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American Bridge releases new report on Koch Brothers’ influence in Florida

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The enormously wealthy and powerful Charles and David Koch, better known as the Koch Brothers, have become an increasingly influential team in recent years as they spend their money on causes (and candidates) they support.

But in progressive, and even independent circles, their name has been invoked as representing something almost sinister and polluting the body politic.

Now the Democratic Super PAC for American Bridge 21st Century hopes that by linking them to Florida presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, they can hurt their chances in next year’s presidential election.

The group’s policy arm, American Bridge, today released a report titled, “Florida Man Buys State: Koch Impacts in the Sunshine State,” which they label a comprehensive look at the impact of the Kochs’ operations in Florida. In it, they go over some previously published information that should be somewhat familiar to Florida political observers, such as the libertarian brothers’ relationship with Bush, Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott; their claim that the Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity hurts average Floridians, and how the Kochs have attempted to buy influence at places like Florida State University.

In January the political network overseen by the conservative billionaires said they intend to spend close to $900 million in the 2016 election cycle, and recently they listed five candidates whom they are thinking of supporting: Bush, Rubio, Scott Walker, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

Rubio recently acknowledged that he’d love to be the recipient of their largesse, saying, “I would love to earn their support. I think generally we are clearly aligned on issues.”

Last month, Skylar Zander, the Florida deputy director for Americans for Prosperity, told Venice Republican state Sen. Nancy Detert in a fiery exchange in a committee meeting that he “wished he got a ton of money from the Koch Brothers” but said they’re just one of thousands of donors to AFP.

Detert was angry after AFP sent mailers blasting her for supporting a bill that would revamp the state’s program for film- making incentives. The bill did not make it past the House or Senate this year, but advocates say they believe it will be brought back up during the special legislative session that will take place next month.

The Bridge Project says that throughout the month of May they’ll be releasing in-depth reports on the Kochs’ strategies for “buying candidates”  and leveraging their political power in places such as Iowa.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at [email protected]

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