Activists to Protest as Billionaires’ Caucus Plans Political Agenda

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  • Dale Eisman

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As a billionaires’ caucus of conservative business executives, pundits, and campaign operatives huddles at a California resort this weekend to plot their political strategies, Common Cause will host an open-to-the-public forum nearby to explore how everyday Americans can reclaim control of our democracy.

“Uncloaking the Kochs: The Billionaires’ Caucus and its Threat to our Democracy,” a panel discussion, will feature Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary and now chairman of Common Case’s National Governing Board; Van Jones, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress; Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California-Irvine; Lee Fang, an investigative journalist at the Center for American Progress; and DeAnn McEwen, co-President of the California Nurses Association.

At a mid-day news conference today in Washington, panelists outlined plans for the forum on Sunday, Jan. 30, and a rally that will follow it outside the Rancho Las Palmas resort in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

The forum will focus on strategies for countering last year’s Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, including efforts to force full disclosure of corporate political spending. The 5-4 ruling allowed corporations, trade groups and unions to dump about $300 million into the 2010 elections, more than $130 million of it from undisclosed donors.

Inside the resort, guests of industrialists Charles and David Koch and the likely sources of much of that money, will be meeting in private and working on a much different agenda.

“Americans are suffering. They are worried about their future, and those worries are the direct result of the actions and influence of the select special interests who will gather in Rancho Mirage this weekend,” said Reich today. “An elite few like the Koch brothers and the attendees of this conference have used their unlimited wealth to take tighter control of all branches of our government. They have played a role on the fall of our economy, prevention of affordable health care, degradation of our environment. None of it is in the interest of the American public.”

“Some companies simply pay lobbyists to gain influence. But Koch Industries and its allies have taken a holistic approach of transforming entire political systems and institutions into reflections of their self interest. The story of the Koch brothers is crucial to understand the corporate threat to our democracy,” said Fang.

An investigative journalist for ThinkProgress, Fang was one of the first reporters to detail the corporate underpinnings of the Tea Party. He has written extensively about the Koch brothers and is preparing a book about the right-wing political activism in the Obama era for publication later this year.

Jones highlighted the Koch’s long opposition to environmental protection. “They are actively standing in the way of our nation transitioning to a 21st century economy focused on clean energy and job creation,” he said. He noted that Charles Koch provided $1 million in support of California’s Proposition 23, a ballot initiative which would have eliminated California’s attempt to limit carbon emissions and embrace a clean economy. “Nationally, their influence is more profound,” he said. “They are the number one funders of climate change deniers. Their influence has global impact.”

McEwen and the Nurses Association have been key organizers of a rally that will follow the “Uncloaking” forum. “As nurses, we are dedicated to the values of caring and compassion,” she said today. “Hiding behind astroturf front groups and shadowy financing of campaigns, the Koch brothers and their allies have shown a heartless contempt for these values on every level. We believe the American people deserve to know who is causing their pain.”

“Our goal here for the panel Sunday is to talk about the Billionaires Caucus agenda, its human impact and what can be done to restore the voices of ordinary Americans to the our political process,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “Our government is supposed to be of, by and for the people, but it has been hijacked by self-interested billionaires. We must take it back.”

WHAT: “Uncloaking the Kochs” forum

WHEN: 11 a.m. PST (2 p.m. Eastern)

WHERE: Hilton Garden Inn, Coachella Meeting Room; 71700 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270

ONLINE: Event will be livestreamed. To sign up for a link to the feed, please visit