During the 2012 election cycle, the Koch brothers oversaw a secret group that handed out a quarter of a billion dollars in undisclosed cash to various political causes. That’s what Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei are reporting today in Politico. The group, Freedom Partners, is about to file a series of disclosures with the IRS, and its president, Marc Short, took that as an opportunity to unveil the group to Allen and Vandehei. “There’s ... a vilification that happens that gets exaggerated when your opposition thinks you’re secretive. Our members are proud to be part of [the organization],” he told them, declining to name their members.
The group has no official affiliations with the Kochs and Short stressed to Politico that only a fraction of the $250 million money disbursed—to groups like American Future Fund, an Iowa-based GOP group, and Americans for Prosperity—by Freedom Partners comes from the brothers. But the resumes of the group’s five directors make clear that the group is Koch concern through and through. There’s Short, “a soft-spoken but ferociously conservative 43-year-old operative” who served in various political roles for Kay Bailey Hutchison and Mike Pence, and is now the group’s president. Below is a glance at its four other directors.
Richard Fink has helped found a number of political groups and think tanks the Kochs have funded over the years, such as Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Mercatus Center, and big-time Freedom Partners beneficiary Americans for Prosperity. In her 2010 profile of the Koch family, Jane Mayer described Fink as “the central nervous system of the Kochtopus.” In the ‘80s and ‘90s, particularly from his perch at CSE, Fink became well-known for using his positions to lobby against taxes, tariffs, and health inquiries that would harm the tobacco industry. He testified to the National Economic Council for tax breaks to the industry and was part of a group of high-profile figures Philip Morris organized to combat a federal lawsuit seeking $280 billion from the tobacco industry for concealing tobacco’s health effects. He has since left CSE and remains president of several of the Koch charitable foundations.
Nestor Weigand is a longtime friend of Charles Koch’s and a Wichita Realtor. (Years ago, Charles Koch whacked him in the head with a ball during a round of squash.) He appears to share the brothers’ politics—he once told the Wichita Eagle, ”If there were more business people among Democrats, perhaps they’d better understand why many people regard Charles as heroic”—but the extent of his involvement with political organizations appears to be his directorship of Freedom Partners. He’s given $150,000 to mostly Republican politicians since 1990.
Wayne Gable is a Fink acolyte, having studied under Fink when he was an economist at George Mason University. He has spent his career as a catch-all executive for numerous Koch-affiliated groups. He has served as the director of Koch Industries’ federal affairs operation and as president of two of the brothers’ charitable foundations, the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Foundation. He is a board member of the Institute for Energy Research, a non-profit that churns out scholarship in support of fossil fuels.
Kevin Gentry is a leader of the Koch’s corporate lobbying arm and a key Koch fundraiser for both its charitable and political aims. He also coordinates the Koch brothers’ semi-regular fundraising and strategy confab. Gentry was one of two board member the Kochs forcibly installed at the Cato Institute last spring, sparking an internecine fight that quickly became a p.r. disaster. Gentry, according to a ticked-off Cato senior fellow, intimated that he had been placed at Cato to “transform our Institute into an intellectual ammo-shop for American for Prosperity and other allied (presumably, Koch-controlled) organizations.” (He was later removed as part of a settlement.)
Gentry got his start in GOP politics in the ‘90s as a Fairfax county Republican chairman, where he wrote bad political poetry:
To the tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
"There's Judas Iscariot;
Aldrich Ames still to lynch.
and those bad Vichy French.
But do you recall
the very worst traitor of all?
Senator Big Jawn Warner,
what a very huge ego!
If you have ever watched him,
you've heard the Old Windbag blow."
Molly Redden is a New Republic staff writer. Follow her on Twitter @mtredden.