By Doug Porter
This weekend (Apr 28-29) hundreds of business executives and wealthy conservative donors will descend upon the Coachella Valley, hoping to forge a strategy to turn last fall’s drubbing of conservative candidates into future victories. I imagine the crowd will be considerably different from what locals have seen over the past two weeks.
Since 2003 billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch have been hosting regular retreats at luxury resorts seeking to focus the resources and energy of wealthy and politically ambitious conservatives in the US.
Their latest invitation-only gathering, originally scheduled for January, was postponed.
An email from Charles Koch, published in the National Review, explained the holdup.
“We are working hard to understand the election results, and based on that analysis, to re-examine our vision and the strategies and capabilities required for success. Although some of the needed changes are already evident, it will be several months before the state data necessary to complete this analysis is available.”
Organizers of these meetings have gone to great lengths to keep their activities under wraps in the past. In 2011 an invitation to what Forbes magazine dubbed ‘the billionaire caucus’ was leaked to the New York Times. The guest list included wealthy philanthropists, business leaders, government officials, Supreme Court justices and prominent conservative political candidates.
Common Cause and other groups concerned with the disproportional electoral influence that the Koch-led group hoped to achieve protested outside the Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage.
Last June’s gathering in Carlsbad, billed as ‘Path to Freedom 2012’ focused on unveiling the Koch funded voter database project ‘Themis’, named after the Greek goddess who imposes divine order on human affairs. The confab completely took over the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, where rooms start at $1,250 a night.
Mother Jones magazine has obtained a memo from Koch associate Kevin Gentry setting out the program for this weekend’s gathering near Palm Springs. It promises prospective attendees “a strong line-up of speakers, including several U.S. governors, senators, members of the U.S. house leadership and top political analysts and commentators.”
Strategies on the agenda include marketing towards specific market segments, communicating with ‘growing demographics’ and candidate recruitment.
The Mother Jones article concludes:
Quietly, some conservative activists have complained that the Kochs’ big data operation, Themis, didn’t work that well—and that their message didn’t get to the right people (read: the right voters). So it’s no surprise that Koch Industries, the privately-held conglomerate run by Charles Koch, is reportedly mulling a bid to buy eight major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the ChicagoTribune. Those outlets would give the Kochs an audience of tens of millions of readers in the US and abroad.
With little to show for after the 2012 elections, the Kochs have been retooling parts of their political operation. Their flagship organization, Americans for Prosperity, parted ways with more than 100 field organizers and its chief operating officer, Tracy Henke. Generation Opportunity, another Koch outfit with a youth focus, got a new president as well. Clearly, the Koch brothers are thinking long and hard about what went wrong in 2012. Next week’s retreat will focus on the changes they want to see in the conservative movement as it forges onward.
UPDATE: (4/26) From Huffington Post we learn the objective for this week’s Koch fest: They’re rolling out a new money mechanism, this time using a 501(c)6 status, and calling themselves a business association, like the US Chamber of Commerce.
The sprawling conservative network backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is being overhauled, with some key Koch operatives moving to a fledgling “dark money” group that is poised to become a chief financing vehicle for the mega donors’ political and ideological projects, The Huffington Post has learned.
The new organization, called the Association for American Innovation, is expected to ultimately funnel millions of dollars to other dark money groups nationwide. It’s being staffed with Koch stalwarts, including Marc Short, who currently oversees other Koch-funded projects, according to a few GOP operatives familiar with the overhaul.
In a twist, the association has been established under Internal Revenue Service rules as a 501(c)(6) business league, setting it apart from many of the dark money groups into which the Kochs and allied donors have in recent years poured hundreds of millions. Adding a business league, which will have members, to the Koch-backed conservative orbit could boost corporate funding, while still allowing some political spending and letting donors remain anonymous, tax lawyers say.
Ramona Teachers Okay Strike Vote
Reacting to plans by the Ramona Unified School District to retroactively collect an eight per cent cut in teacher pay, the executive board of the Ramona Teacher’s Association yesterday approved a strike authorization vote.
The retroactive reductions in pay will mean the average RUSD teacher will lose half or more of their gross pay for May and June, the last two pay periods of the 2012-2013 school year.
Schools will also be closed for five days prior to the end of the instructional period.
The school board approved measures that will take effect if teachers strike two weeks ago. The 13 minute long emergency meeting ended up okaying a seven-page emergency resolution giving the district the authority to hire substitutes at $275 a day if Ramona teachers strike. The district currently pays substitute teachers $95.
The school district and teachers union have been at loggerheads over a contract for the past eighteen months. After initial talks and mediation failed, a California Public Employment Relations Board hearing, called a fact-finding hearing, was held.
“This horrific action is planned despite the fact that Ramona teachers have repeatedly offered to accept reasonable cuts from a fair number of furlough days,” said RTA President Donna Braye-Romero. “Such behavior can only be described as punitive and retaliatory. Just as they threatened at last Monday’s post-fact finding meeting, they have increased the amount of cuts because we could not accept their untenable proposal that day, by upping them to the maximum 8 percent for 2012-2013”.
The school board exceeded the fact finder’s recommendation, calling for an eight percent cut in 2012-2013 (applied retroactively), a 9.4 percent cut in 2013-2014 and another 9.4 percent in 2014-2015.
Nevada ‘Patient Dumping’ to be Probed
Advocates for the mentally ill and homeless throughout the state are watching an investigation led by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera focusing on whether the State of Nevada improperly “dumped” psychiatric patients in California.
From the Sacramento Bee:
The letter, copied to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, cites a Bee investigation detailing how the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas bused roughly 1,500 patients to other cities and states from July 1, 2008 through early March 2013.
A Bee examination of Greyhound bus receipts found Rawson-Neal bused 500 patients to California during that period; roughly 30 of them were transferred to San Francisco.
One of the patient’s clients, James Flavy Coy Brown, recently turned up suicidal and confused at a Sacramento homeless services complex after he was discharged via Greyhound to Sacramento, with no preparation for his housing, care or treatment.
EPA Objects to XL Pipeline, Congressmen Object to EPA
In yesterday’s column I mentioned a Chamber of Commerce appearance by Congressman Darrell Issa where he misrepresented the controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline by saying “we’re telling Canada that we will stop the exports of their oil for no particular reason except that we can.”
Now it would appear there might some other reasons, aside from the five environmental groups that I linked to in the story opposing the pipeline. From the Los Angeles Times:
The Environmental Protection Agency issued a sharply critical assessment of the State Department’s recent environmental impact review of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, certain to complicate efforts to win approval for the $7-billion project.
In a letter to top State Department officials overseeing the permit process for the pipeline, the EPA lays out detailed objections regarding greenhouse gas emissions related to the project, pipeline safety and alternative routes. Based on its analysis, the EPA said it had “Environmental Objections” to the State Department’s environmental assessment due to “insufficient information. ”
A State Department spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. The State Department assessment concluded that Keystone XL would have a minimal impact on the environment. But the EPA analysis appears to challenge that conclusion.
That pesky EPA, always buttin’ in on things… But fear not, there a plan afoot to put them in their place. From Mother Jones:
In February, 11 congressmen—10 Republicans and one Democrat—joined some two dozen industry groups, including the Fertilizer Institute, the American Chemistry Council, and the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration, to back the General Duty Clarification Act. The bill is designed to sap the Environmental Protection Agency of its powers to regulate safety and security at major chemical sites, as prescribed by the Clean Air Act.
“We call that the Koch brothers bill,” Greenpeace legislative director Rick Hind says, because the bill’s sponsor, GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo, represents the conservative megadonors’ home city of Wichita, Kansas. (The sponsor of the sister legislation in the senate, GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, represents the Kochs’ home state of Kansas.) The brothers have huge investments in fertilizer production, and Hind thinks they’ll ultimately get what they want, whether or not the bill becomes law. “It’s not necessarily intended to achieve legislative passage—it’s more about intimidation of a beleaguered agency.”
May Day! May Day!
The May Day Workers Film Festival connects labor and social justice issues to audiences through the arts and culture. Their upcoming film festival, April 26-28 and May 1st, in San Diego has some mighty powerful and interesting looks at the past, present and possible future for working people in the US.
April 26th ‘Sacco & Vanzetti’ Media Arts Center 2921 El Cajon Blvd 9pm Free + Kooki performs a punk rock opera of the 1912 San Diego Free Speech Fight
Sacco and Vanzetti brings to life the story of two Italian immigrant anarchists who were accused of a murder in 1920, and executed in Boston in 1927 after a notoriously prejudiced trial.
Carmen Durán works the graveyard shift in one of Tijuana’s 800 maquiladoras; she is one of six million women around the world who labor for poverty wages in the factories of transnational corporations.
April 28th ‘China Blue’ Central Library 3rd Floor Auditorium 820 E St 2pm Free + Screening of short film the ‘Story of Stuff’
China Blue takes us inside a blue-jeans factory, where Jasmine and her friends Orchid and Li Ping, are trying to survive the harsh working environment.
In the future, jobs still suck – but in whole new ways. By 2040, the global economy has flipped and North Americans are a cheap labor pool for wealthy Asian markets.
On This Day: 1963 – Jan & Dean recorded “Surf City.” 1985 – The Coca-Cola Company announced that it was changing its 99-year-old secret formula. New Coke was not successful, which resulted in the resumption of selling the original version. 2005 – The first video was uploaded to YouTube.com.
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