Koch behind the challenge to Baker’s powers

His foundation is backing law firm bringing lawsuit

ON JUNE 1 the Fiscal Alliance Foundation announced that a lawsuit to overturn Gov. Charlie Baker’s coronavirus public safety orders would be brought on behalf of a few Massachusetts businesses and ministers. The groups’ attorney, Michael DeGrandis of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, wrote about it in CommonWealth in an op-ed entitled “Baker usurping the role of the Legislature.”

But DeGrandis didn’t explain what NCLA is or what the suit is really about. That’s because NCLA is funded by Charles Koch and the lawsuit is in furtherance of Koch’s extremist agenda.

NCLA was founded in 2017 and the seed money came from the Charles Koch Foundation. As non-profits under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3), the Form 990 tax returns of both organizations are publicly available. In 2017 NCLA took in $1.6 million in grants. The Charles Koch Foundation donated $1 million of that and another $1 million in 2018. No Charles Koch money, no New Civil Liberties Alliance. It’s that simple.

In Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Jane Mayer shows how Koch has “weaponized” philanthropies (like NCLA) to advance his political and ideological goals. Charles’s brother David (who died in 2019) explained the Kochs’ philanthropic giving: they get the results they want or cut off the money. If you’ve run across climate change denialism, you’ve found a Koch operation. That fulfills the Koch ideology—slash government regulations; and it puts money into Koch Industries, a major oil and gas player.

Nancy MacLean explains more about Charles Koch’s political strategy in Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Rights’ Stealth Plan for America. It is to disable government on all levels. This fits Koch’s ideology of enfeebled government and also frees business to profit unfettered by regulations that would aid consumers, protect the environment, and provide for health and safety. These efforts are carried on with as much stealth as possible because Koch understands his ideas are unpopular with the public. Democracy is terrible for the Koch business model.

Charles Koch

Right now Americans have a very good idea of what an incompetent government is like. Look at Washington. Or look at Wisconsin, where Koch has had a significant influence. The state recently held a judicial election in which the state’s Republican majority Supreme Court and the conservative majority on the US Supreme Court forced citizens to vote in person, waiting in long lines, at the height of the coronavirus crisis. Then the state’s Supreme Court reversed Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order, leading to chaotic scenes in reopened bars. Evans proclaimed “We’re the Wild West.”

The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance (another arm of the Fiscal Alliance Foundation) has brought at least two suits seeking to overturn state laws. But what is interesting is not failed challenges to the state’s restrictions on corporate contributions (brought by a corporation owned by MassFiscal’s founder) or its unsuccessful challenge to the state’s campaign finance disclosure law.  It’s more revealing to look at who was representing MassFiscal and its founder in court. In the corporate contribution case, legal representation came from the Goldwater Institute of Arizona. Goldwater has significant Koch funding ($100,000 in 2018). Rebekah Mercer, “the first lady of the alt-right” has also donated and sat on Goldwater’s board. In the disclosure case MassFiscal was represented by the Institute for Free Speech, which also has received funding from the Charles Koch Foundation.

Koch and the Mercer family have been linked by the Washington Post as funders of the reopen protests that emerged across the nation in April. The loudest voice for a hasty reopen here has been the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.

Meet the Author

Maurice Cunningham

Assoc. Prof. of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Boston
And now we have Fiscal Alliance Foundation represented by the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a child of Charles Koch. One might begin to think that MassFiscal is a beard for national right wing causes.

Maurice T. Cunningham is an associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a co-founder and contributor to the MassPoliticsProfs.org blog.