By Lisa Graves and David Armiak
With millions of users of the Ashley Madison cheating website now searchable, some may wonder why TV reality figure Josh Duggar’s transactions with the site that "guarantees" extramarital affairs are newsworthy.
It's the hypocrisy, as Duggar acknowledged this week, but there's more to that story.
Koch Hard Cash?
In June 2013, Duggar was hired to work as the Executive Director of "Family Research Council Action," a 501(c)(4) political and lobbying arm of the controversial "Family Research Council" charity, which promotes "family values," particularly in elections and through its related FRC Action PAC.
According to newly reviewed tax filings, it turns out that Family Research Council Action first received funding from a little known entity called "EVANGCHR4 Trust" between June 2013 and May 2014.
That entity--which plainly refers to transferring money to evangelical Christian groups--is legally tied to a mysterious limited liability corporation called "ORRA LLC," which received more than $5 million from the Kochs' Freedom Partners operation, which was secretly launched in 2012 to replace a predecessor entity called the "American Innovation Association" and that has largely superseded the now defunct "TC4 Trust."
A Mini-Tour of the Koch Web of Dark Money in Elections
The shell game of corporations and trusts the Kochs and their operatives have assembled to funnel money from themselves and their billionaire business buddies is designed to obscure the money trail.
That's one way of describing it.
Or, as Matea Gold of the Washington Post put it: "The resources and the breadth of the organization make it singular in American politics: an operation conducted outside the campaign finance system . . . Its funders remain largely unknown; the coalition was carefully constructed with extensive legal barriers to shield its donors."
Its spokesperson described it to her as a "business league" funded by dues from more than 200 business interests plus various funds.
In fact, the Kochs' Freedom Partners managed to inject well over $200 million into the 2012 election cycle of ads and candidate-friendly bus tours--but no one outside of operation insiders even knew Freedom Partners existed until its tax filings for that year were disclosed in late 2013, a year after the election their money was designed to influence.
The Kochs are now threatening to push nearly a billion dollars into this election cycle, with the White House--and with it, climate change measures, economic policy, the Supreme Court, and much more--at stake.
However, the amounts for any of the groups in the web from Charles or David Koch themselves, Koch Industries, or from the network of billionaires they solicit funds for Freedom Partners from are unknown. What is known is that Freedom Partners is their baby and it is run by their operatives to advance their vision for America, one election at a time.
In a nutshell, Freedom Partners provided "general support" to ORRA/EVANGCHR4, which in turn provided "general support" to Family Research Council Action, although Freedom Partners told the IRS its grantees--like ORRA and David Koch's "Americans for Prosperity"--are barred from using the money for "electioneering purposes."
Notably, this week, Americans for Prosperity--one of the Kochs' lead organizations that has spent millions to influence elections--is hosting its annual gathering for Tea Party activists--featuring presidential and other candidates. Its meeting is in Ohio and has been dubbed the "Defending the American Dream" summit, with the theme "freedom is on the march in the heartland."
Josh Duggar will definitely not be there.
Duggar's First Year at Family Research Council Action
Duggar's first year leading the Family Research Council Action was the first year that funding from the money machine put together by the billionaire Koch Brothers made its way to that group.
ORRA LLC gave $375,000 to Family Research Council Action between June 2013 and May 2014.
How much of that helped subsidize Duggar's salary to advance the Family Research Council Action's election agenda?
The amount is unknown because Family Research Council Action reported in 2013 that it had zero employees although the Family Research Council spent more than half a million dollars on employees shared with Duggar's Action operations.
In all, the Family Research Council reported that it paid 17 employees more than $100,000 that year, but it did not identify them all and did not list any amount paid to its most famous staffer.
As the Executive Director of Family Research Council Action, Duggar was responsible for an operation that listed more than $2 million in expenses in its 2013 tax year. (More recent filings are not yet available.)
Quick Recap of Josh Duggar's Fall from TV Grace
Duggar resigned from the helm of Family Research Council Action in May after news reports documented that he molested four young children when he was a teenager, and that his parents nevertheless parlayed their large family into a lucrative reality TV deal with the TLC network as models of "family values" and an evangelical lifestyle.
The Duggar family's show, "19 Kids and Counting," was cancelled by TLC this summer, and the network also announced a plan to air an interview with two of Josh Duggar's sisters who were sexually molested by their oldest brother when they were very young girls.
The Family Research Council denounced Duggar after the Ashley Madison scandal broke, even though it did not use similarly condemnatory language when he resigned after his history of incest and child molestation became known.
There is no indication that the Family Research Council or Freedom Partners/ORRA/EVANGCHR4 knew of Josh Duggar's sexually predatory activities as a teen or his efforts to pursue a guaranteed affair through Ashley Madison while serving as the Executive Director of Family Research Council Action---or while he was using images of his wife and children and his famous family for FRC's Action organization to promote political candidates backed in myriad ways by various Koch-connected entities. (Duggar and his wife had their fourth child after his resignation earlier this year.)
But there is every indication that the Koch funding operation sought to deploy evangelicals and social "conservatives" like Josh Duggar for their preferred outcomes in the electoral arena, even as the Kochs have been on a PR blitz touting their "liberal" libertarian principles.
Can You Really Be "Liberal" and Funnel Millions of Dollars to Anti-Gay/Anti-Choice Groups?
In December 2014, as part of the Kochs' new PR charm offensive, billionaire David Koch sat down with Barbara Walters and claimed to America "I'm a social liberal."
According to the Washington Post's summary of the event:
"'I’m basically a libertarian, and I’m a conservative on economic matters, and I’m a social liberal,' Koch said, who acknowledged that his beliefs about same-sex marriage and abortion conflict with the conservative beliefs held by many of the candidates propped up by the checks cut by him and his brother. 'That’s their problem. I do have those views. What I want these candidates to do is to support a balanced budget. . . .'"
Despite the notion that the Koch version of liberalism means keeping the government out of your bedroom while putting much of government out of business, the reality is that the Kochs' Freedom Partners helped funnel at least $3 million as of May 2014 to groups that actively attack marriage equality and contraception--via ORRA/EVANGCHR4 and not just the $375,000 for Duggar's Family Research Council Action.
This includes at least $700,000 to the "Susan B. Anthony List," which is devoted to electing anti-choice candidates for poltical office.
It includes at least $520,000 to an operation called "Vision America Action," which is led by Rick Scarborough, a former preacher who opposes gay marriage to such a degree that he is ready to be burned to death opposing gay rights, as noted by People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch.
It also includes more than $1.3 million to "CitizenLink," which aids "Focus on the Family" in voter mobilization and candidate training in its strident opposition to gay marriage and legal abortion.
Notably the EVANGCHR4 funding does not include the more than $8 million the Freedom Partners' operations provided to Concerned Women for America, another anti-gay, anti-abortion group aligned in many ways with the Family Research Council.
(The Koch-fueled Concerned Women for America is also actively advancing the Koch/American Legislative Exchange Council economic agenda against increasing the minimum wage and labor rights, in addition to focusing on "restoring the family to its original purpose.")
To most Americans, that would be an awful lot of money to spend helping socially conservative religious operations that are the opposite of "socially liberal" just because they reference economic policies amidst a sea of tirades against marriage equality and women's reproductive freedom of choice.
But that's not all.
There's More: a Koch-like Economic Spiel Designed for Christians
EVANGCHR4 is also closely related to the "Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics," whose leaders include a former top Charles Koch advisor, Dr. Anne Rathbone Bradley, and whose mission is to infuse religious interpretations with Koch-like preaching on prosperity.
Or as described in her special report for the Institute: "There is a lot of talk in today’s world about income inequality and most of that talk casts income inequality in a negative light. Many do not understand the true economic picture or some of the reasons why income inequality exists from a Biblical or economic standpoint. . . .The market rewards contributions to consumer demand through profit. The market punishes those who do not successfully satisfy consumer demand through losses."
And there's more where that came from in the Institute's effort to inculcate Christian Americans with these kind of values.
In his Barbara Walters interview, David Koch said he does not understand why people call him or his brother, Charles, an "evil billionaire."
So What Did Josh Duggar Really Do for Family Research Council Action?
In its annual report, Family Research Council Action touted that with Josh Duggar on board it "used personal meetings, hard-hitting ad campaigns, targeted grassroots, mobilization, petitions and more to advance values-friendly policies."
Specifically, it boasted that with Duggar at the helm, Family Research Council Action hosted its most high-profile "Values Voter Summit" ever, featuring several speakers who are now running for the White House (some of whom posed with Duggar, as with some of the photos in the collage that accompanies this story).
It also bragged about hitting the road with Josh, his parents, sisters, and brothers as part of Family Research Council Action's "Values Bus Tour" in Virginia and other states:
"At stops across the country, the candidates joined FRC Action and the Duggars to rally support for family values. The tour earned 47 television hits, watched by over 1 million viewers."
There is no indication of any specific appearance fee being paid for having the whole Duggar family perform at these events or pose candidates or with buses featuring headshots of the candidates running for office. (Snapshots of events below.)
Josh and his parents also issued press releases backing candidates and criticizing opponents and gave interviews where Josh would say things like "It's not enough to know these values, you have to live them."
One of the buses used by the Family Research Council was even emblazoned with these "values"--
- 1 MAN + 1 WOMAN = MARRIAGE
- RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
- NATIONAL SECURITY
- PROTECTION OF LIFE
- ECONOMIC LIBERTY
The Family Research Council has also stated that its mission is “to develop, disseminate and apply biblical principles to economics, politics and society as a whole in order to make the United States a country where spiritual and economic prosperity flourishes.”
"Prosperity" is the buzzword for a set of the Koch operations nationally and in the states, namely, David Koch's Americans for Prosperity, which has largely replaced the group he launched after losing his bid for the Vice Presidency in 1980 that bore the much clunkier name "Citizens for a Sound Economy."
Examples of Koch Confluence with the Family Research Council
It's not just the hundreds of thousands that were funneled to Duggar's Family Research Council Action via the Kochs' Freedom Partners apparatus.
David Koch's Americans for Prosperity promoted "door-knocking" with Josh Duggar during the election season. Americans for Prosperity state operations also featured a Duggar family photo in promoting its days of action. (Snapshots below.)
The Family Research Council also joined with Americans for Prosperity on letters attacking President Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) and calling for the de-funding of the Export-Import Bank. FRC also featured one of the then-leaders of Americans for Prosperity, Phil Kerpen, on a conference call with Family Research Council activists focused on attacking the ACA, which provides health care protections for people with pre-existing conditions or with no prior health insurance option through the legislation and which the right-wing has labeled "ObamaCare."
The Family Research Council was also listed as "supporting" Americans for Prosperity events.
A Socially Un-Liberal Agenda, with Very Strange Bedfellows
Beyond that, Family Research Council Action--before, during, and after Josh Duggar--has actively opposed marriage equality and promoted what it calls "natural marriage."
The Family Research Council and its Action arm also continued their efforts to make abortion illegal, supporting legal restrictions from the time of conception.
This included supporting litigation to imbue corporations with the human right of religious liberty in the Hobby Lobby case by allowing corporate CEOs to deny employees health insurance coverage for contraceptive devices like intra-uterine devices and birth control pills--another of the many attacks on the provisions of the ACA/ObamaCare the Kochs have fueled.
And, earlier this year, the Family Research Council hosted its annual pro-life conference called “ProLifeCon,” where Josh Duggar was a featured speaker.
So how much are a few references to economic freedom worth when it comes to buttressing electoral candidates committed to rolling back women's rights and the rights of LGBTQ Americans and supporting the Kochs' wish list for a balanced budget amendment--or, in other words, pitting the principle of Americans' rights against a personal desire for a lower tax bill?
At least $375,000 when it came to Josh Duggar's Family Research Council Action operation, plus millions more to similar groups peddling a decidedly un-liberal agenda--despite the gloss David Koch has tried to put on such alliances.
Strange bedfellows, indeed.
Learn more about Lisa's research into never before published documents--unveiled on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now--showing Charles Koch's leadership in the John Birch Society and his fundraising for it at the height of its vilification of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement, here.