Right-Wing efforts expanding into local elections and government
With the recent exposure of the right-to-work campaign moving into city and county governments, much of it funded by the infamous right-wing terrorists Charles and David Koch, there’s yet another major quiet effort to inject their radical right philosophies into local politics, an effort revealed recently by Center for American Progress Action Fund (CFAPAF).
While the efforts of the Koch Brothers to exert influence at the highest reaches of government through shadow groups, lobbying, political action committees, think tanks, and more, it appears that they are also expanding their efforts into local elections and local government.
Through their front groups, most notably Americans For Prosperity (AFP), the Koch network has waded into county tax debates, city transportation decisions, and even school board elections.
In a new report, the Center for American Progress Action Fund (americanprogressaction.org) exposes the broad strategy of the Koch brothers termed “Kochonomics:” limit government as much as possible, resulting in a system that benefits their business no matter the potential harm to everyone else.
The report found this local approach is an increasingly important prong in their multifaceted effort. Here are several examples of “Kochonomics” in action:
• Illinois: putting politics over kids: In two separate Illinois school districts, the Koch’s AFP defeated initiatives intended to update school facilities, reduce class sizes, and avoid cuts to school staff positions and programs. The initiatives would have raised taxes by about $3 per week for the average homeowner.
• Wisconsin: polluting water sources: Koch interests ignored the environmental consequences and the opposition of native tribes in the area by swaying the outcome of a local board election in Iron County, Wisconsin, to expand mining operations.
• Tennessee: derailing mass transit: AFP’s Tennessee state director lobbied to ban a locally designed mass transit system in Nashville that would improve the city’s connectivity and reduce commuting times for residents. When the state legislature passed a law that erected barriers to the project’s completion, the official opposition group publicly thanked AFP in its press release. Local business interests supported the project.
• Nebraska: opposing emergency funds: In 2013, the town of Fremont, Nebraska, with a population of roughly 26,000, considered increasing the food and beverage tax to help fund capital improvement projects that were “emergenc[ies],” as the Mayor put it. The tax would have raised the price of a $20 meal by 35 cents. It took just one month for the Koch brothers and their AFP arm to put the kibosh on those plans.
• Ohio: Killing public safety funding: City leaders in Gahanna, a near suburb of Columbus, thought it necessary to ask voters to adopt a 1 percentage point income tax increase, meant to prevent cuts to public safety, save jobs, and keep community centers open. AFP misled voters by distorting the size of the tax increase, and it went down.
• Across America: undermining public education: In a number of cases, the Koch network has used its resources to influence school board elections and develop school initiatives that undermine public education. They promote policies that would defund public schools and redistribute resources to private schools, fund groups that blatantly spread lies about the Common Core, and attack teachers.
Despite having the support of Republican elected officials, these examples demonstrate that the Koch brothers are not trying to take power away from the federal government and give it to states and localities to make their own decisions.
Instead, the true agenda of Kochonomics becomes clearer: using the network’s vast resources to take power away from officials at all levels of government and give it to a pair of billionaire brothers and those who agree and profit with them.
(Information from Think Progress and the Center for American Progress Action Fund.)