A newly-released IRS filing reveals that a central group in Charles and David Koch's financial network paid CBS News analyst Frank Luntz's firm roughly $1.5 million in 2014 for messaging work. Luntz recently used his CBS platform to praise Koch donor conference attendees as symbolizing "the American dream," and defend the Kochs' spending -- without disclosing that he's benefited from their largesse.
Koch Organization Paid Frank Luntz's Firm Roughly $1.5 Million
Politico: Freedom Partners Chamber Of Commerce Is The "Central Group" In The Koch Brothers' Financial Network. Politico's Ken Vogel wrote that Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce is the "central group in the increasingly powerful network of conservative public policy and political groups helmed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch." Freedom Partners was created in 2011 and "raised $162 million in 2013 and 2014. Three quarters of that haul came in last year, almost entirely from six-figure membership dues of wealthy donors who the Kochs convene twice a year for summits that highlight the virtues of fiscally conservative, small government policies -- and that raise money for groups and candidates who support those policies." [Politico, 11/17/15]
Freedom Partners Paid Luntz Global LLC Roughly $1.5 Million In 2014. An IRS filing for Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, publicly released on November 17, said that the Koch organization paid Luntz Global LLC $1,496,879 for market research in 2014. Luntz is the founder and president of Luntz Global. [FreedomPartners.org, accessed 11/17/15, LuntzGlobal.com, accessed 11/17/15, via Politico]
Luntz Is A Regular Attendee At Koch Donor Seminars. Politico wrote that Luntz is "a regular guest at Koch donor seminars." This past summer, Luntz reportedly attended "a closed-door gathering of major conservative donors in Southern California ... which was organized by the political network helmed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch." [Politico, 11/17/15, 8/18/15]
Mother Jones: Luntz Provides "Message Advice" For Koch Network. Campaign finance reporter Peter Stone wrote in Mother Jones of Luntz:
GOP operatives say that Luntz also provided message advice for Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, the fundraising hub for the Koch network, for critical ad campaigns in Senate battleground states. "The Koch team seeded these Democratic Senate seats early with powerful anti-Obama and anti-Obamacare ads," one operative told me. (AFP told me its policy is not to comment on whether someone is a consultant; Freedom Partners failed to respond to my inquiries for this story.) [Mother Jones, 12/8/14]
Luntz Praised Koch-Backed Work In 2014 And 2015
Luntz Defended Koch Brothers In August 2015 Appearance. On August 3, CBS This Morning hosted Luntz to talk about the influence of the Koch brothers. CBS began the segment by identifying him as a "Republican strategist" and "CBS News contributor." Luntz said he was going to be speaking to participants at the Koch gathering, but he and CBS did not disclose any details about their financial relationship. Luntz used his appearance to defend the Kochs, stating that the people who attend the Koch conference are examples of "the American dream that`s all brought into one place at one time."
CHARLIE ROSE: So what came out of the Koch brothers` weekend?
LUNTZ: I actually am going to be speaking there in a couple of hours and I`m going to be curious to ask participants what they thought. I know that Carly Fiorina, who will not be part of the debate on Thursday night, that she was definitely a favorite of the people who were there. You know, everyone is trying to size up these candidates, and what`s interesting about that Koch conference is that they`re not looking at each other based on who is more intellectually purer, who`s a better speaker. They see these candidates versus Hillary Clinton because they`re so eager to have a replacement, a philosophical replacement in the White House. And they want to try to figure out who`s the best person. Who`s the best candidate for that job?
ROSE: And Donald Trump was not invited?
LUNTZ: He was not invited, no.
GAYLE KING: So how important is an endorsement of the Koch brothers to a Republican candidate, Frank, do you think?
LUNTZ: Well, I don`t think it`s the Koch brothers, and that`s one of the misnomers that people don`t realize that there are four hundred or five hundred people who are attending. And these are small business owners, very successful people. Most of them first generation. And this is kind of the American dream that`s all brought into one place at one time. They all have different candidates that they support. The one thing that they`ve got in common is that they`re all about economic freedom. And they`re looking for a candidate who`s going to support less rules, less taxes, less government spending, less government involvement, and more freedom and -- and they split. They split over a number of different candidates.
ROSE: But, Frank, it is true that a lot of the candidates have been making stops to -- to meet with the Koch brothers hoping to get their support because their financial support could mean a lot.
LUNTZ: No, you know there`s a lot of money in -- that`s very true, Charlie, and there`s a lot of money in politics on both sides but there`s no difference in going to see people who are in that room versus those who go to the AFL-CIO or those who go to see the teachers` unions. That -- everyone who`s running for president is desperate for two things, money and airtime. You cannot win a presidential campaign without having both.
KING: All right. Thank you, Frank Luntz. It certainly looks like a laidback California scene where you are. Thank you very much. [CBS, CBS This Morning, 8/3/15]
Luntz Praised Americans For Prosperity Ad As "One Of The Best Ads" Of The Cycle. During an April 2014 appearance on Hannity, Luntz praised an ad by Americans for Prosperity as "one of the best ads" of the cycle. He added: "It's good. It's very good ... It would have been actually more effective if they had talked about what the president had promised us and then focused on those broken promises." The Koch brothers founded Americans for Prosperity, which is considered their "main political arm." Luntz and Fox News did not disclose anything about Luntz's financial connections to the Koch brothers. [Fox News, Hannity, 4/3/14, via Media Matters; Politico, 5/9/14; Media Matters, 3/25/15]
CBS' Relationship With Frank Luntz Is An Ethical Mess
CBS Repeatedly Failed To Disclose Luntz's Financial Ties To Paul Ryan. Luntz has repeatedly praised Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) during CBS appearances, with neither Luntz nor the network disclosing that Ryan has paid Luntz's company over $100,000 in consulting fees in recent years. [Media Matters, 10/9/15]
CBS And Luntz Failed To Disclose His Financial Ties To Eric Cantor In 2014. Luntz used his CBS position to praise former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). CBS and Luntz didn't disclose that Luntz's firm received more than $15,000 in consulting fees since 2012 from Cantor's congressional campaign. [Media Matters, 6/11/14]
Luntz Responds To Conflict Of Interest Criticism: Media Matters Is "A Professional Bitch Organization Of The Left .... All They Do Is Bitch." Washington Post writer Erik Wemple interviewed Luntz after Media Matters criticized him over his appearance praising Paul Ryan:
"They put me on to talk about Kevin McCarthy," said Luntz, who noted, accurately, that the segment began with a disclosure about his relationship with McCarthy. As the conversation moved along, Luntz swiveled his artillery: "If you actually follow what Media Matters says, then I feel sorry for you...I'm not going to sit there and everything I say, 'Oh, by the way, 18 years ago, I had dinner with that person....' I can't believe you don't have better things to do," he ripped the Erik Wemple Blog for taking seriously a report from Media Matters. "They are a professional bitch organization of the left....All they do is bitch...They hire interns to watch TV every day. It's an embarrassment." [WashingtonPost.com, 10/9/15]