Three Misleading Statements You May Hear in the Koch Brothers' 'Morning Joe' Interview

hosts Scarborough and Brzezinski have an important opportunity to push the Koch brothers on statements that gloss over or minimize their enormous and harmful role in our political system. I hope they take it.
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Tomorrow morning, MSNBC will air an interview between Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough and billionaire oil barons Charles and David Koch. Airing a year out from Election Day 2016, it’s likely that the conversation with the conservative donors, whose secretive network of organizations plans to spend nearly $900 million leading up to the 2016 elections, will touch on the current political landscape and their role in it.

Based on past interviews with Charles Koch, here are the kinds of things you might hear about their extensive political spending.

“What I give isn’t dark. What I give politically, that’s all reported.” Charles Koch said this to CBS correspondent Anthony Mason earlier this month when asked about the influx of secret money in our political system. As others, including the Center for Media and Democracy, have noted, this answer is beyond misleading. While Koch is required by law to disclose his personal contributions to candidates, parties, and PACs, donations from Koch and Koch Industries to the network of nonprofit organizations pouring millions into politics, like Americans for Prosperity, is kept hidden from the public and press. Claiming that the Kochs’ political spending “isn’t dark” is untrue and ignores the massive amount of secret money flowing into our elections from the Kochs themselves, from Koch Industries, and from others in the Koch-led network.

Those advocating for disclosure of political spending are “pushing for that because they want to intimidate people.” This is what Koch told Fox Host Megyn Kelly in defense of some political donors’ wish to keep their contributions secret. In reality, advocates pushing for increased disclosure want to see a transparent democracy where Americans can know who is spending millions to support our elected officials. This transparency lets the public know who politicians will be indebted to after they are elected. The desire of billionaires and corporations to keep their spending hidden shouldn’t take precedence over the health of our democracy and Americans’ right to know who’s trying to buy influence.

Rather than being a special interest, our “interest is... what will help people improve their lives.” Koch said this in the same CBS interview with Anthony Mason, after arguing that his aim is actually to “fight against special interests.” But evidence shows that the Kochs benefit significantly from their “investments” in policies and politicians that regulate their polluting businesses more lightly or tax their profits less. While an anti-government and anti-regulation agenda hurts real people who rely on government services, in many ways it helps the corporate elite like the Koch brothers to keep, and expand, the power they have.

Even if they weren’t benefiting from it, the vision of one man and his billionaire friends about what will help people’s lives -- a vision rooted in deeply anti-government beliefs -- shouldn’t dictate it for the whole country. That’s the point of a functioning democracy: competing representatives consider competing policy ideas about how to make our cities, states, and country better. When a conservative billionaire whose network functions on the same level financially as the Republican and Democratic parties can use extraordinary and unrivaled political influence to push his narrow vision, our democracy isn’t working like it should.

What’s more, the wealthy have starkly different policy priorities than ordinary Americans, and research has shown that when those preferences don’t line up, it’s the priorities of the rich that get addressed. With the Koch network putting millions and millions of dollars behind their political agenda, it’s not hard to see why.

Ordinary Americans are tired of their voices, ideas and interests being overwhelmed by those of a handful of wealthy donors. Morning Joe hosts Scarborough and Brzezinski have an important opportunity to push the Koch brothers on statements that gloss over or minimize their enormous and harmful role in our political system. I hope they take it.

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