Koch Brothers Against Corporate Welfare. Well, Not Theirs.

Koch Brothers Against Corporate Welfare. Well, Not Theirs. September 17, 2013

Politico has an article about a virtually unknown group called Freedom Partners, which spent $250 million in 2012 supporting conservative causes with massive grants. A lot of those funds evidently came from the Koch brothers, which is hardly a surprise.

An Arlington, Va.-based conservative group, whose existence until now was unknown to almost everyone in politics, raised and spent $250 million in 2012 to shape political and policy debate nationwide.

The group, Freedom Partners, and its president, Marc Short, serve as an outlet for the ideas and funds of the mysterious Koch brothers, cutting checks as large as $63 million to groups promoting conservative causes, according to an IRS document to be filed shortly.

The 38-page IRS filing amounts to the Rosetta Stone of the vast web of conservative groups — some prominent, some obscure — that spend time, money and resources to influence public debate, especially over Obamacare.

The group has about 200 donors, each paying at least $100,000 in annual dues. It raised $256 million in the year after its creation in November 2011, the document shows. And it made grants of $236 million — meaning a totally unknown group was the largest sugar daddy for conservative groups in the last election, second in total spending only to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which together spent about $300 million.

Freedom Partners is organized as a 501(c)(6), which is a trade association, which allows it to keep its donors secret. ThinkProgress notes that the group claims to fight corporate welfare.

The Freedom Partners website identifies four key political issues on which the group is focused — energy deregulation, Obamacare repeal/replacement, an end to “runaway government spending” and “temporary ‘stimulus’ programs,” and the elimination of “cronyism” and “corporate welfare.” It explicitly identifies industry bailouts, subsidies, and government loans as examples of the cronyism that “undermines the competition that is the heart of economic freedom.”

They also note that the group gave millions of dollars to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is always on the side of corporate welfare:

1. The Export-Import Bank: The federal government’s official credit agency finances and insures foreign purchases of American goods for customers unable or unwilling to accept credit risk. Noting that much of the agency’s works aids Fortune 500 companies, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) once described it as “corporate welfare at its worst.” But the Chamber strongly supports the Export-Import Bank, calling it “especially important to small- and medium-sized businesses.”

2. The financial sector bailout: The 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, offered up to $700 billion to bail out the nation’s banking industry after the subprime lending crisis caused its meltdown. The Chamber “strongly supported the creation of TARP.”

3. The auto industry bailout : Rejecting Mitt Romney’s call to “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” the Obama administration stepped in in 2009 with a bailout for the American automobile manufacturers— and helped save the industry. The Chamber lobbied heavily for the bill.

4. The airline industry bailout: In 2001, after the 9/11 hijackings, President Bush moved quickly to bail out the struggling airline industry. In an October op-ed, the Chamber’s president noted that the move was well worth the cost. “Without the timely action from President Bush and Congress, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce fully supported,” he wrote, “our airline industry–the envy of the world–would not have survived.”

5. Ethanol subsidies: In a 2003 letter to President Bush, the Chamber enthusiastically backed a bill that would “boost job-creating highway capital investment spending while promoting the production and use of ethanol.” The bill, which did not make it out of committee, aimed to assist ethanol producers by establishing a tax credit for ethanol production.

But forget the chamber of commerce, they could have gone directly to the Koch brothers themselves, who benefit enormously from a huge range of tax breaks, subsidies, free government services and state and federal contracts.

– The dirty secret of Koch Industries is its birth under the centrally-planned Soviet Union. Fred Koch, the founder of the company and father of David and Charles, helped constructfifteen oil refineries for Joseph Stalin before expanding the business in the United States.

– As Yasha Levine has reportedKoch exploits a number of government programs for profit. For instance, Georgia Pacific, a timber company subsidiary of Koch Industries, uses taxpayer money provided by the U.S. Forestry Service to provide their loggers with taxpayer-funded roads and access to virgin growth forests. “Logging companies such as Georgia-Pacific strip lands bare, destroy vast acreages and pay only a small fee to the federal government in proportion to what they take from the public,” according to the Institute for Public Accuracy. Levine alsonotes that Koch’s cattle ranching company, Matador Cattle Company, uses a New Deal program to profit off federal land for free.

– Koch Industries won massive government contracts using their close relationship with the Bush administration. The Bush administration, in a deal even conservatives alleged was a quid pro quo because of Koch’s campaign donations, handed Koch Industries a lucrative contract to supply the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve with 8 million barrels of crude oil. The SPR deal, done initially in 2002, was renewed in 2004 by Bush administration officials. During the occupation of Iraq, Koch wonsignificant contracts to buy Iraqi crude oil.

– Although Koch campaigned vigorously against health reform — running attack ads, sponsoring anti-health reform Tea Parties, and comparing health reform to the Holocaust — Koch Industriesapplied for health reform subsidies made possible by the Obama administration.

– The Koch brothers have claimed that they oppose government intervention in the market, but Koch Industries lobbies aggressively for taxpayer handouts. In Alaska, blogger Andrew Halcro reported that a Koch subsidiary in Fairbanks asked Gov. Sarah Palin’s administration to use taxpayer money to bail out one of their failing refinery.

– SolveClimate recently reported that Koch Industries will reap huge profits from the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which runs from Koch-owned tar sands mining centers in Canada to Koch-owned refineries in Texas. To build the pipeline, politicians throughout the Midwest, many of whom have received large Koch campaign donations, have used eminent domain — government seizures of private land. In Kansas, where Koch-funded officials advise Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and the Republican legislature, the Keystone XL Pipeline is likely to receive a property tax exemption of ten years, a special loopholethat will cost Kansas taxpayers about $50 million.

– Koch Industries has been the recipient of about $85 million in federal government contracts mostly from the Department of Defense. Koch also benefits directly from billions in taxpayer subsidies for oil companies and ethanol production.

They aren’t against corporate welfare at all. In fact, they make a massive amount of money from it.

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