Republican Candidates are Paying a Fossil Fuels Conglomerate for Voter Data Mining

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Koch Industries is a fossil fuels conglomerate with estimated revenues of more than $100 billion annually and 130,000 employees spread around the globe. It’s one of the largest, private corporations in the world with a history of funding nonprofit front groups and political candidates who are climate change skeptics. Typically, political payments go in one direction from this behemoth: from the Koch Industries Super Pac (KochPac) to Republican political candidates or political committees. Now, quietly, political payments are going in both directions, effectively creating an Orwellian campaign finance model.

Quietly, and without any corporate press release on such an unusual acquisition, Koch Industries has purchased i360, a vast voter database and data harvesting operation. According to i360’s website, it has “1800 unique data points” on 290 million American consumers as well as detailed information on 199 million voters from all 50 states. It brags that its data “shows you everything you need to know including the demographic and psychographic breakdown of your target market.”

The propriety of a multinational industrial conglomerate with an anti-regulatory agenda having a stranglehold on a highly sophisticated voter dating mining platform with unlimited funds to hire Ph.Ds., statisticians and computer scientists trained in artificial intelligence and machine learning, has yet to enter the national discourse.

In the April 1, 2017 issue of the company’s Discovery Newsletter, Charles Koch, Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, owned up to owning i360, writing that “Thanks to the acquisitions of Molex, EFT, Infor and i360, we now have better information and systems than we’ve ever had in the history of the company.” Charles Koch declined to answer our emailed request to clarify when Koch Industries purchased i360, but Koch Industries is currently running help-wanted ads for database engineers and data scientists to assist i360 in the 2018 election. According to LinkedIn’s roster of existing i360 employees, Koch Industries already has plenty of highly skilled coders and tech professionals in various geographic locations around the country.

There may be synergies between i360, EFT Analytics and Infor. The website for EFT Analytics states that it “combines powerful advanced analytics software with your experienced process engineers” while allowing you to be “predictive and actionable in real time.” According to Infor’s website, one of its products is Birst, which was built with “patented technologies,” and “puts the power of analytics in the hands of every information worker and dramatically accelerates the process of delivering insights across the enterprise.” A division of Koch Industries invested over $2 billion in Infor in February of 2017. The EFT Analytics acquisition came in 2016. Terms were not disclosed.

From February 13, 2017 through May 22, 2018, the Massachusetts Republican Party paid i360 more than $25,000 for voter data management services. The Republican Party of Wisconsin, the Nevada Republican Central Committee, the Montana Republican State Central Committee and dozens of Republican candidates have paid i360 tens of thousands of dollars for assistance in the 2018 midterm elections. FEC records designate the services paid for as everything from digital and TV placement of ads, to software, to research and phone calls, to voter data modeling, to building campaign web sites.

Senator Chuck Grassley’s principal campaign committee wrote out a check to i360 for $6,269 on January 12, 2017 for “campaign voter data.” Grassley was re-elected to a new 6-year term in 2016 and Chairs the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. That committee conducts confirmation hearings for all Federal judges, including those for the U.S. Supreme Court. It also holds confirmation hearings for the U.S. Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General and all U.S. Attorneys throughout the United States.

The largest single disbursement from a political committee to i360 came from Freedom Partners Action Fund, a Super Pac. On June 26, 2018, the Super Pac wrote out a check for $1,520,592 to i360, designating the funds for “media placement-broadcast/cable, digital & survey research.” According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the largest donor during the current election cycle to the Freedom Partners Action Fund is Charles Koch’s Trust, which has donated $3 million. Since 2014, Charles Koch and his trust have given $14 million to the Freedom Partners Super Pac. This raises the question as to whether Charles Koch, a multi-billionaire, is subsidizing the work of i360. Charles Koch, and his brother David, are majority owners of Koch Industries. Forbes puts their net worth at $53.5 billion each as of August 12, 2018.

One person who is suspicious of Charles Koch’s agenda is Ronna McDaniel, Republican National Committee Chair. Earlier this month Politico published a memo from McDaniel that urged candidates not to use i360 and use the official RNC voter database instead. McDaniel wrote that “some groups who claim to support conservatives forgo their commitment when they decide their business interests are more important than those of the country or Party. This is unacceptable.”

That warning might have more bite if the RNC itself had not assisted in i360’s rise to power. The RNC signed data sharing arrangements with i360 for both the 2014 and 2016 elections. That was, however, when i360 was reported to be part of a tax-exempt group set up by the Koch donor network — the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, now shortened to just Freedom Partners, which is also associated with the Freedom Partners Action Fund, the Super Pac.

The Freedom Partners/Koch network played a major role in the 2016 election and was quick to demand that its agenda be implemented in the Trump administration. In January 2017, it released a formal memorandum of those demands, many of which have now been implemented by the Trump administration, including the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.

One i360 employee profile listed at LinkedIn suggests that Koch Industries plans to innovate further in the field of data and information management. A Senior Data Analyst employed at i360, Carter Fawson, says he is simultaneously working at a company he founded, Eliot LLC. The demo for Eliot LLC says it uses artificial intelligence to deliver a truthfulness and accuracy score to news articles. The article that the Eliot demo has chosen to critique is a Washington Post article that Eliot did not feel was fair to Charles Koch.

By Pam Martens/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Donald Trump’s feud with Charles Koch widens as GOP chair joins fray

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The Republican National Committee is diving into President Trump’s battle with Charles Koch, warning GOP donors to stay away from the billionaire.

It’s official: With less than 100 days to go before the November midterms, the war within the Republican party just got a lot bigger.

The Republican National Committee is diving into President Donald Trump’s battle with Charles Koch, warning GOP donors to stay away from the conservative billionaire.

“Some groups who claim to support conservatives forgo their commitment when they decide their business interests are more important than those of the country or Party,” RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel wrote in a Thursday afternoon email to contributors. “This is unacceptable.”

The letter also made a point to underscore that the GOP is the president’s party, in a potential warning shot to other conservatives who might be considering publicly distancing themselves from Trump during the midterms

The implied threat to GOP candidates – the RNC “is the only entity which can be trusted with the data” needed to win, Romney wrote – follows a week-long exchange of critical comments between Trump and Koch officials.

Posted by Libergirl

What the Koch Brothers Want Students to Learn About Slavery The history-teaching wing of the Koch brothers empire is seeking to promote an alternate narrative to slavery

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Given that the billionaire Charles Koch has poured millions of dollars into eliminating the minimum wage and paid sick leave for workers, and that in 2015 he had the gall to compare his ultra-conservative mission to the anti-slavery movement, he’s probably the last person you’d want educating young people about slavery.

Yet the history-teaching wing of the Koch brothers empire is seeking to promote an alternate narrative to slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. The political goal of these materials is to ensure students see racism and slavery as flaws in an otherwise spotless U.S. record, rather than woven into the fabric of our country from its inception.

The Bill of Rights Institute (BRI) is the education arm of the network of front groups the Koch brothers use to promote their far-right ideology. Maureen Costello, the education director from Teaching Tolerance, has pointed out the many factual inaccuracies in the “Homework Help” video the BRI has recently promoted to teach students about slavery. She concludes that the history presented is “superficial, drained of humanity, and neglects to reckon with the economic and social reality of what opponents called ‘the slave power.’”

A dive into their “Documents of Freedom” readings reveals an even more disturbing agenda. The BRI bills the “Documents of Freedom” as a “modern take on the traditional textbook” — a “completely free digital course on history, government, and economics” authored by unnamed “teachers.” It’s essentially an online textbook that aims to promote a particular version of history, government, and economics that aligns with the interests of the Kochs.

The main “Documents of Freedom” reading on slavery, titled “Slavery and the Constitution,” is essentially a defense of the founding fathers and the Constitution against “some scholars” who “portray the founding fathers as racists.” The reading cherry-picks quotes from “the Founders” to argue that they believed slavery was morally wrong. Although the authors write that “most of the signers of the Declaration and the Constitution own[ed] slaves,” they steer clear of the brutal reality of chattel slavery.

They paint Thomas Jefferson as an anti-slavery crusader who “attacked the slave trade in harsh language” and “included African Americans in the universal understanding of the promise of liberty and equality.” But the Kochs’ curriculum fails to mention that Jefferson wrote Black people were “inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” Jefferson kept nearly 200 people in bondage, and even in his death emancipated only five. He regularly sold human beings away from their families to raise money to buy wine, art, and luxuries that only wealthy planters could afford. Nothing in the BRI reading acknowledges any contradiction between “the Founders’” awareness of “the immorality of slavery and the need for action” and their actual actions defending and protecting slavery.

Furthermore, the reading justifies the so-called three-fifths compromise — whereby an enslaved person was counted as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of congressional representation — by arguing “the Founders” had to make a “prudential compromise with slavery because they sought to achieve their highest goal of a stronger Union of republican self-government. Since some slaveholding delegations threatened to walk out. . .” Not only is this type of “compromise” immoral, but the problem with this logic is that the “slaveholding delegations” that threatened to walk out were themselves “Founders” who played an important role in crafting the Constitution.

In addition to selectively quoting the founders, the authors use quotations from Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln to bolster their argument that the Constitution was an anti-slavery document. It ignores that most politicians, including Lincoln, believed that the Constitution protected slavery where it existed. It also ignores the very large wing of the abolitionist movement, whose most prominent figure was William Lloyd Garrison, that viewed the Constitution as a “devil’s pact,” one “dripping with blood.” Douglass himself was part of that wing of the movement until he broke with Garrison in the 1850s, when he became convinced that framing the Constitution as an anti-slavery document could be a useful tool in the struggle to end slavery.

The reading also ignores how central slavery was to the economic growth of the United States, with phrases like “the number of slaves steadily grew through natural increase.” Natural? There was nothing natural about the expansion of slavery. Slavery expanded because it was profitable. The authors seek to divorce the expansion of slavery from the economic design of the capitalist cotton empire and from the horrific practice of breeding, which became a large source of revenue, especially for Virginia slaveholders.

What is most egregious is what the reading leaves out. Even today’s corporate textbooks will include a paragraph or two that attempt to provide the perspective of enslaved people. However, this reading concludes by arguing there was a steady “rise of freedom” after the Constitution because “the new nation was mostly bent on expanding liberty and equality.” The only way the Koch brothers’ Bill of Rights Institute can draw this conclusion is by completely ignoring the perspective of those whose land and labor were violently stolen by the wealthy U.S. elite.

As if that reading wasn’t bad enough, the follow-up reading, titled “Civil War and Reconstruction,” is a long, boring account that almost exclusively focuses on the battles between Radical Republicans in Congress, who the authors claim wanted to “punish the South,” and Presidents Lincoln and Johnson, who favored more “moderate” reconstruction plans. It might be the first reading I’ve ever looked at on Reconstruction that makes almost no mention of what Black people were doing during the era and barely discusses anything happening in the South.

Only in a pro-KKK film like Birth of a Nation and in the Koch brothers’ curriculum is Reconstruction reduced to a punishment for white Southerners. Let’s look at Reconstruction from the standpoint of those who were freed from more than 200 years of enslavement. It was a time when the formerly enslaved became congressmen; when the Black-majority South Carolina legislature taxed the rich to pay for public schools; when experiments in Black self-rule in the Georgia Sea Islands led to land reform, new schools, and a vital local governance. During Reconstruction Blacks and poor whites organized Union Leagues, and led strikes, boycotts, demonstrations, and educational campaigns. During this period other social movements, especially labor and feminist movements, were inspired by the actions of African Americans to secure and define their own freedom.

As the late historian Lerone Bennett Jr. wrote: “It had never happened before, and it has never happened since, in America.” During Reconstruction, “the poor, the downtrodden, and the disinherited present[ed] their bills at the bar of history.” Of course, today’s elites like the Kochs have no interest in students learning this radical history. In the Kochs’ history, the only mention of Black people’s actions comes in one sentence at the end of the reading that papers over the massive accomplishments of the era: “Although African Americans soon made up the majority of voters in some southern states and even elected some black representatives to Congress, the right to vote was curtailed by southern states through several legal devices. . .”

Tellingly, the Koch authors finish off this reading with a quote from James Madison about the “Tyranny of Majorities.” The authors claim that Jim Crow was an example of when “African Americans in the post-Civil War South discovered firsthand the dangers of majority tyranny in a republic.” That’s the main lesson the Bill of Rights Institute wants students to draw from the Civil War and Reconstruction: You can’t trust the masses, so leave politics to elites like the Koch brothers. Of course, the inconvenient truth is that when one actually focuses on the South during Reconstruction, we see an era where poor white and Black people took political power away from elites. It’s this history that the Koch brothers don’t want students to learn.

By Adam Sanchez / Zinn Education Project

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Ted Cruz warns of “Watergate-style blowout” in 2018

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Wealthy conservative donors and influential Republican lawmakers say they increasingly fear a historic backlash at the ballot box next year if the GOP effort to pass a sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws falls short in the coming months.

Image: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Lincoln Center

At a two-day midtown Manhattan summit of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers’ powerful donor network, GOP patrons, senators and strategists spoke in cataclysmic terms about the price they expect to pay in the midterm elections if their tax reform effort does not win passage.

They voiced concerns a demoralized Republican base would stay home, financiers would stop writing campaign donation checks to incumbents and the congressional majorities the party has built in the House and Senate could evaporate overnight.

To head that off, the same Republicans said they are waging an intense, multi-front effort in and outside of Congress and the White House to shepherd the endeavor to the finish line.

Koch network officials said they have invested more than $10 million this year in advocating for the GOP tax plan.

Art Pope, a major conservative donor from North Carolina, put it this way: “When you have lack of success, that may depress voter turnout for Republicans, that may depress donations for Republicans and conservatives.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) warned that Republicans could face a “Watergate-level blowout” in the midterm elections if they don’t make major legislative strides on taxes and health care, invoking the political scandal that brought down Richard Nixon’s presidency and set back the GOP considerably in subsequent elections.

“If tax reform crashes and burns, if [on] Obamacare, nothing happens, we could face a bloodbath,” said Cruz, who spoke in a moderated discussion.

More from Apple news via WaPo

Posted by Libergirl

 

NC education department used Koch-funded group for proposed history lessons

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State high school social studies teachers would be encouraged to use curriculum materials prepared by an institute funded by the conservative Koch family, under a proposal the Department of Public Instruction presented Wednesday.

Image: News & Observer

 

The Bill of Rights Institute, based in Virginia, had a $100,000, sole-source contract with the state to help develop materials for teachers to use in a course on founding principles that the state requires students to take. The institute was founded in 1999 and receives grants from David H. Koch, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, according to a website on Koch family philanthropies.

The state Department of Public Instruction decision to “highly recommend” that school districts use the Bill of Rights Institute material comes as the state is embroiled in a controversy over teaching history – whether schools have students study the founding principles as the law requires, whether AP U.S. History meets those requirements and whether the college-level course developed by the College Board has a liberal bias.

It is unusual for the Department of Public Instruction to tell school districts how to teach a course. Typically, the state sets out goals for grades or courses and lets the districts and teachers decide how to meet them. The state does point teachers to a variety of available resources.

 

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Kochs launch new super PAC for midterm fight

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  During a closed-door gathering of major donors in Southern California on Monday, the political operation spearheaded by the Koch brothers unveiled a significant new weapon in its rapidly expanding arsenal — a super PAC called Freedom Partners Action Fund. The new group aims to spend more than $15 million in the 2014 midterm campaigns — part of a much larger spending effort expected to total $290 million, sources told POLITICO. It’s an evolution for billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. The vast network of political nonprofit groups they helped build has mostly funneled its unprecedented political spending into issue-based campaigns that usually slam Democrats for supporting big government but seldom explicitly ask voters to support GOP candidates.

 

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Charles Koch donates $25 million to United Negro College Fund

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