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I have attached an article while on the surface appears at once benign and frightening. Think about the past 2 presidential elections and perhaps several lesser ones that we have paid no attention to. The amount of money put out by the extremely wealthy industrialists and other moneyed moguls- millions! These folks have in essence bought our government. The recent supreme court change in the financial dealings of certain organizations allowing unlimited spending on political campaigns through the use of “non profit status” and not having to reveal the “donors” .  These “non profits are funded by no lesser entities than the Ultra conservative Koch brothers. These brothers are highly involved in energy and have therefore managed (or bought) to derail a transit system in Nashville Tennessee. Given the massiveness of the undertaking to get a bill banning the transit system, it is not a far cry from the next Presidential election and perhaps many Congressional ones )especially tea party and conservative and or high profile Dupublicans. This is no isolated event and for you star wars fans -this is Sith Lords taking over!    You can follow this on NPR. The article follows:

 

 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nashville Rapid Transit Project Stymied By Americans For Prosperity

A rendering of a potential Amp bus station in Nashville, Tenn. (Nashville Amp/Facebook)

Last month, the Tennessee state senate voted to ban construction of any bus rapid transit system, including the construction of the Amp, a 7.1-mile line that would cost Nashville $174 million and would significantly reduce congestion and commute time in that city.

Tennessee legislators had notable supporters in pushing against this government-funded initiative, including the Koch brothers, Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, and their conservative political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity.

Nashville Public Radio reporter Bobby Allyn has been following the Amp project and joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss the latest developments and how the Koch brothers got involved in the movement against the project.

NPR’s Power, Money, and Influence Correspondent Peter Overby then joins us to discuss the Koch brothers and Americans for Prosperity.

Guest

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

Well, now to Tennessee, where a fight over a transit system in Nashville has drawn the attention of the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch. Their lobbying organization, Americans for Prosperity, has been working with local activists to scuttle a proposed bus rapid transit project called Amp. It is the first time the Koch brothers have targeted a transit project. So why are they involved? Bobby Allyn of Nashville Public Radio WPLN has been following this story and is with us now. Welcome, Bobby.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hey, thanks a lot.

HOBSON: Well, tell us about this rapid transit project.

ALLYN: So there’s a project called the Amp in Nashville, and it’s a seven-mile stretch from east to west Nashville. It’s been planned for, you know, about four years now. And it’s gone through several iterations, and there’s been a lot of resistance from different interest groups, but the most recent thing is that state legislatures have tried to insert themselves to kind of stop the project in its tracks.

HOBSON: And with the help of groups like Americans for Prosperity. After the Senate passed this bill that would have made something like this illegal, they thanked Americans for Prosperity. What did AFP do?

ALLYN: So after the Senate in Tennessee passed a bill that would have effectively banned Tennessee’s first real mass transit project in the state, people who are against the project thanked Americans for Prosperity, and everyone thought, wait a minute, Americans for Prosperity was even involved? And until that point, we didn’t even know that Americans for Prosperity had any role in opposing the Amp.

So when questions were asked of the senator, you know, he said yeah, you know, I had several meetings with the point person for Americans for Prosperity who helped him draft the legislation that would have dismantled the mass transit project here.

HOBSON: Why?

ALLYN: So they say they are against the Amp just like they’re against a variety of issues. They see it as a waste of taxpayer money. They think the project is poorly planned, and they just don’t think it should go forward.

HOBSON: But it’s one thing to come out and say we shouldn’t be funding this; it’s another thing to ban any projects like this from even getting off the ground.

ALLYN: Yeah, and when you talk to the Americans for Prosperity folks here, and by the way, it’s a small presence, right, there’s three people in Tennessee, two of whom are registered lobbyists, and they go after issues like Common Core, a tax on investment income in Tennessee. So going after transit issues doesn’t really fit with what they usually attack.

But when you talk to them, they say we are against this because it’s a waste of taxpayer money. And they say this was a case-specific attack, but other observers in Tennessee say, you know, maybe it’s actually a piece of model legislation that they hope to leverage to attack mass transit projects in other states.

HOBSON: Well, and many people who know a lot about the Koch brothers know that Koch Industries is all about energy and oil and things that would be, I guess, in opposition to mass transit, that that could be a reason why the Koch brothers would get involved in stopping a mass transit project in Tennessee.

ALLYN: And I have heard that before too. They will never come out and say that, but you know, they could hypothetically oppose this on two fronts: one, they’re against the use of taxpayer money, which also dovetails neatly with their main form of income, which is derived from a billionaire oil company.

HOBSON: Well, now that the project is moving forward despite the action of the Senate, does it mean that Americans for Prosperity, and by extension the Koch brothers, lost this battle?

ALLYN: Well, not exactly because right now where the project stands is, it’s going to be extremely difficult to get a state contribution for the mass transit project. So planners have to come up with $35 million that is right now an open question that, you know, planners were counting on before this legislation passed. And, you know, construction of this mass transit project is still a year and a half off, which means there’s another legislative session that we still have to get through in which the Koch brothers will probably mount another assault against the project before we can even break ground.

HOBSON: And we should say, it’s not just mass transit that the group Americans for Prosperity has gotten itself involved with in Tennessee. There’s also a pledge to repeal the state’s income tax that a lot of Tennessee’s legislators have gotten behind, although that’s not the view of the Republican governor, Bill Haslam. Let’s listen to an Americans for Prosperity ad that is running in Tennessee.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Every day some seniors have to choose between buying necessary medication or buying food. Thankfully, over 92 legislators have committed to help our seniors by repealing the Hall income tax. That’s over two-thirds of the legislature. Unfortunately, Governor Haslam doesn’t think our seniors should get tax relief. Governor…

HOBSON: Bobby, tell us more about some of the other initiatives that Americans for Prosperity has put its hands into in Tennessee.

ALLYN: Sure, so Americans for Prosperity, they’ve been fiercely against the Hall income tax, which is a tax in Tennessee on investment income. They also have come out against Common Core education standards. In Tennessee they have opposed letting school district lobbyists use taxpayer money to lobby. There’s a variety of issues that they really are strongly against, and they all come down with cutting taxes back, cutting state and federal-funded infrastructure projects back.

But all of the things that they oppose in Tennessee really have to do with their libertarian agenda, which is anti-tax and anti-federal spending.

HOBSON: And how do the people in Tennessee feel about this? You’ve been out speaking with people. What are they saying about all of this national money coming into what would be local initiatives, local races?

ALLYN: Now, there’s a lot of mixed opinions on Americans for Prosperity here. Obviously Americans for Prosperity can really thrive here, given we have a Republican governor, we have a super-majority in the state legislature. They see Tennessee as a real laboratory for test-driving pieces in legislation that they maybe can try in other state legislatures around the country.

Now, you know, on some issues like the Amp, they’re kind of a closeted political force. They don’t really go out too up-front with their opposition. With other things like the Hall tax, they run radio ads across the state attacking the governor. So it really depends on the issue. Sometimes you hear a lot about them, and other times they’re kind of working in the shadows, I guess.

HOBSON: Bobby Allyn, a reporter with Nashville Public Radio, WPLN. Bobby, thanks so much.

ALLYN: Hey, thanks a lot.

HOBSON: And I know you have got thoughts on this one. You can let us know at hereandnow.org. You can also send us a tweet @hereandnow, @hereandnowrobin, @jeremyhobson. This is HERE AND NOW.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

It’s HERE AND NOW, and if you’ve just joined us, we’ve been hearing about how activists David and Charles Koch and one of their organizations, Americans for Prosperity, or Americans for Prosperity, worked with local activists in Tennessee to stop a mass transit project in Nashville. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been attacking the brothers for what he sees as their undermining public policy.

One of them, Charles, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal defending what he called good citizenship. NPR’s Peter Overby has been looking at the power of money and influence in politics. Let’s bring him in for a couple of thoughts. And Peter, remind us how widespread the Koch organization is.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The Kochs’ political organization is kind of the sprawling, diffuse group of organizations that are clustered around a couple of main funding groups. And the Center for Responsive Politics and the Washington Post did probably the best tracking job, and they counted 28 groups active in 2012 that had financial connections to the Koch brothers and their core organization.

One of the interesting thing about it is that Americans for Prosperity got about $15 million through this network that I just described, and in contrast they spent $38 million in 2012 just on ads attacking President Obama. So here is a lot of money coming into Americans for Prosperity from sources other than this network. A lot of it is grassroots money. AFP has a significant grassroots organization. They claim they have 2.3 million activists, as they say, not members, and they claim 90,000 donors.

So you have money coming in that way. Then you have money coming in other ways, too, probably. We don’t know because AFP is a social welfare organization, not a political organization, so it doesn’t disclose its donors.

YOUNG: Well, as we just heard, in Tennessee there is suspicion, probably mostly on the part of those who back mass transit, that this was just a test ground for legislation that can be taken across the state. Where else in your looking around do you see Koch brothers money going?

OVERBY: There was money that went through this network, wound up at the National Rifle Association in 2012; Americans for Tax Reform, which is, you know, a long-established anti-tax group in D.C.; 60 Plus, which is a 501(c)(4) that runs ads attacking the Affordable Care Act and is active in a lot of congressional campaigns.

So there are lots of entities where money from this organization winds up.

YOUNG: Well, but as Charles Koch said in his op-ed, I am devoting my life to understanding principles that enable people to improve their lives and that he has the right to do that, he’s being a good citizen, putting his money where his ideals are. And we always hear, Peter, from people who say, well, how is this any different from George Soros, who supports Democratic candidates. So how is it different?

OVERBY: Well, the first way it’s different is that George Soros was a really major player in partisan politics in 2004. Since then, he’s certainly been involved, but he has not spent tens of millions of dollars in party politics the way that we’ve seen the Kochs do. So that’s one difference. The issue for all of the millionaires and billionaires that are playing in politics is that they do it through 501(c)(4) groups, social welfare organizations, other entities where their contributions are not disclosed.

YOUNG: You see something else happening. We’ve been hearing about the Koch brothers for years. But do you think that the Democrats actually now see what the Koch brothers are doing as an advantage?

OVERBY: The Democrats have been touching on the Kochs as a political issue, trying to make them an issue, since 2010, when the Citizens United ruling came down from the Supreme Court that opened up a lot of the opportunities for this kind of spending. And they have gotten very aggressive about it in the past year. Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, has been attacking the Kochs regularly on the Senate floor. The Republicans are up in arms about this, and it’s really unusual for a member of Congress to single out individual private citizens for this kind of commentary.

But the Democrats think there’s an advantage to it. They think that, you know, if they can make the Kochs a symbol, Republicans attachment to the wealthiest Americans, the one percent if you will, then that will play to their advantage and will play to the Democrats’ advantage in the election. The problem they have is that when pollsters go out, they find that most people don’t know who the Kochs are, you know, that even after all this talk, they haven’t really got this to stick in voters’ minds.

YOUNG: Peter Overby, NPR’s power of money and influence correspondent, fascinating. Peter, thank you so much.

OVERBY: I’m glad to do it. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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