By: Kourosh Behnam
April 3, 2012
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By: Kourosh Behnam
April 3, 2012
By Kourosh Behnam
March 28, 2012
Using the Koch Brothers as a symbol of oligarchic power.
Astroturf Organizations: Bankrolling the radical rights economic agenda has been a tradition in the Koch family for decades. In 1958 Fred Koch was one of the founders of the John Birch Society, an American political advocacy organization that “supports anti-communism, limited government, a Constitutional Republic, and personal freedom.” In 1984 David Koch established Citizens for a Sound Economy, whose sole mission is to fight for less government, lower taxes, and less regulation. However, in 2004 Citizens for a Sound Economy split into two entities: Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity. The Koch’s remain active in Americans for Prosperity and the individual in charge of FreedomWorks is Dick Armey (Republican Party GOP House majority Leader from 2003 to 2005). The Koch brothers use Americans for Prosperity to stimulate the Tea Party, and AFP organized the first national Tea Party movements in 2009. These organizations have the ability to mobilize, educate, and train people. From Koch donations, American for Prosperity was able to create a $5 million anti-healthcare campaign.
Wealth Defense Industry: A political action committee of Koch Industries, KochPAC (Koch Political Action Committee), has played a tremendous role lobbying in Washington D.C. Lobbyists of Koch Industries have spent much of their time shaping new policy for financial regulation. The Dodd-Frank Act was passed by Congress under the Obama Administration “to craft new rules to subject traders in the energy industry to increased regulation and transparency” according to the Koch Web of Influence by John Farrell. Congress and regulators are still detailing the necessary changes to implement this new law and Koch lobbyists have spent a considerable amount of time shaping the bill. A few weeks, after the bill was passed, Koch lobbyist Gregory Zerzan held a covert meeting with SEC Commissioner Troy Paredes and his counsel, Gena Lai to see how the government would apply the law. According to Greenpeace’s 2011 update report of Koch Industries, the KochPAC spent $2,645,589 in 2009-2010. KochPAC is also the number one oil and gas contributor in the U.S., out spending Exxon Mobil. American oligarchs use many specialized professionals to prevent wealth from being taken, and their wealth defense industry is comprised of lawyers, accountants, wealth management consultants, tax avoidance consultants, and lobbyist. When oligarchs hire them, their main purpose is to defend as much wealth as possible, and only oligarchs would have enough wealth to purchase these services. The industry is global, some of the key players are Whithers, Clifford Chance, Linklaters, White & Case, Milbank Tweed Hadly and McCloy, Weil Gotshal and Manges, and Freeman Freeman and Smiley are known as the “magic circle” firms.
Legislatures and Elected Officials: Mike Morgan, the previous Director of Public and Governmental Affairs of Koch Industries, played a significant role in promoting legislation for the Koch brothers. As of December 2011, Mike Morgan still sits on the Private Enterprise Board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is an organization that promotes limited government, free markets, and federalism. According to the American Association for Justice “ALEC campaigns have covered many issues, but all have either protected or promoted a corporate revenue stream.” ALEC has proposed legislation that benefits Koch Industries and is undermining climate change proponents. Major campaign contributions from the billionaire brothers can be seen in the makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Koch Industries is the largest oil and gas donor, giving $279,500 to 22 Republicans on the committee and $32,000 to five of its Democrats, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 2010 KochPAC gave political donations to freshman members of Congress, such as Gardner Cory (R-CO) $10,000, Griffith Morgan (R-VA) $5,000, and Pompeo Mike (R-KS) $10,000.
Courts and Judges: Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission is a landmark case that will go down in history for poisoning our electoral process. This case has allowed corporations to flood our political marketplace and corrupt our democracy and the Koch Brothers themselves played a significant role in enabling this case to advance. Three years ago, Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Scalia attended a political retreat organized by Charles and David Koch in Palm Spring California for wealthy conservatives. There is more speculation that Justice Thomas stayed on a four-day retreat which was paid by the Federalist Society. The Citizens United case that was supported by Justice Scalia allowed corporations to spend limitless amounts of money on elections with little public disclosure.
By: Kourosh Behnam
March 26, 2012
On March 5, 2012 a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Grading Student Loans, stated that the outstanding balance of student debt stands at $870 billion surpassing credit card debt ($693 billion) and auto loan debt ($730 billion).
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) student debt has surpassed $1 trillion late last year. This estimate is 16% higher than the earlier findings by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. This figure was released wednesday at a news conference in Austin, Texas. CFPB officials are planning to release their study this summer.
As reported by the Project on Student Debt, two-thirds of college seniors who graduated in 2010 had an average student loan debt of $25,250. The state with the highest average student debt in the nation was New Hampshire with $31,048 and the state with the lowest average student debt was Utah with $15,509. The accumulation of student debt is much higher in the Northeast and Midwest due to students attending private nonprofit four-year colleges. However, most students who attended college in the western states accumulated less debt due to their attendance at public four-year colleges.
The price of higher education has been growing at twice the rate of the economy, it has outpaced health insurance and consumer prices in general. This is due to a long-term tuition bubble. Price of education has increased while the demand has also increased. Students are paying more for a deteriorating product, yet it is assumed that this is a financial investment with returns to come following graduation.
Student debt has become the latest financial crisis in America. If we sit back and do nothing about this, the entire economy will crash again. We can all disagree on how to fix this growing problem, but if we disagree on its existence then we are spiraling down a unsustainable path that will propel us into another recession.
Although some students have found jobs after graduation, most have not. With student debt at $1 Trillion congress needs to act fast on how to alleviate or cancel student debt. If the government bailed out the big banks with our tax payer dollars then I believe the billionaires should be taxed to cancel student debt!
To help decrease the burden of student debt on our future generation of Americans please read H.R. 4170 The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012. You can also sign the petition here. This piece of legislation is a crucial step in the fight for student loan debt cancellation.
March 21, 2012
Some say higher oil prices are essential to ending our addiction to fossil fuels.
While true in principle, the reality of recent rising costs to consumers has so far been the exact opposite, with political barriers bigger then ever. IFG research shows it can only get worse if current trends continue.
That’s because a major force driving gas prices upward is rampant speculation in unregulated oil derivatives. Charles and David Koch are dominant players who in turn plow their profits back in to preventing the phase out of fossil fuels having outspent Exxon and the American Petroleum Institute to kill climate legislation.
While the Koch’s family fortune has steadily expanded with the use of fossil fuels, not until recently did their net worth grow exponentially. That’s due in large part to their inventing oil derivatives, and then deregulating their trade on Wall Street, and the worldwide.
IFG charts (below) the Kochs’ combined net worth over the past 25 years. It shows how their wealth skyrocketed as speculation on oil markets went wild, with the Kochs making money even when the price of oil goes down.
With no rules against insider trading, it’s no wonder that the guys who own so much oil infrastructure through which the commodity moves, and also invented the instrument by which traders gamble, can game the system to cash in on such a grand scale. The Kochs’ combined wealth now ranks them third richest in the world, according to Forbes.
Goldman Sachs recently reported that oil speculation imposes an extra cost of as much as $.56 per gallon of gasoline in the US, an incredible irony when one thinks that this money is then spent to stop the costs of climate change from being included in the price at the pump paid by consumers.
The true price of oil must ultimately reflect its full ecological and social costs, and achieving that requires reducing, if not removing, the role of money in politics. Climate campaigners are currently unable to do that alone, and therefore must work with other movements whose interests are also being bulldozed by these billionaire brothers.
The trajectory of their profits today implies that the undue influence of the Koch brothers is set to soar even higher. Assuming that koch wealth continues in its exponential path their combined wealth will be $82.4 billion in 2015. Their “shrink government” agenda—which comes amidst calls for massive market interventions to address today’s converging economic and ecological crises—is attacking the very right to clean air, the right to fair wages, and even the right to vote.
Unless key constituencies can come together to counter Koch cash, the implications for people and the planet could be devastating given the Kochs’ control over the current Congress has radically shifted US politics to the right and upcoming elections or ever more driven by cold hard cash. The Citizens United ruling has spun open the spigot so Koch cash can flow even more freely.
The premise of IFG’s Plutonomy Program is that globalization has, as predicted, upwardly redistributed wealth, where Ultra High Net Worth Individuals are increasingly enabled to exert their own political power and economic ideologies on democratic decision-making everywhere. Nowhere are the results more clearly expressed than in the rise of the Koch’s wealth and their increasing power over our lives.
By: Kourosh Behnam
March 19, 2012
One hundred ninety three years ago in 1819 the Supreme Court Case Darmouth College v. Woodward ruled to allow corporations to have the same rights as, “The People”. Sixty seven years later in 1886 The Supreme Court’s decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad recognized corporations as people under the Fourteenth Amendment. This decision that was made one hundred twenty six years ago is the foundation for modern laws concerning corporate personhood.
The most recent law regarding corporate personhood is Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commissions. This land mark decision is directly responsible for the rise of Super PAC’s that are flooding our elections with money financed by oligarchs, multi-national corporations, and labor unions.
Recently many activists have been attempting to amend The Citizens United Decision, declaring that corporations are not people. While I think this activism is crucial to accomplishing our goals, we need to direct our energies to the beginning of when corporations were given their Fourteenth Amendment rights. “Our communities expend time, money, energy, and resources in an endless game in which he right of corporations and those who command them harm our communities and deny our rights isn’t even on the table.” I do agree with overturning The Citizens United Decision, but when we do accomplish this goal, corporations will still have persons rights. We the people need to amend the constitution in certain ways that benefit the rights of nature and people over corporations.
By: Kourosh Behnam
March 6, 2012
Lee Fang, at the Republic Report, has found convincing evidence that Koch Industries is involved in the boom in natural gas fracking.
Koch Industries has funded many of the pro-fracking think tanks , like the Heartland Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Koch investments have fueled the creation of these think tanks which promote climate denial.
A in house newsletter from October 2011 explains Koch Industries “discoveries” of crude oil and natural gas in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas.
1. Koch Pipeline: is partnering with NuStar Energy to develop a dormant pipeline from Pettus, TX to refineries in Corpus Christi. The pipeline will transport natural gas from fracking sites in southern Texas. Koch Pipeline is a Koch Industries subsidiary.
2. Flint Hills Resources: recently purchased a small craft pier and wharf in Ingleside, TX to store shipments of natural gas from fracking operations in the Eagle Ford shale formation. Flint Hills Resources is a Koch Industries subsidiary.
3. Koch Supply & Trading: a Koch Industries company that deals with commodity trading and financial products, is “already trading Eagle Ford crude” to help supply Koch companies and other customers, according to a Koch Industries newsletter.
4. Koch Chemical Technology Group: is designing a processing facility near Yoakum, TX to help process natural gas fracked in southern Texas. Koch Chemical is a subsidiary of Koch Industries.
5. John Zink: a Koch Industries company, is providing flares for a natural gas processing plant in Helena to service the fracking industry.
6. Georgia Pacific: produces resins used for chemicals used to prop open micro-fractures, an important process for fracking to occur. GP is a Koch Industries subsidiary.
7. Koch Fertilizer: a Koch Industries company, has tapped into increased natural gas production from fracking to develop fertilizer.
As of November 2011 the combined wealth of Charles and David Koch is $50 billion. There investments benefit from climate change and their influence networks block efforts to phase out pollution from fossil fuels.
By: Kourosh Behnam
March 3, 2012
Last month, the Obama reelection team endorsed the use of Super PACs. Super PAC’s are political action committees that have the ability to raise limitless amounts of money from individuals, corporations, and unions and spend it on behalf of political candidates – however they cannot directly be in contact with those candidates. Super PACs have become the new campaign finance tool since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that allows unions and corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in federal elections.
What is interesting to note here is that Obama has criticized the Citizens United decision and the use of Super PACs. In addition, the White House believed that Citizens United could be a political opportunity for Obama, “a powerful rhetorical opportunity to decry the influence of corporate money in politics”. But why has he changed his mind?
The reality is, running for President is not a easy feat. It seems that every candidate this election needs a billionaire. The pro Obama Super PAC Priorities Action USA has raised a total of $4,459,431 in comparison to the pro Mitt Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future which has raised $36,797,202. The billionaire behind Priorities Action USA is Jeffery Katzenberg, chief executive of Dreamworks Animation who has donated $2,000,000.
Obama has contradicted himself. I do not agree with the decision his campaign team has made. According to Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, “We’re not going to fight this fight with one hand tied behind are back . With so much at stake, we can’t allow for two sets of rules. Democrats can’t be unilaterally disarmed.” This is a big excuse to go after money.
The oligarchic influence is too powerful to deny. These Oligarchs don’t care who wins the election. They have bought both sides and average people will have to suffer from their decision making . They have set up a “show election” for us and Obama is part of this production.