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Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story for Koch Industries Exec

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Last night, a story began making the rounds regarding a fund-raising letter sent to, and a voicemail message left for, Koch Industries executive Philip Ellender.

Who is Philip Ellender?

In June, Kenneth P. Vogel of Politico described Ellender as the one responsible for "crafting and directing a sharp-edged pushback against critics of their business interests and conservative politics with tactics that have helped cement the view that the Kochs play rough."

Wrote Vogel:

As co-president of Koch Companies Public Sector, set up in 2009 to handle government, public and legal affairs for the Kochs’ privately held oil, chemical and consumer products empire, Ellender, based in Atlanta, is in charge of the Kochs’ multimillion-dollar lobbying operation as well as the response to what he calls “an orchestrated campaign against Koch that has been enthusiastically supported and aided by some in the media.”

“I would like to request some explanation for how Reuters justifies such obviously distorted and agenda-driven copy to be presented to its readers as though it’s actual, hard news,” Ellender wrote late last month in a typical missive to a news outlet, this one questioning a decision by the news service to run a pair of stories by an environmentalist press outfit called SolveClimate News.

Well, it seems that Mr. Ellender has gotten his Irish up over the aforementioned donation request(s). Turns out, they came from Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington), who is also the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Ellender posted his response -- along with an mp3 of a voicemail solicitation left by Murray -- on the KochFacts website:

Senator Patty Murray, Chair
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

Dear Senator Murray:

For many months now, your colleagues in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee leadership have engaged in a series of disparagements and ad hominem attacks about us, apparently as part of a concerted political and fundraising strategy. Just recently, Senator Reid wrote in a DSCC fundraising letter that Republicans are trying to “force through their extreme agenda faster than you can say ‘Koch Brothers.’”

So you can imagine my chagrin when I got a letter from you on June 17 asking us to make five-figure contributions to the DSCC. You followed that up with a voicemail* indicating that, if we contributed heavily enough, we would garner an invitation to join you and other Democratic leaders at a retreat in Kiawah Island this September.

I’m hoping you can help me understand the intent of your request because it’s hard not to conclude that DSCC politics have become so cynical that you actually expect people whom you routinely denounce to give DSCC money.

It is troubling that private citizens taking part in the discourse have become the targets of White House and DSCC fundraising missives, and we would certainly encourage you to rethink that approach. Ultimately, I expect voters will see through that and will weigh the issues on the merits alone. But in the meantime, if you could provide me some insight on what exactly you are asking of us and why, I would be most grateful.

Philip Ellender
President, Government & Public Affairs
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

The lesson here is, Don't f--k with Phil Ellender...oh, wait -- what's that? The "intent of [Murray's] request" wasn't quite as ridiculous as some would have you believe?

New York magazine's Dan Amira explains:

The parallel would be the GOP trying to hit up the ACLU for campaign cash after years of ACLU fear-mongering in order to scare cash out of other people. But the pearl-clutching reaction from Koch Industries is entirely phony. KochPAC, the political action committee of Koch Industries, donated $30,000 to the DSCC just last year, when the Democratic assault on the Brothers Koch was in full swing, and gave another $30,000 to the DSCC during the 2008 election cycle. This, as the Fix points out, is why Murray was calling them in the first place, reading what was obviously a script used on past donors.

So, no, it actually is hard to imagine Ellender's "chagrin" at this bizarre request for money. The DSCC asked for donations from Koch Industries because Koch Industries often donates money to the DSCC. It's one of those wild new fund-raising strategies the DSCC is experimenting with this year.

FUN FACT: Along with donations to the Heartland Values PAC ("created to help ensure that the common sense, conservative values that served as the foundation of John Thune's election to the U.S. Senate are protected and amplified by public servants around the country") and the Every Republican is Crucial PAC ("determined to take our country back" through "real, conservative change to right the ship and return our country to prosperity"), Koch Industries is listed as a supporter of the Carpet and Rug Institute, whose mission it is to dive "well beneath the surface and prove how our environment for living, working, learning and healing is better -- thanks to carpet and rugs."

So, now you know:

POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.