Document exposes Papa John’s and other companies as secret Koch brother allies

By Travis Gettys
Thursday, February 6, 2014 9:28 EDT
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Protesters demand the Los Angeles Times not be sold to the Koch Brothers (portraits) on May 23, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (AFP)
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The Koch brothers are well-known for their right-wing activism, but less has been known about the wealthy conservatives who fund their vast political operations.

But a document left behind last week at the first donor gathering of 2014 at the Renaissance Esmeralda resort in Palm Springs, California, and handed over by a hotel guest to Mother Jones offers a glimpse at this network.

Attendees at events hosted by the billionaire industrialists are warned that the seminars – where plans are hatched to elect Republican officials and advance conservative ideas – are strictly confidential, and they’re told to closely guard their meeting notes and materials.

The discarded document, Mother Jones reported, lists VIP donors – including John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s pizza chain – who met individually with Koch representatives and revealed just how closely tied Koch Industries is intertwined with the brothers’ political machine.

In addition to Schnatter – who’s already known as a longtime Republican donor and outspoken opponent of the Affordable Care Act – the one-page Koch donor list included top executives from Jockey International and TRT Holdings, which owns Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym.

The document shows that Schnatter, who had not been previously revealed as a Koch donor, was scheduled to meet with Ryan Stowers, director of higher education at the Charles G. Koch Foundation.

Robert Rowling, who cofounded TRT Holdings and funneled $3.5 million in 2012 to a super-PAC directed by Karl Rove, was scheduled to meet with Charles Koch at a private residence along with other top operatives, including fundraising guru Kevin Gentry, Latino outreach director Daniel Garza and Marc Short – who runs the Kochs’ Freedom Partners distribution network.

Other consumer-products makers whose top executives met with the Kochs or their representatives were Klipsch Group, which sells audiophile speakers and headphones, Captive Aire, which sells commercial kitchen products, and Haworth, which sells office furniture.

Read the full donor list here

Most of the sessions paired donors with representatives of Americans for Prosperity, the political advocacy group founded by the Kochs and their top political strategist, Richard Fink, who is also executive vice president and a board member of Koch Industries.

Koch Industries has claimed AFP is just one of the hundreds of organizations that receive funding from the brothers and operates independently from the company they run.

But the one-page found document hints at a much closer collaboration between Koch Industries, AFP and Freedom Partners, which is heavily staffed with current and former employees of Koch Industries.

A spokesman for Koch Industries told Mother Jones that company employees do attend the donor gatherings and a spokesman for Freedom Partners said he was “uncertain” about the document, but both declined further comment.

AFP has already spent more than $20 million on ads opposing Democratic congressional candidates who supported Obamacare.

The Koch network is essential to the conservative political machine, having raised as much during the 2012 election cycle as the Republican National Committee.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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