In an impressive bit of digging, Matea Gold and Joseph Tanfani of the Los Angeles Times recently reported that the hitherto unknown Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR) secretly sent more than $55 million to right-wing organizations during the 2010 election.
The center gave tens of millions of dollars to these groups—all with seemingly innocuous names like the American Future Fund, 60 Plus, Americans for Job Security and the Susan B. Anthony List—that, according to the Times, were “behind a coordinated campaign against Democratic congressional candidates.” The largest contribution by far went to the American Future Fund, which allowed the group to run a series of dishonest ads against the Democrats in 2010. The fund spent at least $23 million on this effort, of which the majority came from CPPR—all part of a reported $304 million spent to support conservative candidates in the 2010 election cycle, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, much of it apparently coming out of the pockets of the Koch brothers.
Coincidentally, CPPR is staffed by many of the same people who have traditionally worked for the brothers Koch. Its chief is Sean Noble, who the LA Times piece (citing the blog Republic Report) notes is a “key operative in the Kochs’ political activities.” Heather Higgins, one of CPPR’s original directors, is chair of the Koch-funded Independent Women’s Forum. Cheryl Hillen, who raised $2.6 million for its operation, used to be the director of fundraising for the Kochs’ Citizens for a Sound Economy. Despite the noble-sounding name, however, it was no easy task for the Times reporters to learn about the Center to Protect Patient Rights, because virtually everyone they contacted regarding the organization tended to sound like a Mafia don before a Congressional committee when asked about their relationship. (The CPPR lists a Phoenix PO box as its address.)
Amazingly—and depressingly—these figures are small potatoes when compared with what the Koch brothers and their allies have in store for November. According to Politico, these groups “plan to spend roughly $1 billion on November’s elections for the White House and control of Congress, according to officials familiar with [their] internal operations,” with “Koch-related organizations” kicking in roughly $400 million of that. (The Koch figure alone is more than John McCain spent on his entire 2008 run for the presidency.)
The fact that we are learning about CPPR’s existence only now, two years after the midterm elections—and that we still know precious little about how it operates and on whose behalf—demonstrates just how profoundly the secret money power has been allowed to undermine our electoral system. Despite the attention that has been paid since the Citizens United decision, the power of money to shape our politics, our culture, even our imaginations remains vastly underestimated and little understood in contemporary political discourse. You can see it most transparently in our politics, but it is everywhere apparent, and the corruption it invites is almost equally ubiquitous.