Monday, March 19, 2007

Kansas: The Koch family & their friends want to control how we spend our money

by Diane Silver

[updated 3:30 p.m. 4/9/07]

Alan Cobb, Kansas State Director of Americans for Prosperity, has contacted me via private email to dispute what he says is my claim that "Koch Industries 'heavily subsidizes' our activities in Kansas." What I said was that the "Koch family" heavily subsidizes the organization, but I may also be wrong about that statement.

I'm working to contact Cobb now to get more detail and to understand exactly what he is saying. I do appreciate Cobb contacting me, just as I appreciate an email or comment from anyone who feels that I've posted inaccurate information.

I'll post something here and make a new post once I have more information. Stay tuned.

(original post)

An organization heavily subsidized by the Koch family has called constituents of about 90 members of the Kansas House to put pressure on them to pass the budget the group wants. The phone calls were reported by the Topeka Capital-Journal.

This is the budget the group, Americans For Prosperity wants, as opposed to the budget the people in this state may want.

And budgets aren't unimportant. What all those dollars and cents translate into is what services which people get from the state of Kansas.

Every school child and every parent has a stake in the state budget because schools are funded by the state. Every college student, every vocational school student, every person who lives and breathes and drinks water in Kansas has a stake because universities, community colleges, vocational schools and environmental programs are funded by the state. That is just the beginning of the thousands of things the state does for people very day.

While it's not unusual and it's not illegal for advocacy organizations to call voters about an issue, I do wonder if people understand what's really happening here. You've got a lot of money from the Koch family of Wichita-based Koch Industries subsidizing an organization that is attempting to pressure the Kansas House into determining how our tax money is used.

If the people of the state of Kansas agree with the priorities of the Kochs and Americans For Prosperity, then that's OK. Let's pass their budget and spend only as much money as they want in the way they want.

But do you really think your priorities are the same as those of a mega-corporation? If you're a farmer, a small businessperson, a teacher, do you really need what the richest people need, or do you need the many state services that are now being cut out of the budget?

Here's an interesting item the House cut out of the budget: $40 million for vocational schools. This may not be a priority for the super rich, but it sure is for the students who need vocational training.

Once again, I ask... what the heck is going on?

Here is more information on Americans For Prosperity, its foundation and the Koch family foundations. Here's more on Koch Industries , which gives to a wide range of conservative causes. The Center for Public Integrity has a great profile of the Kochs from 2004.

[updated with more information about the Kochs and Americans For Prosperity]

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has done some interesting investigating of these good folks. TPM also reports that the group may have been behind an attack on the AARP.
TPM has other information here.

Americans For Prosperity is a huge backer of TABOR, which would limit state lawmakers right to do their job and pass budgets. Passed in Colorado, this has been a huge problem for that state. Here is some information about the organization from TABOR skeptics in Wisconsin.

The Lawrence Journal-World noted in 2004 that Americans For Prosperity opposed increasing funding for K-12 schools and reported that Alan Cobb, the head of the group in Kansas, is a former Koch employee. In that article, Cobb claims that there were then 2,000 average Kansans in the group, but he declined to name any.

As always the many eyes of folks in the blogosphere can help with this story. Let me know if you have any information on Americans For Prosperity and/or their efforts to mold state spending. You can always write to me directly at


I haven't had a chance to go through this material, so I can't vouch for it, but someone over at Daily Kos who goes by the name sandlapper has posted a series of articles on the Kochs. Take a look and see what you think. If anyone can vouch for the accuracy of this information or any other material, or can add anything to this, please let me know. Many thanks to the reader who pointed me to these diaries!

Here's Sandlapper's introduction. Also Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

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