Rolly: The Koch brothers: Coming soon to your neighborhood
By PAUL ROLLY | The Salt Lake Tribune
First Published Feb 12 2016
The Koch brothers’ growing influence, fueled by their billions of dollars worth of enterprise, has become so invasive throughout American life that David and Charles Koch have become household names.
They have spread their money far and wide to buy not only influence but elections, and they proudly played a role in the 2010 defeat of three-term, well-respected Utah Sen. Bob Bennett at the Utah Republican convention, a result that led to the election of tea party extremist Mike Lee.
The Koch brothers, through their super PAC Americans for Prosperity, have flexed their muscle through ads and mailers in Utah to let everyone know that if they challenge Lee for re-election in 2016, they will have to fight against the Kochs’ considerable money and clout.
They helped controversial Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker survive a recall election and then bought his way to re-election.
They were huge money supporters of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who rewarded their support with policies that drastically cut taxes — a pet issue for the Kochs — and as a result has basically destroyed the Kansas economy. Polls show that Brownback is the most unpopular governor in the United States.
The Kochs have extended influence to institutions of higher education, setting up grants at universities to hire professors that teach the Kochs’ anti-tax, anti-regulation business and political philosophies to mold young minds to fall in step with the Kochs’ industrial wishes going forward through the 21st Century.
One of their scions, Randy Simmons, was the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at Utah State University, from 2008 to 2013 and a senior fellow at Property and Environment Research Center, which is funded by the Kochs and Exxon Mobil.
Simmons also supervises a Koch-funded scholarship program and now he runs Strata Policy, which landed the public relations contract for the Utah Legislature’s efforts to wrest control of 31 million acres of public land from the federal government, a quest that is headed by Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan.
Ivory recently left his paid position as president of the American Lands Council, a non-profit that accepts dues payments from local governments and others to fight the feds for the land.
And wouldn’t you know it? Ivory has accepted a position with Federalism in Action, a non-profit group affiliated with the Koch brothers and other right-wing activists.
The Koch brothers aren’t just satisfied with national issues that benefit Koch Industries, however. Their tentacles have spread to county government and local politics in Utah.
Americans for Prosperity has for some time now maintained a Utah office, run by veteran Republican activist Evelyn Everton, and it has been busy.
When the Salt Lake County Council recently passed its budget for the next year, it voted to keep collecting the revenue from an expiring 20-year bond that was passed in 1995 for jail expansion and renovation.
The ongoing revenue, which amounts to about $9.4 million annually, will be used for innovations in the criminal and social justice systems to get treatment for non-violent offenders and hopefully reduce recidivism in the jails.
Americans for Prosperity zeroed in on the two Republicans on the council who voted for the ongoing appropriation — Aimee Winder Newton and Steve Debry.
The PAC sent emails to constituents of those two council members, criticizing their vote and accusing them of supporting tax hikes.
It also has implied it may recruit other Republicans to challenge those two incumbents in the GOP primary.
Similar angst has been directed toward Sen. Curt Bramble and other legislators who have taken the lead to force collection of sales taxes from online vendors.
So this super PAC, which doesn’t have to disclose the source of its funding, is now seeping into every pore of Utah government, from top to bottom, and who knows? Maybe some day we can be like Kansas.