Pledge More Than They’ve Ever Spent In A Non-Presidential Election Year
$400-million total in an effort to retain Republican control in both the House and Senate. They made the commitment this weekend at one of their famous, now not-so-secret gatherings for big donors and backers of their agenda. The amount is actually way more than they spent in 2016, when they refused to support Trump. Charles Koch famously saying: “If I had to vote for cancer or a heart attack, why would I vote for either?”
But the Koch’s are more on board with Trump’s agenda now that he’s delivered a huge tax cut primarily benefiting the super-rich and big corporations, especially in Red States. The Koch Brothers, among the richest people in the world, run their giant industrial conglomerate out of Wichita, Kansas, checking all three boxes.
The Koch conference took place as the Republican Party fell into some disarray, at least temporarily, rattled by sexual misconduct allegations leading to the resignation of billionaire casino developer Steve Wynn as the RNC’s finance chair.
The Koch network of political organizations will spend a lot of its money they old-fashioned way: supporting candidates directly. But they’re also allocating a big chunk of the cash for some “trademark” Koch strategizing. $20-million will go toward “educating the public” about why the recent tax cuts for big business and really rich people are really, really good.
Another $20-million is going to a longer-term Koch goal: getting more Conservative judges in the federal court system. Even though there does not appear to be an opening on the Supreme Court right now, they want to be ready. And they’ll also work this through less-than-obvious channels. Since federal judges are appointed, not elected, they’ll certainly donate money to candidates they think will help get the “right” judges in place. But they’ll also allocate funds to support chairs at law schools and student organizations that support their radical philosophy.
Meanwhile, longtime Koch ally Vice President Mike Pence is hosting a high profile dinner at Trump’s Washington hotel tonight to kick off his personal fundraising efforts. The dinner’s expected to raise about half a million dollars for Pence’s PAC. In the coming weeks, the VP will be cross-crossing the country in support of Conservative candidates. Interestingly, the Koch’s are more liberal than Pence on social issues. For instance, David Koch has supported same sex marriage.
One Thing The Koch Brothers Are 100% Right About
It’s Immigration. The Koch’s interestingly made it very clear this weekend they do not support the fervor with which the President seems interested in deporting everybody, and making it nearly impossible for anybody to get in. They also don’t want a DACA extension jeopardized by getting tangled up in too much bargaining.
The Koch’s believe America needs immigrants for the same reason the country has always needed immigrants: to fill jobs in a growing economy. Yes, there is an “evil” motivation behind this for them: right now they’ve got a surplus of reliable workers, if they lose that, they’ll have to raise wages.
At the same time, what they’re saying makes perfect sense anyway. Because if Trump is right about the economy continuing to expand, and in fact accelerating, and unemployment is already at near-record lows, how does it make sense to kick anybody who’s not a criminal out of the country right now? All you’re going to do is create a labor shortage. And while that might mean higher wages, it’ll also mean less expansion, fewer new businesses, cutbacks in shifts at factories, etc. It’ll actually work against everything Trump’s tax cut is meant to achieve.
Trey Gowdy, Unlikely Voice Of Reason
The South Carolina Republican Representative, and Chair of the House Oversight Committee, is perhaps best known for being the person in Congress most apoplectic over Hillary’s misdeeds (or maybe a tie with now-CIA Director Mike Pompeo.) But this weekend, he reiterated an earlier statement telling fellow lawmakers to leave Special Counsel Robert Mueller “the hell alone”, and pointed out something that’s important and has kind of been lost sight of in coverage of Mueller’s investigation. It’s not just about Trump. It’s about Russia too. Says Gowdy: “There’s also a counterintelligence component that no one ever talks about because it’s not sexy and interesting. But [Mueller’s] also going to tell us definitively what Russia tried to do in 2016.” And he’s right.
Meanwhile, New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait points out House Speaker Paul Ryan should get some of the blame for the erosion of support for Mueller among Republicans in the House (now that Trump’s giving them more of what they want). Chait says Ryan was asked by the Justice Department to “rein in” California Representative Devin Nunes, who’s sitting on a memo he wrote that Republicans are using as evidence of an F.B.I conspiracy against Trump, even though virtually no one’s seen it. Trump’s own Justice Department last week urged Nunes not to release the memo, while Trump himself is urging Nunes to release it.
President’s Annual Moment Of Coherence
Actually, tomorrow’s State of the Union address will be Trump’s first. But his address last year to a joint session of Congress led many observers to momentarily opine Trump had finally become Presidential…at least til his next Tweet came. And we expect the same this year. Roll Call has an excellent preview.
While Trump Wants The U.S. To Spend Less, China’s Getting Ready To Spend Money All Over The Place, Even The Arctic
Trump did fine last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. While it seemed like he was invited as the entertainment, he may have disappointed a little in that regard, as he largely stuck to the script, which was to urge world business leaders to invest in the U.S. And that’s fair: American has a large, affluent, growing market, and companies building factories here now enjoy new tax benefits.
China’s President Xi wasn’t at Davos this year. He was there last year (and absolutely had a lot to do with Trump’s compulsion to attend this year’s event).
And as Trump was making his plea for more foreign investment dollars in the U.S., China announced plans to invest its money nearly everywhere else. As Bloomberg reports, it made two announcements related to extending its new Silk Road initiative (also variously known as One Belt, One Road and The Belt and Road Initiative). Saying it will now include Latin America and the Arctic.
While that might sound a bit fanciful, it’s significant. Latin America has been almost exclusively the stomping ground of the U.S. for decades. And China can move fast: for instance, the U.S. was the African continent’s biggest trading partner less than a decade ago. Now China is. More than double the U.S./Africa total. Most of it in oil and minerals. (And we all know how Trump feels about Africa).
And the Arctic? The “Polar Silk Road” concept just shows how far China’s willing to push its version of globalization now that Trump’s completely ceded America’s centuries-old vision and left a gaping void.
With China investing in all kinds of projects in all kinds of places around the world, while the U.S. pulls out of the same, Trump can start all the trade wars he wants. After a short while, it won’t matter.
America Will Soon Produce More Oil Than Saudi Arabia
That according to a report in the New York Times, which says the U.S. should soon surpass Saudi production levels. Over the past several years, the U.S. has already become a major exporter of natural gas too, where it’s mainly in competition with Russia.
Here’s a graphic from the Times’ story, which kind of surprised us:
And this really was a war of sorts:
• One of President Obama’s central initiatives was to get the U.S. completely energy independent so that we wouldn’t be as dependent on the Mideast for oil. (Except he didn’t constantly Tweet about it, maybe he should’ve).
• High oil prices at the end of the Bush and beginning of the Obama Administration helped efforts to lure American companies into domestic exploration and drilling.
• That led to an attack by countries which could produce oil more cheaply, as they also leveraged off of sagging worldwide demand.
• But now looks like domestic producers weathered that just fine and within the year should pass the Saudis and be within shooting range of Russia as the world’s largest oil producer.
It goes without saying that Trump is going to take all the credit.