Do the Kock Have a Spy Network ?
Nine years ago, when the New Yorker published my article “clandestine operations,” about the aspiring and secret political group under cover of billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, the Koch brothers complained forcefully about the title of the story, protesting that there was nothing at all hidden about their political activities. As a result, the two men engaged in a remarkable public relations strategy to prove their transparency and openness. But today political reporter Kenneth Vogel has gone out with a scoop blockbuster saying that the brothers, whose company has promised to invest an exceptional eight hundred and eighty-nine million U.S. dollars in the electoral sequence 2016, are more responsible for the secret procedures that even their own associates have acknowledged.
After reviewing the latest revelations required by law, Vogel discovered a new front-line group within the growing network of affiliated non—profit organizations of the Kochs-a high-tech surveillance and intelligence-gathering unit dedicated to sneaking after liberal and Democratic groups that Politico calls “the Koch intelligence agency.”The espionage operation would consist of twenty-five employees, one of whom previously worked as an analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency and follows opponents by retrieving high-tech geodata from their social media posts.
According to Vogel, the effort is so secret that very few people know it, even in the sprawling political operation of the Kochs. Housed with other Koch non-profit organizations in a bland office building in Arlington, Virginia, the group is managed by a limited liability company called American Strategies Group, LLC. The company is part of the main political group of Kochs: an ultra-conservative donor group called the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, which describes itself as a “Business league” and claims that it can legally hide the identity of its members.
While it is great news that the Kochs are now conducting their own private intelligence gathering operation to track down political opponents, including trade unions, environmental groups, and large liberal donor groups, it is actually not surprising given their history.
In Daniel Schulman’s biography of the Kochs, ” Sons of Wichita”, for example, he describes how Angela O’connell, the chief federal prosecutor in a huge environmental pollution case brought against Koch Industries in 1995, “began to suspect that Koch had placed her under surveillance. ‘I thought my garbage was out of my house for days, ” she remembers. “ I was upset enough at the time to report what I thought was a wiretap and what I thought was the waste taken—a number of incidents, ” Schulman writes that the Department of Justice was never able to prove that Koch had targeted one of her prosecutors, but for the first time in her career, O’connell operated as if everything she said and did were being monitored.”
Asked to comment, Freedom Partners spokesman James Davis described the news accounts comparing the organization’s operation to espionage as ” inaccurate.”Like most other organizations, Freedom Partners, has a research department that compares our efforts to those of other organizations.”
For decades, there have been reports suggesting that Charles and David Koch and Koch Industries employed private investigators to gather information inside their perceived enemies, including their own brother, Bill Koch, with whom they fought for control of the family business and fortune. My next book, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,” which will be released in January, relies on the previous statement on this subject, including my 2010 New Yorker piece. In fact, over and over again, those who defied Kochs and Koch Industries—whether they were federal public servants, private citizens or members of the press—suspected that they were under surveillance.
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Vogel, the political reporter who unveiled today’s story, has had his own problems with the Koch hyper-vigilance. In his 2014 book, “a lot of money: $ 2.5 billion, a suspicious vehicle, and a pimp-on the path of Ultra-rich embezzlement of American politics,” he tells a strange episode. After Vogel told a Koch representative where he was staying while covering one of the billionaires ‘ semi-annual secret fund-raiser events, he received a bizarre phone call, although no one other than his wife knew the name of the hotel. Scared, he decided to leave early, but on his way to the airport, the car rental agency informed him that someone had reported that the car he was driving was “suspicious or abandoned.””When he asked Koch Industries if they were behind this, they assured him that they were not. “It’s the Koch style thing, ” he writes. They always have ” that you ask.”