You remember the Koch Brothers, right? The ultra-conservative coal baron founders of Americans for Prosperity have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent elections in support of Republican candidates who promise to stand up in support of endless tax breaks for the ridiculously wealthy (among other things).
Republican Senator Cory "Con Man" Gardner has much love for the Koch Brothers and their money. Gardner was a key figure in a major national story last summer about a super-duper-secret conference held by David and Charles Koch at t
heir secret underground lair the elite St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in California. As the Huffington Post reported in August:
Three top Republican Senate candidates heaped praise on the political network built by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch during a secretive conference held by the brothers this past summer, according to audio of the event.
Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst and Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton directly credited donors present at the June 16 retreat in Dana Point, California, for propelling them forward. Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner told attendees that his race would likely be decided by the presence of "third party" money — an obvious pitch for generosity from the well-heeled crowd…[Pols emphasis]
Yesterday the Washington Post reported about the latest news from Kochville, a story that includes absurd amounts of money and another appearance by — you guessed it — Cory Gardner:
A network of conservative advocacy groups backed by Charles and David Koch aims to spend a staggering $889 million in advance of the next White House election, part of an expansive strategy to build on its 2014 victories that may involve jumping into the Republican primaries.
The massive financial goal was revealed to donors during an annual winter meeting here hosted by Freedom Partners, the tax-exempt business lobby that serves as the hub of the Koch-backed political operation, according to an attendee. The amount is more than double the $407 million that 17 allied groups in the network raised during the 2012 campaign. The figure comes close to the $1 billion that each of the two parties’ presidential nominees are expected to spend in 2016, and cements the network’s role as one of the country’s most potent political forces…
…Saturday’s opening dinner — held on the resort’s wide lawn under strings of twinkling lights — celebrated a crop of new U.S. senators whose victories helped put the Senate back in GOP control. Their bids were lifted by the Freedom Partners network, which had pledged to spend close to $300 million in the run-up to the November elections.
Sens. Steve Daines of Montana, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, David Perdue of Georgia and Cory Gardner of Colorado were on hand to thank donors, according to people familiar with the event. [Pols emphasis]
Blah, blah, blah. What's the big deal? A freshman Senator going out of his way to thank his biggest donors? Well, it's not quite that simple.
See, "Con Man Cory" talks often about improving the economy so that it works for everyone…and then he does the exact opposite. In an interview with National Public Radio's Renee Montagne last week, we saw a classic example of "Con Man Cory" in action.
MONTAGNE: Well, Senator Gardner, you just used the expression veneered economy, suggesting that this uptick in our economy is fragile or thin. But, you know, one of the loudest cheers the president got, at least from the Democratic side of the chamber, was on raising the minimum wage. And this went on the ballot in many states last November. It even passed in several conservative states. It seems to be quite a popular issue. Has that changed the political calculus in a Republican-controlled Congress about passing a federal minimum wage hike?
GARDNER: Well, in fact, I think that in many ways, you answered part of the question yourself. And the question, which is the states did pass minimum-wage increases – Colorado – we have a minimum wage that's indexed to inflation. [Pols emphasis] And so I think that is something that is best left to the determination of the states. Colorado knows better than Washington, DC, what the people of that state need.
Colorado does indeed have a minimum wage that is indexed to inflation…despite Gardner's efforts as a state legislator to get rid of exactly this policy. Gardner is a staunch opponent of raising the minimum wage and voted against the final bill raising the statewide minimum wage iin 2007. He also sponsored a floor amendment to strip CPI adjusted increases in the minimum wage (HB07-1001). Gardner says above that "Colorado knows better than Washington, DC," and on this issue, Colorado apparently knows better than Cory Gardner.
And what of that divide between the "haves" and the "have nots"? Gardner seems to recognize that it exists, but he's clearly throwing his lot in with the "haves." Gardner has consistently demonstrated that he opposes any sort of change that would require the richest Americans to pay more in taxes (people like the Koch brothers). Said Gardner in the same NPR interview: "Republicans will not support…increasing taxes on America's business creators." The Koch brothers are in the business of creating U.S. Senators, and Gardner doesn't want to talk bad about his bosses, after all.
As a newly-elected Senator, Gardner has every right to stake out his own positions on issues such as raising the minimum wage and eliminating tax loopholes for the super-rich. The problem with "Con Man Cory," of course, is that he says very different things depending on the moment. Gardner often alludes to the need to do more to help the middle class, while at the same time he advocates in the Senate for policies that help only the wealthiest one-percent of Americans.
Gardner continues to talk out of both sides of his cherubic mug; the media is catching on to his double-speak, but they still have a ways to go to catch up to him.