The Koch brothers have a surveillance program and staff—to spy on
The Koch brothers are really going to have to kick their public relations efforts into high gear now to make the latest revelation about their nefarious efforts to acquire the U.S. system of governance in a hostile takeover look like politics as usual. They have a "secretive operation that conducts surveillance and intelligence-gathering on its liberal opponents, viewing it as a key strategic tool in its efforts to reshape American public life." No, it's not April Fool's Day. They're really doing this.
The operation, which is little-known even within the Koch network, gathers what Koch insiders refer to as "competitive intelligence" that is used to try to thwart liberal groups and activists, and to identify potential threats to the expansive network.
The competitive intelligence team has a staff of 25, including one former CIA analyst, and operates from one of the non-descript Koch network offices clustered near the Courthouse metro stop in suburban Arlington, Va. It has provided network officials with documents detailing confidential voter-mobilization plans by major Democrat-aligned groups. It also sends regular "intelligence briefing" emails tracking the canvassing, phone-banking and voter-registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups and their allies, according to documents reviewed by POLITICO and interviews with a half-dozen sources with knowledge of the group.
The competitive intelligence team has gathered on-the-ground intelligence from liberal groups' canvassing events in an effort to assess the technology and techniques of field efforts to boost Democrats, according to the sources. And they say the team utilizes high-tech tactics to track the movements of liberal organizers, including culling geo-data embedded in their social media posts.
Is this all just kind of creepy? No. It's extremely creepy.
"While the Republican Party focuses on winning elections, the Kochs want to realign American politics, government and society around free enterprise philosophies that they hope to spread more broadly." They want to remake American society in their own image. Which, by the way, would be pretty fucking profitable for them. So it's really nothing for them to drop several hundreds of millions to do so.
But they're not just spending hundreds of millions to acquire elected officials—they're doing it to counter the spending of their "enemies," the big donors backing liberals. To do that effectively, according to what Politico's Ken Vogel is reporting, they have to track their activities. And those of their allies: "public sector unions and academic and media elites." The main focus appears to be the Democracy Alliance, a "a club of wealthy liberal donors and influential operatives" that has steered about $500 million to candidates and causes in the past 10 years. That would be in contrast to the $889 million the Kochs plan to aggregate and spend in 2016, alone.
Now, you might say, that's sort of fair because the Kochs have been a target of the left and there are real and well-funded efforts to expose their activities. On the other hand, there isn't a formal surveillance operation complete with a former CIA-operative on the job. It's a bunch of people looking at, you know, public records. Whereas the Koch surveillance team "tracks people deemed suspicious outside the offices of Koch network groups, circulating be-on-the-lookout photos to internal network email lists, while keeping an eye on the network's own ranks for possible leakers or disloyal employees."
Here's one thing the Kochs are inadvertently doing to actually help American democracy: They're really making the case for getting big money out of our politics.