Now that the final FEC reports are in for Election 2012 and we can survey the damage, it's clear that the Kochtopus has grown, spread, and infected everything from state redistricting initiatives to the national races.
In the process, they've promoted some of their rising stars to lead positions, and so we've got some new names to watch for in the upcoming midterms.
Getting the information for this post was a little difficult, because it seems that the right wing Kochtopus entities have decided to make it difficult for anyone to access their federal form 990 after the 2010 filing year. I've sent out requests to 29 different organizations for their most recent forms. As they come in, I'll share them all with you. For now, here's what we are able to figure out about these new organizations and people.
American Commitment was born in April, 2012. According to their website, the purpose of American Commitment is to "fill the capabilities gap between think tanks engaged in pure public policy work and grassroots organizations engaged in mobilizing citizen activists."
American Commitment's Executive Director and general man-in-charge is Phil Kerpen, who seems to have received a promotion from his former position as policy director at Americans for Prosperity. Kerpen has moved up the Koch ladder to a place of honor as the new director of their newest project. The video at the top is a segment he did with Sean Hannity bashing Van Jones while tying him to Barack Obama, all of which was done without much mention of which organization Kerpen represented at the time.
Here are some of their projects, in no particular order, just to give you a flavor of the tone and tenor of their "grassroots" efforts:
Despite their claim of a mission to mobilize the grassroots and citizen activists, and despite the fact that these organizations are not supposed to engage in direct political activity, American Commitment did just that when they spent the big bucks on political ads to oppose senators Bill Nelson and Sherrod Brown. They also spent megabucks to run ads opposing Tammy Baldwin, Tim Kaine, Heidi Heitkamp, and Shelly Berkley.
How American Commitment is Funded
Where does the money come from to run these ads, create the nice website, and stir up the grassroots? It's complicated. In addition to promoting rising stars and burying disclosures, the Koch empire has also adopted a new structure for funding these groups.
In an excellent report at Open Secrets, some of the layers of the onion are peeled back. It appears that the Kochtopus grew a tentacle at the time Project Themis was announced. Themis, you may recall, was the Koch's answer to Catalist: a targeted database that would be able to identify and target conservative voters by location and affinity.
Themis Trust was not created in a vacuum. It was part of a larger network formed in 2009-2010 before the midterm elections, and parts of that network cannot be fully traced even now, because of the lag time in disclosure filing dates. From the Open Secrets article:
And even more matter-of-fact are the names of some of the entities that have funded the conservative endeavor -- a collection of organizations that would be at home in a bowl of alphabet soup. Their existence has not been reported previously.
The core of this network is TC4, a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization founded in 2009. According to its first tax filing, covering the period Aug. 28, 2009 through June 30, 2010, TC4 -- which had one trustee and a single key employee -- made a grant of $2.5 million to Themis Trust, and another grant of $3.9 million to an entity which has the same identification number as American Commitment
. Since American Commitment wasn't "born" until April 2012, it appears that there may have been a predecessor entity which cycled funds through in the 2010 midterms. The disclosure form for June 30, 2010 has the name obscured, but the identification number appears on the following year's report as one belonging to American Commitment.
That $3.8 million was classified as "education on government spending...projects that educate the public on various government spending initiatives that adversely affect individual liberties..."
For the TC4 year that ended June 30, 2011, $31 million in grants flowed through the organization, most of it funded from "investment income" from a mysterious limited partnership that found its way into the trust assets. According to the 2010 report, $3.37 million in cash was received, and nearly $39 million was income from an unnamed limited partnership.
Through June, 2011, TC4 gave almost all of that investment income to other entities. One beneficiary was American Commitment, which received $5.5 million to spend on "education" projects such as the ones enumerated above. It's also possible that American Commitment served as a conduit to other entities in that time frame, similar to the laundering scheme in California this cycle. It's equally clear that they haven't adequately filed their FEC reports, given that there have been no summary reports of their independent expenditures, though it appears much was spent to elect Jeff Flake in Arizona, as well as opposing Democratic Senate candidates in other states.
Here's the takeaway: Whenever you see a website or other project that supports "liberty" while bashing President Obama, Democrats, the environment, or tax hikes, look to American Commitment as the genesis. Phil Kerpen has now been unbound from whatever constraints he was subject to at AFP, is well-funded, and not inclined to disclose very much.
In the next installment, I'll try and untangle more of the Kochtopus and name the organizations who were used as primary conduits for funds used to defeat Florida's redistricting initiative, to undermine Obamacare, and other Koch pet projects.