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Greenpeace blimp buzzes Koch brothers’ strategy meeting

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Attendees of the billionaire Koch brothers’ strategy session in Rancho Mirage, California, this weekend were met with an unusual sight: A blimp overhead declaring “Koch brothers — dirty money.”

The blimp was the work of Greenpeace, the environmentalist group that last year brought attention to the prominent role that Charles and David Koch, owners of Kansas-based oil company Koch Industries, play in efforts to discredit climate change theories.

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The brothers, who jointly own the second-largest privately held company in the US, “are able to push their polluter agenda through tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions, lobbying, and funding fronts groups and think tanks,” Greenpeace said on its website.

The environmental group argued that Koch brothers meetings attract enough big conservative money for the meetings to be considered a de facto political movement in and of itself.

Analyzing the attendance list of an earlier Koch meeting in Aspen, Colorado, Greenpeace found that the participants had contributed more than $61 million to political campaigns since 1990 — a statistic that prompted the Guardian‘s Ed Pilkington to declare that the meetings’ attendees form “a major, though unofficial, bloc within American politics.”

Since Greenpeace’s investigation last year, the Koch brothers have come under intense scrutiny from liberal activists, who see in the energy billionaires’ efforts an attempt to manipulate the American political process.

Among the groups organizing to counteract the Kochs’ perceived influence is Common Cause, which held a discussion panel and rally at Rancho Mirage on the day the Koch brothers’ meeting began.

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A letter Charles Koch sent last fall promoting this weekend’s meeting was at the heart of a complaint Common Cause filed with the Department of Justice earlier this month. The liberal activist group asked the department to look into “conflicts of interest” that two Supreme Court justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, may have had when they ruled on Citizens United last year.

That ruling, which upended decades of campaign spending restrictions by corporations and unions, is seen by some to have benefited the Kochs, who have funded a number of conservative groups that were able to campaign without restriction in last year’s elections.

Common Cause argued that, by attending Koch brothers events, the justices compromised their credibility in ruling to strike down campaign spending laws.

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“It appears both justices have participated in political strategy sessions, perhaps while the case was pending, with corporate leaders whose political aims were advanced by the decision,” the group said.

While the Koch brothers have been holding twice-yearly meetings for years, the latest event in Rancho Mirage was unique for the amount of attention it received from progressive activists. The presence of progressive rallies and events suggests that the days of the Koch brothers operating with anonymity are gone.

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“The Koch brothers manage to be destructive in so many areas,” Jodie Evans of Code Pink said at the Common Cause rally, as quoted at the Guardian. “But one positive thing they’ve done is to galvanize so many different opponents around them.”

The following video was posted to YouTube by Greenpeace.

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Maddow reports on ‘a tide of major newspaper editorials’ drowning Trump’s impeachment defenses

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On Thursday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow noted the sheer volume of editorial boards from newspapers across America calling for President Donald Trump's impeachment and removal from office.

"The editorials that Steve Cohen introduced into the record there that Doug Collins from Georgia said he wanted to read and Steve Cohen said 'I'd love for you to read them,' they're part of a tide of major newspaper editorials that have come out all of a sudden in the last few days in favor of impeachment," said Maddow. "USA TODAY's editorial board saying, quote, 'Until recently we believed impeachment proceedings would be unhealthy for an already polarized nation, rather than simply leaving Trump's fate up to voters next November. But Trump's egregious transgressions and stonewalling in his thuggish effort to trade American arms for foreign dirt on Joe Biden resembled Richard Nixon. It's precisely the type of misconduct the framers had in mind when they wrote impeachment into the Constitution."

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‘People died in Ukraine’: Democrat lectures Doug Collins for Trump’s abuse of power costing lives

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During Thursday's impeachment hearing, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) laid bare the human cost of President Donald Trump's decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine to force them to hunt for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden's family — something that ranking member Doug Collins (R-GA) spent the previous day denying.

"In my colleague's efforts to defend this president, you want him to be someone he's not. You want him to be someone he is telling you he is not," said Swalwell. "You're trying to defend the call in so many different ways, and he's saying, guys, it was a perfect call. He's not who you want him to be. And let me tell you how selfish his acts were. And ranking member Collins, you can deny this as much as you want. People died in Ukraine at the hands of Russia," said Swalwell. "In Ukraine, since September 2018 when it was voted on by Congress, was counting on our support. One year passed and people died. And you may not want to think about that, it may be hard for you to think about that, but they died when the selfish, selfish president withheld the aid for his own personal gain."

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Trump administration heavily redacted documents concerning their withholding of Ukraine aid

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The Trump administration has refused to disclose how key officials at the Department of Defense and the White House Office of Management and Budget reacted to President Trump’s decision to halt military aid to Ukraine.

On Nov. 25, federal district court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered the administration to produce records reflecting what these officials said to one another about the legality and appropriateness of Trump’s order. The Center for Public Integrity sought the information in Freedom of Information Act requests filed in late September.

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