The Koch brothers look to buy themselves another state
WV Senate President and gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole speaks at exclusive Koch gathering for high-rolling political donors
Metro News had the following headline in mid-December:
Cole: Upcoming Legislative session ‘zero’ about run for governor
As they reported:
With the session less than one month away and lawmakers prioritizing their agendas, Cole said his mission is all about “delivering a subsidized session for the taxpayers for West Virginia and zero about me running for governor.”
But, as David Gutman reported in this morning's Charleston Dispatch-Mail:
Senate President Bill Cole spent the weekend at a Palm Springs resort with about 500 high-spending donors, where he spoke at a retreat organized by the conservative mega-donors Charles and David Koch.
The opening address by Charles Koch was given to a very select group:
The annual donors retreat is organized by the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit affiliated with the Koch brothers, which requires an annual membership fee of $100,000. The event is not open to the public, just to major conservative donors, although select media were invited to attend.
And what did Bill Cole talk about?
“He specifically addressed his legislation to make West Virginia the 26th right-to-work state,” campaign spokesman Kent Gates said in an email. “Bill Cole will travel throughout West Virginia and beyond — to talk about his commitment to fixing the economic and financial crisis that West Virginia faces.”
Gutman puts the Koch's spending in perspective:
The Koch brothers and their political network have pledged to spend nearly $900 million on the 2016 elections, more than the Republican and Democratic National Committees combined spent on the 2012 elections.
Their network has been active in West Virginia. Jason Huffman, the state director for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group founded and largely funded by the Koch brothers, is a regular presence at the state Capitol and has spoken at two recent public hearings.
And Americans for Prosperity recently accelerated its advertising in West Virginia, specifically related to right-to-work.
When blogger Charlie Pierce mentions Wisconsin governor Scott Walker he usually describes him as the "goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin." Given Koch's West Virginia spending on advertising and his buying of our politicians, Charlie Pierce may soon need to update his description of West Virginia.
Back to Cole --PR Watch raises a number interesting questions about the trip:
Will the people of West Virginia be told who paid for his travel to sunny Palm Springs in the heart of winter or for his hotel and meals at the posh resort? Did he get a speaker's fee to talk "in his official capacity" to the Kochs and their billionaire buddies? Did club Koch pay him and cover his meals and drinks, under exceptions from gift rules the West Virginia legislature has created for itself?
Any answers? Inquiring minds want to know.