Editorial by Brian Schweitzer
Ever since I wrote the opinion piece on the Koch brothers and Americans for Prosperity that recently appeared in several Montana newspapers (for example, the February 19 Billings Gazette:Brian Switzer on the Koch Brothers in Montana , I’ve heard from a lot of friends and acquaintances in Montana and other states. Folks were as astonished as I was at the amount of government subsidies the Koch brothers receive from one ranch in one state while they hired 11 staffers to keep healthcare from people in Montana. And others have pointed out that the former state director of AFP, former state Senator Joe Balyeat, happily received generous government-paid healthcare.
I do need to correct one error in my opinion piece. My calculations on the state and federal grazing subsidies enjoyed by the Koch brothers in Montana were wrong. They were too low. I based the number of cattle on the assumption that during the driest year since 1960, the Koch ranch would have reduced cattle numbers down that year. I gave them the extreme benefit of the doubt, but they actually have 6,500 head, not 2,000 head.
That means the Koch brothers government subsidies, on just one ranch in one state, are actually 225% greater than I had calculated, meaning the government aid to run the Koch ranch in Montana is not 12.5 million bucks, but actually $28 million. My bad.
These government subsidies help pay for the AFP’s “political attack on the moderate wing of House Republicans,” – an attack reported on by Troy Carter of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle (Joe Carter on the Welfare Queens Known as the Koch Brothers in Montana). Carter says Americans for Prosperity is spending thousands of dollars on radio and TV ads to attack Republican legislators like Representatives “Geraldine Custer of Forsyth, Doc Moore of Missoula, Christy Clark of Choteau, Frank Garner of Kalispell, Jeff Wellborn of Dillon and Tom Berry of Roundup.”
These are good and honest legislators – some of whom I’ve disagreed with quite a bit in the past – but they are independent Montanans who are being pressured by one of the wealthiest families in the world to deny healthcare to Montanans.
This is the same AFP the Koch brothers announced will spend a “staggering” $889 million on the 2016 elections (National Public Radio, Koch Brothers to Spend More Than a Billion Dollars on 2016 Presidential Election) – more than any political party has ever spent during a presidential election year. This secretive fortune will be spent to ensure that you and I pay for the Koch brothers’ government subsidies while the elderly, students, poor people and working families get little-to-squat. In essence, according to a political scientist quoted in the NPR report linked above, the Koch brothers have bought and paid for a new political party run by the ultra-wealthy for the ultra-wealthy.
When the Koch brothers attacked labor unions, some people stood back because they weren’t in a union. When they attacked the poor, some looked the other way because they were middle class. When they attacked the Democrats, some stood aside because they weren’t a Democrat. Now, they are even attacking Republicans in Montana. Montana, let’s stand together and send the Kochs’ money and message back to Kansas, where they belong!