[MUSIC PLAYING] SUZANNE METTLER: I would like to welcome you here today on behalf of the AD White Professor at Large Program, the Government Department, and the Center for the Study of Equality.
If we are fortunate in life, along the way we discover an author who-- the first time his or her work-- grabs hold of us and makes us think about the world in new and riveting ways. We're even more fortunate still if that person is prolific and has more than one book to write. Such that each time a new book or article comes out, it draws us in and challenges us anew and on and on.
Today, it is my great privilege to introduce you to the scholar who is, for me, that author. This will come as no surprise to students who have taken courses with me and know the most frequently recurring name on my syllabi. And I think that's true for many other colleagues around campus.
She is Professor Theda Skocpol, the Victor S Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University. I'm happy to announce that she is also now here at Cornell-- an AD White Visiting Professor through 2021. And this week is the first of two that she will spend on campus with us throughout this period.
Professor Skocpol is one of the most prolific, widely-respected, and highly influential scholars in the social sciences today, with outstanding achievements in three disciplines-- sociology, political science, and history. She writes on topics ranging from the history of states, social welfare, and gender, to healthcare, civic engagement, and inequality.
The breadth of her innovative thinking is demonstrated through her authorship of twelve books. The topics range from her first book-- which was called States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China, which has been published in nine different languages; two in 1992, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States; to her most recent book, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservativism in 2012 with Vanessa Williamson. She's also a frequent contributor to outlets for a broader audience, including New York Times, Boston Globe, Slate Democracy, and many others.
The Washington Post columnist EJ Theon once called Professor Skocpol a national treasure. I vote that was well-put, and I'll tell you just three reasons that come to mind about why.
First, she's a scholar's scholar. On topic after topic, she puts her intellectual power to work, asking probing questions and collecting original data-- often data that's been hiding in plain sight-- and analyzing the evidence in fresh and innovative ways. Second, her research investigates in myriad ways what makes democracy work better. She probes historical development, organizational strategies, and institutional arrangements to understand the circumstances that can enable the United States to operate more fairly and inclusively. And third, in a really exciting development in just the past few years, she's the co-founder and director of the Scholars' Strategy Network, a flourishing organization that aims to enable scholars to make the findings of their research known to the broader public, journalists, civic organizations, and policy makers.
Professor Skocpol is the recipient of numerous book prizes and the most prestigious prize in political science, the Johan Skytte Prize. She's been elected to membership in all three major US interdisciplinary honors societies. I could go on and on, but I don't want to cut further into the time for her talk. So please join me in welcoming Professor Theda Skocpol.
THEDA SKOCPOL: Well, thank you very much, Suzanne. And that was a wonderful introduction, and Susanne is one of my favorite scholars. And there are many others here at Cornell that I've known in person and through their work over the years. And I'm delighted to have a chance to spend a week here and get to know more scholars and more students during my stay.
I'm going to start today with a quote-- short one. "The Republican Party has become ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understandings of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."
Now, that's a startling quote. And it doesn't come from some leftist bomb thrower, or from the Democratic National Committee. It comes instead from a wonkish book published in 2012 called It's Even Worse Than it Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism-- a book co-written by two Washington think tankers-- Thomas Mann at the Brookings Institution and Norm Ornstein at the Conservative American Enterprise Institute. And they just put out a new edition called something like that It's Even Worse Than It Was.
So that helps to set the puzzle that my talk is about today. And I should say that I'm reporting on a new research project that I'm doing with a team that includes former students who are now professors at other institutions than Harvard-- my own, and younger graduate students, and even a first-year Harvard Law student who was an undergraduate at the time the research was launched.
The puzzle has to do in part with what political scientists call asymmetric polarization. You can see from this figure that from 1960 to 1980-- this is based on scores that political scientists use to locate ideologically, particularly on a dimension that has to do with economic policy. In this case, it's the House of Representatives, but it wouldn't look to different if we were doing the Senate. From 1960 to 1980, the two parties in the United States pulled apart from one another in a way that was roughly symmetrical-- the Democratic contingents becoming more liberal, Republican contingents becoming more conservative. And that was happening in part in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Revolution when conservative Democrats gradually disappeared from the South and liberal Republicans-- who I remember; when I was young, there were liberal Republicans-- gradually disappeared from the Midwest and the North.
But you can see that this pulling away has continued ever since-- in the 1980s and 1990s. And then-- and this is the part of the asymmetric polarization that I want to talk about today. Even in the 2000s, after Republicans had become much further to the right than Democrats moved to the left, you see Republicans continuing to move ever further right. Particularly, I'm going to argue, on economic issues and issues of how the political economy should work in the United States. Even as Democrats were scoring some fairly big wins in 2006, 2008, and with the reelection of Barack Obama in 2012.
And this is a puzzle because my discipline-- political science-- has long held to something called the median voter theory, which predicts that when parties start losing, they won't pull further away from the middle. They'll move back toward the middle. Clearly, something is going on with today's Republican Party, the recent Republican Party that does not fit that theory.
Today, I'm going to be talking about some research that takes an organizational approach to that puzzle. Now, I know in the discussion period we'll get to Donald Trump, and Cruz, and the Tea Party. Because a lot of pundits at first glance would say, Well, if the Republican Party keeps moving to the hard right, that's because it's populist base, it's voter base is very, very extreme.
That might work to explain why members of the House of Representatives vote in extreme ways out of sync with majority public opinion on things like abortion or immigration reform. But it doesn't explain why the Republican Party, almost to a man and a woman-- including candidates for office and those in office-- are moving further and further from the middle of public opinion on economic and tax issues.
On the question of whether taxes should be further lowered on business and the rich, most Americans-- including a lot of Republicans-- don't think that's true. But Republicans have moved on that issue further into lockstep with such proposals. On whether there should any response to climate change, a majority of Republicans-- I'll show you later-- believe there should be some. But elected office holders and those running for office in the Republican Party are either denialists on the climate change issues or firmly opposed to any kind of government's response.
And it goes without saying that most Republicans are opposed to things like raising the minimum wage, or protecting social security and Medicare for the future rather than privatizing them. Almost all the presidential candidates this time have advocated some form of cutbacks, and that's not a popular position with ordinary Americans of any party. And Republicans don't support things like family and medical leave. Once again, there's a gap that's opening up between office holders and ordinary Republicans on many of these social policy, and economic, and tax issues. So that's what I'm focusing on.
I'll come back to Donald Trump at the very end of the talk. Because I think some of the trends that I'm pointing to today by looking at elites in the Republican Party help us to understand why there's a gap into which odd candidates can move. I'll put it that way.
Now, most scholars and pundits would focus on public opinion polls, presidential contests as I've suggested. Or they might look at big money. But they would do it by pointing to the role of individual big donors.
My research group and my research that I'm reporting on here instead takes an organizational approach. We've set out in what I call the Shifting Terrain Project to map the changing patterns of organization on the right of the national political spectrum, around the Republican Party, and on the left around the Democratic Party. I'm only going to be talking about the right part of the analysis today, but we are doing the other side of the partisan equation as well.
And I'll be presenting some findings with this organizational analysis that will suggest that there have been extremely sharp shifts in the channels through which organized resources flow on the right conservative side of the national political spectrum that have weakened the Republican Party as such at the expense of giving more leverage to donor groups, think tanks, constituency organizations, and issue groups operating on the ultra free market right to the right of the Republican Party and are having an impact on it.
And a lot of that is due to the rise of an organized network, the Koch Network, that parallels the Republican Party and helps to pull it toward extremes, including unpopular extremes, on economic issues. So that's where we're heading.
Now, the first step that we took in this research was to assemble a list of organizations. You've got the handout, I believe. The handout has gone out. That gives an approximation of the forest of organizations operating at the national level in conservative and Republican politics in 2002 and in 2014. And of course, many organizations were in existence at both times. And by national, we mean not just DC-based organizations but also organizations that hold sway across many states.
We classified them into think tanks; constituency organizations that speak for broad constituencies, either business or popular constituencies; issue advocacy groups. We look at the Republican Party committees-- the Senatorial, the House, the Republican National Committee, and the national Republican committees that help to fund state, legislative, and gubernatorial campaigns. And then we looked at non-party funders.
And let me just dwell for that a moment. One of the things that we're doing in this research is to look at what we call donor consortia. These are not just single fat cats. We're looking at groups of donors who take part in organizations that have a sustained presence in raising big money and channeling it into politics. We're not looking at single candidate political action committees or organizations that operate only in one election, like the 2012 election. Instead, we're looking at sustained groups like the Club for Growth that's been pushing for lowering taxes with big donations from conservative wealth holders for some time. Or Crossroads, the Rove PAC. And the Koch Seminars, now organized by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, is an example that I'm going to be talking about quite a bit.
Notice the startling picture that you get when you just ask, What where the budgets-- or in the case of the donor groups, the funding that they channeled-- in 2002 versus 2014? We picked non-presidential years so that we wouldn't get the big bump up you get in a presidential contest. And particularly startling is the shift in non-party funders who now control 26% of the aggregate resources by this measure rather than 6% just a little over 10 years before, and the drop for the Republican Party committees.
I'm not presenting it today, but I can tell you that when you look at the Democratic Liberal universe, you do not see anything like that kind of drop in the proportion of resources controlled by the Democratic Party committees.
So right there, Republican Party-- Reince Priebus and his friends-- are controlling much less resources than they used to in the overall universe of organized resources that can be deployed on the Republican right. And you have a list that shows you the groups that have come into existence since 2002.
This shift in resources is there even if you look only at groups that existed in both 2002 and 2014. But much of the shift is driven by the founding of new groups on the far right since 2002 that were there when we looked in 2014. And those groups include-- all the ones in blue are part of the Koch Network that I'm about to start talking about. So you can see it's a lot of them.
There are, of course, others like Heritage Action, the Senate Conservatives Fund, Freedom Works, Tea Party Patriots-- which a kind of umbrella group for Tea Party groups. But most of the new resources-- 3/4 of the new resources that are responsible for those shifts toward extraparty funders and toward other issue groups, constituency groups, think tanks-- are Koch Network resources. And many of them are tied to newly-created organizations.
So from that exercise, it became apparent to our research group that we better get a handle on what this Koch network thing is.
Obviously, there are a lot of controversies about that. It has not been studied very much systematically by political scientists or other social scientists who tend to treat the money and politics issue as a matter of searching through public records to see what particular individuals give to particular candidates. So the approach we're taking here of looking at organized groups that are funding sets of other organizations is a little bit new. But you can find journalists who have been writing about the Koch Network, especially starting around 2009 and 2010 when it became obvious that Charles and David Koch-- two of the four Koch brothers. The two are what we mean when we say the Koch brothers because those are the two that are involved in politics. The other two are-- I think one of them is into sailing and something else. But in any event, Charles and David, who built their fortunes in Koch Industries based in Wichita, and it's now a vast international conglomerate-- they are the Koch brothers.
They captured the attention of many journalists after the journalist Jane Mayer published a famous article in New Yorker Magazine in 2010. And by 2012, various public interest muckraking groups, sleuthing groups, had dug up evidence about flows of money that could be tracked to the Koch brothers or to organizations connected to them. And they came up with this maze of money chart.
So this is one way to think about the Koch Network. And I don't know how well you can see that. It's a confusing mess. It's a snapshot at one point in time, and it takes every little piece of contribution that can somehow be attributed directly or indirectly to the Kochs. And there are things on there like the Chamber of Commerce and Christian right groups-- longstanding right wing groups that in a chart like this end up being part of the Koch Network if you define being part of the Koch Network as receiving a contribution at a moment in time.
Well, in our research group, we're approaching things very differently. We said to ourselves, We'd like to know about the specific subset of organizations that were founded by the Koch brothers and their immediate associates and are continuously run by people they installed. So we're taking a much more organizational control perspective.
And we did something that, for those of us who study things historically in political science, is a first move that you always make. We arrayed the groups according to the date of their founding. And from that comes a chart that I think makes a lot more sense of what the Koch Network is about and how it has evolved over time.
The first thing I want you to all notice by going up to the top is that the Koch brothers started by investing in idea creation. In fact, they've been quoted as saying that politicians just act out the ideas that others create. So they didn't start with politicians. They started by investing in the creation of ideas through the Cato Institute, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and a huge Family Foundation that gives lots and lots of grants to scholars at colleges and universities around the United States-- and probably abroad as well.
And you can see that started in the '70s and '80s and has continued ever since. So that's phase one of the evolution of Koch Network.
During that early phase, David Koch was running for office on the Libertarian Party ticket and getting practically no votes. So they switched by the '80s and '90s to founding a breed of organization that's pretty well-known in interest group research. These would be advocacy groups that gathered money not just from the Kochs themselves but from corporations and businesses to agitate for lower taxes and reductions in business regulations. Usually through a combination of lobbying, and advertising, and maybe what's called Astroturf organizing. That is being in contact with some local activists that could be presented as popular support for a position.
Citizens for a Sound Economy was the first and most sustained investment. It broke up in 2004 when a fight occurred between Dick Armey, who headed it at that time, and the Koch. But the 60 Plus Association fought against the Clinton health plan. So did the Center to Protect Patient Rights. And at a later time, it also became a sort of bank to spread money to other organizations in the Koch Network. The American Energy Alliance without agitated in the battle against the cap in trade legislation to respond to climate change that was debated in 2009 and 2010.
But the phase of organization building that I want to direct your attention to-- which I'm going to dwell on for a bit today-- is the third phase of Koch Network building, which kicks off in the 2000s. Now, significantly, it kicks off not after Barack Obama started running for office or moved into the White House. It kicks off under George W Bush.
And that's because the Koch brothers are libertarians and ultra free market advocates who don't really like Republicans who do things like invade the Middle East or expand the Medicare prescription drug benefit. I think the latter is a more serious sin in their way of thinking of things. So as early as 2003 and 2004, they were thinking, We've got to invest in a new wave of organizations that are going to move the Republican Party toward more pure free market positions.
The two really important movies made in this period are the founding of the Koch Seminars. The Koch Seminars meet twice a year now, and they have pretty much since 2003. And they've gone from attracting about 17 participants in 2003 to over 500 now. I'll come back to that in a minute. They are seminars in which wealthy conservatives-- mostly business people and their wives-- listen to lectures about free market economics and to political strategy lectures about how to save the country from politicians who are destroying American freedom. Freedom Partners Chambers of Commerce now runs the Koch Seminars and carries through some of the rules for donations that I'll describe in a minute.
But a whole other set of organizations were also launched starting in the 2000s-- and adding more recently-- that add up to a parallel political party operation outside the Republican Party to its right. Americans for Prosperity was founded after Citizens for a Sound Economy broke up as a federated organization, that I'll talk about in more detail. It parallels the political parties-- both political parties-- and is now in terms of its budget and staffing rivals the two political parties.
Generation Opportunity, and the LIBRE initiative, and the Concerned Veterans for America are examples of smaller organizations dedicated to outreach to particular constituencies. To milennials, who are defined as young people up to age 34, to Latinos, and to veterans. And in the case of two of them-- Gen Op and LIBRE-- these are constituencies that conservatives don't usually think of as being particularly friendly to them. So this is an effort to reach new supporters.
Famous I360 is a voter data gathering operation. It's parallel to Catalyst on the Democratic side for those of you who know that organization. And the most recently founded group [INAUDIBLE] Strategic is actually meant to help identify and nurture the careers of politicians like Joni Ernst in Iowa who could win office with an agenda that parallels the Koch Network's preferences. All of these organizations are described on the handout that you have.
Now let me just talk a little bit more about the Koch Seminars. Because this is an example of what I call the donor consortia before. The two major examples of donor consortia in this era of rising wealth and income inequality are on the right-- the Koch Seminars-- and on the left the Democracy Alliance.
The Koch Seminar started out small. In fact, Charles Koch reported that after the first year of very boring lectures at the 2003 event, only half of the people came back. What this figure represents, since the Kochs have not given me these data, is an effort to assemble all of the reports that are available from investigative journalists on one spreadsheet and come up with the best possible estimate of what the likely attendance each year was. And since there are two seminars each year, if there are two estimates given for the winter and the spring seminar, we take the higher of the two.
There is exactly one completely hard number on this figure, and that's the 226 number that you see for the June of 2010. That's a hard number because the attendance list for that seminar, along with the program, was leaked and appeared on the internet.
And I want to stress that in this research, both for the left and the right, we have used very happily the leaks that investigative journalists on the left and the right have managed to dig up. When people leave behind documents on the floor, or in a hotel room, or somebody finds it crumbled up in a hotel room, that makes for an exciting article in the Washington Free Beacon if a journalist finds it at the Democracy Alliance meeting, which happened in 2014 when somebody left their entire record of contributions on the floor by mistake. Or in the case of the Koch Seminars, occasionally there'll be somebody there who records it. And that recording appears in Mother Jones Magazine, or The Nation, or somebody finds a crumpled up document.
Now, I think a lot of time scholars in the social sciences think, Well, that's nice, but that's anecdotal evidence. Well, it's anecdotal if there's one of them. But if you put together a spreadsheet in which you dig up every morsel you can, and you array it over time, it's not so anecdotal anymore. So that's what we've done in this case, using especially the work of Kenneth Vogel, a journalist at Politico who is very, very good at finding somebody who participates in each of these meetings to tell him how many people are there.
And recently, as they attendance has exceeded 500 at the Koch Seminars, the Kochs themselves are claiming that to the world. So they're releasing numbers now.
You can see that this has taken off. And if I were to show you a figure for the Democracy Alliance-- I don't believe I have it here. The Democracy Alliance is about 100 to 150 from its founding in 2005 to the present. So it has leveled off. But there's nothing that's leveled off in the world of wealthy business people.
We've analyzed the wealth sources and the home locations of these people. Most of them come to the seminars as husband and wife couples. So think Mr and Mrs Ohio Widget Manufacturer coming for several days of lectures and political strategizing. And in the Koch Seminar case, you have to pledge at least $100,000 a year of contributions to Koch-approved organizations.
And most of them are giving far, far more than that. Because the estimates of how much money is raised through the Koch Seminars for the Koch Network as a whole, based on the pledges that have been made in each two year period, appear in blue here. And you can see that it rivals in recent election cycles the Republican Party itself. And the pledge for the 2016 cycle that we're in right now-- I'm using the low end, $750 million. The high end is $889 million. And there's no reason to believe that the Koch donors are not meeting these pledge levels. So a fabulous tide of money is being raised through these regular social and political donor events.
Just for the sake of comparison, the Democracy Alliance is in the blue here compared the Koch Seminars in the red. And I'm not including 2016. And you can see that much less money is being raised by the fat cats on the left than by the organized fat cats on the right.
Where does the money go? Well, that's equally interesting. And what we have done here is to track the part of the Koch funding that goes through Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, which is now formally organizing each of these winter and spring conferences.
Now, these conferences are held at beautiful resorts in Southern California. They used to be held in Colorado. What happens is that an entire resort is rented for three to four days and ringed with security. And the proceedings-- a combination of serious and social-- occur in those settings. By the end, the participants are pledging at least $100,00 but almost certainly much more in order to reach the totals that we see.
And where it goes-- about 40% of it according to interviews that Charles Koch has given-- goes to the think tanks and the educational institutions that I described earlier. Particularly, the Charles Koch Foundation and the Mercatus Center these days. And we can't track that in any specific way. There are no records.
But the part of it goes to Freedom Partners. Freedom Partners files with the Internal Revenue Service every year a report on the organizations to which it makes general purpose grants. And we've analyzed that data and show that 80% of the money that is collected from the Koch donors that goes to political purposes is going to other organizations on that chart that I handed out to you in the Koch political network. By contrast, for example, liberal donors are giving a much smaller amount of money, and it is going to go more than 100 organizations that are run independently of the Democracy Alliance.
So one way to figure out what's going on is to figure out where that money is going. And a lot of it is going to Americans for Prosperity, Generation Opportunity, Concerned Veterans for America, and the LIBRE Initiative. The groups that I described earlier as being involved in organizing political constituencies for both elections and policy campaigns.
The other source of data that we have is to analyze meetings. There are two occasions on which entire programs for Koch Seminars have been found and published on the internet-- for Spring of 2010 and Spring of 2014. That means we know what the themes of each session were over the three days and who spoke at them. And we've simply counted up who speaks. We know which Republican politicians appear. That would be Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, the leading contenders for the Senate in 2014, Joni Ernst, Corey Gartner, Tom Cotton in Arkansas. These were all state representatives running for Senate seats.
And we know that most of the panels are actually heads of Koch-controlled organizations speaking about their analysis of the political situation and what their organization is doing about it. In contrast, the liberal Democracy Alliance meetings are stuffed with dozens and dozens of heads of other organizations outside the Democracy Alliance.
So from this kind of data, including-- this is the sheet that described who was meeting one-on-one at the winter meeting. It was found crumpled up in a hotel room. And you can see that a lot of the meetings between donors, private one-on-one meetings between donors and heads of the Koch Network that were in attendance at that winter seminar, involved these organizations. And from that kind of data, that's how we infer what's important. Because if you take the trouble to arrange these kinds of meetings, that's what you're actually trying to get the donors to help fund. Anybody who's been a university dean knows that. And I was for a little while.
All right. So Americans for Prosperity emerges as a superstar in these Koch Seminars when you count up who appears on what panels. And it also was pretty important in that crumpled up document with the one-on-one donor meetings.
What is Americans for Prosperity? If you don't know, you should know. Because it's now an important part of American politics that rivals the Republican Party itself.
It was founded in 2004. And before Barack Obama even had it in his head probably to run for office-- well, how do I know; I haven't met him. But before he was running for office in 2007 and 2008, Americans for Prosperity had already created paid state directors, which is a key position in the organization in 19 states with 50% of the US population. By now, it's organized in 34 to 35 states with more than 4/5 of the population. And of course, more than 4/5 of the representatives in Congress.
You can see that it's budget has ballooned from under $4 million to over $150 million in 2015. It's almost certainly higher in 2016. And it's also an organization that signs up people who are grassroots activists on mailing lists that are maintained nationally and in each state. But it also has a lot of paid officials who both work in the state organizations and work as regional and national managers. So it's a big organization and organized like a US political party.
Here are some of the ways in which this is a very unique political animal on the American landscape. And I say this both about now and because I've studied civic and political organizations throughout American history. And there aren't very many that resemble this.
It combines things that are often kept apart in American politics. It combines centralized direction of the kind that you would find in a privately-held corporation or an authoritarian political party with a federated organization that parallels the political parties and resembles what civic associations in the United Statess-- for those of you who have read my book Diminished Democracy know. Throughout much of American history, civic associations were organized nationally in the states and locally. So AFP has that kind of tiered, federated organization.
It's unusual in that you can't really classify it as exactly about elections or about policy campaigns. Because-- and this is proclaimed very proudly in AFP documents that are presented to donors that might give to it. It maintains a continuous political presence by deploying lobbying media, advertising money, continuously both in election campaigns and in ongoing issue campaigns in the various states as well as nationally.
It works in close coordination within the states with other national networks of conservative organizations, particularly the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is a membership group that has many state legislators all over the country and provides them with model bills that they can introduce and pass. And free market think tanks who provide studies and op eds on behalf of things like curbing union rights, or cutting taxes, or blocking environmental regulations.
AFP is also interesting in that it's a very disciplined organization. And we have not yet in our research actually coded the issues that each state organization deals with. But it's going to be boring coding when we do it. Because I've spent a lot of time with these websites now and in the past, and they hit the same issues over and over again. Although many people who are employed by Americans for Prosperity, and other places in the Koch Network, and who attend the Koch Seminars are, for example, committed Christian evangelicals who would be opposed to abortion. Some might even be wanting to crack down on immigration.
These are not the issues, these more social issues, that are directly stressed by the Koch organizations. Instead, they maintain a focus on tax cutting, on opposition to business and environmental regulations, on cuts in social spending, or blocking new social spending programs like Obamacare, and efforts to weaken public sector unions. Which in many ways Americans for Prosperity sees itself as founded to defeat and replace public sector unions, which are seen as, if you will, the AFP of the Democratic party.
And then finally-- and here's the part of our research that I think is in some ways the most interesting. This is an organization, and the Koch Network as a whole, not only parallel the Republican Party and perform many of the functions that a political party would perform, perfectly in fighting elections, and providing data to candidates, raising money for candidates, either for conservative Republicans or to defeat liberal Democrats or liberals of any kind. It also is thoroughly interpenetrated with the Republican party.
Well, how do I know? Well, in our research, what we did was to use the Way Back Machine on the internet. Which-- I'm an old lady. I had to be taught to use this Way Back Machine on the internet. It's a part of the internet where they cache previous versions of websites.
And back in the early days of Americans for Prosperity, they provided all kinds of information about themselves that they no longer provide on their website. And so we simply went back to the 2004, 2005, and each year after that in each state as well as nationally and recorded the data.
And one part of that analysis was to reconstruct exactly who was pointed to be a paid state director in the first 15 organized states. And if we went back to that map, I hope you remember that the first 15 organized states were in all regions of the United States. It wasn't just next to Kansas. It was Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, all over the upper South. And so it's a nice array of states. And if they were organized by 2007 with a paid director, that means that there are a lot of directors that have been appointed. Directors are in office for about 20 months on average.
So we reconstructed who was appointed, when they came in, when they left, and what previous positions they held in their career, and what later positions they held in their career. And from that data, we discovered that this isn't separate from the Republican Party in many ways, especially at the state level. It's intertwined with it. Because the red bars here indicate the kind of previous positions that state directors had, and the green positions indicate for those who had left their positions-- that is, not those who are in office right now-- what subsequent positions they went on to.
And you can see that there are a fair number that are recruited out of previous AFP or Koch positions-- usually an associate director becoming a director. And a fair number move on to other high level positions. So there's an internal neighbor market in this Koch Network.
But look at the number that are recruited from GOP staff's-- from people who were running election campaigns, or who were on the staffs of governors, or senators, or representatives. And then many of them later on, after serving as AFP directors, move on to be the heads of campaigns for presidential candidates, gubernatorial candidates, or the heads of the staff's of those.
Business, by the way, is a little bit misleading. Because most of those recruited out of businesses are returning to businesses are not going to big corporations. They're going to consulting firms that work for Republican Party candidates or do publicity for Republican Party campaigns. Only a small number come from other conservative advocacy groups or go to them.
And of course, there's very little involvement with elected officers. This is not about appealing to the voters. This is about shaping policy.
We compared the Koch Network to the Club for Growth and Americans for Tax Reform, which are two other donor-supported groups fighting for a very similar government shrinking agenda. And we found that in the case of those other groups, they weren't as intertwined with the Republican party.
So what to make of all this. What I make of it is that in many ways, the Koch Network is a parallel to the Republican Party on the right that helps to interject a certain amount of resources, and spine, and backbone into a ultra free market, government shrinking agenda. But it's intertwined with the Republican party in that it moves people back and forth into key positions in the Republican Party itself.
So it partly is separate from the party, but also very intertwined with it. And I think that's part of the reason why we see Republican politicians-- now I'm coming to the payoff part of the talk-- adapting positions increasingly in the 2000s that are very much in line with the preferred political and economic agenda of the Koch Network. Even if those positions are unpopular with most Americans, or even if they're unpopular with many ordinary Republicans. Most elected office holders and most aspiring candidates in the Republican Party have gravitated toward opposition to the minimum wage, opposition to collective bargaining rights for public sector workers. And lest you think that that's popular, 2/3 of Americans say that they'd like to just leave collective bargaining rights in place for public sector workers.
A Koch Network position calls for cutting or privatizing Social Security, but most Americans, including most Republicans, want to expand Social Security, not cut it. And of course, in areas like should we spend for highways, or infrastructure, the Koch Network is often at odds not just with popular opinion but with business opinion as well.
The part of our research that has to do with pinning down whether this Koch Network is actually having these effects is just in its early stages. And it's one of the hardest things that political scientists tackle, is to figure out what impact an advocacy group, or an interest group, or a social movement has on policy or political outcomes.
That's because a lot of different things can contribute to bringing about a policy or political outcome, and it's hard to attribute causality. And what I've shown you so far is correlation. Correlation's not causality. It's suspicious that most Republicans are queueing to this line, but it's not necessarily causal.
So we've looked in a few specific policy areas. One of them is the Anti Climate Tax Pledge that was introduced by Americans for Prosperity in 2007 and 2008 and has increasingly taken hold in Republican contingents in the Congress. And lest you think that that simply reflects Republican opinion, we now have data from the Yale Climate Project broken down to the level of states and individual congressional districts that allows us to look and see whether the constituents of the Republicans who have signed the Anti Climate Tax Pledge are actually demanding that they do such a thing.
And you can see that there's actually considerable support in those constituencies for limits on coal-fired plants, regulating carbon dioxide, people believing that warming is happening, and that it's harmful. So I think it's fair to say that this is not simply a reflection of constituent opinion. It's much more a gravitation toward a clear policy position that the Koch Network is pressing on the Republican Party.
We've also looked at the state level. And the state level is very interesting, because there are 50 states. And even if you take out some of the very liberal ones, that's not very interesting for the problem at hand, you can ask the question whether Koch Network strength in the various states is in any way correlated with Republican politicians adopting policy positions or enacting legislation that is in some ways at odds with what popular opinion or business preferences might be in those states.
So for the wave of legislation that's passed recently curbing the rights of public sector unions to bargain collectively and to collect dues from their members, we asked the question-- Well, that wave of legislation was passed in 2011. Where did it pass? Our first question was, Did that correlate with public opinion?
In other words, were states where the majority's supporting public sector union rights were weaker, where they more likely to pass these curbs or not? And the answer is no to that. On the other hand, states with a paid state director for AFP installed, which is a simple but clear institutionalization measure, we're more likely.
And then we did a full multivariate analysis to look at other things that might be going on, like obviously partisan control of government, the unemployment rate, union density in the states. And even with all of those things in the analysis, the predicted probabilities of states passing retrenching legislation, AFP director is a pretty strong positive predictor, about 2/3 as strong as simply partisan control of government.
So that kind of analysis we intend to pursue in other policy areas.
The final part of what we're doing is to take a look at the tensions that are beginning to grow between the Koch Network as a force for pure free market policy and business interests organized in chambers of commerce-- the US Chamber of Commerce nationally, chambers of commerce in the states. Because chambers of commerce are very conservative. They're at the core of the Republican Party since the 1990s, and they're certainly no friends of union rights. So they would cheer on any efforts to cut taxes on business and regulation on business. The US Chamber is opposed to climate change reforms.
But when it comes to things like whether highways are going to be funded, or the agriculture subsidies will be enacted by Congress, or in the case of the states whether states will adopt the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare-- which really is a matter of collecting hundreds of millions to billions of dollars in revenue from the federal government that goes directly into healthcare in the state and pads the profits of hospitals, health care providers. We find growing tensions between the Koch Network's positions, often enforced by Americans for Prosperity and the other groups I have described, and the positions that the Chambers of Commerce will take.
We've got a statistical as well as case study analysis about to appear in Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law, showing that the strength of organized right networks-- which we've measured for the first time in empirical research-- is a very good predictor of which Republican-led states had been willing to expand Medicaid and which have not. And in many states, it's a tug of war within the Republican Party between the Chamber of Commerce pressing for Medicaid expansion along with the hospitals and the right wing networks pressing against it.
We're doing similar analyses for highway bills and other infrastructure spending bills. And of course, I think many of you may know about the fight that's been going on in Congress now for several years between the Chamber of Commerce on the one hand and the Koch Network and other right wing forces on the other about the continuation of an obscure agency called the US Export Import Bank, which has been subsidizing corporate exports since the 1930s. That always used to be routinely expanded and renewed by bipartisan votes, and now there's a war within the Republican Party between the Koch Network and the Chamber of Commerce over whether to continue it as a business subsidy program.
So let me wrap up and open the floor for discussion by saying that I think there's a lot of evidence when you look with the empirical strategies we're using that the Koch Network has emerged as an independent and powerful driver of Republican positions and policy outcomes, specifically on economic, tax, and regulatory issues. It's not the driver on Christian right priorities like abortion policy. And it's not the driver on immigration either, because the Koch Network is not necessarily opposed to some form of immigration reform that would be business friendly.
But on the policies that we've seen Republican politicians espouse with increasing unanimity-- tax cuts for the wealthy and business; opposition to any expansion of the American social safety net, in fact efforts to dismantle or privatize that which we have; and above all, opposition to union rights-- even union rights that many Republicans lived with just eight years ago. The Koch Network is a powerful force that is pulling and pushing the Republican Party into extreme and often unpopular positions.
In many ways, it's adding new heft to a longstanding set of corporate priorities, particularly on labor rights. But in other areas, it's taking the meaning of right wing economic policy into new and uncharted territory.
I think it helps us to understand that continuing asymmetric polarization that's otherwise very puzzling for political scientists who think that elections drive everything. And the unresponsiveness of many politicians to the mass public that political scientists like Martin Gilens and Ben Page have increasingly documented. And certainly, it helps us to understand why many new public policies have been enacted that increase economic inequality in an era of already galloping economic inequalities. And why possible remedies to economic inequality have been blocked.
Now, I'll close by saying it also helps us to understand why the Republican Party entering an presidential election year in 2016 was vulnerable to a tornado called Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the only Republican presidential contender in 2016 who did not audition before the Koch's donors at a Koch Seminar. He's not a Koch guy. As he proudly tells his voters, They can't buy me, because I'm a billionaire. He might not even really be all that rich, but he's telling us he is.
But he stands for things-- immigrant bashing above all; a strong America, which he hints might be necessary to compromise some of the free trade policies that the Koch Network and other free market forces push. And certainly, he hints that he would maintain Social Security and Medicare for the elderly, which is a popular position.
And does this research that I've presented to you today explain where he came from? No, but it explains why the Republican Party-- including the elites in the Koch Network that help to direct the Republican Party now-- are vulnerable to that kind of rebellion from below which they don't control, and they're doing their best to outmaneuver over the next few months.
So let me close my lecture there and open the floor for questions and discussion.
THEDA SKOCPOL: Questions and discussion?
I don't know if we have-- do we have a little bit of time?
SPEAKER 1: OK, I'll field questions. And please introduce yourself.
SPEAKER 2: Excuse me, [INAUDIBLE]. Thank you, Theda. That was a wonderful and terrifying [INAUDIBLE]. The last few weeks, we've been reading and hearing the press and media about some southern states which are engaging in legislation which we might kindly call part of the cultural right.
THEDA SKOCPOL: Yup.
SPEAKER 2: Mostly anti-LGBT legislation. And we've also been hearing about elements in the business community that seem prepared to punish these states by pulling their business out or not moving it. And it made me wonder what the connection is, if any, between the cultural right which seems to be in the saddle in many southern and Southwestern states and the Koch Network.
THEDA SKOCPOL: OK, well the Koch Network doesn't really take a strong position on those issues. And if you look at the pattern of grants that they gave-- for example, the 2012 election where I showed that maze of money chart-- at that juncture, when, remember, conservatives were trying to unseat Barack Obama and prevent a second term, they were spreading small grants to a large number of business organizations and also to some Christian right groups, although still raising most of the money for their own network of political organizations.
They gave some grants to some Christian right groups. And if we talk about, say, AFP Georgia or ADP North Carolina, they will often cooperate with Christian right groups or with pro-gun groups or with a whole series of other groups that we would consider part of the cultural right on campaigns that are their priorities.
But I think we've seen them be curiously quiet in these battles that are breaking out between organized business-- sometimes the chamber, sometimes just big corporations-- and the state legislatures in those states have passed the anti-LGBT laws. I think they're just sitting it out. Because in many ways, they want to quietly cooperate with allies who are on the Christian right against the primary enemy, which would be Democrats, liberals, labor unions. But they also don't want to throw their support behind what, from their perspective, are not the major agenda issues.
Now I think it's interesting that in the North Carolina law, my understanding of the bathroom law in North Carolina is that they sneaked all kinds of anti worker right things into that bill. And I haven't looked into it. But I wouldn't be at all surprised if a lot of Koch backed politicians-- I mean, North Carolina's a Koch success story, overall. I mean, they've backed a lot of the things that have happened there. And their state chapter was one of the earliest founded there. I suspect they cheered on the insertion of many of those kinds of the anti-union and anti worker right measures that aren't getting a lot of play in the national media.
But if anything, were even more insidious, because they're enforceable. I don't know how you enforce a bathroom law. I mean, are we going to ask people to show their birth certificate to go to the bathroom. I mean, I don't think any of us will be able to go to the bathroom if that happens. So that's symbolic politics. But it's a vehicle that can be used for other things. And one of the advantages of being federated is that you can let things happen in some states that you then pretend you oppose in other states. And that's what they're doing, in many ways, through Americans for Prosperity. Yeah.
SPEAKER 1: Yes, right up there. Introduce yourself.
SPEAKER 3: I'm [INAUDIBLE]. And I'm a junior in the government department.
THEDA SKOCPOL: Nice to meet you.
SPEAKER 3: Nice to meet you. And in the last few elections, it's been pretty clear that the Republicans have had some trouble with appealing to minorities and millennials.
THEDA SKOCPOL: It's not going to get better either, I don't think.
SPEAKER 3: Yeah. And the types of policies that the Koch network is promoting would, arguably, disenfranchise these groups even more. Do you think that there's any indication that, as the GOP tries to recover some share of the voters that they might turn away from this [INAUDIBLE]?
THEDA SKOCPOL: Well you know, one of the most interesting parts of our research, which I didn't go into depth today, but two of the student members of the research team have been looking at the LIBRE Initiative. LIBRE Initiative is very interesting because-- I don't know whether people remember, after the Republicans lost the 2012 elections, the Republican Party created a commission to decide what they should do to be more appealing to particularly Latinos and young people.
And it is recommended all kinds of things for the Republican Party to do which the Republican party has most certainly not done. Starting with some form of immigration reform. But even just offering a friendlier face to, say, the Latino community. And this is where the fact that the Koch network is a parallel to, intertwined with, and able to leverage the Republican Party, but not the Republican Party, matters. Because in some ways, the Koch network is a more long term endeavor. It's not tied up with wins or losses in any one election, or any one policy battle.
And particularly in the case of appealing to Latinos and millennials, LIBRE and GenOP are patiently following a kind of soft organizing strategy of trying to establish more of a presence in those populations, with an eye on the long run for conservatives. Most of whom will be running on the Republican ticket, but it's conservatives they're interested in.
And what we've done in our research is to map where all the events are held and who they're held with. And it's fun research because it turns out that most millennial outreach by the Koch network consists of holding drinking parties. This is their image of college students. Obviously they're mostly on campus. And they're mostly drinking parties, in which people are asked to text their friends. And those names are then collected, I'm pretty sure, into a database that might be used for building some kind of conservative message in the future. In the Latino community, it's mostly co-sponsoring things with community fairs, or churches, or young professionals organizations or college groups of Latinos.
And that's an even softer form of outreach. It's just trying to insert the idea that there's a free market way to solve all your life's problems. Your student loan problems, there's a free market way to deal with it. Immigration reform, there's a free market way to deal with it. All along, collecting names of people that can be contacted in the future.
But you know, I think that it's significant that this is going on quietly and laying a base for something in the future while the Republican party is going into a meltdown. And I think what that means is that when Donald Trump has come and gone, this will still be there. And much of it will be deployed quite actively if even someone like Ted Cruz is the nominee. Or the preferred nominee would be Paul Ryan. I don't know that that's going to be possible. But that would be the preferred nominee.
But this is not a political operation that's about one election. It's not tied. And that means it's not going to stop or lose if one election is lost. So I hope that helps.
Oh, and by the way, on the African American front, they've given up pretty much on African Americans. But there is an effort in the Koch network, which we saw featured at the 2014 spring program that we had, to offer some sense of alliance on the question of reducing prison populations. Because that can be presented as a libertarian idea.
And a big grant was made to the United Negro College fund, and he was one of the few outside leaders who appeared at that spring seminar. Apparently causing a great deal of controversy among other African American leaders, but-- it's not so much that they're trying to convert African American voters as they are trying to show that they're prepared to deal with some issues of concern to the African American community. Yeah.
SPEAKER 1: Christopher?
SPEAKER 4: My [INAUDIBLE]. So, a lot of political scientists have linked the 2008 economic crisis to excessive deregulation. As the economic crisis [INAUDIBLE] the Koch philosophy?
THEDA SKOCPOL: No. No, because-- and you know, this was also true in our work-- in the very separate research project that Vanessa Williams and I did on the Tea Party, where we actually talked to grassroots tea partiers, many of the kinds of people who would be voting for Cruz or Trump now. And who might be on some of the activists list for the Americans for Prosperity. From the perspective of conservatives, both grassroots and elite conservatives, the financial crisis in 2008 an 9 was not the fault of Wall Street. It was the fault of politicians who gave mortgages to people who didn't deserve them. And regulators who pushed banks into doing things that they shouldn't have done.
You know, there could be-- exactly the same events can be perceived through a very different prism of who's to blame for them. And so when a lot of people on the left say, oh, the Trump people agree with us on Wall Street. No they don't. Because they don't agree with who's to blame. And the Koch network definitely does. I mean, in the Koch world, the government and politicians and liberals and unions are to blame for everything that goes wrong. Everything that goes wrong. Otherwise it's a free prosperous entrepreneurial America where everybody can get ahead. That's the way they think about it. And they really do believe that.
A lot of times people say, well isn't this just a front for industrial interest? No it's not. It's a moral worldview which happens to coincide with a lot of industrial interests. I'm not denying that. But when the wealthy conservative people get together at the Koch seminars, they are participating in what they consider to be a moral crusade. And that's part of what gives them the strength of energy to-- one of the things we've done in our research is to collect the titles of various seminars.
The papers that this is drawn from, I think your handout tells you how you can get to all of them. And just go look at the titles. You'll enjoy them. Things like American Courage. How much courage does it take to go to a resort that costs $500 a night and get together with other people? But from the perspective of those folks. who I haven't had a chance to speak with, but I'd love to. And I'm looking to speak to some of them if I can. To hear what they have to say.
But some Koch donors have published op eds, where they explain why they're proud to be part of this. And there's no reason to question their sincerity anymore than there's reason to question the sincerity of liberals who say why they believe what they believe. And it just happens to also coincide with their career interests.
Most people actually do believe something that coincides with how they make their living. It's human nature.
SPEAKER 1: Gretchen?
SPEAKER 5: Gretchen Ritter of The Universe and Sciences. [INAUDIBLE], part of the story between, seems to be a one and rich the Chambers of Commerce business interests could be more aligned to Democratic and progressive interests here?
THEDA SKOCPOL: I wouldn't say progressive. That's going too far.
SPEAKER 5: So, in terms of health care, in terms of infrastructure, potentially in some areas on trade, in terms of the pushback on things like the anti-gay laws, is that an opportunity that people should be looking at and trying to do more with?
THEDA SKOCPOL: Of course. Because politics is very much a matter of finding the divisions in the opponent. And, like I said, I don't want to overplay this. Because whether we're talking about the US Chamber of Commerce, which is very conservative and very much part of the Republican Party establishment. It has been in the entire Tom Donahue era since the mid 1990's.
Or we're talking about state Chambers of Commerce which tend to be somewhat less ideologically conservative. And sometimes at the local level, they've even quit the larger chambers over climate change things.
But on particular issues like infrastructure spending, there are definite possibilities for liberals to ally with business interests. On some of these lifestyle or rights issues, I'm not so sure it's the chambers. I think it's individual corporations that are very concerned about maintaining fairness in their work forces that are the ones that are the allies. But the one that we've studied the most directly is the Medicaid expansion. And you know, that's a big deal.
I'm sure there are a lot of people here who think Obamacare is not a good policy. And I don't know whether we should get into this argument. But I will tell you that there is no law that has passed in the United States in the last 50 years that has redistributed resources as much as this law does. It is funded by taxes on the rich and business. And it delivers health care to primarily lower middle income and lower income people who didn't have health insurance. Is it perfect? Does it cover every immigrant in America? Of course not. But it is a huge redistributive equality enhancing law that of the likes we have not seen since Medicare and Medicaid were enacted in 1965.
So it's a big deal that in many states-- and frankly, a lot of Republican states-- Republican dominated states-- have expanded Medicaid. All the action in 2013, 14, 15, is almost entirely within states that are either the governorship and both houses of the legislature are in Republican hands, or two out three-- just how we define Republican dominated in our statistical study that we do in this new article.
And the Allies of the liberal forces pushing for Medicaid expansion-- the ones speaking for community health centers, poor people, et cetera-- have been chambers of commerce and hospital associations. And it's not because they heard the word of God and believed it. It's because they see profits to be made in those federal subsidies for health insurance for people who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford health care services or would be a burden on the bottom lines of hospitals. And that has produced a split within the Republican coalition, where chambers of commerce are fighting on the same side, says unions and community groups and advocates for the poor.
So in many ways, that's where a lot of the action has been in moving forward this equality enhancing policy over the last few years.
SPEAKER 1: I'm going to take one more question. And then after that, I'm going to invite all of you please join us for a reception. You're all invited. It's in the Gallery of the History of Art, which is at the other end of this building, down this same hall and this floor. The last question?
SPEAKER 6: Yeah, so I'm Corrinne [INAUDIBLE]. I am the spouse of a faculty member. And given what you have put forward in terms of the [INAUDIBLE] and the disconnect between what is popular among constituents in this country and what has been advocated, do you see any historical parallels with the rise of authoritarian governments in [INAUDIBLE]?
THEDA SKOCPOL: Well there certainly are possibilities. I mean, there's certainly-- we're hearing themes in this election that resemble the kind of outgroup targeting that we saw on the rise of authoritarian right governments in the 1930's, in the early part of the 1930's. But American is still a democracy. I mean, it's an imperfect democracy. And I didn't mention the systematic efforts to suppress voting rights and to make it harder for people to vote.
The Koch network supports those very consistently. And that, along with the efforts to disorganize unions, which has been a major vehicle for getting ordinary people to vote, and getting their voices into the political process, even if an imperfect vehicle. I'm not here to white wash any of this. But, I think it's fair to say that in my discipline of political science, 15 years ago, nobody studied inequality very much. It started to change around 2000. I was President of the American Political Science Association when we created a working group to look at inequality in American democracy.
And one of the things we did was to look at all the research that existed. And there wasn't that much, particularly on the kinds of things that I'm talking about today. There was some on the perennially interesting question of who votes and who doesn't vote. Of course, it's more educated people, and better off people who tend to vote, unless they're organized through churches or unions. But there you can see the role of organization.
Organization matters in a democracy because what it does is create a sustained capacity to influence things. Not just during elections, but between elections when a lot of the governing choices are made. And a lot of the way in which money matters in politics is by creating organized access to the agenda that the legislators debate, let alone what they do with it.
So in the discipline of political science now, there's a lot more attention today to the reality that you can't just go out there and conduct an opinion poll or even hold an election and ask t he voters what they want and assume that that's going to occur. I guess we all knew that. I think if you go out there into a cafe, they know that. Or a diner, they know that all along. So they're saying, congratulations academics. You've just discovered what we knew all along.
But it is being much more systematically documented. And then, research like what I'm reporting, and then people are coming at it from different angles, are trying to understand why does this gap exists? Because it's not as if this is an authoritarian country. It is not. We still have freedom of speech. You're still voting. They're still contention. There's plenty of contention. Were contending all the time. Aren't we? And I'm sure here in Ithaca, you're contending.
So I don't want to suggest this is an authoritarian situation. But I do think that when you interject into American democracy a billionaire millionaire backed political machine that is able to operate in a highly centralized and authoritarian fashion and influence one of our two major political parties, you got something you better think about. Let's put it that way. And so that's what the message is from this research.
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New research highlights resource shifts on the U.S. right and the growing influence of the Koch network, a coordinated set of big donors, lobbying groups and constituency organizations that now rivals America’s political parties.
Sociologist and political scientist Theda Skocpol presents early results from a collaborative study of "The Shifting U.S. Political Terrain" underway at Harvard University. Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University and director of the Scholars Strategy Network.