Statement: “My opponent Carl DeMaio talks a good game on the environment, but his background working for climate-denying financiers, Charles and David Koch, proves his words are all empty rhetoric,” Rep. Scott Peters wrote in March 21 fundraising email.

Determination: False

Analysis: Rep. Scott Peters aims to paint opponent Carl DeMaio as an extremist in an effort to retain the 52nd District House seat he narrowly won in 2012.

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On Friday, in an email to supporters, Peters claimed that DeMaio had worked for Charles and David Koch, billionaires who funnel millions to libertarian and conservative causes. (Last fall, the largely Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity PAC even bankrolled an ad that tied Peters to Obamacare.)

Claims like this have dogged DeMaio for years. In 2012, we fact checked a similar statement – that DeMaio had “taken millions from the Kochs – and decided it was false.

National Democrats have been quick to pounce on such accusations in DeMaio’s latest political run as a way to tether him to traditional, socially conservative Republicans to counter DeMaio’s portrayal of himself as a “next generation” Republican.

Did DeMaio work for the brothers behind the Koch Industries conglomerate?

DeMaio and the Koch brothers are both linked to the Reason Foundation, a libertarian policy group that’s received at least $2.4 million in donations from the Kochs, according to data gathered by SourceWatch, a website that tracks donations from groups that attempt to impact public policy.  David Koch serves on Reason’s board of trustees.

DeMaio has served multiple stints with Reason in the last 15 years.

DeMaio worked as a contractor for the Reason Foundation from 1999 to 2003. Ahead of his 2012 mayoral run, a Reason spokesman told Voice of San Diego that DeMaio was paid about $15,000 during this five-year span.

DeMaio partnered with Reason again in 2013. In financial disclosures filed last September, DeMaio reported receiving $37,500 in consulting fees from the organization. A DeMaio spokesman says he has and continues to do contract work for Reason that focuses on budget concerns and pension reform.

Spokesman Dave McCulloch said he’s unaware of instances where the Koch brothers’ donations were funneled toward initiatives DeMaio worked on or of any discussions between DeMaio and the two brothers.

“To my knowledge, he’s never met with them and he’s never communicated with them,” McCulloch said.

Adrian Moore, Reason’s vice president, also told VOSD that Koch donations haven’t supported DeMaio’s work for the think tank.

Moore acknowledged that David Koch serves on the group’s board but said in an email that “board members have no involvement in day-to-day operations” at Reason.

Still, a spokeswoman for Peters’ campaign argued DeMaio’s work with Reason was enough to support the congressman’s claim that DeMaio had worked for the Koch brothers.

“I think it’s reasonable to assert that somebody who is getting paid by an organization that is funded by the Koch brothers, and that they too sit on the board of trustees of, is working for them,” spokeswoman MaryAnne Pintar said.

DeMaio did work for an organization that’s received significant funds from the Koch brothers, and one does indeed serve on that group’s board.

But that doesn’t mean he worked for the Kochs.

First, the Koch brothers are not Reason’s sole funders. SourceWatch found that the Koch brothers’ foundations donated $2.4 million to Reason between 1985 and 2009, a nearly 15-year period. Their most recent donations to Reason, that have been publicly reported, were in 2011, when one of the Kochs’ foundations contributed $125,000.

That same fiscal year, the Reason Foundation reported roughly $7.2 million in total contributions – meaning reported donations from Koch-affiliated charities made up only about 2 percent of Reason’s revenue from donations and grants.

Furthermore, David Koch is just one of Reason’s 19 current trustees. While nonprofit board members are tasked with providing oversight, organization managers and staffers generally coordinate daily work and projects, as Reason’s vice president claimed is the case for the Los Angeles-based organization.

Using Peters’ reasoning, anyone who worked for a nonprofit could be said to have worked for any individual that donated to that nonprofit or sat on its board.

And that wouldn’t be true, unless one of those board members cut him or her a check.

Peters’ claim that DeMaio worked for the Koch brothers is false.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

    This article relates to: 52nd Congressional District Race, Carl DeMaio, Fact Check, Government, News, Politics, Share

    Written by Lisa Halverstadt

    Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

    tommygun514 subscriber

    This article should be updated, as Carl has since had to publicly disclose donations from Koch Industries PAC, making this fact check no longer accurate.

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    So the fact check is false, obviously but what if it were true?  So what?  It wouldn't change much.  There are billionaires on the progressive side who funnel a lot of support to Democrats.  It's pretty sad that anyone even considered this to be a worthwhile accusation to defend.  Republicans are losing bigtime because they have no kahunas anymore.  They are attacked for their free market or limited government beliefs, and then they immediately start talking about all of the wonderful government programs that they support.   That is a sign that the socialists have already won without winning a single election.  Socialism always sounds so absolutely wonderful on paper, whereas the free market concept sounds like natural selection (i.e. survival of the fittest).  Socialists have an advantage in the debate to begin with, which is why conservatives and libertarians are always on the defensive these days.

    Richard Ross
    Richard Ross subscribermember

    There is a clearly better alternative to both Carl DeMaio and Scott Peters. That is Kirk Jorgensen who is also running for Congress. One need only recall that Peters tried to eliminate all non agenda public comment when he was city council president. That was a clear slap in the face to democracy..

    As for DeMaio it is a matter of record that he stated that he opposed the proposed Balboa Park bypass bridge; however when it came before the city council he voted to approve this environmentally unfriendly project. We don't need a flipper representing the people's best interests.

    Richard Ross
    Richard Ross subscribermember

    As usual you are incorrect Jim Jones. There is nothing in Jorgensen's record to suggest that he is anti-gay.

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    @Jim Jones @Richard Ross  I'm confused.  I didn't see any statement by a Richard Ross when I followed that link.  The only Richard there was Mr. Rider who is clearly a Carl DeMaio supporter.

    Richard Ross
    Richard Ross subscribermember

    Sorry Jim Jones you need to have your eye checked you were not quoting me.

    William Hamilton
    William Hamilton subscriber

    Really Scott? Is that all ya got? When your best shot is a feeble attempt to link your opponent to the Koch brothers, you know you're in trouble. This is embarrassingly pathetic.

    tommygun514 subscriber

    This fact check is a little misleading-- most candidates do not receive direct donations from Koch groups. That's what SuperPACs are for, and in fact Carl DeMaio is currently benefitting from an AFP-funded ad campaign criticizing Peters for his support for the ACA. This kind of proxy support is the new normal for current political campaigns and should be considered akin to an indirect donation, as DeMaio is now getting about a million dollars of free air time attacking his opponent.

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    @tommygun514  Are you suggesting that Democrats NEVER receieve the benefit of the super PACs?  The rules are the same for everyone.

    jcb12155 subscriber

    i disagree with the author's description of the Koch brothers & the cause/groups they support as "libertarian" or "conservative."  Koch Industries is a corporation based in Wichita-i dont think there is anything libertarian or conservative of using a govt provided shell to legally & financially immune oneself from accountability for their actions.  thats exactly what corporations are about.  or using govt granted estates & trusts to receive or passon their inherited wealth.  yes, they are perfectly legal-but an example of libertarianism or conservatism, i think not.  corporatism, elitism-for sure.

    Allen Hemphill
    Allen Hemphill subscribermember

    So the Koch brothers give money to causes they support?

    Ah, Yes!

    The Koch's gave $100 million to a wing of the New York Presbyterian hospital! $120 million to MIT Cancer Research!

    The Koch's are the major donor to PBS Nova series! $35 million to the Smithsonian. $30 million to Sloan Kettering. $65 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. $20 million to the American Museum of Natural History.

    There is the David Koch Cancer Center at John Hopkins, $100 million to the American Ballet. Then there is a David Koch Theatre at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts...and more...

    The Koch's can and do support those things they like.

    Don't you?

    Corinne_Wilson subscriber

    Carl DeMaio is no friend of the environment. I understand why he attempts to distance himself from his extreme right-wing past but it continues to come though in his current campaign policies. His website claims that the market is better than government mandates at protecting the environment. It seems like everyday the news reports another chemical or oil spill fouling our waterways. And private industry's responses are to declare bankruptcy when caught or to lobby against protections being enacted in the first place. This is not good stewardship of the environment but of profits. The agenda of DeMaio and the Koch brothers are the same regardless of hair-splitting.

    Sara_K subscribermember

    Koch Brothers or no, DeMaio’s shown a reckless disregard for the health and safety of our environment in his single City Council term, and from his 'Roadmap' to eliminate public services to 'Wisconsin of the West' to his role model Ted Cruz, he's already got the distilled Tea Party agenda ready to go.

    As their many millions spread throughout a network of far-right organizations, "Koch Brothers" has become shorthand in the last couple of years in election-speak to represent more than just direct members of that biological family. It’s grown into colloquialism for representing an uber-millionair
    es' movement to continue the fleecing of America, and it's lock step with DeMaio's professed vision.

    For most of us, “Koch Brothers” “Reason Foundation” and “Americans for Prosperity” are practically synonymous, and DeMaio clearly shares their mission.

    Grammie subscribermember

    @Sara_K  Could you please define the Tea Party agenda?

    Grammie subscribermember

    @Sara_K The Tea Party has no interest in social issues.

    Instead of relying  on the definition of the Tea Party by progressives, you might actually go to the source of the proponents of the Tea Party beliefs.

    You might learn that the basic tenets of the Tea Party are very simple: Return to Constitutional Government, and practice Fiscal Responsibility.

    That's not really so complicated, is it?

    Sara_K subscribermember

    When I think of the "Tea Party agenda," I think: defund social programs (because they think all 'charity' should be voluntary, see also: hungry former World Vision kids as donors’ whims change).

    I think "voluntary environmental compliance" (see also: Duke Energy coal ash spill and destruction of potable water supply, West Fertilizer Company explosion, flammable water from ‘top secret’ fracking fluid disposal).

    “Tea Party agenda” also apparently means playing doctor for women as a class, blocking a vote on immigration reform or unemployment insurance, shutting down the entire government…

    Among other obstructionist and death-giving "cost savings" policies deceptively wrapped up in words that sound like freedom.

    Then there's the Koch-Tea Party link:


    Sara_K subscribermember

    I have a close friend who identifies as a member of the Tea Party, and we've shared some respectful in-depth discussions. I also pay attention to things like government shut downs and eroding environmental protections. And, as a woman, policies that impact my body. It doesn't get much more personal than that.

    Would you mind identifying for me the parts of this article that are *not* part of the Tea Party agenda?


    Joe Jones
    Joe Jones subscriber

    @Sara_K Sara, not election-speak, "left wing speak." And if you really believe that "most of us" share your political beliefs, you're going to have a very rude awakening in the Mid-term elections.

    David Benz
    David Benz subscriber

    @Jim Jones @Sara_KThe Tea Party has absolutely no interest in personal freedom or self reliance.  Your ignorant con playbook is hilarious.

    Richard Bagnell
    Richard Bagnell subscriber

    The real question is  Mr Peters support for Obamacare.  But it should be interesting to have a campaign were one side is running away from the myth of the Koch Brothers and the other is running away from any association or help form the President.

    cpanetta subscriber

    Once again, a process story ignores actual issues. DeMaio gets 3 Fs and a D+ for his environmental record, and the billionaire climate deniers that helped fund his former employers also spend hundreds of thousands (so far) to help him in this race. If Carl didn't know where his bread was buttered before now, at least this article will remind him (and us).

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    How many Pinocchio’s on this one, Mr. Peters?  Ever since Peters voted, without asking a single question, to support Manager’s Proposal 2, which instantly put the city into a huge unfunded liability situation on it’s pension plan (No, local Demos, it wasn’t the Republican Convention after all), I’ve been suspicious of this guy.  This is typical Peters.

    And, by the way, Mr. Brewster, reread the article.  It states that the dreaded Kochs provided perhaps 2% of the Reason Foundation’s funding.  As for the brothers “being viewed by some as bogeymen”, come on!  This is the strategy of the Democratic Party.  They attempt to demonize the Kochs and tie every Republican candidate to them.

    amy roth
    amy roth subscribermember

    @Bill Bradshaw  Thanks, Bill Bradshaw. People with absolutely no knowledge of the Koch Brothers are demonizing him just because the Democratic power structure tells them to!

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Jones: How does my statement that, "I think his vote was unwise and he probably does too," constitute excusing him? I believe his was one of nine votes on a majority Republican council at the time and I would hope they all look back at this as being other than their finest hour. My intent was mainly to address Mr. Bradshaw's implication that this all had nothing to do with earlier decisions vis-a-vis the RNC. In fact, what happened was that the city council elected to underfund the pension system in the 1990s, contributing less than what was actuarially prudent, betting that the then booming stock market would take up the slack. They convinced unions to go along at the time by offering enhanced pension benefits in place of employee raises. The vote in question to which Mr. Bradshaw alludes was aimed at avoiding a major shortfall of city funds that year. It backfired, in part because it was based on the same hope that the first one had been based on: That above average market returns would bail out the deficit. No pension system should be expected to outperform the market over the long haul.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    @Chris Brewster Dear Mr. Brewster:  When the spit hit the fan a few years after M.P. 2 was approved, partially as a result of Carl DeMaio ringing an alarm, the apologists for the unions, the city management and the council started trying to create diversions.  At the top of the list was the claim that the whole thing started with the Republican convention and the stadium expansion and everything snowballed from there.  

    Nonsense.  M.P. 2 was the straw that broke the camel's back, and the only person at the fateful council meeting where it was approved that asked a single question was Donna Frye, despite the fact that the council had just witnessed Pension Board trustee Diann Shippione blow her mind at the M.P. 2 proposal.

    Scott Peters is certainly not solely culpable, but he's the guy slinging mud at DeMaio.  In my mind, every council member, including Frye, shares the blame because it would have been a simple matter to delay the decision a couple of weeks to get more analysis of the measure's impact.  When the impact was finally understood, it was a disaster, pure and simple, and we'll keep paying for the decision for decades.

    David Benz
    David Benz subscriber

    @Bill Bradshaw You can lie over and over, typical con move, but that doesn't change the fact that the underfunding began before MP2.  Those who set the precedent created the problem.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Bradshaw: The Republican National Convention took place in 1996 when the first and most momentous changes to the pension system were approved, which had the effect of putting off required payments to save the city money for other projects (allegedly including the RNC). That was before Mr. Peters was on the Council. Mr. Peters' vote, to which you refer, had to do with dealing with the aftermath, when the chickens had come home to roost from the decisions of his predecessors. In retrospect, I think his vote was unwise and he probably does too. As for the Koch brothers, they are very partisan actors with a lot of money. They have done a lot of their political work quietly through foundations and nonprofits, generally avoiding leaving fingerprints. People who share their views will inevitably see them as heroes and those who don't will inevitably see them otherwise. 

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    This is an intriguing issue. In a publicly owned (by shareholders) corporation or a nonprofit, the employees work for the organization, not for any particular member of the corporation, board, or shareholder. On the other hand, corporations often expect their employees and contractors to share the values of the corporation and board, as is likely the case here to some degree.

    I think Mr. Peters would have been better to state something like, “My opponent Carl DeMaio talks a good game on the environment, but his background working for an organization funded by climate-denying financiers, Charles and David Koch, proves his words are all empty rhetoric.” Nuance, but probably ultimately factual if you consider “proves” to be argument, rather than fact.

    Intriguing also that the Koch brothers, who have worked mostly behind the scenes, are becoming openly viewed by some as bogeymen.

    amy roth
    amy roth subscribermember

    @Mark Giffin @Chris Brewster  What Chris says is true, of course. But the Democratic propaganda machine will say, well, what do you expect of a right-wing outlet like Newsmax? Better to read the lengthy interview in the Wichita (their home town) paper, which I believe was excerpted in the Washington Post some weeks ago.

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