With all its money, couldn't the shadowy, liberal activist group Florida Strong produce a more truthful, higher class Internet ad about the Koch brothers and Florida's House leaders than something that flashes years-old financial documents, dark photos of smokestacks and completely unsubstantiated sound bites?
Apparently ads like these work. They may not convince a single soul to change his or her vote, but that's not their job. They're fodder for fields of green. As in money. They shake cash out of scared liberal donors.
I have no idea why.
The Kochs do nothing in secret. What was so clandestine about David and Charles Koch's glitzy three-day retreat in Colorado Springs last weekend? I've been getting press releases about it for at least three weeks -- the conservative agenda was wide open. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, and Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, the lawmaker who will succeed him, attended.
Sorry, but I don't find it terrible that strong conservatives like Corcoran and Oliva were grateful for the invitation and anxious to hunt money from like-minded millionaires/billionaires. Wouldn't you go if you were in their shoes? Certainly that's what progressives who troll for campaign cash do, too. Look at the shindigs George Soros and Tom Steyer throw.
We found out a lot about what happened at the Kochs' weekend event: Their wealthy network of donors pledged approximately $400 million to push its conservative agenda forward in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.
“Three-hundred million to $400 million for this cycle for politics and policy -- we believe we’re headed to the high end of that range,” said Tim Phillips, who oversees Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by the conservative billionaire brothers.
"What we’re urging Republicans in the House and the Senate to do is to be bold, to go big,” Phillips told Fox News, stressing healthcare and tax reform.
The Koch team would prefer more Obamacare provisions be repealed and replaced, but they say they're now working with the Trump administration on the bill.
The Kochs have broad goals for assessing how they will distribute their largesse. They promote personal responsibility, free enterprise and liberty -- understood to be limited government. When they can, they hold seminars with like-minded elected officials.
The only thing scary about Charles and David Koch is they know how to make their money count in politics. They know how to win. So, why wouldn't Corcoran and Oliva want to be a part of that?
Florida Strong is a "dark money" group -- meaning they don't have to disclose their donors. They are one of four under an umbrella called Florida Alliance. The others are Florida Watch Action, America Votes and Win Florida.
It's not easy to tell how much Alliance raises or how it spends its money. Most of it runs through those 501(c)(4) quartet of nonprofits. Said Matt Dixon of Politico, "They have become popular vehicles for groups across the ideological spectrum to fund political and advocacy operations. The tax-exempt groups can take part in political activity as long as it represents less than 50 percent of overall spending."
If you can find one single name on the Florida Strong website, your eyes are better than mine.
However, the Florida organization Citizens Against Corruption names "some of the individuals (most of them multimillionaires) who finance these shadowy operations" under the Florida Alliance banner:
- Chris Findlater, chief architect of the Alliance, cofounder of NetQuote, "most notable for using spam tactics to collect personal information online";
- Michael Singer, Alachua businessman "charged with reporting fraud related to investors";
- Stephen Bittel, chairman of the Democratic Party of Florida and founder of Terranova Corp., the commercial real estate firm with a flashy $1 billion portfolio. Bittel is a bundler who has hosted fundraisers at his home for Barack Obama, given the nomination speech in 2011 when Debbie Wasserman Schultz was tapped as DNC chair, and is a member of the National Jewish Democratic Council's executive committee.
- Barbara Steifel, Coral Gables megadonor who gave $1.1 million to pass the medical marijuana amendment;
- Neal Roth, Sarasota trial attorney who co-founded Grossman Roth. Since 2014 he has sent $700,000 to state Democratic causes.
- Frank Brunckhorst III, owner of Sarasota-based Boar's Head Provisions and, as Democratic donors go, a true whale.
“Florida leadership has been solely accountable to big corporations and special interests, so we support progressive organizations who are creating a counter-balance,” Findlater, who is called "the mini Koch," told Politico.com.
You might find it interesting to learn the world’s eight richest people own as much as half the world’s population, according to an analysis by the charity Oxfam. And by the way, the Kochs are NOT among the eight. These are the same billionaires "who tout progressive, globalist philosophies championed by the very people who claim that there is income inequality."
The world's eight richest people:
- Bill Gates: America founder of Microsoft (net worth $75 billion). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent $170 million to create and implement Common Core standards, and said socialism was the only thing that can save us from climate change.
- Amancio Ortega: Spanish founder of Inditex which owns the Zara fashion chain (net worth $67 billion). Ortega keeps a low profile compared to most of the people on this list, but his foundation, Fundacion Amancio Ortega, promotes funding for many social programs.
- Warren Buffett: American CEO and largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $60.8 billion). He isn’t against greater regulations for businesses and higher taxes. Yet, despite his personal convictions, Berkshire Hathaway received $95 billion in TARP funds during the banking bailout.
- Carlos Slim Helu: Mexican owner of Grupo Carso (net worth: $50 billion). He is the largest investor in the New York Times and is part owner of the historically liberal paper. He is also a fierce proponent of amnesty for illegal aliens in the United States.
- Jeff Bezos: American founder, chairman and chief executive of Amazon (net worth: $45.2 billion). Bezos is owner of the Washington Post, which penned an editorial saying that foreign workers should replace Americans. His company Amazon is also working to cut labor costs by hiring robots to help ship packages.
- Mark Zuckerberg: American chairman, chief executive officer, and co-founder of Facebook (net worth $44.6 billion). Zuckerberg has been very vocal about his support for progressive, globalist policies, publicly praising Germany’s open-door refugee policies as “inspiring.” He has also reprimanded those at Facebook who crossed out “Black Lives Matter” in favor of “All Lives Matter.”
- Larry Ellison: American co-founder and CEO of Oracle (net worth $43.6 billion). Like Zuckerberg, he supports comprehensive immigration reform. His company is one of the biggest users of H1-B visas, which have been criticized for replacing American workers with foreign replacements.
- Michael Bloomberg: American founder, owner and CEO of Bloomberg LP (net worth: $40 billion). Bloomberg was the mastermind behind New York City’s ban on large containers of soda and spent $50 million funding the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.
Again, these eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. While I have nothing particularly against such a spectacular show of capitalist achievement, I do like to bring up their proclivities and activities whenever progressives sneer at the "evil" Kochs, and especially when they throw their "1 percent" argument in my face.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith