To the Koch brothers, “free markets” depend on smaller and therefore weaker government. And you’d think an outfit like theirs would focus on the biggest government, and spend its time spending vast amounts of money designed to shrink the federal government.
And they do, but they don’t stop there. The Kochs direct their attack at government in all its forms. From the Michigan House of Representatives, most notably by buying everything from airtime to a rental tent on the Capitol lawn to support the sudden push to enact Right to Work in 2012, to even school elections, including a recent one in Grand Rapids.
Before the November 3, 2015 election, the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity spent $23,271.23 to defeat a Grand Rapids school bond proposal designed to renovate and replace aging buildings, upgrade technology and improve the security of the schools. This included a usual AFP tactic: dishonest robo calls.
The bond went through anyway, thanks to a local grassroots campaign. But this is not an isolated case.
In Jefferson County Colorado, a sleepy, low-turnout school board election in 2013 saw three free-market conservatives elected with to the delight of that state’s right wing think tank, The Independence Institute. When the new board decided to refuse to bargain with the unions, offer vouchers and rewrite a US history course to make it more “patriotic,” the parents awoke and began work to recall the board.
In perhaps the highest spending school board election in history (AFP spent more than $250,000, and the Independence Institute’s 501(c)(4) political arm, Colorado Independent Action, spent at least $450,000), the new board members were recalled on November 3rd.
At one point, the school board president facing recall filed an ethics complaint against himself.
This battle is the subject of “Education, Inc.” a film produced by a Colorado parent who decided their story needed national attention.
Education, Inc. examines the free-market and for-profit interests that have been quietly and systematically privatizing America’s public education system under the banner of “school choice.”
This new target joins other Koch strategies designed to rewrite public policy in their corporation-centered vision. This includes its growing campaign to buy university academic programs. In 2013, this spending reached $19.3 million and included 210 colleges.
The Kochs have also effectively created a third, corporate political party, Freedom Partners, which intends to outspend the Democratic and Republican parties by the end of the current election cycle.
But then even the Kochs aren’t willing to take on everyone.