Koch brothers

  • May 21, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Gene R. Nichol, the Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Poverty, Work & Opportunity, UNC School of Law

    It’s no easy feat to crown a favorite Abraham Lincoln quote. The heartfelt urging of “malice toward none … charity for all,” the challenge to ordain “a new birth of freedom,” the recognition that “our republican robe is soiled and trails in the dust,” the tapping of the “better angels of our nature’, and the “mystic chords of memory stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave.” Many could quickly nominate a dozen others.

    My own is less noted: “Allow all the governed an equal voice in the government, and that, and that only, is self government.” [Though it is etched on the gallery walls at the Lincoln Memorial, our national temple of democracy.] The line comes from Lincoln’s 1854 Peoria address. Taking the national stage to decry Stephen Douglas’ repeal of the Missouri Compromise, Lincoln demanded, as Lewis Lehrman has written, that “the nation get right with the Declaration of Independence.” The defining portrait of democracy was the cornerstone, Lincoln reminded, of “our ancient faith.” It is the idea of America.     

    It would be hard to produce a stouter debasement of Lincoln’s sense of our national meaning than the recent parade of presidential hopefuls seeking audience, in humbled supplication, before a creepy and lengthening list of billionaire funders to secure meaningful entry into the 2016 race. The mega-buck primary is apparently more compelling, and decidedly more exclusive and demeaning, than the electoral one.  

    The Koch brothers have announced that a billion dollars is up for grabs for the candidate who pleases. Scott Walker reportedly has the inside track in what The New York Times calls the “Koch Primary.” But the mercurial pair has chosen to delay the purportedly outcome-bending announcement. Suspense, one supposes, augments the drama.

    When Sheldon Adelson let it slip that he was again in the market for a candidate, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Scott Walker rushed to Las Vegas to pay homage. The pageant was held, fittingly, in one of the Adelson casinos. The ever-belligerent Christie quickly apologized for prior statements about the Middle East. So much for tough-and-brutal talk. It is easy to see why. Adelson, who coughed up almost $100 million in 2012, suggested he’ll consider putting up serious money this time around. 

    Nor were others idle. Hedge Fund magnate Robert Mercer disclosed he will sponsor Ted Cruz. Rick Santorum, once again, will carry the colors of investment manager Foster Friess. Florida billionaire Norman Braham will provide at least ten million for Marco Rubio. Jeb Bush’s new super PAC, Right To Rise, will reportedly secure $100 million of individual and corporate donations by the end of May. The game is underway.

    The Democrats are no better – though they add a grotesque and habitual hypocrisy to the mix. 

  • January 27, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    In The New York Times, Nicholas Confessore writes that the Koch brothers’ pledge to spend $889 million in the 2016 campaign is on par with both parties’ spending.

    David Savage reports in the Los Angeles Times on the Supreme Court’s decision that casts doubts on health benefits for union retirees.

    At Bloomberg News, Greg Stohr writes that Oklahoma’s step to find an alternative drug for executions leaves the Supreme Court case about lethal injection in question.

    Lauren-Brooke Eisen considers the future of grand jury reform at the blog for the Brennan Center for Justice.

    At Slate, Kathryn Kolbert explains how Texas used bad science in order to restrict abortion access.

    Stephanie Gallman of CNN reports that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency in the case of Warren Hill, a man with a lifelong intellectual disability. ACSblog featured a guest blog on the case last week. 

  • 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.