Spies (Really Do) Like Us, Or The Man From K.O.C.H.

Team WIN THE MORNING commits acts of investigative journalism for once, and guess which major right-wing political donors are so wealthy and powerful that they have their own 25-person strong in-house intelligence gathering agency to spy on liberals with?

The competitive intelligence effort, reported here for the first time, also hints at the audaciousness of the Koch network’s mission. While the Republican Party focuses on winning elections, the Kochs want to realign American politics, government and society around free enterprise philosophies that they hope to spread more broadly.

A key to accomplishing the mission, from the Kochs’ perspective, is countering super PACs and other big-money groups funded by rich liberals, as well as allied public sector unions and academic and media elites. The Kochs’ allies feel that those forces have worked together for decades with Democratic politicians and government bureaucrats to institutionalize the philosophy that heavy regulation and taxation of business is the only way to ensure an equitable society.

The Kochs concluded that defeating this well-funded left-wing infrastructure requires tracking the professional left in real time ― a capability they realized they lacked after the 2012 election. In the run-up to that election, the Koch network spent $400-million-plus attacking Democratic politicians and policies, only to see President Barack Obama win re-election and his party maintain control of the Senate. A forensic audit of the network’s efforts concluded the Kochs had been out-maneuvered by the left on the airwaves, in the data war and on the ground. Vowing not to let that happen again, the network began investing in the competitive intelligence team and other efforts to keep tabs on the left.

To be sure, the Kochs’ operation isn’t the only one focused on pulling back the curtain on its opponents. In fact, liberal activists and groups have frequently worked to expose the activities of the Koch brothers and their network. But the competitive intelligence team, like so many other Koch-backed programs, appears to be unique in its scale and its thoroughly methodological approach.

The outfit is run by a former CIA operative named Mike Roman, and from all indications it’s a very professional deal. Keep in mind that if it was a left-wing business group that had its own intelligence group tracking conservatives in real-time, there would be congressional hearings, subpoenas , endless breaking news stories, and conservatives screaming that American take up armed resistance to overthrow “tyrant” Obama’s network of spies.  Hell, those attacks on the “Dems” private Stasi” would be coming from the right and the civil libertarian left.

But it’s the Koch Brothers, so it’s okay. And of course, the paranoid style runs deep.

In addition to delving into the left, the competitive intelligence team also monitors potential Koch network threats, according to sources familiar with it. It tracks people deemed suspicious outside the offices of Koch network groups, circulating be-on-the-lookout photos to internal network email lists, while keeping an eye on the network’s own ranks for possible leakers or disloyal employees.

One former network executive remembers an email containing a photo of a man identified as an operative with the environmental group Greenpeace who allegedly had been spotted taking his own photos outside the network’s cluster of offices in the Courthouse neighborhood of Arlington.

Connor Gibson, a Greenpeace researcher who focuses on the Koch network, said he visits its component groups’ offices once a year to pick up their tax filings, and he speculated he could have been the operative photographed by the competitive intelligence unit. While he said he’s never sought to conceal his identity during such visits, he added “If the Kochs consider me an opponent, I’m flattered.”

In another instance, sources say, Roman’s team set out to identify an IT contractor who was working for one of the network’s groups and was posting anonymous messages to Reddit, proclaiming that he worked for the Koch brothers but despised their stances. Within 48 hours, the team had sleuthed out the offender and his contract was terminated.

“They were scared to death of moles,” said the former executive.

A separate source ― an organizer who’s worked with the unit ― described it as “a full opposition research operation, only at about 10-times the level of any political campaign.” The organizer added “my guess is that most people inside the network don’t even know about it.”

Understand that this is the logical endpoint of believing your political opponents as an enemy that needs to be ferreted out and destroyed, to spy on them, track them, identify them, and to conduct counter-espionage against, all in the name of controlling the country’s politics.  And they have access to billions in resources in order to do it.

The Kochs see liberals — fellow Americans, mind you — as people who must be tracked in real-time.

This is who controls American politics.








NFL Open Thread

Once again, we have a 9:30 AM ET game in London today, so I’m posting my picks early:

My big upset pick for this week is Colts over Panthers in the MNF game tomorrow. I keep sticking with the Colts despite all evidence that they suck. No good reason for that; I’m not a particular fan of the Colts other than being an admirerer of Andrew Luck, and the Panthers are undefeated and clearly the superior team. It’s just a feeling.

Anyone got any game-related (or NFL-free) BBQ plans today? I’m thinking about it. We had some guests over yesterday to watch the big college game, and for once, we decided NOT to do a cookout but rather to order pizzas so we could focus on the gridiron rather than the grill. We might make up for it today. Haven’t decided yet.

Open thread!








Everything’s Obama’s Fault

Jeff Greenfield over at WIN THE MORNING decides that this whole “President Obama kicking ass for the last year or so” thing is getting boring, and giving a black President a positive can’t possibly be right, so we’re back to everything is Obama’s fault as to how he has destroyed the Democratic party.

Under Obama, the party started strong. “When Obama was elected in 2008, Democrats were at a high water mark,” says David Axelrod, who served as one of Obama’s top strategists. “Driven by antipathy to George W. Bush and then the Obama wave, Democrats had enjoyed two banner elections in ’06 and ’08. We won dozens of improbable congressional elections in states and districts that normally would tack Republican, and that effect trickled down to other offices. You add to that the fact that we would take office in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and it was apparent, from Day One, that we had nowhere to go but down.”

The first signs of the slowly unfolding debacle that has meant the decimation of the Democratic Party nationally began early—with the special election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s empty Senate seat in Massachusetts. That early loss, even though the seat was won back eventually by Elizabeth Warren, presaged the 2010 midterms, which saw the loss of 63 House and six Senate seats. It was disaster that came as no surprise to the White House, but also proved a signal of what was to come.

The party’s record over the past six years has made clear that when Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017 the Democratic Party will have ceded vast sections of the country to Republicans, and will be left with a weak bench of high-level elected officials. It is, in fact, so bleak a record that even if the Democrats hold the White House and retake the Senate in 2016, the party’s wounds will remain deep and enduring, threatening the enactment of anything like a “progressive” agenda across much of the nation and eliminating nearly a decade’s worth of rising stars who might help strengthen the party in elections ahead.

The really weird part is that nowhere in the entire piece do I see the words “Debbie Wasserman Schultz” who, as chair of the DNC, would ostensibly be the person in charge of the election strategies and GOTV tactics that Greenfield is complaining about, but I guess Greenfield has never met her or something.

Also, there is the small matter of the impressive number of Democrats who lost by running as far away from Barack Obama as possible in 2010, 2012, and 2014 but no, the problem is of course Obama.

That’s the Beltway wisdom, and it will be for a very, very long time.

 








A Claire And Present Victory

Why yes, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill wanted to make sure that Rep. Todd Akin won the 2012 Missouri GOP primary so that she could kick his ass in the general, and at this point she’s bragging to WIN THE MORNING about how she helped make that happen.

Akin’s track record made him my ideal opponent. Many of his votes in Congress contradicted his claim of being a fiscal conservative. While he opposed President Barack Obama’s authority to raise the debt limit, during the Bush administration, in 2004, he had voted to raise the limit by $800 billion. A vocal opponent of the Obama administration’s stimulus efforts, in 2001 Akin had voted in favor of a $25 billion stimulus package that mostly benefited large corporations and the wealthy. And he was a big earmarker: in one fiscal year he sponsored or cosponsored $14 million worth of pork and once sought $3.3 million in a special appropriation for a highway near nine acres he owned and was planning to develop. While opposing spending money for child nutrition programs, veterans’ health benefits, and disaster relief, he repeatedly voted to raise his own salary.

His extreme positions on social issues and ridiculous public statements made him anathema to many independent voters. He sponsored an amendment that would define life as beginning at conception, thereby outlawing common forms of birth control. He voted against repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated, he stood on the House floor and asked for God’s help in keeping the nation from “socialized medicine.” In 2008, he claimed in a House floor speech that it was “common practice” for doctors to conduct abortions on women “who were not actually pregnant.” He had made speeches calling for America to pull out of the United Nations and claiming the government had “a bunch of socialists in the Senate” and a “commie” in the White House.

So how could we maneuver Akin into the GOP driver’s seat?

Using the guidance of my campaign staff and consultants, we came up with the idea for a “dog whistle” ad, a message that was pitched in such a way that it would be heard only by a certain group of people. I told my team we needed to put Akin’s uber-conservative bona fides in an ad—and then, using reverse psychology, tell voters not to vote for him. And we needed to run the hell out of that ad.

My consultants put together a $1.7 million plan. Four weeks out we would begin with a television ad boosting Akin, which my campaign consultant Mike Muir dubbed “A Cup of Tea.” The production costs were pretty low, about $20,000, because we didn’t have to film anything. We just used pictures and voice-overs. We would spend $750,000 at first and run it for eight or nine days. Then we’d go back into the field and test to see if it was working. If it was, we’d dump in more “McCaskill for Senate” money, and we’d add radio and more TV in St. Louis and Kansas City. The second TV buy would approach $900,000. We hoped that some of our friends watching the TV ads would catch on and some of the outside groups would augment the last week with mail and radio. Sure enough, a radio ad calling Akin “too conservative” that went on the air in the closing days of the primary was paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. We would later find out that their rural radio buy was $250,000.

As it turned out, we spent more money for Todd Akin in the last two weeks of the primary than he spent on his whole primary campaign.

Not sure how I feel about this.  On one hand, buying a general election opponent just to clean their clock is something a good politician shouldn’t have to do.

On the other hand, it worked and most importantly, McCaskill is in the Senate and Todd Akin is most certainly not, and I’m frankly more than okay with that.

Given the fact that a similar situation is shaping up here in Kentucky for governor this November, if Republican primary voters want to put the craziest mofo up to run against a Democrat in a red state, well I’m not going to stop them.  And if ad buys by the Democrat help make that happen, well it wouldn’t be the first time.

We’ll see if Jack Conway can pull off the win against Matt Bevin here in Kentucky the same way Claire McCaskill beat Todd Akin.








Dems Playing Offense On The Defense Spending Bill

Team WIN THE MORNING is hand-wringing over Sen. Harry Reid’s plan to play hardball with domestic spending with the GOP (emphasis mine)

Senate Democrats are ready to follow through on a risky strategy to confront Republicans this week over government spending, shrugging off Republicans’ assertions that blocking a military funding bill amounts to “political suicide.”

It’s a gut-check moment for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his successor-in-waiting, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who aim to force Republicans to increase domestic spending by killing every GOP-written funding bill until they extract some concessions.

The scheme will work only if all 46 members of their caucus are pulling in the same direction. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hopes to tempt some defense-minded Democrats to vote with Republicans by putting forward a national security spending bill as his opening move in the chess game, followed by other tough votes on military construction and veterans affairs.

Despite the risk of being labeled soft on national security, Reid and chief message-man Schumer have largely persuaded moderates and liberals to stick with the filibuster strategy and block the $576 billion Department of Defense funding bill as early as this week, according to top Democratic sources. That’s an aggressive move, given that defense spending has historically been a bipartisan endeavor.

Why, you would think that Republicans were the voice of reason here and that Democrats were the loose cannon insurgents ready to shut down the government. Somehow, I think that’s the point of the article.

Fainting couch sale special this weekend. Clutchable pearls not included.