Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The Koch brothers’ political operations increasingly resemble its own political party — and later this month in San Diego it will hold a Koch World Convention. POLITICO finally discovers the "Kochtopus" in Inside the Koch World Convention:
Many of the dozens of rich conservative invitees are expected to write huge checks to a pool of cash distributed among Koch-approved groups, potentially boosting the Kochs’ 2012 spending plan beyond their historic $395 million goal. And it’s also a chance for the Kochs to show off their increasingly robust political machine, including a growing voter database project called Themis that played a major role in conservatives’ recent efforts in Wisconsin and in which POLITICO has learned Koch operatives have discussed investing $20 million.
It’s part of an ambitious expansion of the billionaire brothers’ political operation that includes the recruitment of new donors and fundraisers into their network by a development team led by summit emcee Kevin Gentry, and their recent hiring of in-house political operative Marc Short to oversee the spending of funds raised at the summits.
The expansion is also reflected in Charles and David Kochs’ bid to take over the libertarian Cato Institute as well as their operations steering cash to groups that aren’t commonly thought of as Koch affiliated. The 60 Plus Association, American Energy Alliance, American Future Fund, Americans for Limited Government and National Right to Life have all received funds through the Koch donor network.
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The specific location of the San Diego summit could not be determined. And a Koch spokesman declined to comment on details of the summit, which starts the weekend of June 23, or the brothers’ political plans.
That’s what makes Gentry, Short and Tim Phillips so powerful. They came up together in the good-ol’-boy universe of Virginia GOP politics, and they’re now the Kochs’ liaisons to Washington’s professional conservative class.
A number of sources with knowledge of Koch World — who did not want to speak publicly about it for fear of being cut out of the loop — said the trio carry with them the full confidence of the brothers and Fink, and the ability to make and execute decisions on their behalf, not to mention access to the mega-donors who make the network so potent.
The roles break down thusly: Phillips runs the Kochs’ primary political vehicle Americans for Prosperity and Short oversees the spending of Koch network cash by other approved groups, some of which air among the sharpest attack ads against Democrats, and Gentry raises the Koch network’s cash.
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In a weekly email to the network, Gentry passes along tips on donor prospecting and maintenance and cites best practices. For example, in a February email obtained by POLITICO, he shared advice from a Heritage fundraiser who suggested his group won the loyalty of a million-dollar donor who attended Koch summits by introducing him to big names who spoke at Heritage events, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Short, who attends the same church as Gentry, is by far the newest member of the inner circle, having been hired only last year to oversee the spending of Koch donor network cash by other groups. Previously, the Kochs had tasked a contractor named Sean Noble [Phoenix-based consultant] with the responsibility. Short — who most recently had worked with Koch-favorite Rep. Mike Pence, leading an unsuccessful effort to lure him into the presidential race — has been representing Koch World at the Karl Rove-conceived Weaver Terrace Group meetings where conservative groups coordinate ad spending.
But Koch World’s expansion has raised hackles among critics in the conservative movement who see the Kochs and their operatives as secretive control freaks who don’t always play well with others and are trying to leverage their cash to expand their influence.
“Koch has been angling for the last three or four years to consolidate more of the conservative movement within their network,” said a conservative operative who has worked with donors in the Koch network. “That’s why they do these seminars — to try to consolidate more big donors’ money and direct it into their projects,” said the operative, who asserted that groups that attend the summits become beholden to the Kochs, but also marveled at the effectiveness of the gatherings as a fundraising technique.
“Some of the donors believe giving to one source makes it easier for them instead of having to give to a dozen different places,” said the operative, “and others just want to come out to hang with the billionaire brothers and be part of a very elite universe.”
Koch Industries, the brothers’ privately owned oil, chemical and household products company, has sponsored the summits twice a year since 2003 and they are where it all comes together in Koch World. The donors, like regulars Foster Friess and Rich DeVos and first-timers like Sheldon Adelson, are gently pressured to give while the invited operatives jockey to impress the Kochs and their donors with presentations on campaign and legislative strategy.
There’s also a collection of A-list dignitaries that has in recent years included rising political stars like Eric Cantor, Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell and Rick Perry, talkers like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck — even Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Thomas.
Koch summit donors over the years have donated more than $120 million on their own to various federal candidates, committees and super PACs, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data, as well as numerous background interviews and confidential Koch documents reviewed by POLITICO.
But most of the cash raised at the Koch summits — typically in pledge sessions on the last day of the summit that have a revival-like feel — goes to nonprofit groups that do not disclose their donors. And the groups represented at recent conferences provide some hints as to the recipients. According to the documents reviewed by POLITICO and interviews, there are think tanks such as The Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and The Federalist Society, as well as advocacy groups including the 60 Plus Association, National Right to Work, the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity.
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[T]hey’re within striking distance of their $395 million goal, and could exceed it, given that sources said interest in the donor network has only increased since Democrats up to and including President Barack Obama have taken to targeting the Kochs as examples of the corrupting influence of big money in politics.
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[A]t last year’s summer conference, Gentry seemed to assure the donors they wouldn’t catch flak for their donations. “There is anonymity that we can protect,” he said in remarks that were surreptitiously recorded and leaked to Mother Jones.
Secrecy is the name of the game at the summits, much like at the Democracy Alliance gatherings of big liberal donors: Koch donors are required to wear name tags at all times, and security officers wearing gold lapel pins bearing Koch Industries’ “K” logo, roamed the halls at last year’s winter meeting, removing a POLITICO reporter under threat of arrest.
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Aesthetics aside, the Koch summits are regarded as a holy grail of sorts for conservatives seeking cash for their initiatives. Decisions about who gets invited, and who doesn’t, can lead to raw feelings, as Gentry learned firsthand at a dinner meeting of the Cato board, to which he had been appointed by the Kochs in their bid to wrest control of the libertarian think tank from a faction led by President Ed Crane.
Plutocrats party time! Dancing on the freshly dug grave of democracy.