When you fantasize about what you would do if you inherited a vast fortune, what do you think of? Vacation homes? Private jets? How about influencing electoral outcomes in towns of 20,000 that you will never set foot in? Well, if you find that last one odd, clearly you aren’t a Koch brother.
David and Charles Koch have turned their attention to obscure local races, The New York Times reports. Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the intensely conservative advocacy group backed by the polluting pair of billionaires, is throwing money around in minor elections such as Coralville, Iowa’s mayoral and city council contests today.
Thus far, AFP's local advocacy is focused on limiting government spending and taxes generally. The group warns that Coralville, which took on debt to redevelop its riverfront, “is fast becoming Iowa’s version of Detroit.” (If it sounds like a stretch to compare an Iowa town of 19,692 to arguably the most crime-ridden big city in the U.S., it should.) This year, AFP has also successfully defeated tax increases on the ballot in Fremont, Neb., and Gahanna, Ohio.
If AFP and other Koch-backed organizations continue to intervene in small, local campaigns, it could hold back environmental protection. The Kochs and AFP are ardent opponents of environmental regulations. Koch Industries makes much of its money from the refinement and distribution of petroleum, chemicals, fertilizers, and pulp and paper. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting campaign and subsequent reelection were supported by the Kochs. Walker has gutted protections for wetlands and drinking water, and he is obsessively opposed to high-speed rail. AFP in North Carolina has worked closely with Art Pope, who bankrolled the right-wing takeover of the state government there. Pope’s favored candidates have far lower average ratings from the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters than the rest of the legislature, and they have set about trying to repeal all manner of environmental regulations, from renewable energy standards to local zoning codes.