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Vogel reports: "The billionaire industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch plan to steer more than $200 million - potentially much more - to conservative groups ahead of Election Day, POLITICO has learned. That puts their libertarian-leaning network in the same league as the most active of the groups in the more establishment-oriented network conceived last year by veteran GOP operatives Rove and Ed Gillespie, which plans to raise $240 million."

Karl Rove (left) and Koch brothers David (right) and Charles (not shown) are jostling for political power. (photo: AP)
Karl Rove (left) and Koch brothers David (right) and Charles (not shown) are jostling for political power. (photo: AP)

Karl Rove vs. the Koch Brothers

By Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico

10 October 11


arl Rove's team and the Koch brothers' operatives quietly coordinated millions of dollars in political spending in 2010, but that alliance, which has flown largely under the radar, is showing signs of fraying.

And with each network planning to dwarf its 2010 effort, Republicans worry that the emerging rivalry between the two deepest-pocketed camps in the conservative movement could undercut their party's chances of taking the Senate and White House in 2012.

The billionaire industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch plan to steer more than $200 million - potentially much more - to conservative groups ahead of Election Day, POLITICO has learned. That puts their libertarian-leaning network in the same league as the most active of the groups in the more establishment-oriented network conceived last year by veteran GOP operatives Rove and Ed Gillespie, which plans to raise $240 million.

The fault lines revealed themselves this summer, when the camps split on the highest-profile conservative movement issue of the day: The biggest groups in the Rove-Gillespie network supported House Speaker John Boehner's bill to increase the debt ceiling and the Koch brothers' primary political group, Americans for Prosperity, pressured conservatives to oppose it.

They also have spent big on seemingly competing infrastructure. The networks recently launched similar initiatives to woo Hispanic voters. And their allies are spending millions to build dueling voter files to help their respective camps get out the vote. The Republican National Committee recently partnered with associates of Rove and Gillespie on a privately run database, which could give them an advantage over the Koch-backed data project.

"With a broad-based conservative movement - or any political movement - it's obvious that there's often going to be competition, rivalries, egos involved," said Art Pope, a Koch intimate who chairs an arm of Americans for Prosperity and has advocated for the Kochs' voter database, which is called Themis.

"But overall, that competition results in a better work product and better results than a single authoritarian decision that there should be only one product - whether it's a voter database or whatever - that everyone must use," said Pope.

Behind the competition are ideological and stylistic differences that have bred suspicion between some in each camp.

Some Koch allies blame what they contend is the Rove team's win-at-all-costs mentality for the decay of fiscal conservatism under former President George W. Bush. And they roll their eyes at Rove's high media profile. In turn, some in the Bush-Rove axis accuse the Kochs of clinging to free-market zealotry, even if it backfires on Republicans. Others in Rove's orbit believe the Kochs are too focused on control and not enough on coordination.

The two camps put their differences aside in the run-up to last year's midterm elections, which conservatives felt had uniquely high stakes. But it's not clear if that will last, said a Republican strategist familiar with the Koch's 2010 coordination efforts.

"The 2010 political environment made for some very strange bedfellows," said the strategist, who requested anonymity to discuss the notoriously press-shy Kochs. "You've got Rove and those guys who are driven by electing Republicans for Republicans' sake and then you've got the Kochs who have this giant corporate empire and say it's all about the free market."

In the months preceding the 2010 elections, operatives working with groups that received millions of dollars in Koch-linked funding participated in twice-a-month coordinating meetings convened by Rove that drew an array of conservative groups looking to boost Republicans. Koch-backed groups included Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Limited Government and the 60 Plus Association.


They took place in the downtown Washington office suite housing the flagship outfits conceived by Rove and Gillespie - American Crossroads and its sister group Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, plus a linked group called American Action Network.

The Crossroads groups - for which Rove provides advice and fundraising help but technically plays no formal role - initially focused on backing Republicans and attacking Democrats in competitive Senate races.

A strategist who participated in some of the meetings said: "We were tracking about 120 House races, and the Koch organization, 60 Plus, Americans for Prosperity, American Action Network all took some, and Crossroads came in and invested heavily at the end."

"It was very coordinated," the participant said. "There wasn't one race in which there were multiple groups airing ads at the same time."

Sean Noble, a Koch operative who worked with a number of groups, was among the active participants in the meetings, according to sources with knowledge of the meetings. The meetings were supplemented with more frequent conference calls in the weeks before Election Day.

But not everyone in Koch land was keen on the unprecedented coordination, as Americans for Prosperity's President Tim Phillips attended only a couple of the meetings, telling POLITICO he bowed out because he believed they were too partisan for his group.

"We're very much about the issues and not trying to help anybody win the majority or anything like that," Phillips said. "It's just not what we do. There are times when we absolutely go after Republicans who are doing stupid things."

Phillips said it is unlikely that his group will participate in regular meetings to coordinate on 2012 strategy, either. But he added, "We talk, and there are moments where we absolutely work together and cooperate, but it's on a project-by-project basis and on an issue-by-issue basis."

Indeed, last week Phillips's group found itself in concert with American Crossroads, which debuted a $50,000 television advertising campaign assailing President Barack Obama's jobs plan, while Americans for Prosperity kicked off a ground-organizing effort partly focused on attacking the proposal.

Phillips acknowledged his group, which does not endorse candidates, may occasionally work at cross purposes with more overtly GOP-aligned efforts but said: "That doesn't mean that we have a battle going on with any group when that happens. It just means for that period of time, maybe our priorities aren't aligned. And so, would that be a rivalry? No, of course not."

Rove, Gillespie and Noble did not respond to questions about the relationship between their respective networks, but Brian Walsh, president of American Action Network, said the occasional policy differences aren't taken personally.

"Many of the principals who are involved have known each other for years, and even when they disagree on particular issues, there is a professional respect, where one institution fully understands the position of another institution," he said, though he declined to speculate on to what extent the groups would coordinate their 2012 efforts.

There have been some signs suggesting how they might divide up the 2012 labor. For instance, during presentations in late June in Vail, Colo., at the latest installment of the twice-a-year gatherings of major donors sponsored by the Koch brothers' privately owned oil, chemical and consumer products company, Koch operatives signaled they "are going to focus a great deal on the presidential race," according to someone who attended the meeting.


The meeting drew nearly 300 people, who pledged to contribute more than $70 million into a pool that includes the brothers' own money that Koch political advisers distribute at their discretion to political and policy groups featured at their conferences, with more cash typically going to groups with the tightest ties, like Americans for Prosperity.

After their January donor summit in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the brothers were aiming, POLITICO reported, to raise and distribute $88 million from the pool ahead of the 2012 elections, but the attendee said the plans presented in Vail called for a budget exceeding $200 million.

The 2012 plans and budgeting "was presented with great clarity at the meeting in Vail, and I think people were impressed," said the attendee, who characterized the relationship between the Koch groups and the Rove groups as somewhere between rivalry and teamwork.

"It's a little bit of both," said the attendee. "The Kochs feel - and, frankly, rightfully so in some ways - that they have a more sophisticated approach to this stuff, more well developed and better financed."

The brothers, who until recently had kept a relatively low profile and focused their giving on sleepy libertarian policy groups to which they still give, have become more aggressively political in their giving since Obama's election, attracting more donors and money to their summits.

They've also attracted more scrutiny from Democrats, who targeted the Kochs (and Rove, too) as poster children for using secret corporate money to distort the Democratic process and the media. In the wake of a recent Bloomberg Markets Magazine exposé revealing a Koch Industries subsidiary did business with Iran, Democrats tried to turn the brothers' influence against Republicans, criticizing those who have benefited from the Kochs' largesse.

There's no indication the brothers will dial back their political activity as a result, and, in fact, in recent months they have aggressively expanded their political footprint in ways that seem to place them in competition with more establishment GOP-aligned groups.

That's most apparent in dueling efforts to build databases of likely conservative voters for targeting throughout the campaign and on Election Day. Rather than combine forces, the two camps are building separate, multimillion-dollar files.

Earlier this year, operatives from both camps had conversations with the Republican National Committee about accessing its mega database of voter information, which is both a powerful organizing tool and a valuable asset used as collateral to secure bank loans and lines of credit.

"This is about getting a hold of the most valuable asset that the RNC has," said former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who asserted Rove's allies have for years wanted to "get their hands on this list so bad they can taste it."

In late August, the party signed a contract to outsource its list management to a new group called Data Trust run by Rove allies Anne Hathaway and Mike Duncan - a former RNC chairman who sits on the board of the Crossroads groups.


Supporters of the plan say it will create better targeting data for both the RNC and approved outside groups, and they minimize concerns expressed by some RNC members about losing control of the party's list. Sources say that, even though Data Trust is independent, the RNC's contract with the group, which was written with help from prominent GOP lawyer Ben Ginsberg, gives the party veto power over who can use the list, meaning the party could block anti-establishment tea party groups or others seeking to use it to criticize GOP incumbents, as Americans for Prosperity says it does on occasion.

But, even without control of the RNC list, Koch operatives have privately boasted of the superiority of their Themis database, which was seeded with an initial $2.5 million investment orchestrated by the brothers.

Regardless of which is the better database, Themis is already being deployed by conservative groups, putting it ahead of the pace of Data Trust, which sources say is in its formative stages.

Interestingly, fundraising for Data Trust was assisted by Matt Schlapp, the former head of the Kochs' Washington operation, who - along with Duncan - referred questions about the group to Hathaway, who, like Ginsberg, didn't respond to inquiries.

The two sides have also mounted seemingly competing initiatives to target Latino voters. The Libre Initiative, a recently formed Hispanic-voter targeting effort, was funded by one of the Kochs' foundations, according to a video on its website. Also launching recently was the American Action Network's Hispanic Leadership Network and the Gillespie-led Republican State Leadership Committee's $3 million The Future Majority Project, which is intended to attract more Hispanic candidates to run for office.

Around the time of Future Majority's launch, Koch Industries gave $50,000 to the RSLC, which also got $1.2 million from American Crossroads last year and is run by Gillespie, who sat on an election analysis panel at the January 2010 Koch donor meeting with Noble and AfP director Pope.

Dan Garza, the GOP operative running the Libre Initiative, said he hasn't spoken with the other groups but didn't see them as competitors.

Like it or not, the Republican strategist familiar with the Kochs' 2010 coordination efforts said there is a burgeoning competition between the Kochs and the Rove-Gillespie camp. And the strategist predicted that 2012 electoral prospects - more than divergent styles or visions of conservatism - will determine whether the camps work together or at cross purposes in 2012.

"What they did in 2010 was unique, but they started reverting to their old behavior in 2011," the operative said, predicting "If they think the House, Senate and White House are all in play in 2012, then the stars will align again and they will come back to the table to coordinate again." your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+73 # Barbara K 2011-10-10 15:15
These dogs need to be run out of the country. They don't give a crap about the citizens, it's all money and power for them.

-12 # RLF 2011-10-11 06:04
and NEVER VOTE DEMOCRAT! They have been traitors since Clinton!
+58 # noitall 2011-10-10 16:06
This is the lid that our Supreme Court opened. The court of the People that is supposed to uphold the letter of the Constitution and to protect the rights of the People. Instead they bastardize the letter of the law, introduce themselves (Roberts) this skewed interpretation of Corporations being People; nevermind the global nature of Corporations, much of which is non-American, twisting the concept of one man one vote, ignoring the fact that Corporations cannot be sued. Where is the evidence that led this majority of 5 supreme court justices to rule corps as people?! Where are our representatives whose oath of office should cause them outrage over such a decision?! All the while, damage is done with each moment. They make a mockery of this once respected body. This rings more as treason than it does of justice. The Supreme Court's robes are festooned with Corporate logos, Thomas acts like a criminal, a tax evader un-scrutinized by any checks and balances. Thomas Jefferson said it: "I believe that banking systems are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies." he also said: "No government ought to be without censors & where the press is free, no one ever will." We have no Jeffersons, we have carpet baggers whose sole goal of public service is to place themselves with the elite with foot on the throat of the People. They will not give up by being asked or by right.
+10 # giraffee2012 2011-10-11 00:54
noitall -- You said it like it is- Thank you.

I hope the 99ers continue and prevail.

Vote Dem Vote Obama (they are clean but a lot better than any GOP/TP)

Just VOTE -- something will occur between now and 11/2012 -- Go WI, OH, NJ and now I hear Illinois has the same with Emanual --

Follow the money?
+6 # RLF 2011-10-11 05:59
We should be seeing negligent homicide charges against CEO's when their workers are killed but to get this we have to rely on our gutless AG Holder, who is firmly in corporate control as is his boss!
+6 # Jane Gilgun 2011-10-11 09:33
All the more reason for equitable tax policies to take money and power away from those who don't understand the consequences of their actions. Time for more regulation of those who degrade the environment and those gamblers on Wall Street. People who play craps on the street experience police harassment. Why aren't law enforcement harassing the gamblers of Wall Street. Here is class warfare once again. The poor and middle class are bombed by stealth and dirty tricks.
+42 # allie 2011-10-10 16:09
So they're competing for votes. What difference does it make since all those dollars are for republican only, smear campaigns and votes. Almost half a billion dollars. How the hell do the Democrats compete with that. Oh and once again thank you Supreme Court idiots!!
+40 # jon 2011-10-10 16:16
When I think of all of the GOOD that these mean-spirited, avaricious guys COULD be doing with their money, it makes me wonder how a human brain can be so deranged.
+20 # pernsey 2011-10-10 20:08
Its called a conscience and no one matters but them, lie, cheat and steal it doesnt matter they dont care!
+10 # Erdajean 2011-10-10 20:29
These guys have never intended any good for anybody. Rather, they will burn down the last orphan home in a Christmas
Eve blizzard,just to make sure not one "undeserving" child is sheltered. They are all about punishing those infidels (us) who do not worship their Money God.

This spending battle is superb -- especially considering the total crap that the winner will pay Fox News and Diebold to make president. By grace, may they bankrupt each other, in the fray!
+8 # bobzaguy 2011-10-10 21:40
This is easy. It's only money and when you are worth almost $50 billion, a couple hundred million is chump change. Remember 50 billion is 50,000 million.
Their only care about money is what they can make it do for them. It's just a gauge of what they are and their worth in other people's eyes. It doesn't mean anything to them.
There really is no human left to derange.
+6 # RLF 2011-10-11 06:02
People have a tendency to attribute superhuman powers to these guys and if you have ever been in court, you know they are not the smartest of lawyers that become judges. Often they are so lazy they don't even read or listen. I'm sure the Supremes are no different...I can certainly tell you that Roberts and Scalia can't be very smart to believe what they believe.
+21 # MEBrowning 2011-10-10 16:32
It sickens me to think what all that money could be doing for this country!
+19 # Unca Mikey 2011-10-10 16:37
Is it possible to arm both groups and let them at each other?
+7 # bobzaguy 2011-10-10 21:42
Just watch, they won't disappoint you. Ego is at stake here. As always.
+20 # pernsey 2011-10-10 17:01
I wish Rove would crawl back under the turd blossom he crawled out from under. He is a slime bucket and thats putting it mildly!! EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW WWW!!! That guy is scum!!!!!
-10 # anarchteacher 2011-10-10 17:02
If you want to seriously spite and passionately work against both the Rove-Bush neocons and the Kochtopus billions, then support Ron Paul's presidential bid in 2012.

These guys hate Ron Paul. I mean they really hate Ron Paul.

They have fought against, picked and supported opposition candidates against him for decades. They hate him way more than they hate Obama and the progressive wing of the Democrats.

Take it from an insider who has stood on the white polar bear rug in the bedroom of Charles Koch's palatial Wichita mansion, I know from what I speak.

They hate Ron Paul's fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law; they hate his principled anti-war consistancy; they his attacks on the Fed and crony corporatism (which is their bread and butter).

Every bit of positive media attention Ron Paul gets, sticks in their craw, causing serious irritation and furious anger.

Every successful "money bomb" where Ron Paul raises millions shows that they are irrelevent and powerless to stop the millions of people who support him.

If you truly hate Karl Rove and the Koch brothers, then it's Ron Paul 2012.
+20 # MEBrowning 2011-10-10 18:07
I truly hate Karl Rove and the Koch brothers and the greed and avarice they stand for. But I will not vote for Ron Paul — ever. He is not looking out for Americans' best interests. He is for "transitioning Americans" off of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He is vehemently opposed to freedom of reproductive choice, federal funding for stem cell research, and a host of other key issues that progressives generally support. I will not vote for someone who thinks such major issues should be left up to the individual states to decide. We've already seen how that works.
+11 # in deo veritas 2011-10-10 18:37
There HAS to be a stronger word than hate for what these predatory fascist scum deserve as they are a despicable disgrace to the entire human race, not just to the USA. They should learn to get along as they will be burning in hell TOGETHER for eternity. If you don't believe that then you don't believe in God.
+23 # grindermonkey 2011-10-10 17:54
This article is frightening and discouraging; the amounts of money at play and the absence of any responsible media combine to make a perfect storm for the fascists. Perhaps that word is our best ally that and understanding that the "free market" and "corporate personage" are the most elaborate political fictions ever created. These are Rovianisms, political zombies that appear on conservative talk shows and possess the speaker to talk in tongues, invoke apocalyptic images and obscure the future. This is propaganda of most polished sort the kind that travels virus like from viewer to viewer, listener to listener without them even being aware of their involuntary complicity. If you are not a millionaire donor to the opposition then you can only resist and ignore these messages and be certain that you are still registered to vote well before election day. And as the first poster said, "NEVER VOTE REPUBLICAN"
+4 # reiverpacific 2011-10-10 18:08
In a vague and somewhat scattered way, this article illustrates my own observations for a long time and in reading history. -That these types of groups have such a non-morality and anti-community based, tunnel visioned idealism painted with a broad, mono-colored brush and are so driven to the main goal of power over as many others as they can buy, lie to, cajole and appeal to their worst and most mean-spirited instincts, that they end up by competing with and in the end, devouring each other, damaging much the process.
The left can be accused perhaps, of the opposite, being nit-picky and overly intellectual over small points of doctrinal purity ("I'm more lefty than you"!). Seems to me that both are missing the big picture and goal, which is named simply and falsely as "Democracy" by the right (implying an exclusive element) and "Participatory Democracy" by the left, which is messy and pock-marked with unknowns but which has yet to be achieved in this great social experiment, as each side dons it's mantle and picks up it's particularly-gi lded sword, whilst acting in a narrow range of interests seen as allied with but not necessarily in total tune with each one's goals yet blinded by that desire for power over others, rather than being a guiding light to community empowerment, the last thing the right wants!
+3 # MidwestTom 2011-10-10 18:21
The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that because Obama has no primary opponent, and because he is such a good fund raiser, he will have the first ever $1.0+ Billion dollar campaign, with a lot coming from Wall Street. Do not expect any reforms from him anytime soon.
+13 # propsguy 2011-10-10 18:27
this is so absurd. between them, they are planning to spend roughly $500 million to elect the flunky of their choice and help them avoid ever paying taxes.

why not spend that $500 million on taxes, on funding public schools, maintaining public parks, fixing the roads?

they're going to spend it anyway; why not get something for the money?
+9 # Rick Levy 2011-10-10 19:31
Tweedle Dum vs. Tweedle Dee, big deal. At the end of the day, they're both screwing America.
+5 # bobzaguy 2011-10-10 21:43
To me, your end of the day scenario screwing is not a good thing for America.
+10 # Marsha 2011-10-10 21:15
If it were not for the fact that it would hurt the workers, I've often thought that boycotting products of Koch Industries would feel really, really good! Marsha
+9 # karenvista 2011-10-10 22:22
Look at the bunch of nut cases these guys are trying to make "Commander in Chief." Would anyone be surprised if some of our friends got together and planned a premptive nuclear attack rather than let one of these guys run loose with over 10,000 nuclear weapons and a penchant for going to war?
+4 # giraffee2012 2011-10-11 07:42
These Choke brothers are enabled by the Supremes - and as the title is defined they can and so what they like -- The Supremes are on the TAKE and should be choked out ---

VOTE DEM VOTE OBAMA unless you are very rich or want to live by the bible instead of the constitution. YOUR RELIGION is PRIVATE and should not be in a woman's uterus or in the bed of people. Those issues should not trump JOBS!

1. Write your congress people and tell them to inform the Supremes that they SOLD US OUT
2. VOTE in 2012 and get IDs for those who need them (Help get the Dems registered - the minorities, old etc)

3. Don't complain if you don't participate and we get more of the TP/GOP who are a CULT with their leader = Norquist

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