Yesterday morning, newly released audio recordings from a secretive Koch brothers summit earlier this year offered an even clearer window into just how cozy today’s Republican candidates are with the Kochs and their powerful network.
Speaking with rare candor, key Republican senate nominees thanked the billionaires for getting them to where they are today, lavished the entire Koch community with praise, and doubled down on their adherence to the Kochs’ extreme, anti-working family agenda.
Mitch McConnell, Joni Ernst, Cory Gardner, and Tom Cotton all gave speeches at Koch summit in June. Yesterday, they had less to say. But the coverage spoke for itself, and it wasn’t pretty — check out the brutal headlines and key passages below from Wednesday’s reporting:
None of the three candidates returned a request for comment for this article. But their attendance at the retreat offered both reward and risk.
A few days after Ernst’s appearance, Charles Koch, his wife, his son and his daughter-in-law each gave the Iowa candidate the legal maximum contribution of $2,600.
Cotton, meanwhile, took heat for backing out of the local Pink Tomato Festival to attend the Koch affair, with his opponent, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), all but accusing him of lacking home-state sensibilities. A willingness to go against the prevailing winds at home has endeared Cotton to the Koch brothers’ crowd, however.
To put that in perspective, Mitch McConnell’s thirty-five-year career in the Senate saw the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands of Americans, the 2008 housing meltdown that threatened the entire economy and Barack Obama’s election, to cite a conservative bête noire. But it was McCain-Feingold, the bill that banned soft money and unlimited donations to party committees, that constitutes the worst day of his political life.
This year Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell chose to spend Father’s Day with two GOP political sugar daddies, Charles and David Koch, at their annual retreat, this time at the lovely St. Regis Monarch Bay resort in Orange County, California. As befit the day, McConnell brought the love: “I want to start by thanking you, Charles and David, for the important work you’re doing. I don’t know where we’d be without you.”
In Arkansas, especially, the audio could touch a nerve. Mr. Cotton, a freshman House member, skipped a popular political event in his state, the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival, to attend the Koch brothers’ meeting in California. According to the audio, he was repaid with praise for his willingness to hew to the most conservative line, even if it meant voting against legislation popular in his state.
Mr. McConnell also gave some ammunition to his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, when he promised that “we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals.”
“That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage,” he added.
McConnell repeated his longstanding opposition to campaign finance restrictions. Ernst and Cotton thanked the donors at the confab for their support. Gardner not-so-subtly suggested that their outside money efforts would decide his fate.
His opposition to proposals like raising the minimum wage and student loan reform are no secret, and Democrats have made them a central focus of attacks on McConnell. But the recording casts his opposition in stark and somewhat inelegant terms.
Ernst credited the Koch network with having “really started my trajectory.” Cotton heaped praise on the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity for transforming Arkansas politically in ways that help Republicans. Gardner said the cash from the Koch network could prove decisive.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with any of this. But it undercuts GOP complaints about the Dem strategy of targeting the Koch brothers and linking GOP candidates to them.
In that context, it’s highly significant that the GOP Senate candidates themselves have confirmed the true dimensions of that influence.
Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in her state, and two other top 2014 Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, heaped praise on the political network created by conservative billionaire funders Charles and David Koch during a secretive conference hosted by the wealthy brothers this summer.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told a conference of rich, politically active conservatives in June that he wouldn’t allow votes on the minimum wage and extending unemployment if he becomes majority leader, according to a leaked audio recording.
Indeed, it seems the obvious question for GOP candidates like Gardner, Cotton, and Ernst is, “If you’re in a position to win because of the Kochs and their friends, how do you intend return the favor if elected?”
He also talked about his opposition to minimum wage increases and extending unemployment. “And we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals,” McConnell said in the recording.
As first reported by The Nation magazine and the Huffington Post, a handful of Republicans recently attended a conference hosted by the Koch brothers, where they hailed their deep-pocketed supporters for propelling their political careers.
“And we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals,” McConnell says in the recording. “That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage … extending unemployment … These people believe in all the wrong things.” But McConnell speaking out against EPA and health care spending isn’t exactly new. He gave an in-depth Politico interview last week detailing much of what was said in the secret recording. What he left out of the Politico interview, however, was his distaste for potential minimum wage increases.
Remember the Koch retreat at a fancy California resort that caused Tom Cotton to miss the Pink Tomato Festival in Warren. Shades of Mitt Romney. A tape of the proceedings has emerged. And it includes rich praise for Tom Cotton, particularly his votes against the interests of Arkansas farmers. And you can also hear Cotton praising the fat cats, along with other Senate candidates.
Published: Aug 28, 2014