CounterPunch: The Koch Empire and Americans for Prosperity

by Pam Martens

Lily Tomlin said it best: “No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up.” Despite two solid years of progressive media tracking the billionaire Koch brothers’ funding of right wing front groups, new details have emerged which show a more sophisticated and ominous network than previously understood.

One of the key organizations funded by a Koch-controlled foundation is Americans for Prosperity (AFP).  While it has been widely documented and publicized that the group is orchestrating the Tea Party, AFP is also a veritable smorgasbord of other “grassroots” personalities.  The AFP or the AFP Foundation have  spawned the following identities: (August 27-28 D.C. summit for right wing strategizing and rally); (kill tax on production of greenhouse gases); (attacks on the Federal Communications Commission); (“…how to recruit, educate, organize, and mobilize fed up Americans to stop the radical left-wing agenda…”); (“…educate citizens about the EPA’s attempt to implement radical global warming regulations…”); (phone bank; go door to door to beat back those liberals); (don’t raise taxes on the rich); (shrink the Federal government); (cut spending in California); (kill Amendment 4 in Florida that would give voters more say in local legislative decisions; an ironic position for people who say they want to promote more liberty).

Americans for Prosperity also created and orchestrated hundreds of rallies to help kill the public option in health care reform.

Americans for Prosperity now has chapters in 30 states, including those with the largest number of voters.  As part of the focus on state level efforts, key right wing foundations are funding another nonprofit, the State Policy Network, which says it has free market think tanks in every state. The work of most of the groups is to push for privatization of public services and public schools. The State Policy Network is fueling a new, rapidly growing  movement: right wing funded groups posing as independent investigative media outlets. So far, there is West Virginia Watchdog, Old Dominion Watchdog in Virginia, Texas Watchdog, Illinois Statehouse News, Missouri News Horizon, Capital Report New Mexico, Idaho Reporter, the Commonwealth Foundation’s Pennsylvania Independent, TNReport of Tennessee, the Pelican Institute’s Capital Reporter in Louisiana, Pacific Research Institute’s Cal Watch Dog in California, Idaho Freedom Foundation’s Idaho Reporter, the Cowboy State Free Press in Wyoming, and others in various stages of getting up and running.

Doing the recruiting for investigative reporters for a number of these right wing news sites is Claire Kittle, the former Program Officer for Leadership and Talent Development at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.  The State Policy Network publishes strategic planning articles on how these newly anointed investigative reporters can network with each other and get stories they pen to dominate the internet and be picked up by mainstream media.

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