This past weekend the network of conservative plutocrats also known as the Koch Network met in Indian Wells, just a few hours northeast of San Diego. The area is a playground for the wealthy, and about as safe as it gets for those plotting to destroy democracy: 95.2% white, with 65.1% of residents (second highest in California) registered as Republicans.
It was their biggest conclave ever, going back to 2003 when the Koch brothers began convening like-minded donors twice annually. Their plans for the 2018 election cycle include spending close to $400 million to influence the mid-terms, using the administration’s tax reform bill as bait. The group spent $250 million on politics in the 2016 elections, so it’s evident they are worrying about what’s coming in November.
From the Washington Post:
Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, the main political arm of the network, has been straightforward about the challenges ahead. Pointing to Democratic victories in Virginia last November and a Wisconsin special election earlier this month, he explained: “The left is energized. There’s no question about that. It’s prudent for folks to understand that and to acknowledge that. … It’s not just marches and such. It’s showing in some of the recent elections…”
“…With politics, history is a great indicator. It just is,” he said. “Americans are more skeptical than they used to be of government and of Washington, D.C. That’s a healthy thing … but it means we have to do a really good job of explaining that there are some good things happening that actually improve people’s lives.”
This is a different kind of challenge for the Koch network, which scaled up during the Obama era. AFP got to ride the anti-Obama wave in 2010. Now the group is bracing for the impact of an anti-Trump one. “In 2010, we explained the ill effects of Obamacare. It’s the reverse now,” said Phillips. “Our job is to explain why these tax reforms are benefitting a lot of people. … This year we’ll be explaining the benefits of policies in many cases. That’s probably the biggest challenge. You’re going against the tide. You’re going against history. … Regardless of the president, it’s a challenge.”
House Majority Leader Paul Ryan addressed the conference via video, giving Koch donors credit for passing the tax bill. “Because of your help we’ve been able to take the ball and run with it,” Ryan says.
The $500,000 Koch contribution to Ryan’s campaign apparatus shortly after the bill was signed was a small price to pay, compared to the between $1 billion and $1.4 billion in reduced taxes they’ll pay each year thanks to special interest provisions in the legislation.
Five other donors, including billionaire businessmen Jeffery Hildebrand and William Parfet, each contributed $100,000 to Ryan’s joint fundraising committee in the last quarter of 2017, according to campaign finance records.
While the Koch klan may not have been thrilled with Donald Trump, the candidate, they’ve been quick to take advantage of the shortage of people willing to work for the administration.
A Public Citizen review of the Koch brothers’ connections to the Trump administration and policy agenda in Washington, D.C. finds:
- 44 Trump administration officials have close ties to the Koch brothers and their network of political groups, particularly Vice President Mike Pence, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.
- The bulk of Koch allies are in the White House, with 21 officials working there or nominated for White House jobs.
- Koch allies are also staffing jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency, Interior Department, Energy Department and the Treasury Department — reflecting the Kochs’ economic interest in reducing the size of government, lowering corporate taxes, loosening environmental regulations and opening up public land to oil and gas extraction.
- The Kochs have already achieved the majority of goals contained in “Roadmap to Repeal” — a policy document published in January 2017 by Freedom Partners, a Koch group.
From USA Today:
“If I had gone into a coma two years ago and woke up today and just read what had been accomplished, I would have been shocked and thrilled,” said Tom Sheperd, a Cincinnati businessman who was among the 550 donors who gathered at the Kochs’ private retreat in the California desert.
But Sheperd said Trump “isn’t helping get many Republicans elected.”
“I think he’s doing more harm than good,” he said, “because he’s distracting people from the good work that is happening either because of him or in spite of him.”
More than 40 House Republicans (New Jersey’s Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, appropriations chair, announced he’s quitting as I was writing this) have announced their departure in recent months. Several of them are in districts won by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. 16 Democrats have announced their resignations.
An analysis by Bloomberg Government of historical data, election maps and public polling points to sweeping Democratic gains in the November election, when all 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate are on the ballot.
Since the end of World War II, the party in control of the White House has, on average, had a net loss of 26 House seats in midterm elections. Democrats can win control of the House with a net gain of 24 seats in November. They’d need to win two seats to gain a majority in the Senate.
Adding to that, Trump’s approval rating at this stage of his presidency, 36 percent, is lower than any of his predecessors going back to Harry Truman, according to Gallup polling data. The less popular the president, the more seats his party tends to lose.
Republicans and their donor networks are hoping the President’s State of the Union Speech on Tuesday will buy them some breathing room.
Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday will be one of the president’s last, best chances to win over more of the American public to his nationalist agenda ahead of midterm elections that will be a referendum on his tumultuous administration.
White House officials say the president will dial back his signature combative posture and instead frame his policy proposals — from immigration to infrastructure — as areas where Democrats and Republicans can work together. Trump will still take ample time to argue that the U.S. economy has been revitalized by policies that have had little to no bipartisan appeal, including the tax overhaul and efforts to curb regulations.
“He will talk about the fact that America is open for business and the president will also make an appeal to Democrats to say we need to rebuild our country and make an appeal that you do infrastructure,” White House legislative director Marc Short said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We need to do it in a bipartisan way.”
You can count on too many mainstream media pundits to pay it forward to maintain their access to the White House.
It’s almost time for another round of TELEPROMPTER TRUMP, in which the mediocre men of media find their analytical capacities absolutely bamboozled by the president’s apparent ability to read
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) January 29, 2018
You can safely ignore Trump’s Tuesday night shitshow. The speech itself which will likely be an hour long brag session filled with more platitudes than promises, a nothingburger of an event.
It’s everything else happening this week that should concern you.
Today is the day the administration is Congressionally legally mandated to announce additional sanctions in response to Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Look for it either to not happen or the bulk of the penalties to be classified.
Things are coming to a head with Trump/Russia this week.
The GOP’s secret memo is secret no more, thanks to the New York Times. In the Times reporting, we learn that the bombshell revelation concerns Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein giving the green light to extend surveillance of Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
The paranoid interpretation of this action is the Republican assumption this request was based on the Christopher Steele dossier in order to obtain a warrant, and the Department of Justice didn’t tell the judge.
This angle has some unique advantages since it’s probable these investigations into Russian transactions were based on information derived from intercepted communications. Historically, government investigators have gone to great lengths to conceal the sources of and methods used in obtaining this sort of evidence.
The Washington Post story detailing how Dutch intelligence watched the hacking of the Democratic party’s emails in real-time is just the latest crumb in the trail of accounts pointing in this direction. Senator Mark Warner told Politico he sees a need to further expand the investigation, based on information contained in “extraordinarily important documents” recently obtained by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), the committee’s vice chairman, said the panel had obtained “new information that raises more questions” and claimed that “Trump zealots” and the president were conducting a “coordinated” effort to delegitimize the many probes involving the commander in chief.
The forced resignation of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is concerning because it may well be the opening gambit in a Trump administration attempt to neuter any further investigations by the Department of Justice.
The President’s allies at Fox News have been beating the drum for a purge of law enforcement officials, with some TV hosts even calling for arrests.
Stay tuned. Things could be about to get much worse.
From the Snappy Comebacks Department:
Tonight at work a creepy dude asked me “what’s your secret to staying so slim and perky?” I responded “I’m a thousand year old witch & every morning I bathe in the blood of men I’ve sacrificed” & an old lady nearby laughed; pretty sure this makes us an official coven
— Pigeon Fancier (@isabelzawtun) January 29, 2018
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