THE KOCHS WERE WATCHING: Their intelligence agency kept close tabs on liberals in the race between Mark Pryor and Tom Cotton. CNN

Politico reports on an intelligence-gathering operation of the Koch billionaires, hard at taking over the U.S. political system from the courthouse to the White House with paid operatives.

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 tentacles of the organization reached into Arkansas in the U.S. Senate race in which Koch favorite Tom Cotton ousted incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor. 


The Koch operation reportedly distributes regular intelligence briefings to key people.

One such briefing sent in the weeks before the 2014 midterm elections and obtained by POLITICO contained highly detailed race-by-race breakdowns of the activities of liberal campaigns and their big-money supporters ― as well as conservative big-money groups ostensibly allied with the Kochs. It’s the sort of granular briefing that could be used to help the Koch network decide the most impactful ways to direct its own election spending. And it bears the hallmarks of research that combines close tracking of public information with original analysis of source documents, and possibly a dash of on-the-ground intel like that which could be gleaned by having an operative attend campaign events.

The briefing notes that in Arkansas, where there was a hotly contested Senate race between Koch network favorite Tom Cotton and Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, Democrats were holding a statewide get-out-the-vote training in Little Rock, as well as a college organizing conference, while an immigrant rights group was “phone banking regularly with the intent of registering voters.” But the briefing also contains big-picture analysis flagging that union-affiliate Working America “has 400 paid canvassers knocking on 5,000 doors daily across 13 states through Election Day, especially focusing on Senate races in AK, IA, KY, MI, and NC. NRSC Vice Chair for Finance Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said the NRSC isn’t planning to devote any more significant resources to shore up key candidates in the red states of Kansas, Kentucky and Georgia.”

Lots more in the article on the secrecy of the effort, fear of moles and the obsession of the political takeover campaign. It’s a bigger deal than just inside political baseball. Says Politico:


The increasingly robust Koch network has seized on significant tactical advantages afforded to big-money independent organizations ― but not party committees ― in modern politics. Unlike party committees, which are mostly subject to five-figure donation limits, donor disclosure and all manner of campaign finance laws and party rules, the Koch network of non-profit groups and for-profit companies can accept unlimited cash without disclosing donors and faces few spending restrictions.

The competitive intelligence effort, reported here for the first time, also hints at the audaciousness of the Koch network’s mission. 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.

And if, in Arkansas, that realigtnment comes along with a heavy dose of right-wing evangelical oppression on social issues, well that’s the price of making the Kochs and people like them richer.