How Will The "Unabashed Koch Fans" At Morning Joe Cover New Reports About The Koch Brothers?
Research ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN
A series of reports about industrialists Charles and David Koch revealed that the brothers have advocated for decriminalizing white-collar crime, conduct "competitive intelligence" gathering on liberal groups and activists, and donated millions of dollars in 2014 to conservative groups that back Republicans and to anti-choice and anti-gay organizations. How will the hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe, who have called the billionaires "awesome" and a "godsend," cover these stories?
MSNBC's Morning Joe Has A Long History Of Pro-Koch Coverage
Morning Joe's Pro-Koch Coverage Paid Off With "Exclusive, First-Ever Joint Interview." The co-hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, have tirelessly defended the Koch brothers, calling David Koch a "godsend" and portraying the billionaires as similar to "most Americans" in their political views. Scarborough and Brzezinski have also dismissed attacks over their dark money spending as "stupid" and "embarrassing." Morning Joe's pro-Koch efforts paid off November 3 when the Koch brothers granted them "an exclusive, first-ever joint interview" on MSNBC. [Media Matters, 10/30/15]
International Business Times: Scarborough And Brzezinski Are "Are Self-Professed And Unabashed Koch Fans." Reporter Brendan James wrote that the Morning Joe hosts "in charge of the interview are self-professed and unabashed Koch fans" and noted that "both Brzezinski and Scarborough earlier this year attended a weekend in Palm Springs, California, for the American Recovery Policy Forum, put on by the Kochs' organization, the tax-exempt Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce ... Neither MSNBC nor the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce would answer questions about whether the Koch organization paid the travel or other expenses for the MSNBC hosts." [International Business Times, 11/2/15]
Morning Joe's "Exclusive" Interview With The Koch Brothers Featured Softball Questions And Worshipful Praise. Throughout Morning Joe's November 3 "exclusive, first-ever joint interview" with the Kochs, Scarborough and Brzezinski asked softball questions of the brothers and lavished them with praise. The hosts also allowed the Koch brothers to falsely claim they oversee one of "the safest and environmentally protective" companies. [Media Matters, 11/3/15]
Morning Joe Hosts Boasted That Their Interview Humanized The "Demonized" Koch Brothers. After Morning Joe's November 3 interview with the Koch brothers, Scarborough argued that "these people are not the cartoon characters that you make them out to be." Brzezinski called the brothers "multidimensional" and said, "I think they have been demonized ... We worked for about two years to get that interview because they are so -- quite frankly, they have been burned by the media and so misunderstood that they didn't want to ever do an interview together." [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 11/4/15]
How Will Morning Joe Cover These Four Reports?
Huff. Post: Koch Brothers Advocated For Legislation Decriminalizing White-Collar Crime. According to The Huffington Post, House Republicans have introduced legislation that "would eliminate a host of white-collar crimes where the damaging acts are merely reckless, negligent or grossly negligent" (emphasis original), and "some influential conservative voices, including the billionaire Koch brothers and the Heritage Foundation, have quietly advocated for curbing prosecution of corporate offenses":
House Republicans on Monday unveiled legislation that would decriminalize a broad swath of corporate malfeasance, a move that injects white-collar crime issues into the thus-far bipartisan agenda on criminal justice reform.
The public debate over criminal justice reform has focused on reducing severe sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. But some influential conservative voices, including the billionaire Koch brothers and the Heritage Foundation, have quietly advocated for curbing prosecution of corporate offenses as well.
The House bill would eliminate a host of white-collar crimes where the damaging acts are merely reckless, negligent or grossly negligent. If enacted, it would make it more difficult for federal authorities to pursue executive wrongdoing, from financial fraud to environmental pollution.
Department of Justice spokesman Peter Carr blasted the legislation in a statement provided to HuffPost, saying it "would create confusion and needless litigation, and significantly weaken, often unintentionally, countless federal statutes," including "those that play an important role in protecting the public welfare ... protecting consumers from unsafe food and medicine." [The Huffington Post, 11/16/15]
Politico: Tax Filings Reveal Koch-Funded Group Handed Out Millions To Powerful Conservative Organizations. Politico reported that the Koch network "served as something of an ATM for some of the most powerful groups on the right." Tax filings by the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, "which was created in late 2011 to increase coordination within the Koch network," reveal that the organization raised $162 million over the past two years and "dol[ed] out millions in grants" to such groups as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Club for Growth and National Rifle Association, which are "among major backers of Republicans":
The Koch network stepped up funding for its own groups in 2014, but also served as something of an ATM for some of the most powerful groups on the right -- doling out millions in grants to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Club for Growth and National Rifle Association, among major backers of Republicans -- according to a tax filing publicly released Tuesday morning.
The filings were submitted to the Internal Revenue Service by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the central group in the increasingly powerful network of conservative public policy and political groups helmed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
The tax filings show that Freedom Partners, which was created in late 2011 to increase coordination within the Koch network, raised $162 million over the past two years ($36 million in 2013 and $126 million in 2014). The 2014 haul was almost entirely from six-figure membership dues of wealthy donors whom the Kochs convene twice a year for summits that highlight the virtues of fiscally conservative, small government policies -- and who raise money for groups and candidates who support those policies.
Freedom Partners and most of its grantees do not reveal their donors' names because they are registered under a section of the tax code -- 501(c) -- that does not require them to do so. [Politico, 11/17/15]
ThinkProgress: Tax Filings Also Reveal Kochs "Give Millions To Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Groups." The Freedom Partner's tax filings also showed that "the Kochs' secretive tax-exempt organization that serves as the ATM for their anti-government activism" has "distribute[d] millions of dollars to anti-choice and anti-gay organizations in 2014":
Over the past year, petrochemical billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have gone to great pains to change their public image and sell themselves as social moderates who "don't want the federal government in your pocketbook" or "in your bedroom."
But IRS filings released on Tuesday by Freedom Partners, the Kochs' secretive tax-exempt organization that serves as the ATM for their anti-government activism, show they also continued to help distribute millions of dollars to anti-choice and anti-gay organizations in 2014.
Freedom Partners gave $5,745,000 to Evangchr4 Trust, a Koch-tied Evangelical Christian pastoral outreach organization that itself gave more than $1.3 million in 2013 to Focus on the Family's CitizenLink and $375,000 to the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council Action.
The group also gave $885,000 for advocacy and another $125,000 for general support directly to CitizenLink -- which describes itself as "deeply concerned about the hearts and souls of those who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or 'transgendered.'" It also sent $225,000 to Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion and anti-contraception organization, and $150,000 to Heritage Action for America. [ThinkProgress, 11/18/15]
Politico: Koch Network Gathers "Competitive Intelligence" To "Thwart Liberal Groups And Activists." According to Politico, the Koch network has "built a secretive operation that conducts surveillance and intelligence gathering on its liberal opponents." The "competitive intelligence team" has gathered "documents detailing confidential voter-mobilization plans by major Democrat-aligned groups" and tracks "the canvassing, phone-banking and voter-registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups and their allies." The team also "utilizes high-tech tactics to track the movements of liberal organizers, including culling geo-data embedded in their social media posts":
The political network helmed by Charles and David Koch has quietly built a secretive operation that conducts surveillance and intelligence gathering on its liberal opponents, viewing it as a key strategic tool in its efforts to reshape American public life.
The operation, which is little-known even within the Koch network, gathers what Koch insiders refer to as "competitive intelligence" that is used to try to thwart liberal groups and activists, and to identify potential threats to the expansive network.
The competitive intelligence team has a staff of 25, including one former CIA analyst, and operates from one of the non-descript Koch network offices clustered near the Courthouse metro stop in suburban Arlington, Va. It has provided network officials with documents detailing confidential voter-mobilization plans by major Democrat-aligned groups. It also sends regular "intelligence briefing" emails tracking the canvassing, phone-banking and voter-registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups and their allies, according to documents reviewed by POLITICO and interviews with a half-dozen sources with knowledge of the group.
The competitive intelligence team has gathered on-the-ground intelligence from liberal groups' canvassing events in an effort to assess the technology and techniques of field efforts to boost Democrats, according to the sources. And they say the team utilizes high-tech tactics to track the movements of liberal organizers, including culling geo-data embedded in their social media posts.
Such stealth activities are the kind that campaigns and party operatives often fantasize about but mostly shy away from -- both because of cost and potential political backlash if exposed. [Politico, 11/18/15]