Koch Industries, umbrella corporate behemoth for the conservative Koch brothers, sent a letter to members of the Senate on Wednesday disavowing any rumored positions on shutting down the government over the president's health care law. Even for the controversial and unloved Kochs, it seems, the Republican plan to force a shutdown over Obamacare went too far.
"A great deal of what you read and hear about Koch Industries is erroneous or misleading," the letter begins, predicated specifically on critiques from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The carefully worded clarification continues:
Koch believes that Obamacare will increase deficits, lead to an overall lowering of the standard of health care in America, and raise taxes. However, Koch has not taken a position on the legislative tactic of tying the continuing resolution to defunding Obamacare nor have we lobbied on legislative provisions defunding Obamacare.
(The "continuing resolution" is a bill that would fund the government.)
Reid has repeatedly tied the Kochs to the shutdown, including on Twitter.
By shutting down the government, Republicans are satisfying the Koch Brothers while millions of people are suffering.— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) October 8, 2013
But the Koch letter specifically refers to a comment made by Reid from the Senate floor on Tuesday, which made the argument above based on a New York Times article published last week. That article drew a straight line between Koch political investments and the longstanding push to defund Obamacare.
The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight. Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam.
As Politico reported on Wednesday, the link between the Kochs and the push for a shutdown became more clear with the revelation that the brothers had given $500,000 to Heritage Action, the activist arm of the Heritage Foundation. Over the end of the summer, Heritage Action sponsored a series of events it called the "Defund Obamacare Town Hall Tour." The featured speaker? Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
As we noted previously, Republican leaders in the House have almost completely disavowed the original impetus for the shutdown — the push to defund Obamacare — depending very heavily on the audience. Polling continues to show that Americans strongly oppose the idea of shutting down the government in order to block the health care law.
What the Koch letter says is not that the company doesn't support the push to defund or block Obamacare. (This interesting analysis of why they support stopping the law is worth a read.) It simply attempts to put boundaries on the company's involvement in those efforts: no lobbying, no support for blocking funding to stop Obamacare. And this applies to Koch Industries — not the Koch brothers who are the ones that cut the checks to Heritage Action and Generation Opportunity.
But the point is taken. Even the deeply unpopular Koch brothers think being associated with the shutdown is risky. And that says more than the letter itself.
Photo: David Koch. (AP) The letter is below, via Politico.