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Fact Check: Carl DeMaio and the Koch Brothers

Rep. Scott Peters claimed that opponent Carl DeMaio worked for libertarian powerhouses Charles and David Koch.

False

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.

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.

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