Fox News anchor Heather Nauert will be a “special guest” at an upcoming event for Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), a group that was “literally created” by the Koch brothers' financial network. CVA is headed by Republicans, has spent millions trying to elect Republicans, and has been criticized for trafficking in “partisan attacks” despite “posing as a vet advocacy group.”
Fox News Anchor Heather Nauert Is A “Special Guest” At CVA Event. Nauert will be a “special guest” at CVA's Defend Freedom Tour in Minnesota on September 12. Nauert's Fox News biography states she is “a news anchor for FOX News Channel (FNC) and also provides viewers with the top headlines of the day during FOX & Friends.” [Facebook.com, 8/21/15; FoxNews.com, accessed 8/24/15]
Fox & Friends Launched CVA's Defend Freedom Tour. Fox News morning show Fox & Friends -- which Nauert appears on daily -- helped kick off the 2015 Defend Freedom Tour on April 17. The network promoted the tour's website and list of scheduled stops. [FoxNews.com, accessed 8/25/15; DefendFreedomTour.com, accessed 8/24/15; YouTube.com, 4/17/15]
CVA CEO: We're Protesting The Obama Administration For “Crushing” “Freedom And Prosperity.” While promoting CVA's tour on Mark Levin's radio program, CVA CEO Pete Hegseth said his group is protesting the Obama administration for taking the country in the “wrong direction”:
LEVIN: Tell us a little bit about Concerned Veterans of America.
HEGSETH: Absolutely, Mark. CVA is a veterans and military families organization that's building a movement of veterans and patriots across this country. They're fighting to take this country back. You know, I raised my right hand, served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay like so many of my generation, and other generations to defend the Constitution, and this country, and the freedom and prosperity and liberty that we love. And we're watching this administration and this country head in fundamentally the wrong direction.
I look at a failing VA bureaucracy with vets dying on secret lists. I look at the gutting of our military and the pink slips they're sending to captains and majors today, who have borne the battle. I look at leading from behind, which last time I checked is just following. And lunging at deals with the worst enemy or jihadist enemies -- you've been talking about Iran. And the deal we're making there, which is poisonous. Our 18-and-a-half trillion dollars in debt, bloated entitlements, our shredding of the Constitution. Status quo in this country and what this administration has done is crushing the freedom and prosperity that we put the uniform on to defend. Spineless politicians, narrow special interests, are not going to get us where we need to be. It has to be veterans, military families, and patriots. And that's what Concerned Veterans for America is building, and what started as a group, and what started as a tour, really is turning into a movement. [YouTube.com, 5/4/15; Cumulus Media, The Mark Levin Show, 4/30/15]
Hegseth Cited Affordable Care Act And Benghazi During Tour. The Virginian-Pilot reported that Hegseth invoked “scandals” such as ACA and Benghazi during a 2014 tour event in Virginia:
Pete Hegseth, the group's CEO and a Fox News contributor, ticked off what he called a series of scandals that have tainted the Obama administration, including the substandard care at Veterans Affairs health centers.
“When you have a bureaucracy more concerned about protecting leaders who are covering up deaths of veterans waiting on secret lists - that's more important than providing timely care - you know you have a government and a country whose priorities are off the rails,” Hegseth told an enthusiastic audience of about 100, many of them veterans, at the Granby Theater.
He also railed against Obama's health care law, the “cover-up” of the 2012 terrorist attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and the targeting of conservative organizations by the Internal Revenue Service. [Virginian-Pilot, 5/24/14]
On Defend Freedom Tour, Hegseth Railed Against “Welfare State,” “Porous Borders,” “Socialized Medicine.” During an April 25 speech in Texas, Hegseth criticized the Obama administration by citing a litany of complaints about progressive policies. [Defend Freedom Tour, 4/25/15]
Defend Freedom Guests Include Numerous Republican Politicians And Conservative Commentators. Guests on the Defend Freedom Tour 2015 include former Virginia Senate candidate Oliver North, former Rep. Allen West (R-FL), Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK), and former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA). Conservative commentators S.E. Cupp, Buck Sexton, and Katie Pavlich have also appeared on the tour. [DefendFreedomTour.com, accessed 8/24/15]
Wash. Post: 2014 Tour Featured “Speeches Lambasting” Obama Administration. The Post wrote in June 2014 of CVA's Defend Freedom tour last summer: “The Koch-backed group Concerned Veterans for America, now in the midst of a 10-city 'Defend Freedom Summer Tour,' is mixing music performances with speeches lambasting the Obama administration's handling of the patient backlog at veterans hospitals.” [Washington Post, 6/18/14]
CVA CEO Pete Hegseth Has Been A Republican Candidate And State Party Official. Pete Hegseth unsuccessfully ran as a Republican for a U.S. Senate seat in 2012 in Minnesota. The Republican Party of Minnesota appointed him as its finance chair in 2014. He is currently a Fox News contributor. [Star Tribune, 5/24/12; MNGOP.com, 5/23/14; FoxNews.com, accessed 8/24/15]
Star Tribune: Hegseth Was “A National Spokesman For The Bush Administration's War Aims” Through Prior Organization. The Star-Tribune in Minneapolis reported of Hegseth:
Hegseth, 31, has not run for public office before. But he is well known in Republican circles as executive director of Vets for Freedom, a now-dormant national group that supported former President George W. Bush's surge in Iraq, where Hegseth also served.
As a leader of Vets for Freedom, Hegseth became a national spokesman for the Bush administration's war aims, as well as a critic of President Obama's push to set withdrawal timetables for U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan. [Star Tribune, 2/22/12, via Nexis]
Wash. Post: Hegseth Helped Raise “Millions Of Dollars To Elect Conservative Veterans To Congress.” Post reporter Dave Weigel wrote of Hegseth: “In 2007, Hegseth became the executive director of Vets for Freedom, which raised millions of dollars to elect conservative veterans to Congress. TV bookers were frequently in need of an advocate for the George W. Bush administration's troop surge. Enter Hegseth, a sharp debater and surge defender who looked like a battle-hardened Channing Tatum.” [The Washington Post, 7/23/15]
CVA Vice President Worked For John McCain's Presidential Campaign. Joe Gecan's CVA biography states: “Joe was the deputy director for veterans outreach for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign where he helped develop, manage, and operate a twenty-state network of volunteer activists and leaders.” [CV4a.org, accessed 8/24/15]
CVA Legislative Director Worked For Republican Congressman. Dan Caldwell's CVA biography states: “Prior to joining CVA in 2013, Dan worked for Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ) from 2011 to 2013 ... Additionally, in 2012, Dan managed the successful re-election campaign of Congressman Schweikert.” [CV4a.org, accessed 8/24/15]
Military Update Columnist: CVA Issues “Partisan Attacks,” “Traditional Vet Groups Are Alarmed” By Their “Rising Profile.” Tom Philpott, who writes the syndicated Military Update column, criticized CVA's partisan alignment in a piece for Stars and Stripes:
But in my 37 years covering veterans' issues, I have never seen veteran issues used more cynically or politicized more thoroughly than during the past several years. At times the intent seems to be to shake trust in government generally rather than to address veterans' needs.
In the thick of this is Concerned Veterans for America, posing as a vet advocacy group and being rewarded for it. CVA press releases usually are partisan attacks. Its spokesman, Pete Hegseth, an Iraq war vet and Republican who ran for a U.S. Senate in 2012, is quoted often by major news outlets without mention of press reports associating CVA with the Koch brothers, libertarian billionaires who create public interest groups to oppose big government. That's fine. That's protected speech. A CVA spokesman told me last year it won't reveal donor information.
What should upset vets is the use of select facts about VA and its programs to reinforce fears rather than give reliable information. Last week a CVA press release hit a new low in purporting to document “lies” Shinseki told in congressional testimony, dropping any veil of respect for a decorated, combat-disabled soldier with a long and stellar career.
It is no coincidence only Republicans, including Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.) and Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.), participate in CVA events. They should reconsider. Though CVA sponsors an occasional informative forum in Washington D.C., it produces no careful analyses of what ails VA. The goal seems to be to attack, relentlessly, while a Democrat holds the White House.
Traditional vet groups are alarmed by the rising profile CVA has on cable news programs and in newspapers where informed opinions on chronic claim backlogs and care delays should rule. Instead, there's heated rhetoric that stirs dissent and attempts to turns the public against a department the CVA routinely portrays always as too costly and too ineffective. [Stars and Stripes, 5/23/14]
TIME: CVA Is A “Conservative Group” That Attacked “Democratic Candidates In Contested Races With Costly Advertising” In 2014. TIME wrote of CVA in September 2014:
This cycle, in addition to VoteVets.org, a conservative group called Concerned Veterans of America has been attacking Democratic candidates in contested races with costly advertising. That group is run by veteran Pete Hegseth, a former finance chair for the Minnesota Republican Party and one-time Republican Senate candidate, and has been tied by ProPublica through tax forms to groups funded by conservative donors Charles and David Koch. “Under her watch, things got worse,” claims a recent Concerned Veterans television spot that ties Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina to the recent scandals at the Department of Veterans Affairs. [TIME.com, 9/5/14]
Politico: CVA “Ran Ads In The Run-Up To Last Year's Midterm Elections Attacking Vulnerable Democrats.” Politico wrote of the group:
Concerned Veterans, though, ran ads in the run-up to last year's midterm elections attacking vulnerable Democrats like Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and then-Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina. The group also put up ads in support of then-Rep. Tom Cotton, the Republican Iraq war veteran who ousted Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in Arkansas. [Politico, 6/25/15]
CVA Is Running Ads Supporting Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Politico noted in August that the “Koch-linked group Concerned Veterans for America is spending $1.5 million on a TV, digital and mail campaign to boost Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey,” who is facing reelection in 2016. [Politico, 7/30/15]
CVA Was A “Top” Spender In 2014. The Center for Responsive Politics wrote of CVA:
AFP is not the only Koch-backed organization making the list of top federal spenders in terms of airtime this cycle. Freedom Partners -- a massive 501(c)(6) trade association that served as a conduit for the bulk of the $400 million that the Koch network raised in 2012 -- has begun to spend directly on ads in 2014 as has another group, Concerned Veterans for America, that derives most of its funding from the Koch network. Both groups have spent an estimated $2.1 million on air time in 2014. [OpenSecrets.org, 9/4/14]
CVA's Attacks On The Affordable Care Act Align It With “Other Koch-Affiliated Groups.” Roll Call reported of CVA during the 2014 campaign:
But Concerned Veterans for America's frequent attacks on the Affordable Care Act align it squarely with other Koch-affiliated groups. Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a trade association at the heart of the Koch donor network, gave $5.2 million to Concerned Veterans for America, 2012 tax records show. [Roll Call, 9/30/14]
Military Times: CVA Is “A Favorite Of Conservative Lawmakers.” The Military Times reported of CVA: “On one side sits Concerned Veterans for America, a favorite of conservative lawmakers who have been pushing for expanded private care options for veterans and an overhaul of the Veterans Affairs Department bureaucracy.” [Military Times, 7/15/15]
CVA Head: Koch Network “Literally Created” CVA. During a 2014 speech at a Koch brothers summit, audio of which was obtained by The Undercurrent, CVA CEO Pete Hegseth told donors that the Koch network “literally created” CVA:
When Kevin Gentry, vice president of the Charles G. Koch charitable foundation, introduced Hegseth to the assembled donors, he noted that “you all helped build a group called Concerned Veterans for America.”
At various points, Hegseth took pains to express his gratitude to the people funding his operation. “Concerned Veterans for America is an organization this network literally created to empower veterans and military families to fight for the freedom and prosperity here at home that we fought for in uniform on the battlefield,” he noted.
Center For Responsive Politics: CVA “Derives Most Of Its Funding From The Koch Network.” [OpenSecrets.org, 9/4/14]
USA Today: Koch Network Gave CVA Nearly $5.3 Million In 2013. USA Today reported that Freedom Partners, which is “at the center of the Koch brothers' far-reaching political network,” gave CVA “nearly $5.3 million” in 2013. [USA Today, 9/16/14]
Wash. Post: CVA “Was Funded Almost Entirely By” Koch Network In 2012. The Post reported that TC4 Trust, a now-defunct organization that routed dark money from Charles and David Koch's funding network, was responsible for almost all of CVA's funding in 2012:
The Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics identified a coalition of allied conservative groups active in the 2012 elections that together raised at least $407 million, backed by a donor network organized by the industrialists Charles and David Koch. Most of the funds originated with two groups, the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and TC4 Trust, both of which routed some of the money through a Phoenix-based nonprofit group called the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR).
The makeup of the coalition may change going forward, but in 2012 the network consisted of:
Concerned Veterans for America, which in 2012 held events spotlighting the unemployment rate among veterans and the difficulties members of the military face in casting ballots. The group was funded almost entirely by TC4 in 2012. [The Washington Post, 1/5/14]
Wall Street Journal: CVA Is A “Koch-Brothers Backed Group.” [WSJ.com, 4/8/15]