The competitive intelligence effort, reported here for the first time, also hints at the audaciousness of the Koch network’s mission. While the Republican Party focuses on winning elections, the Kochs want to realign American politics, government and society around free enterprise philosophies that they hope to spread more broadly.
A key to accomplishing the mission, from the Kochs' perspective, is countering super PACs and other big-money groups funded by rich liberals, as well as allied public sector unions and academic and media elites. The Kochs’ allies feel that those forces have worked together for decades with Democratic politicians and government bureaucrats to institutionalize the philosophy that heavy regulation and taxation of business is the only way to ensure an equitable society.
The Kochs concluded that defeating this well-funded left-wing infrastructure requires tracking the professional left in real time ― a capability they realized they lacked after the 2012 election. In the run-up to that election, the Koch network spent $400-million-plus attacking Democratic politicians and policies, only to see President Barack Obama win re-election and his party maintain control of the Senate. A forensic audit of the network’s efforts concluded the Kochs had been out-maneuvered by the left on the airwaves, in the data war and on the ground. Vowing not to let that happen again, the network began investing in the competitive intelligence team and other efforts to keep tabs on the left.
To be sure, the Kochs’ operation isn’t the only one focused on pulling back the curtain on its opponents. In fact, liberal activists and groups have frequently worked to expose the activities of the Koch brothers and their network. But the competitive intelligence team, like so many other Koch-backed programs, appears to be unique in its scale and its thoroughly methodological approach.
The outfit is run by a former CIA operative named Jim Roman, and from all indications it's a very professional deal. Keep in mind that if it was a left-wing business group that had its own intelligence group tracking conservatives in real-time, there would be congressional hearings, subpoenas , endless breaking news stories, and conservatives screaming that American take up armed resistance to overthrow "tyrant" Obama's network of spies. Hell, those attacks on the "Dems'' private Stasi" would be coming from the right and the civil libertarian left.
But it's the Koch Brothers, so it's okay. And of course, the paranoid style runs deep.
In addition to delving into the left, the competitive intelligence team also monitors potential Koch network threats, according to sources familiar with it. It tracks people deemed suspicious outside the offices of Koch network groups, circulating be-on-the-lookout photos to internal network email lists, while keeping an eye on the network's own ranks for possible leakers or disloyal employees.
One former network executive remembers an email containing a photo of a man identified as an operative with the environmental group Greenpeace who allegedly had been spotted taking his own photos outside the network’s cluster of offices in the Courthouse neighborhood of Arlington.
Connor Gibson, a Greenpeace researcher who focuses on the Koch network, said he visits its component groups’ offices once a year to pick up their tax filings, and he speculated he could have been the operative photographed by the competitive intelligence unit. While he said he’s never sought to conceal his identity during such visits, he added “If the Kochs consider me an opponent, I’m flattered.”
In another instance, sources say, Roman's team set out to identify an IT contractor who was working for one of the network's groups and was posting anonymous messages to Reddit, proclaiming that he worked for the Koch brothers but despised their stances. Within 48 hours, the team had sleuthed out the offender and his contract was terminated.
“They were scared to death of moles,” said the former executive.
A separate source ― an organizer who’s worked with the unit ― described it as “a full opposition research operation, only at about 10-times the level of any political campaign.” The organizer added “my guess is that most people inside the network don’t even know about it.”
Understand that this is the logical endpoint of believing your political opponents as an enemy that needs to be ferreted out and destroyed, to spy on them, track them, identify them, and to conduct counter-espionage against, all in the name of controlling the country's politics. And they have access to billions in resources in order to do it.
The Kochs see liberals -- fellow Americans, mind you -- as people who must be tracked in real-time
This is who controls American politics.