Over the weekend, the Kansas City Star published a lengthy article explaining how Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Kansas, has for years maintained a symbiotic relationship with the right-wing oil plutocrats David and Charles Koch and their conglomerate Koch Industries. Alongside Brownback in the Senate, Koch Industries, which is based in Wichita, has counted outgoing Wichita Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) as one of its closest allies in the House of Representatives.
Former Rep. Dan Glickman (D-KS), who was defeated by Tiahrt in 1994, said that Koch Industries funneled resources — including its employees and funds — to oppose him. Now, with an open seat in Koch Industries’ backyard, the massive “Kochtopus” network of Koch money and front groups is working to elect a new right-wing Republican to fill the seat: Mike Pompeo. Pompeo isn’t just another Wall Street-friendly, pro-polluter GOP radical (his initial response to the BP oil disaster was to say that he “fervently” hoped the government wouldn’t “overreact”), he is essentially a subsidiary of the Koch brothers’ business empire:
– Pompeo developed much of his wealth from a firm he founded, Thayer Aerospace, which he ran with investment funds from Koch Industries. According to a December 11, 1998 article in the Wichita Business Journal, “[Pompeo's] company’s capital base is drawn in part from Wichita’s Koch Venture Capital, a division of Koch Industries.” Pompeo sold Thayer in 2006.
– Pompeo still relies on Koch for his private wealth. After the sale of Thayer, Pompeo became the President of Sentry International, a business specializing in the manufacture and sale of equipment used in oilfields. Sentry International is a partner to Koch Industries through its Brazilian distributor, GTF Representacoes & Consultoria.
– Pompeo won his Republican primary largely with the support of Koch Industries’ PAC, which gave him one of his largest endorsements in March. Despite the fact that Koch Industries is the recipient of tens of millions in federal contracts, Pompeo boasted about the endorsement: “The employees of the Koch Companies have jobs here in the Wichita because of their own hard work and creativity, not because a federal agency deemed it to be so.”
– With $31,400 in contributions from KOCHPAC, Koch Industries is by far the greatest contributor to Pompeo’s campaign. The second largest contributor, the law firm Bartlit Beck LLP, gave $7,200 to the campaign. As ThinkProgress first uncovered, Koch Industries also works with Democracy Data & Communications, a firm specializing in helping major corporations to activate their employees politically.
– Pompeo has leaned on Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the right-wing Tea Party group founded and financed by David Koch. On August 28, 2009, Pompeo spoke at a large Tea Party rally organized by AFP, and AFP has used its extensive Kansas-based staff to mobilize dozens of other right-wing events in and around the 4th Congressional District. In addition to the rallies and Tea Party events, AFP has touted Pompeo for signing onto its pledge to ignore climate change. The Kansas chapter of AFP was previously run by Alan Cobb, who once served as a chief lobbyist for Koch Industries. Cobb is now coordinating state efforts nationwide for AFP.
– According to his campaign biography, Pompeo’s only substantive political experience appears to be his stint as a trustee of the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy, a Koch-organized front formerly known as the Kansas Policy Institute. The Flint Hills Center for Public Policy is staffed primarily with Koch-funded operatives and economists, like Art Hall. Until recently, George Pearson — a libertarian activist who began working for the Koch brothers in the early seventies — chaired the board of the Center. In an interview with the Wichita Eagle, Pompeo said he supports Social Security privatization and explained that his ideas for health reform came from Koch’s Flint Hills Center.
The Koch brothers have historically leaned on their home state Republican members of Congress for lobbying assistance. For instance, Business Week reported on how Koch Industries used then-Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) to try to suppress an investigation into Koch Industries’ massive theft of oil from Indian reservations. In another case, Koch Industries faced a $55 million civil suit for causing more than 300 oil spills over a five-year period. Again, Dole, a major recipient of Koch money and support, sponsored a bill that would allow Koch to easily defend itself from the oil spill charges. Investigative reporter Robert Parry found that David Koch “also helped Dole achieve majority leader status through his checkbook, contributed mightily to a Dole foundation and even turned his Gatsbyish estate in Southampton, New York, into the site for celebrating Dole’s 72nd birthday in July 1995, raising $150,000 for his campaign.”
While much attention has been paid to Koch’s role in funding the organizers of the Tea Party movement and its supporting institutions, it should be noted that the right-wing conglomerate is also sponsoring its own candidate for election this November.