Entries in David Koch (4)


Billionaire Donors Hide Behind Velvet Curtain at Republican Convention

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When oil and chemical baron David Koch took his seat among the throngs of Republican grassroots activists on the convention floor in Tampa this week, he was making a rare appearance on behalf of the small group of wealthy donors who are bankrolling a good portion of Mitt Romney's bid for president.

For the past several days in Tampa, Koch has been the exception. Most of the deep-pocketed donors -- the ones fundraising consultants call "the whales" -- have spent the convention largely out of sight.

Unlike Koch, they have watched the parade of speakers at the convention podium from high above, in a vast luxury skybox on the fourth and fifth levels of the Tampa Times Forum. Their box was cordoned off by ropes and blocked from public view by a velvet curtain.

The lofty perch, with its leather sofas, flowing liquor, and platters of food, offers a potent symbol of the enhanced role in the 2012 campaign for the wealthiest donors, according to Charles Lewis, an academic and campaign watchdog who has monitored the role of money in politics for years.

"It's where we are in American politics," Lewis said. "We have billionaires giving unprecedented sums and we have levels of secrecy never seen in the contemporary historic era."

Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor who has been tracking money in the 2012 elections, said he has calculated that 47 individual Americans have given 42 percent of the money in this year's presidential campaign. "We have never had an election, in the last hundred years, that has had this type of money," he said.

That phenomenon has been most evident with a group of $1 million supporters of the Romney campaign called the "Victory Council." While the Romney campaign has kept the identities of his top-level fundraising team a secret, ABC News has been able to track their movements throughout the convention, and has slowly begun to identify them.

This week, the "Victory Council" has gathered in private receptions at museums and in hotel suites during the day, and attended the convention in a private suite at night. Thursday, they received a morning political briefing from Romney's senior staff, and then were whisked in SUVs to a private luncheon with Romney at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club.

Reporters were held well back from the scene, as the candidate's motorcade pulled in shortly after 11 a.m. Among those spotted by ABC News was Wilbur Ross, a Palm Beach billionaire who oversees the private equity firm W.L. Ross and Co. The Center for Responsive Politics reported that Ross has given $470,000 in contributions in his time as a political donor.

On Wednesday, the group gathered aboard a 150-foot yacht moored at St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. Those attending included Ron Weiser, the campaign's national finance chairman and the former ambassador to Slovakia under President George W. Bush, Virginia developer Bob Pence, independent oil and gas producer Charles Moncrief, Georgia-based investment advisor Greg Schwartz, Sr. and Richard W. Boyce, a former Bain colleague of Romney's.

Many of the supporters covered their name tags as they exited the event. One of them, when asked his name, began to trot to his waiting SUV.

"Can't say your name?" he was asked by ABC News.

"No. Gotta run -- thank you," he said.

Mel Sembler, a major fundraiser who was an ambassador during both the George H.W. and George W. Bush administrations, took just a moment to answer questions. Asked how much he had agreed to raise for the campaign, he replied, "We're going to raise whatever's needed."

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell attended the yacht party on Romney's behalf. After visiting with the donors, McDonnell stopped to speak with ABC News about the event. He said he had no problem with the fundraising efforts, because they were consistent with the campaign finance laws today.

"Four years ago Barack Obama raised twice as much as the Republicans and this year I think it's going to be an even finance approach to this thing," McDonnell said. "Both sides are going to have equal money to get the message out."

The latest numbers show Romney outpacing Obama in fundraising. The joint fund-raising committee for Romney reported $185.9 million in cash on hand at the end of July, compared to $123.7 million for Obama's joint committee.

McDonnell said that he would favor efforts to require donors to identify themselves, even if they are not required to do so in some circumstances today. "I'd like to see more sunshine on both sides …I think that's fair," he said.

While Koch had the most public presence of the major supporters in Tampa, he has been equally restrained when approached for an interview. Outside a well known Tampa steakhouse, Koch was asked about his role in raising money for the campaign. He hustled to his car silently, a bodyguard jostling the ABC News camera crew that followed.

The billionaire delegate from New York was equally restrained with his remarks around reporters on the convention floor. Earlier this year, Huffington Post reported that he told a conservative gathering in California that he would commit $10 million to seeing President Obama defeated.

How much he has actually given, though, may never be known. Much of his political spending appears to be routed through nonprofit groups, most notably the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, that are not required to disclose their funders.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Campaign, Billionaire Koch Brothers Spar Publicly

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- President Obama’s re-election team is engaging conservative oil magnates Charles and David Koch in a public spat they hope will rouse the Democratic base and draw donations to their campaign.

The back-and-forth began Friday when, in a fundraising email to supporters, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina accused the billionaire brothers of “jacking up prices at the pump” and bankrolling “Tea Party extremism.”

Messina also said the Kochs have reportedly pledged $200 million, through the outside nonprofit group Americans for Prosperity, to help defeat Obama in November.

“Let’s see how many of us can chip in $2 or more to the Two-Term Fund,” he wrote.

The message drew a sharp response from Koch Companies spokesman Philip Ellender. In a public letter to Messina he denied, among other things, the Kochs were trying to manipulate gas prices.

“Americans for Prosperity is not simply ‘funded by the Koch brothers,’ as you state -- rather it has tens of thousands of members and contributors from across the country and from all walks of life,” Ellender wrote.

“It is an abuse of the President’s position and does a disservice to our nation for the President and his campaign to criticize private citizens simply for the act of engaging in their constitutional right of free speech about important matters of public policy,” Ellender said.

The group, which promotes lower taxes and fewer regulations for business, is registered as a nonprofit with the IRS to engage in issue advocacy. It does not have to disclose the identities or amounts of its donors, who can give unlimited sums.

But while Americans for Prosperity cannot engage in overt electioneering, it has unleashed a torrent of attacks on Obama over the past six months.  The group ran a $6 million ad campaign against the president leading up to the State of the Union, following a $2.4 million campaign last fall that focused on the Solyndra solar-power controversy.

Messina Wednesday challenged Ellender’s defense of Americans for Prosperity, calling it a “cynical stretch” given its undisclosed sources of funding and negative ads.

“There is no campaign in the country that believes more in the active participation of Americans in the electoral process than this one,” Messina wrote in a letter to Koch, first obtained by the Washington Post.

“When you attempt to drown out their voices through unlimited, secret contributions to pursue a special interest agenda that conflicts with what’s best for our nation, you must expect some scrutiny of your actions.”

The Obama campaign has raised more than $118 million for the 2012 election, with nearly half coming from individuals giving in aggregate $200 or less, according to the Campaign Finance Institute.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Campaign Raising Cash Off Koch’s ‘Gutter Politics’

Comstock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- The Obama campaign Wednesday said that its supporters should be offended by comments made by conservative billionaire Charles Koch and that his “smears” should “motivate” them to donate to the president’s campaign.

At a private function in June, Koch, who along with his brother David has given millions of dollars to conservative and libertarian causes, used the words of Saddam Hussein to compare the 2012 election to the Iraq War, calling it “the mother of all wars.”

“If that offends you, it absolutely should,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina wrote in an email to supporters Wednesday. “But it should also motivate you, because you are the only thing that can stop them.”

“The Koch brothers and the front groups they fund have decided on the tone they want the election to take in the coming months -- and we should expect these kinds of smears to only get worse. But we still have a say about the kind of race we want to run and the kind of political climate we want to create. Take a stand now to support it,” Messina wrote, asking supporters to make a donation of $15 or more.

While the Obama campaign questions the tone set by Koch’s “gutter politics,” the Obama administration has come under fire in recent days for refusing to comment about the remarks of Teamster Union Leader James Hoffa, who called Tea Partyers "sons of bitches” when he spoke at a Labor Day event about 20 minutes before President Obama on Monday.

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to acknowledge that Hoffa’s comments were contrary to the president’s call for increased civility in Washington.

“I understand that there is a ritual in Washington that, you know, somebody says something and you link the associations and then everybody who has an association with him or her...has to avow or disavow it. The president wasn’t there -- I mean, he wasn’t on the stage.  He didn’t speak for another 20 minutes.  He didn’t hear it,” Carney said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'I Don't Hide': Wisconsin Gov. Defends Comments on Prank Phone Call

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MADISON, Wisc.) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ON Wednesday defended comments he made to an alt-news reporter posing as billionaire conservative activist David Koch on a prank phone call, arguing that he never said anything inappropriate and wasn't trying to trick Democrats.

"The bottom line is that the things I've said are things I've said publicly all along," Walker said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. "I'm not going to allow one prank phone call to be a disruption from the reality."

In the 20-minute phone conversation, first posted online at, Walker revealed his strategy for breaking Democratic and union opposition to his budget.

Even as he called on outside groups -- specifically Washington lawmakers -- to keep out of the Wisconsin debate, Walker argued that it wasn't inappropriate for him to take a phone call from a third party not involved in the debate.

"It's not [a] campaign. What we're talking about right now, we're free to discuss with people all across the state who are interested in this issue," he said.

"I don't hide in my office, I don't hide in another state. I'm here doing my job pointing out the facts," he added, referring to Democrats who went to Illinois to prevent the vote from taking place.

The governor's critics say the immediate access granted to the Koch pretender and the length of their conversation illustrates a damning tie between outside influences and what they see as an orchestrated effort to bust unions.

Meanwhile, a conservative group founded by the real David Koch, Americans for Prosperity, announced it would buy more than $300,000 in television advertising to support the governor in his standoff with state government workers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio