Odd bed fellows? New political ad pushes message Bernie & Koch brothers both share

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders © Jim Young
As arch-enemies of many progressives, the billionaire Koch brothers have never been accused of “feeling the Bern.” A Koch-funded ad has blurred those political lines, however, by proclaiming that “Bernie Sanders is right” about corporate welfare.

“Across the Board” is the title of a new 30-second political ad released by Freedom Partners, a nonprofit set up by the conservative-libertarian duo Charles and David Koch. At first glance, it may seem more like a promo for the Democratic presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), but it’s the Export-Import Bank that Freedom Partners wants to bring into the national conversation.

The only voice heard in the video is that of Sanders, which was recorded in a recent CNN debate. He says, “Seventy-five percent of the funds going from the federal government to the Export-Import Bank goes to large, profitable corporations.”

“I don’t think it’s a great idea for the American taxpayer to have to subsidize through corporate welfare profitable corporations,” Sanders adds, as an on-screen message approves.

“We agree. That’s why we oppose corporate welfare across the board,” the black-on-yellow text reads.

The Koch brothers champion capitalism, but express disdain for what they refer to as “crony capitalism,” in which the government favors certain businesses over others through economic intervention. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, approaches the problem differently, but comes to the same conclusion as to whether the Ex-Im Bank should exist.

The Ex-Im Bank is a government creation that loans money to US export companies.

Wednesday’s video release coincides with the day of a Democratic presidential debate and comes the day after Sanders upset Hillary Clinton in the Michigan primary.

“Tonight, we’d like to see moderators push both candidates to explain why middle class Americans should be lining the pockets of major corporations and their campaign donors,” Freedom Partners Senior Policy Advisor Andy Koenig said in a press release.

Clinton explained her support for the Ex-Im Bank at the debate, saying, “I think we’re in a race for exports,” and “I want to do everything I can for us to compete and win in the global economy.”

The annual reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank was delayed last year by conservative House Republicans, but was eventually re-extended by a coalition led by the House leadership.

Freedom Partners, as a 501(c)(6) organization, is not limited as to the contributions it receives. In 2012, it spent $250 million on political campaigns without disclosing its donors. In 2013, reports from the New York Times and National Journal found that the nonprofit’s board members were mostly employees of the Koch brothers.