Billionaire conservatives take aim at top Senate Democrat

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 8:13pm

Koch Industries, the massive, multi-national energy and chemical conglomerate, owned by influential conservative donors Charles and David Koch, fired back Wednesday at the top Senate Democrat, charging he accused them of playing a pivotal role in GOP efforts to shut down the government.

Philip Ellender, president of government and public affairs division of Koch Companies, sent a letter to Congress denying that Koch had any role in devising the strategy to demand that Obamacare be defunded in order to keep the federal government operating.

Ellender said that while the company believes the health care law championed by the president will lead to a decline in the overall standard of care and an increase in taxes, he distanced the company from the strategy that has resulted in the government partly shutting down for the past nine days.

"Koch has not taken a position on the legislative tactic of tying the continuing resolution to defunding Obamacare nor have we lobbied on legislative provisions defunding Obamacare," Ellender wrote in the letter that was distributed to members of the media.

He added that much of what has been reported about Koch Industries is "erroneous or misleading."

Ellender specifically pointed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who referenced a story in The New York Times detailing conservative efforts to wage a campaign against Obamacare.

In the story, the Times mentioned Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, an organization that has at least three current or former Koch executives serving as directors.

In his remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Reid said some "very, very rich people in America" are using Obamacare "as a conduit to shut down the government. That's what they wanted to do. That's what they've done."

The Nevada Democrat mentioned the Koch brothers by name as some of the deep-pocketed conservatives who are "raising and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get us where we are right now."

According to tax records filed by Freedom Partners covering November 2011 through October 2012, the group transferred at least $180 million to various conservative organizations that have opposed Obamacare, such as the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Prosperity.

However, these groups have not led the way in pushing the defunding strategy.

Americans for Prosperity, founded by David Koch, has aired at least $5 million on television ads and has staged hundreds of grassroots efforts highlighting some of the negative impact of Obamacare without weighing on the GOP strategy.

Two other groups, Senate Conservatives Fund and Heritage Action, have spearheaded the fight to attach defunding or limiting Obamacare to bills to keep the government operating. A spokesman for Heritage Action confirmed it received $500,000 from Freedom Partners.

Freedom Partners also donated $5 million to a group called Generation Opportunity, which last month produced two web videos, one of which showed a young man receiving a rectal exam from someone dressed as Uncle Sam, that end saying "Don't let the government play doctor; opt out of Obamacare."

The videos went viral.

CNN Political Research Director Robert Yoon contributed to this story.

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