Are the Koch Brothers After Dan Wolk?

Are the Koch Brothers getting involved in local assembly race?
Are the Koch Brothers getting involved in local assembly race?

Yesterday evening, the Vanguard was surprised to receive a message from Dan Wolk with the title, “Tell the Koch Brother’s: It’s On!”

The message stated, “We knew it was coming. And now it’s time to fight back.”

Mr. Wolk states, “The Koch brothers and other right-wing conservative special interests have launched their negative attacks, trying to defeat me by distorting my record and using misleading information.”

He adds, “These opponents are well funded and aggressive. They are attacking me because they know I will go to Sacramento to fight for middle-class families and women’s rights — taking on their right-wing agenda. And they don’t expect that I will be able to match them in the big money game.”

We asked the Wolk Campaign to explain their communication and were told, “There’s a negative IE against Dan (Wolk) put out by FAIRPAC. FAIRPAC is funded by the Koch Industries among other ultra-right-wing interests.”


The documentation shows that a group called “FairPAC Independent Expenditure Committee, Sponsored by the Civil Justice Association of California” has funded, on May 12, a $96,000 television ad campaign against Dan Wolk.

The claim by the Wolk Campaign, however, appears to be mostly political theater. FairPAC is indeed funded by ultra-right-wing industries, but according to Cal-Access just $6800 of their money came from the Koch Industries, and that was back in May 2013, well before this effort against Dan Wolk.


In their filings in the opposition to Dan Wolk, FairPAC appears to show themselves receiving $150,000 from a California Real Estate IE in Los Angeles and another $100,000 from the Farmers Group also based in Los Angeles.

Moreover, it seems a bit unseemly for the Wolk campaign to be crying foul – even given the political nature of such pleas which are rooted in the desire to raise money.

As the Vanguard showed last week, the Opportunity PAC made up of labor groups is vowing to pump half a million into this assembly race.

The hits against Bill Dodd continue with yet another large mailer aimed largely at the same issue.

IE-Dodd-3-1 IE-Dodd-3-2

It’s a campaign that has received heavy criticism in the Vanguard and other publications. This morning, the Enterprise nails the Opportunity PAC again for reaching “a new low” for its “flagrant disregard for the truth.”

Writes the Enterprise, “If it’s any consolation to Dodd, he’s not alone. Opportunity PAC has occupied itself the past few years by spending money up and down the state on hit pieces in local races.”

They also attack the environmental wastefulness of “the avalanche of glossy, full-color cardboard” writing, “And, while we’re on the subject, can we make a general plea for politicians to ease up on all the paper? All those oversized posters in people’s mailboxes are a waste of money and resources, and can induce voter fatigue even if they’re not out-and-out ‘dirty tricks.’”

They add, “It’s particularly ironic for a candidate to tout his or her environmental credentials (usually accompanied by a color photo in a pristine landscape) on a forest’s worth of mailers for every voter in the district. Make them smaller, at least — every tree counts.”

It’s worth noting that the latest blitz on Bill Dodd does not print on recycled paper, but does claim to use “soy ink.”

As we noted earlier, just like last week’s ad, the latest missive represents a heavy distortion from the facts. The Napa County Board of Supervisors did approve a 1.4 percent increase in salary, an additional $1000. It represented the first pay increase in six years.

But importantly, the Napa paper reported, “The pay raises are mandated by Napa County ordinance, which ties the supervisors’ salaries to a percentage of Napa County Superior Court judges’ pay. Superior Court judges statewide are getting the same 1.4 percent pay raise, increasing their salaries from $178,789 annually to $181,292.”

The article continues, “Napa County supervisors by law receive 47.09 percent of the Superior Court judges’ salaries. The 1.4 percent pay bump will take their annual salaries from $84,204 to about $85,370. The county received notice Dec. 2 of the judicial pay raises, which are also retroactive to July 1, according to a county staff report.”

“Supervisors and judges haven’t seen a pay raise since 2007 because of the state government’s budget problems, which resulted in a freeze of judicial salaries. The state provides the majority of the funding for California’s 58 trial courts,” the Napa paper reports.

The paper also notes, “Their salaries are still the smallest among their fellow North Bay supervisors. Solano County gives its supervisors about $94,000 in base pay, while Marin County offers about $97,000, although that’s slated to increase to $107,000 next year. Sonoma County pays its supervisors $134,000 annually.”

The Vanguard ran into Bill Dodd on Wednesday and he noted that, while the Board of Supervisors was required to vote to approve the pay increase, because of the ordinance, even if they had voted against it, the pay increase would have taken effect.

Yolo County has a similar ordinance tying pay increases to judge’s salaries as it takes the unsavory nature away from politicians having to vote to increase their own salaries.

It appears after three mailers this is what they are going to hit Mr. Dodd with. We will have to see how the FairPAC chooses to go after Mr. Wolk.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. SODA

    Good story and glad you again brought up the opportunity PAC activities against Dodd. I understand that a candidate may have no input into a PAC’s design and decision to create a negative piece against your opponent (Dodd in this case) but does a candidate have input or need to agree for a PAC to send out a positive brochure on you (Wolk in this case)?
    It is so disheartening to see so much money being used in these ways, especially when candidates with mainly grassroots efforts receive small donations from many….

  2. Sam

    So why is everyone so afraid of the Koch brothers’ political contributions? They are not even in the top 50 as far as donation size nationwide. To use a football analogy, that is about like the 49ers only drafting players this year so they can beat the Raiders next season.

    1. WesC

      If you think the Koch brothers funding of politics is insignificant your head has been very deeply buried in the sand for much too long. The Koch brothers funding is hidden in a maze of foundations, LLCs, etc which are designed to conceal the source of the funding. All NRLB-regulated unions, on the other hand, disclose every outside payment. Labor payments that cannot be found through the FEC can be found on a database maintained by the Labor Department. Individuals and corporations are under no such similar disclosure rules. The Koch money identified recently by the Washington Post for this last 2012 election cycle came to the tune of $407 million. This consists of the money they filtered through foundations and nonprofits. For this current midterm election cycle the Kochs have publicly committed to spending at least $125 million, and are on track to spend much more than that. To put this in perspective the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is responsible for supporting Dem candidates in 435 U.S. House races, announced it has $40.2 million to be used in this year’s midterms. Its GOP counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee, has about $31.2 million in cash on hand for the year. On the Senate side, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has a little more than $22 million in the bank, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee has $15.9 million in cash on hand.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        Wiki: “The Paranoid Style in American Politics[1] is an essay by American historian Richard J. Hofstadter, first published in Harper’s Magazine in November 1964.”

        1. Davis Progressive

          which highlighted groups like the john birch society and the knownothings. groups that are long since irrelevant. but what’s interesting is read the book now and you still can recognize the threads that go through history.

      2. Sam

        Wow, that does sound scary a hidden maze of contributions. But for what? To elect candidates that align with their views? Even at $400 million that is about the same amount that unions spent on politics for the 2012 election cycle. How come unions can spend ungodly amount of cash to elect the very people that determine their pay and that is not a conflict of interest and seen as good, but two brothers that want to elect people that align with their general business interest are considered evil? I am not saying that either is good, but how can you consider one worse than the other?

        1. WesC

          I did not say nor do I feel any one is better than the other. Both have corrupted the system. My only concern is with disclosure. If a person or group wants to donate a bundle in an attempt to get a politician elected who will advocate for legislation that will help their cause, I think their should be full disclosure of where exactly the money is coming from. I also think the only solution to the mess we have now is full public financing of elections, and that the odds of that happening are zero.

      3. South of Davis

        WesC wrote:

        > All NRLB-regulated unions, on the other hand,
        > disclose every outside payment.

        They may disclose every “payment” but they don’t disclose the “value” of having a couple clean cut good looking firefighters sitting at a table outside a grocery store (or any other union members anywhere else) talking to voters. A good friend is called the “politician” by most of the other firefighters he works with since he is so involved with politics and he is batting 1000 since 1990 when he first worked with other firefighters to make sure a guy he didn’t like didn’t get elected.

        1. Frankly

          This is absolutely right and it is a big deal.

          Democrats routinely benefit from a lot of free union labor to help with campaigns. Republicans have to pay for all their campaign help.

          During the last CA governor election Meg Whitman had a bus full of union nurses harass her at every campaign event. Bet the value of that help did not show on any campaign contribution disclosures.

          1. Don Shor

            Republicans have to pay for all their campaign help.

            I’m sure that’s not true. But to your main point: if the nurses were doing it on their own time, it’s perfectly legal just as any other volunteer group’s labor is. Groups like the Christian Coalition, local Tea Party organizations, and others mobilize to provide boots on the ground for conservative candidates. But if those nurses were doing it on company time, IMO it’s a donation and should be reported. How that all is accounted, I have no idea.

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          From today’s Napa Valley Register, in an article on the flyer Don mentions:

          “FairPAC is run by the Civil Justice Association of California, which focuses on reforming the state’s legal system to fight frivolous lawsuits, including class-action lawsuits. The association’s board of directors is a roll-call of mega corporations in the U.S., including Shell Oil, Bank of America, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Ford Motor Company, JPMorgan Chase, Allstate Insurance Company, Pfizer, and GlaxoSmithKline, among many others.

          “It’s taken almost $400,000 from Realtors, dental associations, Anheuser Busch, and insurance companies this year. One contribution to a related FairPAC campaign committee, however, stood out to Wolk’s campaign staff — $6,800, the maximum allowed for this type of committee, from Koch Industries, the company of conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch.”

  3. Frankly

    I think I saw the Koch brothers walking around Dan’s neighborhood knocking on doors and handing out leaflets. They were wearing grim reaper garb and a dark cloud hung over their heads.

    I stopped to talk to them and was surprised how pleasant and friendly they were… just a couple of good ole’ Midwest boys with a few billion in their bank account.

    There is a pretty big level of incongruity with this comparison of public union PAC money used for Anti-Dodd attacks and money from the Koch brothers that somehow makes it into local politics. The VG would have been more balanced having looked at billionaire George Soros and how his money flows to local politics.

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      “I think I saw the Koch brothers walking around Dan’s neighborhood knocking on doors and handing out leaflets.”

      Frankly, I saw them, too, and I think that might have been the Coke Bro’s you saw, not the Koch bro’s. Certainly Pepsi has nothing to do with this … stuff.

  4. Mark West

    “Tell the Koch Brother’s: It’s On!”

    The Koch Brothers don’t care who Dan is, let alone his campaign’s false bravado. It does seem to me however that if the most important message coming from campaign headquarters is to complain about negative ads funded in (small) part by two polarizing national figures, then the candidate must not have much of value to say today. I would like to think that the candidates message would be the focus of the day, unless of course the campaign doesn’t think that he has a message.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i think you have your second sentence wrong. what you are missing is there are $750,000 coming from two unrelated groups to the campaigns mucking up their ability to say much of value.

      1. Mark West

        The campaign headquarters has a choice of what they want to talk about, though you may be right that there is so much outside noise that no one will hear it. Still doesn’t answer the question of why the campaign only wants to talk about the noise.

        1. Davis Progressive

          obviously the message was aimed to tick off core supporters and raise money. the secondary cause being to get the word out so that the enterprise, vanguard and other media will report on it and refute the disinformation.

  5. Frankly

    Top ten superPAC donors (note that they are primarily Democrats):

    1 Thomas Steyer $11.1 million Democratic
    2 Michael Bloomberg $8.7 million Independent
    3 Democratic Governors Association $7.6 million Democratic
    4 National Education Association $5.6 million Democratic
    5 United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners $3.8 million Democratic
    6 Bob Perry $3.1 million Republican
    7 AFL-CIO $2.4 million Democratic
    8 AFSCME $2.1 million Democratic
    9 John Jordan $1.7 million Republican
    10 Mostyn Law Firm & Amber Mostyn $1.4 million Democratic

    Then there’s Jonathan Soros, the son of financier George Soros. The younger Soros contributed more than $1 million last year to a hybrid super PAC he co-founded, known as Friends of Democracy. That was enough to rank Soros among the largest Democratic-leaning super PAC donors in 2013, although not quite enough to earn him a spot on the top 10 list.

    The elder Soros, for his part, contributed about half as much as his son last year, including $500,000 to the Democratic-aligned American Bridge 21st Century super PAC, $25,000 to the Ready for Hillary super PAC, and $5,000 to Friends of Democracy.

    Many of the deep-pocketed GOP donors who ranked among the most generous givers during the 2012 election cycle have yet to open their checkbooks for super PACs during this election cycle. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson did not contribute a cent to super PACs in 2013. Nor did his wife, Miriam Adelson. The couple contributed more than $90 million to such groups during the previous election cycle.

    But then the media is doing its job sleuthing the Koch brothers… right.

      1. Frankly

        Soros and the Koch brothers have all donated to federal political campaigns and committees. While Soros has far out-spent the Koch brothers in donating to 527 groups, especially when considering his incredible $23.7 million in donations to the groups between 2003 and 2004, the Koch brothers have donated more money to federal candidates and committees.

        The Koch brothers give almost exclusively to Republicans just as Soros donates predominately to Democrats and Democratic organizations. Overall, Soros has spent $34.24 million and the Kochs have spent $4.06 million. (Note: This study only covers donations to federal candidates – to see donations to state candidates, go to and search for Soros and Koch. For example, as Ben Smith of Politico wrote recently, David Koch and his wife have given $74,000 to a Democrat, Andrew Cuomo, New York’s State Attorney General.)

        Individual donations to federal candidates, parties and political action committees (1989 to 2010)

        Koch Brothers: $2.58 million
        George Soros: $1.74 million

        David Koch: $2,224,170
        •$667,500 � National Republican Congressional Committee
        •$555,000 � Republican National Committee
        •$191,400 � National Republican Senatorial Committee

        Charles G. Koch: $363,100
        •$58,900 � National Republican Senatorial Committee
        •$50,000 � Republican National Committee

        George Soros: $1,748,627
        •$252,670 � Democratic National Committee
        •$147,216 � Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
        •$259,716 � Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

        David Koch’s Favorite congressional members:
        $17,100 � Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.)
        $7,600 � Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.)
        $7,200 � Mark Foley (R-Fla.)
        $6,600 � James Inhofe (R-Okla.)
        $5,000 � Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)

        George Soros’ favorite congressional members:
        $6,500 � Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.)
        $6,200 � Jon Cranley (D-Ohio)
        $6,000 � Ken Salazar (D-Colo.)
        $6,000 � Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.)
        $5,500 � Tom Perriello (D-Va.)

        Individual donations to 527 organizations (2001 to 2010)
        George Soros: $32.5 million
        Koch Brothers: $1.5 million

        1. Don Shor

          2010 data, Frankly. Just slightly out of date. And please cite your references when you copy and paste. Personally, I’d be happy to shut them both down. I’m not happy that our political arena has become a battleground among megalomaniacal billionaires. I’d much rather see them putting that wealth to use the way Gates and Buffett do.

  6. Dave Hart

    To put this all in perspective, you all recall that the Supreme Court caused all of this by deciding that money was free speech (1983 if memory serves). They said that limiting spending was limiting free speech. I always felt that a law that completely outlawed any expenditure of cash would be the ultimate expression of liberty since a candidate, to be successful, would have to mobilize people to do the tabling, walking precincts and using word of mouth in support. Campaigns for issues or candidates would be forced to actually focus on issues. I can tell you as a former union member, most unions do not like having to spend their dues money on politics. Our political system will continue to be corrupted as long as we allow the courts and the legislature to equate free speech with money. Disclosure is fine and even necessary, but it doesn’t change the dynamics of a never ending upward spiral of spending.

  7. South of Davis

    Dave Hart wrote:

    > I always felt that a law that completely outlawed any expenditure of cash
    > would be the ultimate expression of liberty since a candidate, to be successful,
    > would have to mobilize people to do the tabling, walking precincts and
    > using word of mouth in support.

    There is no way in a free country (that claims to have anything close to “free speech”) to “completely outlaw ANY expenditure of cash” since it would not allow a family to buy some paper to write “I like Joe” on or buy some spray paint to make a “Rob for City Council” sign to put in their front yard.

    I’ve said it before the EASY way (that both the GOP and the Dems hate since it would cut off most of the cash they get) is to allow unlimited spending but force any elected official that takes cash (or gets campaign help) to recuse themselves from any vote that affects a donor financially.

    If the Koch Brothers want to stop by Davis next time they are in California for a Bohemian Club event and want to give a Republican running for David city council $10 million it will be fine, but if the person accepts the cash they will never (as long as they hold public office) be able to vote on allowing the Koch Brothers to drill for oil.

    We could do the same for Unions. If they like someone and want to give them money, great. Any donation to a Davis candidate that is accepted (or a PAC donation that campaigns for the person even without any acceptance) will take that person off the list of people that get to vote for Union pay raises while they hold public office.

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