"Koch Bros: Fat Cats for Prosperity" reads a banner on a giant inflatable fat cat, as activists gear up to protest the Kochs' convention in Washington DC.
As the Occupy Wall Street movement calls national attention to a rigged economic and political system that favors the 1% at the expense of the 99%, a very different group is convening in Washington DC seeking to expand corporate influence. Today and tomorrow, the Koch Brothers' front group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is running a conference they're calling “Defending the American Dream.” In reality, the agenda at this Koch convention focuses on how they can roll back clean air and water protections, weaken workers' rights, and otherwise promote policies that benefit people like oil billionaires David and Charles Koch at the expense of everyone else.
The Koch Brothers and their front group AFP are major political players - they have funneled more than 5 million dollars to AFP to help elect politicians that will support their oil billionaire agenda, and they're planning to spend $200 million to influence the 2012 election. Republican presidential candidates have taken notice and want a piece of their dirty money - Herman Cain and Mitt Romney will both be addressing the Koch convention today. Indeed, a recently leaked campaign memo confirms that Romney is seeking support from the Koch Brothers, and recognizes that the Kochs are “the financial engine of the tea party.” So how does a presidential candidate court the Koch Brothers? Well, Romney recently switched his position and embraced climate denial - that's probably a requirement for the Kochs' support, as the brothers have funneled $55 million to climate denial front groups. Of course the Kochs care about more than blocking clean energy and climate policies; they also want to protect their billions in oil profits - and Romney's economic plan could save David and Charles Kochs' $8.7 billion each in estate taxes.
Of course, Romney isn't the only candidate hoping for the Kochs financial and political support; Herman Cain has had close ties with the Koch Brothers and Americans for Prosperity for years. Cain's campaign manager Mark Block ran AFP's Wisconsin chapter, and is now under scrutiny for possibly illegal campaign contributions to get the Cain campaign off the ground. Clearly, Romney has some competition from Cain in winning the support of the Koch Brothers and the money and front groups they wield.
The Kochs' efforts to use their wealth to sway our elections won't go unchallenged. As Romney delivers tonight’s keynote speech at the Koch Convention, hundreds of protesters from a coalition of groups like Health Care for America Now, the Other 98%, and more will march to protest the Kochs and screen videos about the Koch brothers at a Guerrilla Drive-In outside of the Washington Convention Center. You can follow the action on Twitter at #OccupytheKochs or if you're in DC, join us tonight to protest the Kochs' convention.
UPDATE: activists confronted David Koch for his climate crimes inside the convention. Check out the video: