What is The Republican Party? Part 1: The Kochs

Fred Koch was born in 1900 in Quanah Texas. His parents were Dutch immigrants. After attending Rice University and MIT and graduating with a degree in Chemical Engineering Practice, he started working for Texas Company, and then became chief engineer with Medway Oil and Storage in Kent, England. He moved to Wichita, Kansas, where he joined an engineering firm, later becoming a principle.

He developed a new method for turning crude oil into gasoline. After a series of lawsuits (which he won), he was broke. Thus he went to work in the Soviet Union setting up oil refineries. He also built refineries in Europe. Notably, he built the third largest refinery for the Third Reich,  project personally approved by Adolf Hitler.

After the war, Fred returned to Wichita and created Koch industries, which he turned over to Charles Koch in 1966.

In 1958, Fred became a founding member of the John Birch Society, and also worked to make Kansas a Right to Work state. These two items are important to recognize in the thought processes of the to favorite sons, Charles and David.

One of the tenets of the John Birch Society is that “Their (liberal conspirators against the United States) tactics include bribing the people with their own money, employing the use of force, deception and fear, and using every other trick they can think of to acquire total government power over the lives and well-being of the American people….Totalitarian government was to be established in this nation, claimed Robert Welch, not as a result of lightning quick leaps, but through a campaign of patient gradualism designed to persuade a once-free people to vote themselves into tyranny and their nation into an all-powerful world government. The goal of the conspirators has always called for the eventual merger of all peoples and all nations into a diabolically conceived “new world order.”   source: own Birch Blue Book This group opposed such things as membership in the United Nations. Sound familiar?

It is important to note that this was their basis for opposing any transfer payments to the poor, through anti-poverty programs, social security, medicare/medicaid, etc. Some was a reaction to the New Deal put forward by FDR. It was all based on a conspiracy theory that there were “insiders” in the seats of power. These programs were, they claimed, instituted to obtain control over all the people, strip them of their freedom by making them dependent on the government, and result in a totalitarian world order.

By the 60’s, the John Birch Society had between 60,000-100,000 members and had been condemned by both William F. Buckley Jr, and Barry Goldwater as a fringe group “removed from common sense.” However, their tenets remained with David and Charles Koch. The John Birch Society was a co-sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

David and Charles Koch remained active in politics. In 1980, he ran as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Libertarian party, thinking that their party could be molded into his views. When that ticket failed to catch on, the brothers began working with the power structure in the Republican party. They provided significant funding to a number of right wing think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation. They sponsored political donor meetings at high end resorts, such as the Freedom Partners seminars. They provided much of the funding for PACs, like American Crossroads. In addition, they recruited other business moguls to join their efforts. They also supported a number of political candidates, from the school board races in Douglas County, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, to commissioners, to state legislatures, to national offices. Among their favored political figures are Scott Walker, Mike Pence, Sam Brownbeck, Snyder, Rauner, and at one time, Kasich. Newt Gingrich was one of their golden boys until his resignation. More interesting is that they also blocked or blackballed potential candidates who would not support their agenda. They also invested in Chris Jankowski’s REDMAP, to take over state legislators in time for the post 2010 redistricting. They also developed a significant voter database that they would share with their selected candidates that could target communities and even individuals with pleas that appealed to specific voters. The information in that database is coincidentally similar to information known to be in the Cambridge Analytica database that was used by the Trump campaign after Trump won the primaries.

When the Soviet Union fell in 1991 after Desert Storm and Boris Yeltsin replaced Mikhail Gorbachev as President, the Kochs decided that with that event the Soviet Union was no longer Communist and they could do business with the new administration. In 1996, Yeltsin was reelected democratically as the head of what was now Russia, and commenced on democratic reforms. His administration was a disaster. Under his watch, many former KGB agents looted the Russian economy and cornered the assets. By 1999, Yeltsin was extremely unpopular and unwell. He resigned and personally appointed Vladimir Putin as his successor. Putin, over a short time, took control of all of the Russian assets, or gave them to his oligarch friends. One of those assets was the fossil fuel industry. Both Exxon and the Kochs began discussions of worldwide control of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels became their shared interest.

The Koch brothers, through the think tanks they support and through donations,  have continued to work on down ticket issues and races. We have seen legislation in many states that restricts or makes more expensive any investment by the state or individuals in fossil fuels. We have seen the whole Koch agenda enacted in Kansas and significant parts of it in Michigan and Wisconsin, and select issues in Colorado, Arizona, Florida, and Illinois. At all levels of government from county commissioner and school board up to US Congress, candidates are beholden to Koch donations and support. The Republican Party is, to a large extent, a reflection of the Koch Brothers. However, not entirely, as I investigate in my next article, The Evangelicals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Country Before Party Makes No Sense

I have seen so many pundits on both the right and the left calling on the Republican congresspersons to put country before party.  In fact, there is a fine article about it here.  I can understand those on the left saying that.  But those on the right should know, the phrase country before party makes no sense to Republicans.  To them, country and party are one.  What is good for the country is good for the party, and what is good for the party is good for the country.

We talk about the Republicans who put country ahead of party during the Watergate hearings.  But that was a different generation.  After World War II, regardless of the friction between Republicans and Democrats, we were fairly well united as a country.  During the war, Republicans and Democrats fought side by side, and the German bullets and Japanese kamikaze pilots did not ask for party affiliation before killing or maiming.  The person who saved your butt didn’t either.  Many of those congresspersons had served in some capacity in WWII.

There are no more WWII veterans in Congress.  There is little understanding of what it means to fight for the survival of your country.  And much has changed.  I don’t think it began with Ronald Reagan.  I am not sure it began with Richard Nixon.  It might have begun with Barry Goldwater.  (Certainly the purging of the moderates began then, as Prescott Bush pushed out Nelson Rockefeller in favor of Goldwater using the Rockefeller divorce as an excuse.)  But I know as I was becoming an activist in the Republican Party during and after college, I was hearing an odd refrain.  It was odd to me, because my parents, Republican activists, would have never have said it or even thought it.  But here it was, “The Republican Party represents the true America.”  They were in the business of delegitimizing any ideas but those offered by the party.

I have told before of a conversation I had with the county chairwoman in the 90s.  She said, “You always vote for the person with an R beside his name.  Always.”  I said to her, “but what if that person is a Hitler type person?”  Not that I thought that could happen in America, but it would, in my mind, justify voting other than R.  She said, “The party knows what it is doing.  They would weed out any Hitler.  You have to trust the wisdom of the party.”  (I should state, this conversation occurred shortly after I expressed concern that we were more concerned with fundraising from corporate donors than ordinary people, but I digress.)

After that conversation, I began noticing things in campaign speeches and ordinary conversation.  Things that marginalized non-republican ideas.  Things like, “They don’t really belong here.”  Or, “They just don’t understand these things.” (Implying an intellectual or a moral superiority.)  I started hearing about “The Real America,” which we heard ad infinitum a decade later from the beloved half term governor from Alaska.  The Real America.  Rural America, Southern States America, Factory America, Gun slinging America.  And, interesting enough, Corporate America, who are as removed from the other Real Americas as I can imagine being.  Real America was not the city people, even though they now outnumbered the Real America.  Nor our vibrant minority communities who were rapidly becoming the economic engines.

I also found it jarring that the policies put forth for Real America didn’t benefit Rural America, Southern States America, or Factory America.  Their policies were real hard on them.  Sure, they had farm bills, but those only seemed to benefit corporate farms, not the hard working family farmer.  And how could gutting the unions benefit Factory America?  It couldn’t.  It was merely a lip service, a ploy, an appeal to the emotions without passing through the brain.  We all know what they were offering Southern States America.  The only Real America that their policies helped were Corporate America.

But here it was.  The Republican Party was equated to The Real America.  It was the country.  Everybody else is either an interloper or an agitator or not very bright.  Party and country were one.  You can’t ask people to put party before country if, in their minds, they are the same thing.  The Republican Congresspersons will think they are putting country first, because to them, the party is the country.  We are so screwed!