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Koch Industries suggests Republican candidates to employees

October 15, 2012|By Morgan Little
  • Koch Industries headquarters in Wichita, Kan.
Koch Industries headquarters in Wichita, Kan. (Bo Rader / Wichita Eagle…)

Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, often under intense scrutiny for their prodigious political contributions and prominent advocacy for various conservative causes, are back in the spotlight over a “voter information packet.”

Distributed to 45,000 employees of Koch Industries-owned Georgia-Pacific, the packet, obtained by the political magazine In These Times, includes lists of candidates supported by the company stretching from Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to state representative hopefuls customized for each of the employee’s home states.

The cover letter, written by Koch Industries President and Chief Operating Officer Dave Robertson, goes further into detail as to why the company felt it necessary to distribute the list of candidates. The handout also includes Oregon’s voter registration deadline and early-voting requirements.

“If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions in borrowed money on costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies, put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses, prevent or delay important new construction projects and excessively hinder free trade, then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation and other ills. This is true regardless of what your political affiliation might be,” Robertson said.

Robertson adds that employees ultimately are faced with a decision that is “yours and yours alone,” though the preference of the company and its political action committee KOCHPAC are clear.

Also included in the packet are two editorials from the Koch brothers, one from David explicitly supporting Romney’s presidential bid, and another from Charles echoing Robertson’s less-than-veiled indictment of President Obama’s first term.

“To end cronyism we must end government’s ability to dole out favors and rig the market. Far too many well-connected businesses are feeding at the federal trough, “ Koch wrote. “By addressing corporate welfare, as well as other forms of welfare, we would add a whole new level of understanding to the notion of entitlement reform.”

Georgia-Pacific denies that the distribution of the information packet was part of an effort to brew up support for Republican candidates and pressure employees to vote for the conservative ticket.

“We make it clear that any decision about which candidates to support belongs solely to our employees based on the factors that are important to them, and this is in no way an attempt to 'intimidate' employees,” Greg Guest, senior director of corporate communications, said in a statement. “Any such claim to the contrary is completely untrue.”

Koch Industries’ PAC has already contributed over $4.5 million during this election cycle, split between nearly $3 million toward other PACs and spending groups, and more than $1.6 million toward individual candidates (the overwhelming majority being Republicans).

But the Koch brothers are perhaps best known for their role in founding one of the nation’s most prominent PACs, Americans for Prosperity, which this year has spent over $30 million against Democratic candidates and nearly $2 million on advocacy communications.

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morgan.little@latimes.com

Twitter: @mlittledc

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