On the last night of the Koch brothers’ secretive donor retreat in June, wealthy conservatives sat down to the “Immigrant Experience” dinner, as it was dubbed internally. Usually Charles Koch delivers “the final battle cry,” a Koch operative told the audience. But this year the closing speech was given by a special guest: Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida and prospective 2016 presidential candidate.
An audio recording of the event, obtained by The Undercurrent and reported exclusively here, reveals that what Rubio offered was less a battle cry than a safe homage to the American Dream, laced with anecdotes of ordinary people being crushed by big government: the person “trying to start a business out of the spare bedroom,” who can’t afford to “hire all the lawyers and lobbyists in Washington” to help him skirt regulations; the single mother who can’t afford a professional degree because Democrats keep “pouring money into a broken and stagnant higher education cartel.”
Rubio said little to surprise or offend. (A full transcript is here.) Still, the event illustrated the close relationship between the senator and the Koch brothers, who gave more money to Rubio in 2010 than to any other candidate for national office outside of their home state, Kansas. Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed Super PAC, was one of the groups that gave Rubio cover from the political blowback that followed his endorsement of the Senate’s immigration reform bill. In turn, Rubio has supported the Kochs’ agenda by spreading skepticism about climate change science and by advocating for other antiregulatory policies that would boost the Kochs’ bottom line. He is one of only five senators who have earned a perfect score for their voting record from AFP.
As the billionaires dined, Rubio served up the right’s favored explanation for poverty. “I know for a fact, and so do you, that perhaps the leading cause of poverty in America today is the breakdown of communities and American families,” he said. He complained that the tax code “punished family life” and condemned safety net programs “that punish people and keep them from getting married”—presumably a reference to tax penalties incurred by some married couples.
“We need to help families with the cost of living, and that means healthcare,” he said vaguely, before immediately moving on to a curt dismissal of the Affordable Care Act: “I’m not going to spend a lot of time preaching to this choir about Obamacare.”