PLUS: Meet Jack Abramoff, Muckraking Anti-Lobbying Blogger!
By Brad Friedman on 2/3/2012, 1:26pm PT  

[Now UPDATED at bottom of article.]

Hilarious. For some odd reason, the latest super-secret Koch Brothers Winter Seminar for millionaires, billionaires and elected Republicans and judges, once again near Palm Springs this year, decided to up its already tight security big time. They were forced to buy out an entire resort (using an alias) for several days in Indian Wells, closing down its restaurants and golf courses to the public and sending home many of its workers for the duration. Not that any of that kept ace reporter Lee Fang from finding out about it and heading out there, as detailed in his new exclusive today:

The summit, organized by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, was cloaked in secrecy. Helicopters, private security, and police officers from neighboring cities patrolled the area constantly.
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The Renaissance Esmerelda, the conference venue this year, was guarded carefully with every entrance blocked and the entire 560-room resort rented out. I arrived at the hotel the night before the event, but was followed closely by security and asked to leave the next morning before the Koch meeting guests arrived.
..
Though the donors will funnel tens of millions of dollars into the election this year, they will not have to disclose a single cent. Using an elaborate array of foundations, nonprofits, and other legal entities, the Koch network sponsored bus tours, attack ads, think tanks, and hired Tea Party organizers to shape the midterm elections two years ago. Now it appears they appear to be expanding their effort.

The most that the public knows about these meetings has been culled from leaked audio tapes, reporting from journalists like Ken Vogel, and from an invitation I exclusively reported back in October of 2010.
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At the Palm Springs Airport last weekend, I eventually ran into Phil Kerpen, the vice president of Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party group founded by David Koch. Kerpen, who was in a rush to make it to the event, didn’t say much about the agenda. Kerpen’s group recently purchased $6 million in undisclosed attack ads against President Obama, the largest such buy of the entire campaign cycle so far.

Kerpen asked how I knew about the conference. “I thought they had stopped all leaks,” he muttered, as I walked with him through the baggage claim.
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“Ask your leaker to post my speech, because it’s very good,” he added, before getting in a car with two associates.

The added secrecy was apparent even to local reporters, who were confused about why the multi-golf course Esmerelda Renaissance was locked down and why the hotel staff couldn’t talk to anyone about what was going on.

Heheh...Sounds like that must have cost a lot of additional money! Sorry if we caused you any problems, Mr. and Mr. Koch! :-)

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By the way, the exclusive by Fang --- formerly of ThinkProgress --- kicks off the new Republic Report blog ("Investigating how money corrupts democracy") with a bang today. The new muckraking project of the similarly new United Republic ("Democracy is not for sale") organization, includes the work of Fang, a number of other great and (mostly) progressive muckrakers and trouble makers, but also includes...wait for it...Jack Abramoff!

Yes, that Jack Abramoff --- the former, now-disgraced, previously-imprisoned, but now-finally-free and supposedly-reformed GOP uber-lobbyist! Steve Clemons at The Atlantic explains in his profile of the noteworthy new project today.

Fang's contributions (follow him on Twitter at @LHFang) alone would be reason enough to keep an eye on Republic Report. Everything else is more than enough icing on a tantalizing new cake to demand the site be bookmarked immediately...in our always humble opinion, of course.

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UPDATE 3:50pm PT: Amanda Terkel and Ryan Grim at Huffington Post report a source inside the Koch's democracy-hating meeting near Palm Springs this year says the group "pledged approximately $100 million to defeat President Obama in the 2012 elections" during the course of the retreat, and offered another interesting thought as well...

The "free market capitalists" who inherited their daddy's oil refinery fortune, accounted for a good deal of that themselves, according to the source. Charles Koch is said to have personally pledged $40 million, while David Koch pledged $20 million.

Also, there was this: "The source told The Huffington Post that they lamented the direction the conference has taken over the years. They said it used to be about 'conservative strategy' and building a movement, but now it was mostly an 'alpha male' spectacle focused on fundraising to beat Obama."

You'll recall when we broke the story last September at Mother Jones, based on recordings we'd obtained of the proceedings inside the brothers' Summer Seminar last year near Vail, that Charles had compared Obama to Saddam Hussein in his opening remarks, and vowed to wage "the mother of all wars" against him this year. He then proceeded to rattle off the names of 30 or so folks who had given at least one million or more to the effort by that time last year. In a sidebar piece which ran with our two-part exclusive, MoJo's Gavin Arsonsen detailed many of the folks named by Charles who had otherwise expected that their contributions to the "war" to unseat the President would be kept a secret. The HuffPo report also mentions a few of the folks in attendance last week in Palm Springs.