Sunday, March 13, 2011

Karl Rove, Koch Brothers -- on your TV, in your mailbox

Karl Rove, Koch Brothers -- on your TV, in your mailbox


The Crossroads GPS political committee, co-founded by Bush guru Karl Rove, is in my mailbox, on my TV screen and now on my radio at Whidbey Island. But it tells me nothing about who's putting up money to sway me.

Crossroads GPS will butt in a lot more next year: GPS and its partner American Crossroads have set out to raise $120 million to defeat President Obama, help Republicans capture the U.S. Senate and keep the House.

Karl has company. Charles and David Koch, billionaire heads of an oil-and-business conglomerate, plan to give and steer $88 million toward right-wing politicians and conservative causes in 2012. (Kudos to Ken Vogel of Politico for smoking out their plans.)

A Koch front is already advertising to bolster Wisconsin's increasingly unpopular Gov. Scott Walter in his bid to deprive public employee unions of collective bargaining rights (and defund a potent Democratic contributor).

Crossroads GPS is already on the air with radio ads, targeting 22 congressional districts. It's taking Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., to task for having the nerve, gall and presumption to oppose gutting such programs as Women, Infants and Children and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

If the Rove group reaches its target -- it raised $71 million in 2010, and spent $5.6 million here against Sen. Patty Murray -- the Crossroads committees will be the biggest financial players in 2012 outside presidential candidates themselves.

Unleashed by the Citizens United decision written by conservative activists on the U.S. Supreme Court, such committees can raise -- and hide -- unlimited sums of money. (Two of the Supremes, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, speak and hobnob at Koch political retreats.)

What's wrong with this? The airwaves are polluted, the judiciary compromised and democracy put up for sale. The goal is to reverse and roll back public health and environmental protection that began a century ago.

The amounts now "invested" in politics are staggering. Thanks to Eli Sanders' sleuthing at The Stranger, we recently learned that $47 million -- yeah, $47 million -- worth of TV spots ran on local TV stations in the 2010 "off-year" election.

With Karl Rove in particular, I want to say: Butt out!

On every trip to Whidbey last fall, we collected the latest anti-Murray mailings from Crossroads GPS. The theme: Patty was out of touch. "Washington Taxpayers Need Solutions" blared one broadside, hitting her for voting to raise the federal debt limit.

How could guys at 1401 New York Avenue NW, Suit 1200, Washington, D.C. 20005 know that Murray was in or out-of-touch. The Murrays have a place on the island: We see Patty shopping at Payless. Rob is buzzed by the same yellowjackets as us when he puts cans in bins at Island Recycling.

We'll never learn who put up the money to put Crossroads GPS in my mailbox. It is officially a "non-profit" educational organization with no requirement or inclination to disclose donors.

The bottom line is what you buy. The New York Times ran a multi-part series last week on pollution of rivers and streams due to the gas-drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, and dangers to drinking water.

Energy industry satraps in Congress have tried to block new regulations, and thrown obstacles in the way of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as it tries to research impacts.

"We caution against potential panelists who have been longtime critics of hydraulic fracturing," Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, wrote to the EPA. Inhofe is best known for describing climate change as a hoax.

If Republicans take the Senate next year, Inhofe will likely chair the Senate Environment Committee, a license to obstruct the EPA and harass climate scientists at will.

Charles and David Koch, oilmen and longtime foes of environmental rules, would doubtless rejoice. The brothers are worth an estimated $21.5 billion apiece: $88 million is chump change when the reward is having a chump chair the panel that oversees your business.

When your TV screen gets polluted with nasty political spots, wise up to what it pays for.