At least 15 Fox News hosts and contributors have recently campaigned with two political organizations created and heavily funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Many of those same Fox News personalities have also defended the Kochs from attacks and praised their political efforts on-air.
The controversial conservative brothers founded the 501(c)(4) group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and its 501(c)(3) sister group the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) in 2004. David Koch has called AFP the group he feels "most closely attached to and most proud of" and chairs AFPF's board. (The Washington Post notes of the IRS code distinction: "A 501(c)(4) is allowed to do considerably more issue advocacy work than a 501(C)(3), however. Neither group has to disclose the identity of its donors or the amounts of money those contributors have given.")
Politico's Ken Vogel reported that AFP "intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives, according to a memo distributed to major donors and sources familiar with the group." The Washington Post wrote that with a paid staff of 240, split between 32 states, AFP "may be America's third-biggest political party." In 2012, "More than $44 million of the $140 million the organization raised in that election cycle came from Koch-linked feeder funds."
AFP and AFPF are part of a massive $400 million network of political groups spearheaded by the Kochs. The Huffington Post's Paul Blumenthal noted, "It is the electoral focus of the Koch nonprofits and their sophisticated efforts to shield donors' identities -- plus the vast sums of money they move -- that has brought them the unwanted attention of both Democratic Senate leadership and reporters. There exists no outside network or organization supporting Democratic Party candidates in elections, while not disclosing its donors, that spends money in comparable amounts."
AFP states that it "mobilizes citizens to effectively make their voices heard in public policy issue campaigns" and "educates citizens about where their elected officials stand on our issues." AFP campaigns have included false attacks about health care reform, clean energy, economic issues, and elected Democrats like President Obama.
Fox News personalities are the public face of many AFP/AFPF events. Promotional materials heavily tout the speakers' affiliation with Fox News to increase attendance. According to a Media Matters review, the following Fox News personalities have participated in AFP and AFPF events since 2012: Guy Benson, Tucker Carlson, Monica Crowley, Jonah Goldberg, Greg Gutfeld, Mary Katharine Ham, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, Andrew Napolitano, Sarah Palin, Charles Payne, Dana Perino, John Stossel, Cal Thomas, and Juan Williams.
The Koch/Fox News events are aimed at rallying attendees to support conservative causes and fight progressive initiatives. For example, an invitation for a May event featuring Tucker Carlson stated the rally will "send a message to the Left that we know the truth and support free market solutions." Information for a November 2013 rally with Monica Crowley said participants will "learn how you can fight back against government restrictions, taxes, and out-of-control spending." And an October 2012 event with John Stossel was a "Hands Off My Health Care Rally" which sought "to fully repeal Obama's deeply flawed health care bill."
Media Matters previously documented how numerous Fox News personalities campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
Koch/AFP Finds Support On-Air With Fox's Koch Campaigners
Fox News' Koch campaigners have defended the Kochs on-air, dismissing criticism of them as "McCarthyistic," and "a form of social control." They've also praised Koch political efforts as "effective" and "devastating" against Democrats. Here are seven examples from this year:
- During the May 8 edition of Special Report, Tucker Carlson criticized attacks against the Koch brothers and said, "Who's ever heard of Charles and David Koch? Is this really going to move voters? ... This really is telling of the global warming cult. Cross its leaders and you are accused of crimes against nature, I mean literally crimes against nature. It's a form of -- it's a form of social control."
- During the April 21 edition of The Five, Greg Gutfeld and Dana Perino promoted Americans for Prosperity's list of things conservatives can do to celebrate Earth Day.
- During the April 13 edition of The Five, Gutfeld said of attacks on the Kochs: "The government hates the Koch brothers because they make you less reliant on government. No wonder Reid hates them because he makes Reid obsolete." Perino added that the Kochs "spend less than Democratic-leaning billionaires do, they are actually more effective. That's why I guess they are being held up and targeted. It is almost McCarthyistic, the types of things you hear from the Senate floor about two Americans who are expressing the First Amendment rights."
- On the April 10 edition of Fox Business' Stossel, during a discussion about whether rich Americans should pay more taxes, Stossel stated: "Well, you're saying Donald Trump or Charles Koch, they -- I think they're strivers."
- During the March 8 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, Tucker Carlson and Mike Huckabee criticized Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) for his attacks on the Koch brothers.
- During the February 12 edition of The Five, Dana Perino praised an anti-Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) AFP ad as "devastating." AFP highlighted Perino's praise on its YouTube page.
- During the January 3 edition of Your World, Charles Payne aired and praised an "effective" AFP ad against Landrieu.
Fox News overall has been friendly to Americans for Prosperity and the Koch brothers. The network has consistently minimized Koch campaign funding and defended them from attacks by Democrats. Fox has also repeatedly highlighted AFP ads.
Who Are The Fox News/Koch Campaigners?
Here are 15 Fox News employees who are campaigning for the Koch brothers' groups, and some of the events they've participated in:
Monica Crowley (Fox News contributor). Crowley spoke at a May 20 event in Wisconsin and a November 2013 event in New Jersey. She spoke at numerous events in Colorado and North Carolina in October 2012.
Laura Ingraham (Fox News contributor). Ingraham spoke at the Freedom Summit on April 12 in New Hampshire. She also spoke at an October 2012 event in Indiana, an October 2012 event in North Carolina, and an August 2012 event in Washington, DC.