The Koch brothers backed Americans for Prosperity is behind a string of push polls against a number of West Virginia Democratic Senators.
That’s according to a complaint that will be filed tomorrow with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office by the campaign of West Virginia Senator Donald Cookman (D-Hampshire County).
The complaint was triggered by a push poll that ran last month in opposition to Senator Cookman (D-Hampshire) and in favor of his Republican challenger Charles Trump. (See story here .)
Trump has denied paying for the poll and said he had “no idea” who was behind it.
But quoting “information from Republican political operatives,” the Cookman complaint alleges that the Cookman/Trump push poll was “instigated by and arranged by the West Virginia Republican Party to benefit Charles S. Trump IV in his election bid.”
The complaint alleges that the push poll was “either directly disseminated by, or at the direction of, or with the tacit compliance of — the Committee to Elect Charles Trump IV, or alternatively, the West Virginia State Republican Party/Executive Committee, West Virginia State Party Chairman Conrad Lucas, and/or Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Prosperity State Director Wendy McCusky and/or Charles Koch and/or David Koch — or some or all of them acting in conjunction with each other.”
“As someone who has spent my entire life dedicated to the justice system, it is hard for me to watch people just sit by and condone these sleazy, unethical and oftentimes illegal campaign tactics, and claim that they know nothing about them,” Cookman said. “Let me just say this — there are two very clear choices right now — either sit in silence and pretend that nothing is wrong with negative attacks that are untrue, or stand up and speak out against it. Character becomes very clear in politics.”
The West Virginia Democratic Party filed its own elections complaint alleging that unnamed groups violated West Virginia election law when they did not disclose “who they were with when they conducted a push poll against multiple members of the West Virginia Senate.”
“This is another example of out-of-state Republican groups pumping money into West Virginia in an attempt to buy elections, and this time they broke the law doing it,” said West Virginia Democratic Party Chair Larry Puccio.
Americans for Prosperity denies they are funding the push polls — either directly or indirectly.
“We did not pay an operative and have nothing to do with it,” said Americans for Prosperity spokesman Adam Nicholson. “We are not doing push polls in West Virginia.”
McCusky also denied that she had anything to do with the push poll.
In the Cookman/Trump push poll, a chirpy female voices says: “Democrat Donald Cookman voted to cut education, senior centers and programs vital to our families. Does knowing this specific information make you more or less likely to vote for Donald Cookman?”
Cookman denies that he voted to “cut education, senior centers and programs vital to our families.”
Push polls are illegal in West Virginia.
The polls against at least five other Democratic Senators are very similar to the poll that ran against Cookman.
In addition to Cookman, the push polls have run against Senators Rocky Fitzsimmons (Ohio County), Ron Miller (Greenbrier County), Robert Beach (Monongalia County), Mike Green (Raleigh County) and Larry Edgell (Wetzel County.)
One of the polling questions appears to gauge West Virginia voters knowledge of the Koch Brothers agenda — which, if implemented, would gut basic social services.
“Some say that if Charlie Trump is elected, he will favor policies backed by big corporations and groups funded by the Koch Brothers,” the polling woman asked. “Would this information make you more, or less likely to vote for Charlie Trump in the race for state Senate?”
And then there was this:
“Some say Charlie Trump is a supporter of an extreme Tea Party agenda and would support eliminating Social Security. How likely are you to believe such claims against Charlie Trump?” the robocall woman asks.
And right after that, this:
“If you heard someone say, in an advertisement on radio or TV, that Charlie Trump is a supporter of an extreme Tea Party agenda, who would favor eliminating Social Security, how likely would you be to believe such claims?”
The Koch Brothers efforts to privatize Social Security have been well documented.
And it doesn’t end with Social Security.
“Why do people like the Koch brother’s spend hundreds of millions of dollars?” Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) asked this week. “If you understand what they stand for, and that is to end, do away with Social Security, do away with Medicare, do away with Medicaid do away with the concept of the minimum wage, do away with the Environmental Protection Agency — that is the struggle. They have an agenda.”
In an effort to pre-empt the Democratic Party complaint, the West Virginia Republican Party put out it’s own press release earlier today claiming that the Democratic Party was behind that illegal push polls and that Republicans were preparing their own an election complaint.
The Republican Party provides what it says is a transcript of one such call, in the West Virginia Senate race in the Second District — a race between Democratic Incumbent Edgell, Republican Kent Leonardt, and Constitution Party candidate Jeffrey Frank Jarrell.
But Republicans leave out of the transcript what Edgell says is the key question — the one alleging that he voted to cut education.
Edgell says that friends tell him that the push poll call had a question similar to the one run against Cookman, that went something like — “Democrat Larry Edgell voted to cut education, senior centers and programs vital to our families,” a chirpy female voice says. “Does knowing this specific information make you more or less likely to vote for Larry Edgell?”
Edgell said he just assumed the push poll was coming from a group opposed to his election.
“My friends were calling me and asking — why did you vote for cap and trade?” Edgell said.
“Another friend asked me — why were they saying you cut education? You are a retired teacher, you taught school all of your life.”
“I just assumed that they are looking for places where these questions resonate, that is what they will come after me with in a month or so,” Edgell said.