by Jane Mayer
LIBERTARIANISM - ART POPE - NORTH CAROLINA
It is unusual for those wielding plutocratic power in America to exercise it directly, according to Jeffrey Winters, the political scientist specializing in oligarchy. Direct rule by the superrich invites a dangerous amount of scrutiny. Those who have used their vast fortunes to secure public office in the United States, like Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, typically have made an effort not to appear to be ruling as oligarchs ox for them. Pope clearly sensed the peril. He took care to say that he would waive the usual salary and only stay in office for a year. But questions about self-interest arose almost immediately. As North Carolina took a whiplash-inducing lurch in favor of the haves at the expense of the have-nots, it stirred a heated debate about the influence of big money in the state's politics in general and about the motives and financial designs of Art Pope in particular.
Within a few months, the legislature had overhauled the states tax code and budget from top to bottom.
On almost every issue, the legislature followed the right-wing playbook that had originated in two think tanks, the John Locke Foundation and the Civitas Institute, which were founded by Pope and largely funded by the Pope family's $150 million John William Pope Foundation.
POPE REALLY BEHIND IT ALL
Critics described Civitas as Pope's conservative assembly line and a powerful force pushing the state's politics ever further to the right. Pope rejected the description. "It's not my organization," he protested. "I don't own it." The Pope family foundation, however, had supplied Civitas with more than 97 percent of its funding since its founding in 2005—some $8 million—and Pope sat on its board of directors. It also had supplied about 80 percent of the John Locke Foundation's funding. A good bit of the remainder came from tobacco companies and two Koch family foundations.
In fact, starting in the 1980s, Pope and his family foundation had invested $60 million in the systematic development of a conservative infrastructure in North Carolina that functioned as a "conservative government in exile," according to Dee Stewart, a Republican political consultant in the state.
The think tanks were 501(c)(3) organizations, enjoying the same tax-exempt status as churches, universities, and public charities. Legally, these organizations were barred from participating in politics or lobbying to any substantial degree. Yet the lines were a blur. Top officers at the Pope-linked think tanks, for instance, cycled back and forth into Republican campaigns and Americans for Prosperity, where Pope was a director. The think tank personnel wrote model bills, which they previewed for legislators, and boasted of their clout in the general assembly. Pope was proud of the achievement, telling the conservative Philanthropy Roundtable, "In a generation, we've shifted the public-policy debate in North Carolina from the center-left to the center-right."
Besides the $60 million that Pope and his family foundation put into this ideological infrastructure, they gave more than $500,000 to state candidates and party committees in 2010 and 2012. In addition, Popes company, Variety Wholesalers, gave nearly $1 million more to outside groups running independent campaigns during that period. In the state of North Carolina, Pope was, as one of his former political advisers, Scott Place, put it, "the Koch brothers lite."
The agenda this money was behind became apparent once the Republicans won control of North Carolina's general assembly.
In a matter of months, they enacted conservative policies that private think tanks had been incubating for years.
slashed taxes on corporations and the wealthy while cutting benefits and services for the middle class and the poor.
It also gutted environmental programs.
sharply limited women's access to abortion
(THIS IS A MORAL ISSUE - "ABORTION ON DEMAND" - I WOULD BAN COMPLETELY AS IT IS OUTSIDE THE LAWS OF GOD - Keith Hunt)
backed a constitutional ban on gay marriage
(AGAIN A MORAL ISSUE FROMN GOD'S LAWS - NO "GAY MARRIAGES" PERIOD - Keith Hunt
and legalized concealed guns in bars and on playgrounds and school campuses.
(THAT IS A DEBATABLE SUBJECT - Keith Hunt)
It also erected cumbersome new bureaucratic barriers to voting. Like the poll taxes and literacy tests of the segregated past, the new hurdles, critics said, were designed to discourage poor and minority voters, who leaned Democratic.
The election law expert Richard Hasen declared, "I've never seen a package of what I would call suppressive voting measures like this." The historian Dan T Carter, who specialized in southern history at the University of South Carolina, noted that when friends around the country asked if things in North Carolina were as bad as they looked from the outside, he was forced to answer, "No, it's worse—a lot worse."
(AS MAYER GOES ON TO SHOW "A LOT WORSE" - Keith Hunt)
Republicans claimed their new policies allowed residents to "keep more of their hard-earned money." But according to a fact-checking analysis by the Associated Press, the working poor were in line to pay more while the wealthiest gained the most.
The North Carolina Budget and Tax Center scored the changes and found that 75 percent of the savings would go to the top 5 percent of taxpayers.
The legislature eliminated the earned-income tax credit for low-income workers.
It also repealed North Carolina's estate tax, a move that was projected to cost the state $300 million in its first five years. Yet the benefits of this tax break were so skewed to the wealthiest few that only twenty-three estates would have been big enough to qualify as of 2011, because the existing law already exempted the first $5.25 million of inheritance from taxation. (The Pope-funded Civitas Institute had first proposed many of these top-weighted tax cuts, with the assistance of its special adviser, Arthur Laffer, the controversial inventor of supply-side economics.)
At the same time, the legislature cut unemployment benefits so drastically that the state was no longer eligible to receive $780 million in emergency federal unemployment aid for which it would otherwise have qualified. As a result, North Carolina, which had the country's fifth-highest unemployment rate, soon offered the most meager unemployment benefits in the country.
The state also spurned the expanded Medicaid coverage for the needy that it was eligible for at no cost under the Affordable Care Act. This show of defiance denied free health care to 500,000 uninsured low-income residents. A study by health experts at Harvard and the City University of New York projected that the legislature's obstruction of these benefits would cost residents between 455 and 1,145 lives a year.
Art Pope was fond of the libertarian saying "There is no such thing as a free lunch," and in North Carolina his budget proved him right.
To make up for the projected billion-dollar-a-year shortfall created by the many new tax cuts he helped to deliver, something had to give. So for savings, the legislators turned to the one institution that had distinguished North Carolina from many other southern states— its celebrated public education system.
The assault was systematic.
They authorized vouchers for private schools while putting the public school budget in a vise and squeezing.
They eliminated teachers' assistants and reduced teacher pay from the twenty-first highest in the country to the forty-sixth.
They abolished incentives for teachers to earn higher degrees and reduced funding for a successful program for at-risk preschoolers.
Voters had overwhelmingly preferred to avoid these cuts by extending a temporary one-penny sales tax to sustain educational funding, but the legislators, many of whom had signed a no-tax pledge promoted by Americans for Prosperity, made the cuts anyway.
North Carolina's esteemed state university system also took a hit.
Ideological warfare infused the fight. Pope's network had waged a long campaign to slash spending, with employees of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, another Pope-created nonprofit, accusing the university system of becoming a "niche for radicals," describing the public funding as "a boondoggle," and demanding that the legislature "starve the beast." The center dug up professors' voting records in an effort to prove political bias.
Once the Republican majority took over the legislature, it quickly imposed severe cuts that were projected to cause tuition hikes, faculty layoffs, and fewer scholarships, even though the state's constitution required that higher education be made "as free as practical" to all residents.
Bill Friday, a revered former president of the University of North Carolina, confided not long before he died in 2012 that he was afraid the changes would put higher education out of reach for many poor and middle-income families.
"What are you doing, closing the door to them?" he asked. "That's the war that's on. It's against the role that government can play. I think it's really tragic. That's what's made North Carolina different."
UNIVERSITY BUDGET CUTS
At the same time that Pope's network fought to cut university budgets, he offered to privately fund academic programs in subjects he favored, like Western civilization and free-market economics. A $500,000 gift that Pope made to North Carolina State University, for instance, funded lectures by conservatives. "I'm pretty sure we would not invite Paul Krugman," a professor who picked the speakers and was affiliated with the John Locke Foundation, acknowledged. Some faculty saw Pope's donations as a bid to buy academic control. "It's sad and blatant," said Cat Warren, an English professor at North Carolina State. Pope, she said, "succeeds in getting higher education defunded, and then uses those cutbacks as a way to increase leverage and influence over course content."
The John Locke Foundation also sponsored the North Carolina History Project, which aimed to reorient the state's teaching of its history by providing online lesson plans for high school teachers that downplayed the roles of social movements and government while celebrating what it called the "personal creation of wealth." In a similar vein, Republicans in the state senate passed a bill requiring North Carolina's high school students to study conservative principles as part of American history in order to graduate in 2015. The bill stressed the "constitutional limitations on government power to tax and spend." "It's all part of Pope's plan to build up more institutional support for his philosophy," said Chris Fitzsimon, director of NC Policy Watch, a liberal watchdog group.
But Pope became a lightning rod as his profile grew. The NAACP began holding weekly "Moral Monday" protests in the state capital against North Carolina's turn to the right and eventually began picketing the chain stores owned by Pope's company, Variety Wholesalers.
Even some Republicans in the state accused Pope of going too far. Jim Goodmon, the president and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Company, which owned the CBS and Fox television affiliates in Raleigh, said, "I was a Republican, but I'm embarrassed to be one in North Carolina, because of Art Pope." Goodmon had deep ties to the state's conservative establishment. His grandfather A. J. Fletcher was among Jesse Helms's biggest backers. But Goodmon described the Pope forces as "anti-community," adding, "The way they've come to power is to say that government is bad. Their only answer is cut taxes." He concluded, "It's never about making things better. It's all about tearing the other side down."
Interviewed in a spare office overlooking a suburban parking lot that served as Variety Wholesalers headquarters in Raleigh, Pope dismissed those who were trying to paint him as extreme as misinformed.
"If the left wing wants a whipping boy, a bogeyman, they throw out my name," he protested. "Some things I hear about this guy Art Pope—you know I don't like this guy Art Pope that they're talking about. I don't know him. If what they say were true, I wouldn't like a lot of things about me. But they're just not true."
(HOW THE MIND CAN DECEIVE ITSELF IN NOT SEEING WHAT IT DOES NOT WANT TO SEE - Keith Hunt)
In a nearly four-hour-long, lawyerly rebuttal, he argued that conservatives like himself were the underdogs in North Carolina and that his expenditures merely represented an effort to balance the score. He said that he was driven not by "narrow corporate interest" but by abstract idealism. He described himself as "politically a conservative" and a "classical liberal, philosophically." He acknowledged that the nonprofit groups he supported took many positions advantageous to his business, such as opposition to minimum wage laws. In fact, critics, like Dean Debnam, a liberal North Carolina businessman, accused Pope of exhibiting "a plantation mentality" by keeping "people working part time . . . He preys on the poorest of the poor, and uses it to advance the agenda of the richest of the rich," he charged. But Pope said he didn't take positions to enhance his bottom line. In the tradition of John Locke, he said, he just believed that society functioned best when citizens were rewarded with the wealth that their hard work produced.
Pope, who credited a summer program run by the Cato Institute for first exposing him to free-market theories, argued that the country's growing economic inequality was not a worry because "wealth creation and wealth destruction is constantly happening." All Americans, he said, had a fair chance at success. Citing Michael Jordan and Mick Jagger as examples, he asked, "Why should they be deprived of that money—why is that unfair?" He noted, "I'm not envious of the wealth that Bill Gates has," and added, "America does not have an aristocracy or a plutocracy."
(AGAIN THE SILLY STUPIDITY THAT ANYONE SHOULD HAVE THE KIND OF MONEY THEY HAVE, IS MORALLY WRONG. EXAMPLES: SOME SPORTS PEOPLE WITH CONTRACTS INTO THE MILLIONS, OR SOME POLITICAL SPEAKERS [EX PRESIDENTS] GETTING ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS OR MORE FOR ONE SPEACH AT SOME FUNCTION - IT IS MADNESS AND REPULSIVE - Keith Hunt)
The poor, he argued, were largely victims of their own bad choices. "Really, when you look at the lowest income, most of that is just simply a factor of age and marriage. If you're young and single— and God forbid if you're young and a single parent, and don't have a high school education—then your earnings will be low, and you'll be in the bottom twenty percent."
The constellation of nonprofit groups supported by Pope's fortune echoed this tough-luck message.
For instance, a researcher at the Civitas Institute asserted that the poor in America lived better than "the picture most liberals like to paint." The researcher Bob Luebke cited a Heritage Foundation study showing that the poor often had shelter, a refrigerator, and cable television. "The media obsession with pervasive homelessness also appears a myth," he declared. John Hood, a bright protege of Pope's who moved from the John Locke Foundation to become head of the John William Pope Foundation in 2015, stressed that "the true extent of poverty in North Carolina and around the country is woefully overestimated." Where poverty did exist, he asserted, it largely resulted from "self-destructive behavior."
Gene Nichol, the director of the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina School of Law, pointed out that one-third of the state's children of color lived in poverty, meaning they started at the bottom, long before they were old enough to make choices of their own. But Popes network successfully pressured the university to eliminate the Center on Poverty in 2015 after Nichol criticized Republican policies.
POPE AND POVERTY
Pope's own experience of poverty was limited.
He grew up in a wealthy household, attended a private boarding school before the University of North Carolina and the Duke School of Law, and joined his family's discount store business, which was started by his grandfather and expanded by his father. But Pope often stressed, "I am not an heir." He explained that his father had demanded that he and his siblings buy stakes in the family-owned business. Like Charles Koch, and many others in their donor network, Pope believed that he had advanced to the helm of the company on his own merits. Those who knew Pope confirmed that he worked extremely hard and was obsessively frugal. But he also received many advantages from his parents, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.
Scott Place, who served as campaign manager during Pope's one bid for statewide office, his unsuccessful 1992 run for lieutenant governor, recalled one transaction vividly, when Pope's father made a donation to his campaign. "He had his checkbook, and he was stroking the check. He said, 'How much?' Art says, 'Well, I guess $60,000.' The dad bitched. I was standing, thunderstruck. I said, 'That's a HUGE check!' The father responded, 'Well, it's Art's inheritance. I guess he can do whatever the hell he wants to with it.' It wasn't like, 'Go get em, son,'" Place recalled. "It was more like, 'Take the money and get out!'"
Before the campaign ended with Pope's defeat, (GOOD GOOD GOOD - Keith Hunt) records show that Pope's parents made uncollected "loans" to him of approximately $330,000, which, adjusted for inflation, would be more than half a million dollars today.
Place said of Pope, "He thinks that if you're poor, you're just not working hard enough. It's all about free enterprise. He probably did grow his daddy's business, and he is smart and politically shrewd. But he wasn't just born on third base. He started out within an inch of home plate." Place suggested, "Anybody can be politically effective if they have got almost a blank check."
David Parker, the chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, accused Pope of glossing over the fact that he was born privileged. "All this talk of Protestant work ethic," he said, "but he made his money the old-fashioned way: his mother bore a son." He added, "We re all prisoners of Art Pope's fantasy world."
HIDDEN WAYS TO WIN
The ideological machine that Pope bankrolled in North Carolina was unusually powerful, but just one part of the multimillion-dollar system of interlocking nonprofit organizations conservatives had built in almost every state by the time Obama was reelected president.
Because they were partial to federalism and suspicious of centralized power, the emphasis was natural. From the Civil War on through the civil rights movement, states' rights had been a conservative rallying cry, particularly in the South. Historically, it had often been bound up in racial animosities, with local jurisdictions resisting federal interference. Then, during the Reagan years, the movement took on a pro-corporate cast. While conservative business leaders such as Lewis Powell and William Simon organized corporate interests to counter the liberal public interest movement nationally, conservative allies set up similar organizations at the state and local levels. As one leader of this effort, Thomas A. Roe, an anti-union construction magnate from Greenville, South Carolina, reportedly declared to a fellow trustee at the Heritage Foundation during the 1980s, "You capture the Soviet Union—I'm going to capture the states."
Roe went on to found the State Policy Network in 1992, a national coalition of conservative state-based think tanks. By 2012, the network had sixty-four separate think tanks turning out cookie-cutterlike policy papers, including at least one hub in every state. In North Carolina, for instance, both of the think tanks founded by the Pope fortune were members. The organization's president, Tracie Sharp, described each as "fiercely independent." But behind closed doors, she likened the group's model to the global discount chain store Ikea. She told eight hundred members gathered for an annual meeting in 2013 that the national organization would provide them with a "catalogue" of "raw materials" and "services" so that local chapters could assemble the ideological products at home. "Pick what you need," she said, "and customize it for what works best for you."
In 2011, the State Policy Network's budget reached a sizable $83.2 million. Coordinating with the think tanks were over a hundred "associate" members that included conservative nonprofit groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, which the Kochs also helped to fund.
Adding clout to the Right's reach at the state level was the American Legislative Exchange Council. Weyrich's brainchild had grown impressively since the 1970s, when Richard Mellon Scaife had provided most of its start-up funding. Critics called it a conservative corporate "bill mill. Thousands of businesses and trade groups paid expensive dues to attend closed-door conferences with local officials during which they drafted model legislation that state legislators subsequently introduced as their own. On average, ALEC produced about a thousand new bills a year, some two hundred of which became state law. The State Policy Networks think tanks, some twenty-nine of which were members of ALEC, provided legislative research.
ALEC was in many ways indistinguishable from a corporate lobbying operation, but it defined itself as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) "educational" organization. But to its allies, ALEC touted its transactional achievements. As one member-only newsletter boasted, ALEC made a "good investment" for companies. "Nowhere else can you get a return that high," it said. To avoid appearing bought off, lawmakers made sure not to mention the corporate origins of the model bills. But as the former Wisconsin state legislator (and later governor) Tommy Thompson admitted, "Myself, I always loved going to these [ALEC] meetings because I always found new ideas. Then I'd take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare that "It's mine!"
The Kochs were early financial angels of this state-focused activism. Koch Industries had a representative on ALEC's corporate board for nearly two decades, and during this time ALEC produced numerous bills promoting the interests of fossil fuel companies such as Koch Industries. In 2013 alone, it produced some seventy bills aimed at impeding government support for alternative, renewable energy programs.
MORE IN PRISON
Later the Kochs presented themselves as champions of criminal justice reform, but while they were active in ALEC, it was instrumental in pushing for the kinds of draconian prison sentences that helped spawn Americas mass incarceration crisis. For years among ALEC's most active members was the for-profit prison industry. In 1995, for instance, ALEC began promoting mandatory-minimum sentences for drug offenses. Two years later, Charles Koch bailed ALEC out financially with a $430,000 loan.
In 2009, the conservative movement in the states gained another dimension. The State Policy Network added its own "investigative news" service, partnering with a new organization called the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and sprouting news bureaus in some forty states. The reporters filed stories for their own national wire service and Web sites. Many of the reports drew on research from the State Policy Network and promoted the legislative priorities of ALEC. Frequently, the reports attacked government programs, particularly those initiated by Obama. The news organization claimed to be a neutral public watchdog, but much of its coverage reflected the conservative bent of those behind it.
Professional journalists soon took issue with the Franklin Center's labeling of its content as "news." Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus of The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin, called the group's Web site in the state "a wolf in disguise" and "another dangerous blow to the traditions of objective reporting." The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism ranked Franklin's reports as "highly ideological." But Franklin's founder, Jason Stverak, was undeterred. He told a conservative conference that his organization, whose financing he refused to disclose, planned to fill the vacuum created by the economic death spiral in which many of the "legacy media" found themselves at the state level all over the country.
Cumulatively, these three groups created what appeared to be a conservative revolution bubbling up from the bottom to nullify Obama's policies in the states.
But the funding was largely top-down. Much of it came from giant, multinational corporations, including Koch Industries, the Reynolds American and Altria tobacco companies, Microsoft, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Glaxo-Smith-Kline, and Kraft Foods. A small knot of hugely rich individual donors and their private foundations funded the effort, too.
Much of the money went through DonorsTrust, the Beltway-based fund that erased donors' fingerprints. Fewer than two hundred extraordinarily rich individuals and private foundations accounted for the $750 million pooled by DonorsTrust and its sister arm, Donors Capital Fund, since 1999. Many were the same billionaires and multimillionaires who formed the Koch network.
This relatively small group of contributors to DonorsTrust provided 95 percent of the Franklin Center's revenues in 2011.
The big backers behind DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund also put $50 million in the State Policy Networks think tanks from 2008 to 2011—a sum that goes far at that level. Whitney Ball, who ran DonorsTrust, and who was also a director on the State Policy Network's board, explained that during the Obama years, conservative donors saw "a better opportunity to make a difference in the states."
In the autumn of 2013, fallout from the conservative makeover of North Carolina reached far beyond state boundaries. An obscure Republican freshman congressman from one of the newly gerrymandered districts helped set in motion the process that led to the shutdown of the federal government. The episode became an object lesson in the way that the radicalized donor base in the Republican Party was polarizing politics to an extent that would have been almost unthinkable just a few years earlier.
ENTER MARK MEADOWS
Until his election in 2012, Mark Meadows had been a restaurant owner and Sunday-school Bible teacher in North Carolina's westernmost corner. Previously, the rural, mountainous Eleventh Congressional District had been represented by a former NFL quarterback and conservative Democrat named Heath Shuler. But gerrymandering had removed so many Democrats from the district that Shuler retired rather than wasting time and money on what was clearly a hopeless race, all but handing over the seat to Meadows.
After only eight months in office, Meadows made national headlines by sending an open letter to the Republican leaders of the House demanding they use the "power of the purse" to kill the Affordable Care Act.
By then, the law had been upheld by the Supreme Court and affirmed when voters reelected Obama in 2012.
But Meadows argued that Republicans should sabotage it by refusing to appropriate any funds for its implementation. And, if they didn't get their way, they would shut down the government. By fall, Meadows had succeeded in getting more than seventy-nine Republican congressmen to sign on to this plan, forcing Speaker of the House John Boehner, who had opposed the radical measure, to accede to their demands.
Meadows later blamed the media for exaggerating his role, but he was hailed by his local Tea Party group as "our poster boy" and by CNN as the "architect" of the 2013 shutdown. The fanfare grew less positive when the radicals in Congress refused to back down, bringing virtually the entire federal government to a halt for sixteen days in October, leaving the country struggling to function without all but the most vital federal services.
In Meadows's district, day-care centers that were reliant on federal aid reportedly turned distraught families away, and nearby national parks were closed, bringing the tourist trade to a sputtering standstill.
National polls showed public opinion was overwhelmingly against the shutdown.
Even the Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, a conservative, called the renegades "the Suicide Caucus."
But the gerrymandering of 2010 had created what Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker called a "historical oddity." Political extremists now had no incentive to compromise, even with their own party's leadership. To the contrary, the only threats faced by Republican members from the new, ultraconservative districts were primary challenges from even more conservative candidates.
Statistics showed that the eighty members of the so-called Suicide Caucus were a strikingly unrepresentative minority.
They represented only 18 percent of the country's population and just a third of the overall Republican caucus in the House. Gerrymandering had made their districts far less ethnically diverse and further to the right than the country as a whole. They were anomalies, yet because of radicalization of the party's donor base they wielded disproportionate power.
"In previous eras," Lizza noted, "ideologically extreme minorities could be controlled by party leadership. What's new about the current House of Representatives is that party discipline has broken down on the Republican side." Party bosses no longer ruled. Big outside money had failed to buy the 2012 presidential election, but it had nonetheless succeeded in paralyzing the U.S. government.
Meadows of course was not able to engineer the government shutdown by himself. Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, whose 2012 victory had also been fueled by right-wing outside money, orchestrated much of the congressional strategy. A galaxy of conservative nonprofit groups funded by the party's big donors, meanwhile, promoted Meadows's petition while also organizing a state-based campaign of massive resistance to Obamacare so fierce it was likened to the southern states' defiance of the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Like the segregationists, they refused to accept defeat.
Much of America was taken by surprise by such radical action. But conservative activists had been secretly drawing up various sabotage schemes for some time.
The raw anger behind this radicalism was evident in an address given by Michael Greve, a law professor at George Mason University, at an American Enterprise Institute conference in 2010. Greve was the chairman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute—an antiregulatory free-market think tank in Washington funded by the Bradley, Coors, Koch, and Scaife Foundations, along with a roster of giant corporations—and a fervent opponent of Obamacare. "This bastard has to be killed as a matter of political hygiene," he declared.
"I do not care how this is done, whether its dismembered, whether we drive a stake through its heart, whether we tar and feather it and drive it out of town, whether we strangle it," he went on. "I don't care who does it, whether it's some court some place, or the United States Congress. Any which way, any dollar spent on that goal is worth spending, any brief filed toward that end is worth filing, any speech or panel contribution toward that end is of service to the United States."
The radical resistance didn't end after the Supreme Court upheld the law in the spring of 2012 and the public reelected Obama that fall.
Instead the right wing regrouped. As The New York Times later reported, a "loose-knit coalition of conservative activists" began gathering in secret in Washington to plot how else they could disrupt the program. The meetings produced a "blueprint to defund Obamacare" signed by some three dozen conservative groups who called themselves the Conservative Action Project. Their leader was the former attorney general Edwin Meese III, an aging standard-bearer of the conservative movement who held the Ronald Reagan chair at the Heritage Foundation, served on the board of directors at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and was a frequent attendee at the Koch donor summits. One scheme was the initiative that Meadows eventually championed, to hold up congressional funds for the health-care program.
Another scheme was a massive "education" campaign to stir noncompliance with the federal law, both on the part of state officials, like those in North Carolina who refused to set up insurance exchanges, and by citizens. Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the Koch network's "business league," financed much of the fight. It used its youth-oriented front group, Generation Opportunity, to post online advertisements featuring a tasteless cartoon version of Uncle Sam jumping between the legs of a young woman undergoing a gynecological exam to spread fear about the government's interference in private health-care matters. (The Kochs' front group seemed to have no such qualms about government intrusion into reproductive health issues.) The organization also sponsored student-oriented protests at which mock Obamacare insurance cards were burned like draft cards during the Vietnam War. The disinformation campaign spread fear and confusion. News reports reflected a widespread belief, particularly in desperately poor areas, that the government was setting up "death panels."
In the summer and fall of 2013, as Meadows was gathering co-sponsors for his open letter, Americans for Prosperity spent an additional $5.5 million on anti-Obamacare television ads. Asked about this later, Tim Phillips stressed that his group merely wanted to repeal rather than defund the health-care law. But either way, he acknowledged that the Kochs' political organization was not giving up. It planned to spend "tens of millions" of dollars on a "multi-front effort" against the law, he said.
As part of that effort, Americans for Prosperity pressured states to refuse the free, expanded Medicaid coverage included in the program, which meant denying health-care coverage to four million uninsured adults. They also pressured state officials across the country into refusing to set up their own health-care exchanges, as anticipated by the law. Meanwhile, the Cato Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute promoted the theory that it was illegal for the federal government to step in where the states failed to act—an interpretation of the law contradicted by both the Republican and the Democratic legislators who drafted it. This nonetheless formed the basis for the second legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act to reach the Supreme Court, King v. Burwell, which in the summer of 2015 also proved unsuccessful.
(The Kochs and their allies had already played a largely unnoticed role in quietly financing the first legal challenge to the health-care law to reach the Supreme Court. Officially, the lawsuit was brought by the National Federation of Independent Business. But the NFIB was talked into signing up as the plaintiff at a Heritage Foundation event in 2010. Afterward, the Kochs' organization Freedom Partners, DonorsTrust, Karl Roves dark-money group Crossroads GPS, and the Bradley Foundation all helped to fund the NFIB.)
Phillips maintained that the conservative groups were vastly out-spent in the health-care fight by the law's supporters. "Its David versus Goliath," he claimed. But according to Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks spending on television ads, $235 million was spent on ads demonizing the law in the two years following its passage. Only $69 million was spent on ads supporting it.
In the run-up to the government shutdown, the Heritage Foundation played a major role too.
ENTER JIM DeMINT
In 2013, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina had resigned his Senate seat to become president of the organization, and under his leadership it became an increasingly radical and aggressive faction within the Republican Party. As part of the new aggressiveness under DeMint, Heritage created a dark-money 501(c)(4) arm called Heritage Action that could engage directly in partisan warfare, into which the Koch network put $500,000. (John Podesta, the head of the liberal Center for American Progress, came up with this new wrinkle, which he called a way to create "a think tank on steroids." In 2010, Heritage copied it.)
Heritage Action stunned Republican moderates by attacking those who declined to sign Congressman Meadows's open letter to "defund Obamacare."
The internecine warfare was so heated that Heritage Action was kicked out of a Republican congressional caucus in which the think tank had long been welcome. But the pressure tactics were "hugely influential," David Wasserman, a nonpartisan expert for the respected Cook Political Report, told the Times, "When else in our history has a freshman member of Congress from North Carolina been able to round up a gang of 80 that's essentially ground the government to a halt?"
After the 2012 election political leaders in both parties had expressed hope that the partisan battles would subside so that the government could finally tend to the serious economic, social, environmental, and international issues demanding urgent attention from the world's richest and most powerful nation.
Speaker of the House Boehner made it clear to the extremists in his party that it was time to back off. "The president was reelected," he reminded them. "Obamacare is the law of the land."
Yet less than a year later, the country was held hostage in another futile fight over Obamacare.
As congressional leaders met with Obama at the White House on October 2, 2013, in what turned out to be an unsuccessful effort to reach a deal that could avert the disastrous shutdown, Obama pulled the Speaker aside.
"John, what happened?" the president asked.
"I got overrun, that's what happened," he replied.
A bipartisan compromise eventually enabled the government to reopen.
Boehner, in a rare moment of candor for Washington, then singled out the real people responsible for the meltdown. Self-serving, extreme pressure groups, he said, were "misleading their followers" and "pushing our members in places where they don't want to be. And frankly I just think they've lost all credibility."
But if their fortunes were radicalizing American politics from the roots up, the Kochs and Art Pope saw it as progress. I
In North Carolina, Pope had a message for his growing chorus of critics: "I am not going to apologize for making the decisions on how I spend my generation's money."
OHHHH…..DO YOU SEE THE CRAZY MAD MEN FROM PLANET PLUTO WHO ARE WORKING BEHIND THE SENES, BEHIND SECRET MEETING, SO-CALLED "CHARITY" ORGANIZATIONS, AND WHATEVER ELSE IS CAMOUFLAGED, TO BRING IN SILLY, MAD, OUTRAGEOUS IDEAS AND LAWS, THAT "DO AWAY WITH" ANYTHING THAT COULD BE CALLED "GOVERNMENT" - THEY WANT FREEDOM WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, WITHOUT LAWS. THEY WANT FREEDOM TO DO THEIR OWN THING, WHEN THEY WANT, HOW THEY WANT, WHERE THEY WANT.
HERE YOU HAVE BILLIONAIRES SPENDING MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO ERADICATE GOVERNMENT, AND THAT MONEY COULD BE GOING TO THOUSANDS/MILLIONS OF PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD, TO HELP AND SERVE THEM IN DIFFERENT WAYS. THEY MAY THINK THEY ARE THE "RELIGIOUS" ONES OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, BUT THEY HAVE FORGOTTEN THE WORDS IN GALATIANS 2:9,10.
THEY HAVE FORGOTTEN [MAYBE NEVER KNEW - I QUESTION THEIR SPIRITUALITY - MAYBE NEVER HAD ANY TO BEGIN WITH] THAT TRUE FREEDOM COMES FROM WITHIN LAW NOT AWAY WITH LAW.
GOD'S GOVERNMENT IS LAW AND ORDER; IT OVERSEES OUR EVERY WALK IN LIFE. IT ALLOWS US FREEDOM WITHIN LAW!
WHEN JESUS RETURNS HE WILL RULE ALL NATIONS; THE BIBLE WILL BECOME THE CONSTITUTION OF EVERY PEOPLE ON EARTH. LIBERTARIANISM - FREEDOM FROM GOVERNMENT - WILL SIMPLY NOT BE ALLOWED!
GOD SPEED THAT DAY!