By Robert Greenwald and Jesse Lava
Do all roads lead to Koch?
Conservative activists will rally at the Supreme Court tomorrow to encourage the overturn of the Affordable Care Act. The "Hands Off My Health Care" protest--which will feature the likes of Rep. Michelle Bachmann and Sens. Jim DeMint and Rand Paul--is being organized by Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing group financed by industrialists Charles and David Koch. The billionaire brothers provided the seed money to get this organization off the ground and have donated at least $5 million overall (possibly a lot more) to its operations. David Koch still serves as the group's chairman.
These facts belie the image that Americans for Prosperity would like to present as a humble grassroots organization. The stories we see today about regular Americans coming to D.C. to protest evil health reform are directly attributable to the corporate interests that the Koch brothers represent.
Yet the Kochs' impact on the current court battle doesn't end there. Group after group participating in the lawsuit to destroy the Affordable Care Act is a beneficiary of the Koch brothers' largess--reflecting the outsized influence that these guys wield in our political debate. Indeed, one wonders whether this effort would be happening at all if not for these two billionaires with a direct interest in avoiding government regulation.
One of the most important groups in this case is the National Federation of Independent Business, which is bringing one of the lawsuits now before the Supreme Court. This group has received $88,000 from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is controlled by none other than Charles Koch.
Several organizations that have filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court have received substantial donations from the Koch family as well. These groups include:
- Competitive Enterprise Institute: $666,420
- Pacific Research Institute: $270,000
- Texas Public Policy Foundation: $74,500
- Freedom Works: $5 million
- Cato Institute: approximately $30 million.
- Family Research Council: brief co-authored by attorney Nelson Lund, a professor at George Mason University, which has received $29,604,354.
- Galen Institute: "partner organization" of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation; extent of donations unknown.
- Landmark Legal Foundation: $5000
In addition, a Court-appointed attorney used a study by the Rand Corporation to show the impact of the individual mandate in the health care bill--even though Rand has received $100,000 from none other than the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.
Given this set of facts, the sheer reach of the Koch brothers in the movement to overturn health care reform is staggering. They have seeded and cultivated the very network of organizations that's now threatening to undo the most significant progressive reform in a generation. As shown in Brave New Foundation's new film, Koch Brothers Exposed, Charles and David Koch are, in effect, holding up the conservative sky.
So this week as we watch the rallies and press conferences and legal wrangling--not to mention the media pundits lavishing attention to the hubbub--let's remember that this spectacle is not the result of some organic, grassroots outpouring of opposition to the idea that all Americans should have health insurance. It's rooted in concentrated wealth belonging to men aiming to bend our democracy to their will.