Robert Greenwald is a producer, director, political activist, and Brave New Films founder and president.
The billionaire Koch brothers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to gain political influence and change America. Their work and spending is driven by the goal of increasing their own profit through decreasing regulations. The expansive and diverse nature of their efforts makes it overwhelming to keep tabs of all they've done that has caused harm. And that's why Brave New Foundation is going to keep connecting the dots and telling the full story of what they've done to our country.
Our work at Brave New Films has always focused on the best way to tell the full story, to connect all the moving pieces and to highlight how one example of a problem in our democracy is always representative of a larger problem. Our producers did this with Outfoxed, where they exposed the unbalanced propaganda that is Fox News. And they did this with Wal-Mart, where they uncovered the damage done to our country by the high cost of low prices. In Iraq For Sale, they exposed the war profiteering and they were on the frontline of questioning the reasons for war in Rethink Afghanistan. With Sick for Profit, they fought against insurance company greed in the battle for health care. And they worked to stop the History Channel from hosting fiction and smearing President Kennedy.
The Kochs accomplish their goals by funding a massive array of right wing front groups, think tanks and tea party efforts. They largely operate outside of the public eye, and target their funding to infiltrate public opinion, the media, judicial decisions and legislation. Over three dozen organizations are funded by the brothers, and they spend additional money lobbying and backing political candidates.
Everything the Kochs do is to fight for a country free from protections and any degree of a social safety net for working Americans. The Kochs are not the only uber-wealthy in America who are using their money to buy political power that will increase their profits, but they are a key example through which to tell this story.
As a starting place of exposing the Kochs, we thought it would be useful to compile a video outlining the top five worst things the Koch brothers have done.
As the video outlines, there are a lot of "worst of" moments the Koch brothers have already created. Here is a rundown of the top five covered within the video.
Koch Industries have made much of their money in the oil business. In 2000 they were fined the largest amount yet imposed upon a company under federal law. The $30 million fine was paid to resolve claims related to more than 300 oil spills in over six states, and an additional $5 million was ordered to be spent on environmental projects.
As the EPA reports, most of the spills occurred in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. One incident involved 100,000 gallons of oil spilled in Texas, which caused a 12-mile oil slick on Nueces Bay and Corpus Christi Bay.
The Koch brothers have spent more that $34 million on groups and organizations that work against workers rights. Koch organizations have targeted key union efforts, such as fighting against public sector union pay raises, and arguing against unions having any political or organizing power.
The Koch brothers also gave money to political candidates to achieve their goals. Mother Jones's summarizes this diverse giving well:
According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings, Walker's gubernatorial campaign received $43,000 from the Koch Industries PAC during the 2010 election. That donation was his campaign's second-highest, behind $43,125 in contributions from housing and realtor groups in Wisconsin. The Koch's PAC also helped Walker via a familiar and much-used political maneuver designed to allow donors to skirt campaign finance limits. The PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn spent $65,000 on independent expenditures to support Walker. The RGA also spent a whopping $3.4 million on TV ads and mailers attacking Walker's opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker ended up beating Barrett by 5 points. The Koch money, no doubt, helped greatly.
Additionally, the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, a tea party group, led the Stand With Walker campaign, which led support of the Governor's efforts to bust unions and fight against workers rights.
The Koch Brothers have funded anti-immigration legislation through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a conservative group that writes policies and offers them to state legislatures throughout the country for use. ALEC has been involved in a wide range of anti-immigration work, including Arizona's SB1070, which requires anyone thought to be an immigrant to produce paperwork.
The Kochs fund think tanks that push for foreclosures on working people's houses. The Koch funded Reason Foundation has produced numerous reports saying that foreclosures should not be stopped. And the Koch funded Mercatus Center also presented congressional testimony stating that the foreclosures should not be stopped, and that there is no harm done to homeowners when their houses are foreclosed on.
The Koch brothers' spending is structured, such that it is difficult for the public to know the full range of their political influence. With the Koch-supported Citizens United, and other attempts to fight against campaign finance reform, this trend of lack of transparency is only to get worse. The spending numbers that we do know are only the tip of the iceberg.
As if that list isn't frightening and offensive enough, there's even more that could be added to it! Visit our Koch Brothers Exposed site and Koch Brothers Exposed Facebook page to vote on the options and suggestion you own thoughts on what the worst thing is that the Koch brothers have done.
Brave New Foundation is just getting started on our work to expose the Koch Brothers. Please join us to follow our upcoming videos. You can also donate to become a producer and receive a limited edition Shepard Fairey Koch Brothers Exposed t-shirt.
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