Updated: Dems Link PA GOPers to Koch/Iran Story
The details are still emerging on this story, but expect this to be a significant talking point in the run up to the 2012 elections. Democrats are salivating this week over a report by Bloomberg indicating that Koch Industries – whose owners are infamous financial patrons of conservative Republicans – conducted illicit business deals with Iran, in violation of U.S. and international sanctions.
A Koch Industries spokesman has since refuted the claims, saying that the company violated no law, and was being unfairly singled out among American corporations whose foreign subsidiaries dealt with Iran. The sales in question pertain to natural gas development equipment and is not related to Iran’s nuclear program.
Since 2006, Koch Industries has spent over $50 million to lobby in Washington according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks political donations. It’s associated KochPAC has contributed to dozens of GOP candidates across the county, including here in Pennsylvania. Owners Charles and David Koch are among the highest-profile financial backers of the Tea Party movement.
That’s why Democrats are pouncing on the report. Several local and national operatives have passed along to the press donor histories and other ties between KochPAC and PA Republicans, but have insisted on staying off the record as more details of the story come to light. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is calling for an investigation, while the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) has demanded candidates return their KochPAC contributions.
“It’s shocking, dangerous and hypocritical in the extreme for the Republican Party and national GOP figures to be courting the Koch Brothers and their money while those funds were obtained in part by ‘thwarting a U.S. trade ban’ on Iran, to use Bloomberg’s words,” said NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris.
To date, Pennsylvania congressional candidates have received thousands from the group. Rep. Charlie Dent leads the pack with a career total of $17,500 in contributions. Rep. Tim Murphy received a total of $15,000; Rep. Lou Barletta has received a total of $13,500; Rep. Pat Meehan received a total of $8,500; Rep. Mike Kelly received a total of $6,000; Rep. Joe Pitts received $4,000 and Rep. Jim Gerlach received $2,500.
All but Dent have co-sponsored HR 1905, which would further strengthen U.S. sanctions on Iran.
On the state level, KochPAC contributed $10,000 to Governor Corbett’s campaign last year, and $2,000 for his Attorney General race in 2008. The PA House Republican Campaign Committee received $5,000.
PoliticsPA spoke with a number of these campaigns, and each is paying close attention to the story as it develops. In the mean time, all of them declined to go on the record. Several others did not respond to requests for comment.
It remains to be seen whether Koch Industries violated any law, but it is likely to remain a Democratic talking point in the coming weeks and months.
Update: A Republican source notes that KochPAC has also contributed $56,000 to the Blue Dog Political Action Committee, which in turn has contributed $65,000 to Rep. Tim Holden and $20,000 to Rep. Jason Altmire.