalition of groups has come together to help restore Montana’s century-old law against corporate politicking.

    Last fall, a Montana judge invalidated the state’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act, which bans corporations from spending on elections, citing the high court’s Citizens United ruling. Citizens United struck down decades of precedent upholding campaign finance regulations, finding that corporations have free speech rights to funnel corporate dollars into campaign coffers. As noted in this blog post, the Koch brothers, head of Koch industries and prime funders of Tea Party activities, are taking advantage of Citizens United to push their employees to vote for far-right candidates.

    The Montana Attorney General has appealed the decision to the state’s highest court, and today Free Speech for People, a national campaign to overturn Citizens United, along with national and Montana business networks, lodged an amicus brief urging the restoration of the Montana campaign finance law.

    The friend-of-the-court brief in Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. State of Montana blasts the Citizens Union opinion as “an extreme extension of an erroneous corporate rights doctrine that has eroded the First Amendment and the Constitution for the past 30 years.” The brief adds that Citizens United “is contrary not only to our republic principles of government, but also to American principles of free and fair commerce among free people and the States.”

    Jeff Clements, co-founder and general counsel of Free Speech for People and author of the amicus brief, said in a press statement, “Corporations are not people. The Framers understood that. The First Amendment and the Constitution is for the people. We are proud to stand today with the State of Montana to vindicate the Framers’ intent and to defend our democracy.”

    See the coalition’s amicus brief here.

    Clements is also author of the ACS Issue Brief, “Beyond Citizens United v. FEC: Re-Examining Corporate Rights.” Clements also talked with ACSblog about Free Speech for People’s effort to advance a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Watch his interview here.

  • April 29, 2011

    The billionaire brothers, who head of Koch Industries and finance Tea Party activities, campaigns to crush unions and undercut environmental regulations, are, not surprisingly, quickly taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Citizens United v. FEC to influence the way their employees vote.

    In a piece for The Nation, Mark Ames and Mike Elk report on recent efforts of Charles and David Koch to sway their workers during the midterm elections. The magazine highlights a “Koch Industries election packet,” sent to most of the company’s workers rife with “alarmist right-wing propaganda.” The packet contained a list of candidates favored by the brothers as well a newsletter with an editorial trumpeting “Tea Party themes,”  and an article portraying an out-of-control federal government determined to muzzle the free speech of the brothers.

    Ames and Elk, however, write that “the strangest and most disturbing article of all comes from the head of Koch Industries himself, Charles Koch, who offers an election-year history lesson to his employees.” Part of that history includes that claim that President Warren G. Harding helped lead “one of the most prosperous [eras] in U.S. history.” Koch said Harding’s slashing of taxes and federal spending were what helped make him such a wonderful president.

    Marquette University law school professor Paul M. Secunda told The Nation, “Before Citizens United, federal election law allowed a company like Koch Industries to talk to officers and shareholders about whom to vote for, but not to talk with employees about whom to vote for. Now companies like Koch Industries are free to send out newsletters persuading their employees how to vote. They can even intimidate their employees into voting for their candidates.”

  • March 10, 2011
    Wisconsin state Republicans after discovering a way to pass a measure slashing pay and collective bargaining rights of public workers without the presence of Democratic lawmakers have hardly tamped down the ire building over Gov. Scott Walker's campaign to allegedly save the state from bankruptcy.

    The governor's bill, which was passed quickly by the state Senate last night, amounts to nearly an 8 percent cut in pay for state workers, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. The newspaper's Web site features a ticker updating the protests that have escalated at the capitol. Early this morning the ticker reported that state troopers were denying reporters access to the capitol. State Senate Democrats blasted the actions of the governor and Republicans.

    Sen. Bob Jauch told the newspaper the actions would escalate efforts to mount a recall of the Republican senators. "This was an act of legislative thuggery," Jauch said.

    SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry blasted Gov. Walker, saying in a statement that he had made it clear "to the people of Wisconsin - and the entire nation - the extent he will go in order to pay back billionaires such as the Koch Brothers and bad actor corporations that want to destroy the middle class."

    Henry continued, "From denying working people the right to have a voice, to failing to create the jobs that Wisconsinites so desperately need, Walker has proven time and again that his first priority is rewarding the Koch Brothers and corporate interests, not the people of Wisconsin."

    Recently, The New York Times reported that Charles and David Koch were among the "biggest contributors to the election campaign" of Walker.

    [image by Nathan Foster]