As head of Koch Industries for over 50 years, you’ve profited from policies that have supported and benefited corporate interests while harming those most at risk, particularly communities of color. Your new book, Believe in People: Bottom-Up Solutions for a Top Down World, is a PR tactic to shift the focus of the material outcomes of your political investments, image launder through “nonpartisan” posturing, and gaslight those of us who’ve suffered from the impact of the inequities your network continues to deepen. You and the programs, policies, and organizers your financial investments support have certainly worked hard over the last 50 years to make it that much harder for folks at “the bottom” to build a more just and equitable world.
LABOR: You and the groups you fund have spent decades trying to limit the rights of both public sector and private sector workers and to drain labor unions of resources and tools to protect workers, in addition to undermining core regulations that protect workers and consumers. You have also bankrolled efforts to privatize public goods and public institutions as we well as undermined progressive taxation and taxes on corporations and the wealthiest. And you have routinely sought to undermine public budgets that support shared investments that benefit communities and community members, especially those who cannot afford the regressive fee-based systems your groups advance.
COURTS: You’ve backed regressive judicial appointments --including Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett-- pouring millions into getting them approved to lifetime positions. By stacking the courts with right-wing, anti-choice judges who will help the Koch network’s agenda with corporate-friendly decisions, you’re also ensuring that those on “the bottom” will have a much harder time succeeding in numerous ways, including limiting access to reproductive healthcare they may need.
CLIMATE: You’ve funded campus centers that have been instrumental in creating lax environmental regulations. The Trump administration has acted on many of these centers’ polluter-friendly recommendations, directly harming the 68% of Black Americans who end up living next to harmful coal-fired power plants, incinerators, chemical factories, and other polluters, increasing the risk of both air and water contamination, resulting in chronic health conditions like cancers, asthma, and heart, kidney, liver, and lung diseases.
K-12: Despite the fact that underfunded public schools educate the majority of our country’s youth, you’ve spent your money to push private and charter schools, regardless of the lack of oversight when it comes to charter schools, and even to try to have allies of your special interest groups take over whole school districts. In addition, many students are being taught curriculum you have funded in their public schools via partnerships with Koch-funded university centers and other initiatives.
COVID-19: You and your network have funded the American Legislative Exchange Council(ALEC), which has pursued a regressively damaging policy agenda for decades, including supporting reckless efforts to quickly reopen states in the midst of this pandemic, a scourge that has killed more than 200,000 Americans. You’ve also been tied to funding the Great Barrington Declaration, which promotes a herd immunity approach to solving COVID-19 -- a scientifically unsound and deadly idea. That is in addition to the decade you have spent attacking the Affordable Care Act in countless ways. When someone on “the bottom” is infected with COVID-19, the groups you fund push policies that make it a lot more difficult, costly, and life-changing than for the richest few. Your network has also opposed the extension of benefits for workers harmed by the pandemic, many of whom are still going into their low-wage jobs whose pay and benefits have been stunted by the groups and politicians you have backed.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Through “model” bills voted on by legislators and corporate lobbyists at ALEC meetings, you and your network have pushed “tough on crime” legislation that has often prolonged individual’s capture by for-profit prisons through mandatory minimums, “three strikes” laws, and so-called “truth-in-sentencing” laws. With your financial support, ALEC also helped spread “stand your ground” laws that has been used to justify numerous shootings of Black people. This has impacted Black people, people of color, transgender people, women, queer people, families, workers, and the poor the most. Although you and your groups have sought to distance yourself from this damaging legacy through the “First Step” measures, you have done nothing to get numerous ALEC measures, like stand your ground laws, repealed in all the states where they were enacted.
REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE: You’ve helped consolidate millions of dollars in front groups like the Center to Protect Patient Rights(CPPR) and in your political donor operations and activities (which includes the organization previously known as Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce --now the Stand Together Chamber of Commerce-- along with Americans for Prosperity and other arms) which have helped elect anti-choice candidates, contributing to the rash of anti-abortion laws that flooded the agendas of state legislatures across the nation since the 2010 mid-terms. This too has harmed people across the country, including those “at the bottom,” as some now had to drive hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion and other reproductive care, costing them money they may not have had and making it more difficult for them to exercise their rights.
Your book, and the PR strategy surrounding it, relies on the fact that you are a billionaire surrounded by “the people.” It hinges on readers and viewers being manipulated to believe that you are no longer invested in causing harm in order to succeed, all the while you and your operatives remain unaccountable for your impact. Your financial decisions demonstrate that you are more than willing to continue aiding politicians--like those in Georgia--whose policies are fueling the ongoing climate disaster, spreading gross misinformation about our democracy, and disrupting progressive social and economic policies most Americans support and which give communities of color a fighting chance at an inclusive democracy.
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