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Have You Heard of the Freedom Partners?

J. Mijin Cha

Have you heard of the Freedom Partners? According to a Politico investigation, the group raised and spent $250 million in 2012 to shape political and policy debates. According to IRS filings, the group has 200 donors, each of whom paid at least $100,000 in annual dues. And while its head, Marc Short, claims that, “our members are proud to be part of [the organization],” they refuse to be publicly identified. So, proud to be a part of it, as long as you don’t know who I am?

One of the main targets of Freedom Partners is Obamacare with $115 million given to the Center to Protect Patient Rights, a group that strongly opposes Obamacare, and $15.7 million to 60 Plus Association, a seniors group that also opposes Obamacare. As a side note, given that most people 65 and older qualify for Medicare—a single-payer health care program—I find 60 Plus Association’s opposition to efforts to improve our health care system particularly lame.

Freedom Partners also gives generously to Americans for Prosperity, American Future Fund, and Themis Trust, which is a Koch-based voter database. In fact, even though Short tries to downplay the role the Koch brothers play, it’s clear the Koch footprint is all over Freedom Partners and its activities. Besides Short, the directors of Freedom Partners include Richard Find, Kevin Gentry, Nestor Weigand, and Wayne Gable.

The New Republic takes a closer look at these men and sure enough, the Koch footprint is everywhere. Richard Fink helped found a number of political groups and think tanks the Kochs have funded over the years. Nestor Weigand is a long-time friend of Charles Koch. Wayne Gable served as director of Koch Industries’ federal affairs operation and president of two of the brother’s foundation, the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Kevin Gentry is a leader of the Koch’s corporate lobbying arm and coordinates the semi-regular fundraising and strategy conference.

The vast web of influence the Koch brothers created is often called the Kochtepus. But, given the destructive and toxic nature of their political spending, I see the Koch brothers as more of an airborne disease—spreading quickly and contaminating everything they touch.