Dem Dark Money Group Attacks Kochs for Lobbying Against Koch Subsidies

American Bridge is upset that a Koch group is not padding its benefactors’ bottom line

April 17, 2015

A leading Democratic dark money group this week attacked libertarian philanthropists Charles and David Koch for advocating policies that run counter to their own financial interests.

The dark money arm of Democratic Super PAC American Bridge criticized the Koch-backed Freedom Partners for opposing the U.S. Export-Import Bank despite the bank’s prior support for Koch companies.

"In the end, the Koch brothers are hiding their potentially $16 million slice of the pie to hurt U.S. workers and our economy," the group wrote on its website, referring to the amount of Ex-Im financing obtained by Koch Industries and its subsidiaries over the years.

Koch, which is owned by the fraternal billionaires, says it is not hiding anything, and that its opposition to an agency that has supported Koch companies underscores its principled opposition to what it characterizes as a hotbed of cronyism.

"We oppose ALL subsidies, whether existing or proposed, including programs that benefit us," wrote Phillip Ellender, Koch’s president of government and public affairs, in a March letter to members of Congress.

"Using taxpayer dollars to subsidize corporations rarely results in benefits for society at large," Ellender wrote.

His position mirrors American Bridge’s attack: the Kochs are fighting subsidies that pad their company’s bottom line. In contrast, the American Bridge Super PAC’s top donor, billionaire George Soros, is heavily invested in Ex-Im beneficiary Loral.

The group’s attack runs counter to the usual critique of the Kochs—leveled by American Bridge, among others—that their political activism is purely self-interested.

Also complicating that line of criticism is the company’s recent campaign to do away with ethanol mandates that benefit its business interests.

Ellender urged senators in letters sent on Wednesday to oppose a bill that would preserve the renewable fuels standard (RFS), which requires the blending of ethanol in all gasoline sold in the United States.

Koch subsidiary Flint Hills Resources is a large ethanol producer and therefore benefits from the RFS, Ellender said. Nevertheless, the company is urging the mandate’s complete repeal.

Flint Hills "just closed on the purchase of its seventh ethanol plant," Ellender wrote. "We bought these ethanol plants despite the RFS, not because of it. Let us compete in the free market. Repeal the RFS—all of it."