Billionaire Koch brothers building vast database for political campaigning

"The secretive oil billionaires the Koch brothers are close to launching a nationwide database connecting millions of Americans who share their anti-government and libertarian views," reports the Guardian. The tech project was seeded by the Kochs 18 months ago with $2.5 million, and is being developed by a secretive team of advisors. The database will be called Themis, after the Greek goddess who imposes divine order on human affairs.


  1. Oh that’s right, “Cato” was already taken….

    Anyway, the secrecy party is over for these guys, everybody knows who they are now.

  2. Is there any question of who owns the American Government?  People who worry about a NWO need to wake up and realize it’s already happened in America and they were too busy watching ‘reality’ TV.

  3. Its funny how their supporters/followers are also the same people who think Obama is part of the Illuminati…. oh the irony.

  4. Calling all liberal billionaires – we need you to fight for truth, justice, and the american way. And to prove that liberal billionaires are better than conservative billionaires.

  5. Sounds like the people being connected by this database might be last group of people in the world who want to be connected in a database.

  6. Apparently they’re just playing catch-up to the Democrats:

    “Themis has been modelled in part on the scheme created by the left after the defeat of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. Catalyst, a voter list that shared data on supporters of progressive groups and campaigns, was an important part of the process that saw the Democratic party pick itself off the floor and refocus its electoral energies, helping to propel Barack Obama to the White House in 2008.

    Josh Hendler, who until earlier this year was the Democratic National Committee’s director of technology in charge of the party’s voter files, believes Themis could do for the Kochs what Catalyst helped do for the Democrats.”

    1. No, see, when the people doing it are of a different mindset, then it’s totally nefariously evil… 
      Or something. 
      I imagine that conservative site would give you the same boogey-man flavor but swapping in the name ‘George Soros’. 
      Just use a few ominous adjectives and you can make the mailing list for “Cat Fancy” sound like the NWO. 

  7. The Koch brothers are far from libertarian or anti government, they are fine with buying all the government they need and financing the majority of the republican half of the political theater in America.   They are however heavily conservative and right wing leaning, I wonder why the Guardian didn’t use those much more apt terms in their quoted description.

    1. Seconded.  If they were libertarians they’d be spending money on campaign finance reform instead of…well, the opposite.  The only thing these guys have in common with the likes of Ron Paul is a visceral hatred of poor people.

        1. Interesting “myth bust” there……

          Paul blames the dead of the Gulf for building there homes where they did.  Apparently the gubmint is to blame for historic centers of commerce (NOLA) being built because of insurance subsidies…….. 

          Paul may not “hate the poor” but his dystopian, neoconfederate, nightmare world would certainly be a defacto sentence of misery for millions.

          Him and the Koch Bros are both just different brands of ugly.

        2. Nice fluffy little article there.  But I’m not saying he hates the poor because he wants to close down FEMA.  I’m saying he hates the poor because he simultaneously supports regressive taxes and dismantling any form of social safety net.  And because he’s seemed to me much more vocal about ending the social safety net than he’s been about ending the corporate safety net — which is much more expensive than the former and benefits legal fictions at the expense of real, living, breathing, human beings capable of suffering.  Nice try though.

      1. Libertarians are generally opposed to campaign finance reform. This is because it infringes on free speech rights – the right to spend money to support causes you believe in, particularly for groups of people acting collectively (e.g. corporations and unions).

        1. Interesting perspective, but I think there’s a lot of libertarians who would disagree with you.  Actually, it seems to me there’s a lot of libertarians who would disagree — vehemently — with each other.  The more libertarians I talk to the more meaningless the term “libertarian” is.

          “Someone who hates certain things,” is about the best handle I can get on it these days.

          1. It’s the Democrats and Republicans who have political platforms that resemble grocery lists. Libertarian talking points are fairly consistent, predictable and openly published.

          2. Are you talking about the Libertarian party as an institution or libertarianism as a philosophy?  I’ve talked to plenty of self-described libertarians who trend towards minarchy but nonetheless not only realize the efficacy of some regulation and progressive taxation but recognize that government regulation enables and structures markets in the first place.  Usually, these guys are more concerned about civil liberties abuses than ending food stamp programs.  I’m thinking someone like Radley Balko here.  Heck, even Glenn “Lefty” Greenwald writes stuff for Cato pretty regularly.

            And for every one of them there’s a thousand randroids who think “libertarianism” is a form of government and an economic system in which the dollar has been replaced with 9mm rounds and welfare has been replaced with kicks in the teeth.  I’ve seen dozens of “no true libertarian” accusations on the internet from both sides of this divide.  And I’m not certain there aren’t whole other phyla of libertarians out there.

            I know it would be pretty much impossible for you to provide evidence for the claim that libertarianism is actually a consistent, cohesive belief system, but I’m curious how you might try because I’m still quite skeptical.  (Pretty much impossible because it’s essentially proving a negative, I’m not knocking your web fu.)

          3. It would be foolish to expect you to read standard libertarian works such as Milton Friedman’s “Capitalism and Freedom” or his “Free To Choose” although that would give you a better idea than I ever could. You might also object to being sentenced to a month’s reading of Reason’s web site.

            So I asked the internet. My web fu is pitiful so I limited the evidence to “libertarian campaign finance reform” and typed that phrase into Google and scanned the first five meaningful web and blog results. “Meaningful” means posts that consider libertarian attitudes toward said reform.

            These ten most popular results do show libertarians as skeptical and fearful of any proposed campaign financing scheme. Most read as opposing government censoring of political content in movies near elections as tyrannical and self serving (The Citizen’s United decision dominated returns).

            This is not scientific but perhaps illustrative.

          4. All right, deliberately misunderstand me and be a condescending jerk.  That’ll certainly improve my impression of libertarians. 

            Libertarian thought is based on non-aggression and we should have a talk with this rather obscure splinter group…

            No, libertarianism thought is based on using the law to take advantage of helpless people.  That is not a form of physical aggression but it is a form of aggression nonetheless.

            Also, the splinter group is not obscure.  The “Ayn Rand’s little red book” contingent probably outnumbers you Milton Friedman milquetoasts 100 to 1.

            Stop using Koch brother charities and really show them:

            Deerfield Academy and MIT are charities?  Umm, no, they’re expensive schools for rich people.  I do find it hilarious that when casting about for (tax deductible) charitable contributions by the Koch brothers you found a total of eight, two of which aren’t even charities. That’s a pretty good con incidentally — “charitable” contributions to a private school for wealthy individuals so that you can decrease your tax liability — taxes that would have contributed to the public education system that people without the money to send their kids to Deerfield have to rely on.

            “Anyway, they already expect you all to give a check to tax deductible charity organizations.”  -Robert Zimmerman

          5. “No, libertarianism thought is based on using the law to take advantage of helpless people.” [citation needed]

            “The “Ayn Rand’s little red book” contingent probably outnumbers you Milton Friedman milquetoasts 100 to 1.” [citation needed]

            Also, charitable donations to ‘expensive schools for rich people’ are often used to give merit scholarships. Though I expect you think the money was probably used to develop shark-mounted death rays.

          6. 1.  Libertarians support regressive tax schemes and the repeal of just about any form of welfare, as I’ve already pointed out.  Both of these policies make it more difficult for people living paycheck to paycheck to get out of this vicious cycle.  Both of these policies make it easier for the already-wealthy to accumulate more money.   Do you deny any of this?  Then why demand a citation?

            2.  Would you affirm the proposition “taxation is theft” without qualification?  If so you’re exactly the sort of person I’m talking about — you ARE my citation.  Otherwise, try going to some libertarian forum and do a poll, how many there agree with the proposition above.  And that will be my citation.

            Also, charitable donations to ‘expensive schools for rich people’ are often used to give merit scholarships. Though I expect you think the money was probably used to develop shark-mounted death rays.

            Your turn.  What proportion of Deerfield’s annual budget is devoted to merit scholarships?

            While you’re at it you could actually address the fact that “charitable” contributions to private schools siphon more money away from education for the poor than towards it without some pitiful deflection.

          7. 1. You are equating ‘not helping’ with ‘taking advantage of’ in this response. These are not the same thing. By this definition, I am taking advantage of pretty much everyone, all the time, by not providing them with some sort of assistance.

            As for ‘regressive tax policies’, do you mean a flat tax? That would see the poor pay more, and the rich pay less. I grant you this part of the point. But not the whole point; you said ‘using the law’. You ought to have said ‘using tax policy’. A cornerstone of libertarian thought is that the law should protect freedom while minimizing intrusion (a difficult act to balance, to be sure). Deliberate use of the law to take advantage of people would, by definition, increase intrusion without increasing freedom, and thus not be libertarian.

            2. You assume that ‘internet libertarians’ = ‘libertarians’, which is sort of like saying the average commenters on HuffPo (or AOL or whatever that is now) are a good barometer of the average Democrat. Or substitute Fox news and Republican, or 4chan and young people, whatever you prefer. And for the record I don’t believe taxation is theft. I’m getting some decent services for my tax dollars. Taxes (or some sort of revenue collection from citizens) are a necessary part of a structured society, and even libertarians recognize the necessity of government. (inb4 ‘no they don’t’, if they claim government is unnecessary then they’re anarchists who don’t have their terms straight.)

            Your Deerfield question is a deflection. Do we know what the Koch donations were earmarked for, or whether they were earmarked at all? That would be the question. (For the record, Deerfield does give grants to poor applicants. Couldn’t find how much per year.)

            Also, is it a ‘fact’ that giving money to private schools hurts public schools? For that to be the case, we have to assume that the charitable donation (a tax writeoff) sent to the private school would otherwise have funded public schools. What percentage of revenue goes to the Dept. of Education? Hint: It’s very very small – $70bn out of a $3,000bn federal budget. So if 2.5% of the Koch donations to private education are used for need-based scholarships, then the same amount of money is spent on non-rich students as if the Kochs had just paid that donation as taxes instead.

            I grant that the $1.7mil which constitutes 2.5% of the donation is only helping a handful of students; but it is paying their entire costs, whereas once diluted into the Education budget, it helps every public school student but only very slightly. (This depends on how you do the math, really; we could also say that it is paying the entire cost for a larger handful of public school students, but buying a lower quality education.)
            (I leave state/local education funding out of this equation as that money comes almost exclusively from property taxes, which is pretty much the worst possible way to ensure equal educational opportunity for all children.)

            That got long. Sorry.

            Edit: Disqus ate my carriage returns.

          8. Wasn’t Disqus, it was the mods.  They don’t like single comments taking up a lot of vertical space.  I’m an offender too in this right so I’m not getting on my high horse, just letting you know.

            You are equating ‘not helping’ with ‘taking advantage of’ in this response…As for ‘regressive tax policies’, do you mean a flat tax? That would see the poor pay more, and the rich pay less.

            Tax policy is a type of law.  Why do you think we have “tax lawyers”?  Why do you suppose it’s legislators that vote on tax policy?  Actively advocating for laws including tax policies that hamstring people who need help and help people who don’t need any are indeed “taking advantage” — especially when you’re also advocating that those with more money should also have more “speech” i.e. political power, which I am assured is something believed by all libertarians everywhere.

            You assume that ‘internet libertarians’ = ‘libertarians’, which is sort
            of like saying the average commenters on HuffPo (or AOL or whatever that
            is now) are a good barometer of the average Democrat.

            You’re just playing “no true libertarian” here.  If they self-identify as libertarians then I don’t see why I shouldn’t believe them.  Unless you’re like the pope of libertarianism and you can excommunicate anyone who doesn’t adhere to the orthodoxy.

            You think giving full rides to a handful of children somehow promotes “equality of opportunity” better than the DOE’s contributions to public educations budgets?  I don’t see how.  I would think a libertarian would understand the relevance of concepts like economy of scale, here. 

            Bottom-line: libertarians (inasmuch as they agree on anything) favor policies which make life harder for people who already have hard lives and make life easier for people who already have relatively easy lives.  And then to cement that situation in place by ensuring that the rich, getting richer, also have sufficient political power to disenfranchise those whose interests are opposed to their own.  They claim to seek equality of opportunity while supporting policies that inevitably erode economic mobility.

          9. Would you point me to some of these libertarians who want to replace welfare with kicks in the teeth?
            Libertarian thought is based on non-aggression and we should have a talk with this rather obscure splinter group…

          10. Yes, they are non-aggressive. And they are also non-assisting. You’re on your own in a dog-eat-dog world. Survival of the fittest. I think human society should run at a higher standard than the jungle.

  8. Spare me. George Soros is EXACTLY the same thing on the other side of the isle. You think he doesn’t have a database of political donors that he shares with left-wing supporters? Seriously!? I refuse to believe that you’re that naive. (And it looks like someone named it as “Catalyst” above.) I don’t get upset about either one. Neither are being funded or run by the government. They’re private, and, as such, are just extensions of people’s basic right of assembly.

  9. In the 3rd and last part of this french comic “SOS Bonheur” (stupid name but great scenario), juges and procedures have been replaced with a computer, holding a database of all laws and jurisprudences. It gives its verdict within a minute.
    That computer is named Themis. 

    Related: also in the unfolding of the story *SPOILER ALERT!*, we learn that a dozen of old, beyond-rich characters are owning the whole world’s companies and economy. They pick citizens, which fates they manipulate to make them outlaws, and direct them to a revolution guide they (the world owners) have chosen. 
    They have understood that to insure the stability of their affairs and security of their plans, they have to control and lead the cycles of revolutions and regimes. 
    Nobody realizes it in the story, except for one character, which the world owners pick as their witness (they need someone to behold how intelligent and powerful they are). They tell him the whole story, then release him. As he tries to warn the people, he’s shot, manipulated into a martyr of the now on-going revolution.

    The comic ends with a drawing suggesting the cycle is about to start over. Happy people>Opressed people>Sad people>Angry people>Fighting people>Winning people>…

  10. If I weren’t a better person I would be thinking of this as a hit list of sorts, and then thinking of ways to get my hands on it. But that’s really not my style, it may be somebody’s, but not mine. Just thinking out loud.

  11. Wait. “Divine order imposed on human affairs”??  We don’t need no stinkin divine order (or the Koch bros definition of same) imposed on us.  Those are fightin words in the land of the free & home of the brave.  Bring it on.

  12. So they’re building a CRM  (constituent relationship management) database so they can segment, market to and communicate with like minded people?  That doesn’t sound very evil.  It does mean that those of us who disagree with them also need to get organized. 

    Now, if they were building a vast database to track and monitor all the people who disagree with them – that would be evil and scary. 

  13. Calling a corporation a “group of people acting collectively” isn’t a libertarian position, its a brown-nosing power-fetishist position. The latter have effectively co-opted the libertarian label. The only rights they’re really interested in is the right of the already powerful to wield power without constraint.

  14. Political action committee creates donor list… and keeps it on a computer! As opposed to what? A big hand-typed Rolodex? Or is the shocking part that people with opinions differ from yours organize at all? Only those with opinions you share are allowed to do that? Somehow, I think you may have missed the point of that whole “democracy” thing…

  15. Koch Borthers products:
    Dixie plasticware
    Georgia Pacific Lumber (almost all Home Depot and Lowe’s sell!)
    Northern Toilet Paper
    Vanity Fair Napkins
    Sparkle and Brawny Paper Towels.

    Stop buying them, and maybe the Koch’s won’t have so much dough to pass out to the patsies.

    1. Stop using Koch brother charities and really show them:

      New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell: $15 million
      M.D. Anderson Cancer Center: $25 million
      The Hospital for Special Surgery: $26 million
      Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: $30 million
      Prostate Cancer Foundation: $41 million
      Deerfield Academy: $68 million
      Lincoln Center’s NY State Theater: $100 million
      Massachusetts Institute of Technology: $139 million

  16. How dumb does the average tea party type have to be to not understand that the Koch brothers were told by thier masters to start a false resistance to lead angry whites down a useless path?

    How unhappy with the current system can a couple if billionaires be anyway? It did fine by them.

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