Ch.4 Koch Network's Anti-Civil Rights Crusade


Part 4: Dismantling Voting Rights

One of the things the Koch network is most well known for are their aggressive anti-civil rights efforts. This includes the proliferation of voter-suppression around the United States, which disproportionately affect, and in some states overtly target, communities of color. These efforts have also explicitly targeted civil rights achievements by challenging the Voting Rights Act.

The 2013 Shelby County v. Holder court case was brought before the Supreme Court by the Project on Fair Representation, which effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act by allowing states to more easily pass legislation that suppresses the vote and disenfranchises voters. Just a year earlier, the court declined to review a similar case, Nix v. Holder, brought by the Center for Individual Rights. As reported in the American Prospect, CIR’s strategy is so clearly focused on setting precedents in the Supreme Court that “CIR attorneys asked the courts to rule against their own clients, with the apparent interest of moving the case up to the Supreme Court as quickly as possible.”

In addition to judicial strategies, the Koch network has proliferated Voter ID legislation. These laws add additional barriers to voting, some of which  overwhelmingly suppress the votes of minorities, youth, and the elderly. This strategy has been carried out with the help of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that helps corporations write and push self-interested legislation through a network of corporate-funded legislators.

As of 2018, 34 states have some form of Voter ID laws, with seven states requiring photo IDs (North Carolina’s strict photo ID requirement was struck down by the US Supreme Court). Many state voter ID bills were sponsored by ALEC legislators; over half of the 62 photo-ID bills introduced in 37 states in 2011 and 2012 were sponsored by members and allies of ALEC (Kingpins of Carbon and their War on Democracy, Greenpeace, 2014).

Other forms of voter suppression has been carried out by Koch’s Americans for Prosperity. In 2010, AFP engaged in a form of vote suppression known as “vote caging” in Wisconsin, where they sent out mail targeted at minority and student neighborhoods in order to challenge the eligibility of voters whose mail was marked undeliverable. An organization called True the Vote assisted AFP, and by 2012 it was active with similar strategies in thirty states.


Part 5 of this chapter considers how this network not only tried to roll back civil rights, but they helped drive the "tough on crime" laws of the 1990s while laying the foundations for the modern Prison Industrial Complex.