Reid: The Republican Congress is Bought and Paid for by the Koch Brothers
September 12, 2016 | Press Releases
“For the last eight years, Charles and David Koch and their inner circle of billionaires have wielded immense power within our democracy. Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that the Republican Congress is bought and paid for by the Koch brothers.”
“In order to add a few more billion dollars to their bottom line, the Kochs are dumping piles of money into Senate races across the country, trying to tighten their grip on this chamber by electing more stooges. The Kochs and their dark money empire are flooding the airwaves with misleading and false advertisements.”
“Take a look at Nevada, where the Koch brothers are spending millions of dollars through their shadow organizations so they can tip the scales for their anointed Senate candidate, Joe Heck. He is their puppet. He is their puppet. He is their puppet. Who is he going to side with on issues important to Nevada? The out of state billionaire barons who spent millions buying his election? Or Nevadans? … Joe Heck’s voting record in the House of Representatives says it all. He has voted with the Koch brothers 90 percent of the time in just the last year.”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today about the Koch brothers’ attempts to subvert American democracy by donating massive sums to Republicans who vow to do their bidding in Congress. Below are his remarks:
Webster’s Dictionary defines an oligarchy as, “a government in which a small group exercises control for corrupt and selfish purposes.” Let me state that again – “a government in which a small group exercises control for corrupt and selfish purposes.” By that definition, it appears that our government is moving ever closer to an oligarchy. Just like Putin’s Russia.
For the last eight years, Charles and David Koch and their inner circle of billionaires have wielded immense power within our democracy. Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that the Republican Congress is bought and paid for by the Koch brothers.
These two brothers – who are worth $100 billion – are going to spend any amount necessary to ensure that their interests are represented in city halls, state houses and even this very Capitol, where we find ourselves now. Last year at one of their secret planning meetings, the Kochs and their cronies vowed to spend unlimited monies to exert influence in this year’s election.
I have been disappointed that this Republican Senate has done nothing to stop the Kochs’ crooked oligarchy agenda. Campaign finance reform is a nasty word to Congressional Republicans.
The United States Senate has a history of standing up to the corrupt interests of tycoons just like the Kochs. The Sherman Antitrust Act was written by the Senate Judiciary Committee, against the wishes of the Carnegie family and Carnegie monopoly, the Vanderbilt family and the Vanderbilt monopoly, and the Rockefeller family and monopoly. When the system is broken, we have a responsibility to try to fix it. Our system of government is being attacked by Koch oligarchy money. But Republicans have done nothing to oppose this march towards oligarchy. This Republican Senate has showed no spine – zero – in confronting the Kochs.
In fact, the evidence suggests that they are more than content to go along with the billionaire brothers from Kansas. The Republican leader’s voting record is a perfect example. Between 2009 and 2015, the senior senator from Kentucky has voted in lock-step with the Koch brothers at least 178 times. Think about that – at least 178 times in seven years.
The senior senator from Kentucky is not the only Republican with a documented history of siding with the Kochs. The junior senator from Florida has voted with the Kochs 92 percent of the time. The senior senator from Oklahoma has voted with the Kochs 85 percent of the time. The junior senator from Pennsylvania has voted with the Kochs 84 percent of the time. The Assistant Republican Leader has voted with the Kochs 82 percent of the time. There are many others in the Republican caucus who I could refer to, but I think those I mention give an idea of this unprecedented hold on Senate Republicans by the Koch brothers.
Let’s take one example. We all remember – we should, if we don’t – what happened earlier this year with the junior senator from Kansas. Senator Moran had the audacity to admit that Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court deserved consideration. He didn’t say he was going to vote for them. He simply said they deserve consideration. So what happened after that?
Senator Moran may be the Kochs’ biggest and most outspoken supporter in the United States Senate. He has proven that time and time again. He has defended his home state billionaires multiple times here on the Senate floor. But even the loyalty he showed could not spare the junior senator from the Kochs’ wrath. The Koch brothers rallied their massive political machine against their home state senator. One of their groups, the Judicial Crisis Network, threatened to launch an ad campaign against Senator Moran. Well, what happened? Senator Moran performed a breathtaking about-face and has since refused to support a hearing or a vote for Merrick Garland.
Whether it is a nomination to the Supreme Court, the Keystone XL pipeline, or the Export-Import Bank, Senate Republicans always seem to take the Koch brothers’ side. And the Kochs’ interest is always based on the profit motive – their profit.
Since Republicans took control of the Senate, they have done nothing for the middle class – nothing to increase the minimum wage or help ease the burden of student loan debt. But the Republican leader has scheduled multiple votes on the Keystone XL pipeline and he has tried to roll back important EPA greenhouse gas emissions regulations. A week ago yesterday in The New York Times, there was an unprecedented article giving specific examples of what’s happening now. Not in the future. Now – with climate change. But Senate Republicans, because of the Kochs, continue to close their eyes to the reality that water levels are rising, putting neighborhoods, whole cities and bridges and military installations under water. There are islands off our coasts that have causeways to go to them. They can’t go many, many weeks of the year because they are swamped with water now.
It is clear who this Republican Senate is trying to help, and it certainly is not working American families.
The Kochs are not satisfied. They want to expand their budding oligarchy until it consumes our American democracy. The Kochs don’t even mask their intentions. Their own publicist once explained why the Koch brothers are trying to buy a new government, saying: “It’s because we can make more profit, OK?” That is a direct quote.
In order to add a few more billion dollars to their bottom line, the Kochs are dumping piles of money into Senate races across the country, trying to tighten their grip on this chamber by electing more stooges. The Kochs and their dark money empire are flooding the airwaves with misleading and false advertisements.
Ads from the Koch brothers are not always easy to identify. The groups that sponsor them have names that sound harmless enough. Turn on a TV or open your mailbox and you will see a quick disclaimer in tiny print that says who paid for it. They say things like:
- “Sponsored by Concerned Veterans of America,” or
- “Sponsored by Freedom Partners,” or
- “Paid for by the Libre Initiative,” or
- “Paid for by Americans for Prosperity.”
There are organizations that are afraid to tell us how much money they get from the Koch brothers. Take, for example, the American Chamber of Commerce. No one knows and they won’t tell us. It’s been suggested 80 percent of their money comes from the Koch brothers. I don’t know if that’s right, but I do know that they are doing a lot of spending against the interests of Democrats. This disclaimer paid for by Americans for Prosperity, Libre Initiative, Freedom Partners and Concerned Veterans for American would be more accurate to say: “Paid for by the billionaires – the Koch brothers.”
Take a look at Nevada, where the Koch brothers are spending millions of dollars through their shadow organizations so they can tip the scales for their anointed Senate candidate, Joe Heck. He is their puppet. He is their puppet. He is their puppet. Who is he going to side with on issues important to Nevada? The out of state billionaire barons who spent millions buying his election? Or Nevadans?
We already know the answer to that question. Joe Heck’s voting record in the House of Representatives says it all. He has voted with the Koch brothers 90 percent of the time in just the last year. Ninety percent.
Let me give just one example from earlier this year – House Republicans’ had a bill called the Preventing IRA Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act. Notwithstanding that bill’s misleading title, the legislation sought to make it even easier for the Koch brothers to funnel even more dark, dark money to their dark money groups. The Koch network got the word out. They told House Republicans to vote for that bill. So how did Joe Heck vote? He and his Republican colleagues overwhelmingly voted with the Kochs, of course.
That is who the Kochs want in the Senate – lackeys who will gut consumer and environmental protection and streamline Koch Industries’ path to more profit. Bankrolling extreme candidates is seen as an investment by the Kochs, and they want these investments to pay off. Charles Koch admitted as much in an interview last year. When asked what he hoped to get for his hundreds of millions of dollars in political donations, Charles Koch answered – quote: “I expect something in return.” Yes he does.
This is not the American democracy that our Founding Fathers established. The Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision has constructed a political system that has effectively put our government up for sale to the highest bidder. Because of Citizens United, our country has no real restrictions on the money a billionaire or a millionaire can spend to buy the government they want.
As a country, we must reject the Koch brothers’ efforts to buy our democracy. We must work to rid the system of this dark money. We must address the issue of campaign finance and the unrestrained spending that is squeezing the American people out of their own government. It is time that we revive our constituents’ faith in the electoral system and let them know that their voices are being heard, not just the Koch brothers’ voices.