Conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have begun to vet GOP nominees for the 2016 presidential race - and there's a huge incentive to find favor with these donors...
The projected sum of the Koch brothers' political contributions this election cycle -- which would include monetary aid to their candidate of choice -- is a whopping $889 million. That's more than twice what was spent by the Republican National Committee during the 2012 election cycle.
What the Koch brothers want is a president who will do their bidding. In order to determine the best candidate for that job, the brothers will host a summer summit with the nominees they favor. (While the exact date and time of this summer's summit is unknown, last summer's conference took place in June in Dana Point, Calif.)
Five presidential hopefuls will vie for a portion of the oil barons' billions: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
During the summit, the chosen candidates must speak at a large gathering of the brothers' network associates. The nominees are expected to debate, present, and strategize issues in which the Kochs are particularly invested.
Based on the candidates' performances, Charles and David will decide who gets a political contribution, and how much.
Here are the top three issues the Koch brothers want to see addressed at their summit -- and the candidates' position on each...
Koch Brothers' Political Contributions Goes to Winners of These 3 Issues
Koch Brothers' Political Contributions Issue No. 1: Enact Stricter Voter ID Laws
The Kochs have long funded efforts to police the voting process. For example, ample Koch brothers' political contributions have gone toward political proponents of stricter voting laws in dozens of states. These laws can keep would-be voters from getting a ballot if they cannot present government-issued identification.
Additionally, the oil barons would prefer certain demographics stay away from the voting booth: young adults, minorities, and the elderly, according to a Sept. 26, 2014 MSNBC article.
Here is where the candidates stand on voter ID laws:
- Jeb Bush: In May 2005, the former Florida governor signed a bill into law that restricted early voting opportunities by capping the number of hours for early voting and confined it to election offices, city halls, and libraries. According to his book Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, Bush believes that stricter voter ID laws are important to protect the integrity of the entire voting franchise.
- Ted Cruz: Sen. Cruz is a major proponent of stricter voter ID laws. On June 17, 2013, he filed an amendment to the federal immigration reform bill that required a show of official identification by voters. Later that month, the senator applauded the U.S. Supreme Court when it struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act on June 25.
- Marco Rubio: Rubio also supports more stringent voter ID laws. According to CNN on May 29, 2012, "During a campaign stop [in April 2012] with Romney in Pennsylvania, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban-American Republican, blew off what he sees as overhyped concerns about showing photo IDs. People have to show IDs for everything from boarding a flight to renting sports equipment, Rubio reasoned, so why not voting. 'What's the big deal? What is the big deal?' Rubio asked."
- Rand Paul: Rand Paul eschews the topic of stricter voter ID laws. A Nov. 3, 2014, Christian Science Monitor article quotes Paul as saying, "I'm not really opposed to [voter ID]. I am opposed to it as a campaign theme." This basically means he doesn't want to talk about it - a position that might soon change in order to appease the Koch brothers.
- Scott Walker: Wisconsin's strict voter ID law was halted by the Supreme Court in October 2014 due to unfair bias against minorities. Still, Walker remains adamant that his law simply stopped fraudulent voters from accessing ballots. The law required that voters obtain new ID in order to vote.
Koch Brothers' Political Contributions Issue No. 2: Terminate Social Security
The logic is that by cutting social security benefits, the government will save enough money to allow tax breaks for millions of average Americans. Of course, it would also mean tax breaks for wealthy Americans as well...
On the Koch bros.' Americans for Prosperity website, there are two reports focused on Social Security and how its trust fund is already insolvent. The brothers push instead for workers to open savings accounts for their accumulated funds and to basically act as stock brokers with their own money. Meanwhile, should this huge reform come to pass, the Kochs would save billions without the Social Security tax fee.
- Jeb Bush: Jeb Bush is a proponent of hiking the Social Security retirement age to 70. He believes it should be raised gradually. Doing so would decrease the likelihood of several million Americans ever making it to retirement, especially those in hard labor jobs.
- Ted Cruz: In an April 6, 2015, interview on CNBC, Cruz said that the younger generations, including his own, will need a personal account for retirement savings. This is almost verbatim what the Kochs are looking for a candidate to say.
- Marco Rubio: Rubio has proposed several changes to Social Security: raising the retirement age while eliminating benefits for wealthy seniors; also, gutting the payroll tax for older workers.
- Rand Paul: This is where Paul makes up for his lackadaisical stance on stricter voting rights. Sen. Paul had some fiery words about those who benefit from Social Security disability funds in a Jan. 19 The LA Times article: "Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn't get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everyone over 40 has a back pain." Paul believes that mandatory qualification testing should be enacted.
- Scott Walker: The Wisconsin governor has been a vocal proponent of privatization of federal entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Koch Brothers' Political Contributions Issue No. 3: Dismantle the EPA
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Since the Koch brothers' primary source of wealth has been the gas and oil transportation business, naturally one of their least favorite organizations is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2011, the brothers funded companies and lawmakers alike who fought to strip the EPA of regulatory authority. According to The LA Times, their efforts paid off: "By donating $279,500 to 22 of the committee's 31 Republicans and $32,000 to five Democrats, they bought sway in the House Energy and Commerce Committee - the committee with the power to dethrone the EPA."
- Jeb Bush: Bush could actually prove dangerous for the Kochs as far as the environment is concerned. He spent millions of taxpayer dollars during his time as Florida's governor to restore the Everglades. Bush also successfully fought against off-shore drilling in his state. Bush might actually have a green skeleton in his closet.
- Ted Cruz: Sen. Cruz became the first official candidate for president in the 2016 election to introduce a bill that, if enacted, would repeal all federal climate change regulation in the United States. He says the regulations damage the coal industry and keep people out of work.
- Marco Rubio: Here's the most fervid candidate against the EPA. According to Rubio's .gov website, in 2013, he successfully fought to keep the EPA out of Florida and won. Then in 2014, he was joined by a group of fellow senators, including Cruz, in filing a complaint stating the EPA and Army Corps have too much regulatory authority in "navigable waters."
- Rand Paul: On April 7, 2015, The National Journal reported Paul told campaign attendees the EPA wants to monitor water in your hotel shower. Paul's attack on the EPA stems from a $15,000 grant that had been given to researchers at the University of Tulsa for "Developing a Wireless Device for Monitoring Water Usage for Hotel Showers."
- Scott Walker: While Rubio may be the most vocal nominee where the EPA is involved, Walker may be the one with the longest track record. A March 14 Slate article pointed out that Walker's past actions against EPA include lowering phosphorous pollution standards, restricting the construction of wind turbines, and allowing open-pit mining.
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