During a recent interview on the MSNBC talk show Morning Joe, Charles G. Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, admitted that he “expect[s] something in return” for contributing millions of dollars to political campaigns. Specifically, he expects Republican legislators to enact laws that shield his multi-billion dollar corporate network from federal regulations.
Charles and David Koch plan to spend about $889 Million on campaign donations in 2016. If Koch Industries reaches its spending goal, it will become more financially influential and powerful than the Republican Party itself. During the last election, the Republican Party only spent a total of $657 million on the national presidential campaign and 2 congressional campaigns combined. The New York Times noted that Koch Industries’ spending plan “effectively transforms [it] into a third major political party.” Unfortunately, the hypothetical “Koch Party” would be concerned only about its own profits.
Koch Industries began as an oil refining company in 1940. Since that time it has expanded into a massive conglomerate that encompasses the chemical, fiber, energy, mineral, paper, and manufacturing industries, among others. The brothers who own it are worth over $44 Billion dollars – each.
How American Politics Are Easily Bought – Who Is Shaping Our Country?
This is a terrifying moment for American politics – and for our nation as a whole. Charles Koch has publicly admitted to buying off legislators and requiring them to support his business instead of the greater public interest.
Does this mean that wealthy corporations are – quite literally – “above the law”?
Even though Koch Industries was caught and fined almost $27,000 (which, though an annual salary for some, is only chump change for the Kochs) for making 12 illegal political donations from 2005-2009, it continues to bribe Washington DC. Such measly fines have made no alterations whatsoever in their operations. The only difference is that since 2009, executives have gotten craftier and figured out ways to donate huge sums of money without technically violating the law.
A Track Record of Sickness, Poison, & Bribery
Koch Industries has a lot of reasons to rely on desperate bribery – its products kill both people and the planet. Though Charles Koch tries to maintain a persona of being an environmentally-conscious businessman, the truth is that Koch Industries was forced to pay the largest civil fine ever imposed on a private company by the government for causing over 300 oil spills in 6 different states in the year of 2000 alone. Beyond just poisoning the environment, Koch also has a liability of $1 Billion for tens of thousands of victims who developed mesothelioma and other cancers from its many asbestos-containing products.
Instead of searching for ways to reimburse or support the families of its victims, Koch Industries spends its time and money fighting them. The mega corporation has been a key player in blocking asbestos victims from receiving compensation. The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2015 (or FACT Act) is a bill sponsored only by Republican senators who have collectively received over $3,300,000 dollars from asbestos-related corporations, including Koch Industries. The FACT Act’s goal is to force asbestos victims to give up personal information and jump through legal hoops in the hope that they will die before receiving compensation.
If such a heinous bill passes through Congress, it would mean that while victims of asbestos are dying, unfathomably wealthy CEOs like Charles G. Koch are keeping more of their money in their pockets.
Koch Uses Secretive Organizations to Do Bidding
Not only did Charles and David Koch directly contribute over $240,000 to Fact Act legislation, but it just so happens that a Koch Industries Senior Vice President, Mark Holden, is also a board member of the Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform.
Why is this important to note? The Chamber of Commerce is the largest lobbying organization in the United States and spent a staggering $187 million between 2011 and 2015 to lobby for the Fact Act and any other “asbestos-reform legislation.” Koch Industries gets to make direct contributions with its own money, but since its own executives control the Chamber of Commerce, it can funnel even more money into the senate and house under the cover of a known lobbyist organization. Using these tactics, the Koch brothers can extend their influence to any politician and any issue.
Still discontent being part of only one corporate-bribery machine, Koch Industries has also become a key player in another powerful and shadowy lobbyist organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). An investigative report that ran in The Atlantic described ALEC as “a shadowy back-room arrangement where corporations pay good money to get friendly legislators to introduce pre-packaged bills in state houses across the country.”
ALEC targets state laws all around the country so that it can spread its influence on a national level without drawing too much attention to itself. By working through ALEC, Koch Industries has been able to pass state-level versions of legislation that resembles the FACT Act in Oklahoma, Ohio, and Wisconsin – and it has introduced similar bills in Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia.
What this means is that even if the House of Representatives and U.S. voters reject the FACT Act, which they have done multiple times over the past 4 years, Charles and David Koch can still get their way by bribing the senators of each and every state, one-by-one.
Such an exercise in money-bought power is not only shady, wrong, and terrifying – it’s already happening.
Will the United States Be Run by Corporations in 2016?
Even though they were never voted into office and even though they have demonstrated absolutely no interest whatsoever in the public’s well-being, the Koch brothers are able to shape the laws that govern our land according to what’s in the best interest of their business. They do so in secrecy and without the approval of any federal branch of government, yet they are not accused of treason.
As of yet, no one has been able to escape the long reach of the Koch brothers and the secretive organizations with which they work. Even the interview Charles Koch conducted on MSNBC’s Morning Joe was a product of their influence – the hosts of the TV morning talk show had all attended a secret Koch-sponsored conference in Palm Springs, California earlier in the year. It’s alleged by The International Business Times, that the Koch brothers may have also paid for the hosts’ travel expenses and accommodations to ensure that they would conduct a positive interview. David and Charles Koch have proven that they can buy friends and policy in the capitol and friends in the media – the question then remains: How long will it take them to buy the entire country?