Koch Brothers Continue to Influence Tax Policy After Huge Cuts Last Year

A congressional staffer during the 2017 tax cut negotiations left Congress in January and immediately began to lobby on the tax bill’s implementation for Koch Industries

Koch Brothers Continue to Influence Tax Policy After Huge Cuts Last Year
Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch speaks at Fortune Brainstorm TECH 2016 on July 11, 2016 in Aspen, Colorado.

At every step of the way, the political network of billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch has stood behind the Republican effort to massively reduce taxes for the wealthiest Americans and corporations. Lobbying records reviewed by Sludge show that the business that has made the brothers each worth roughly $51.6 billion continues to weigh in on the implementation of the December legislation.

In mid-2017, the Koch network spent millions of dollars promoting the idea of major tax cuts. Then, after the U.S. House passed its tax cut bill, Charles and his wife, Elizabeth Koch, showered House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) with nearly $500,000 in donations to his joint fundraising committee. Once Congress passed the compromise tax bill and it became law, the Koch network announced plans to spend another $20 million on ads to promote the alleged benefits of the law to the public.

Because the tax bill is long and complicated, and it was rushed through Congress at the end of 2017, it requires additional legislation to improve its implementation, including technical fixes to various provisions. That process opens up the bill to more special interests seeking favorable tax treatment. A March appropriations bill included a few fixes to the tax law, but there is more to be done, and special interests are weighing in.

The Koch brothers didn’t want yet another opportunity to influence the tax bill to get away from them. Koch Industries hired former congressional staffers who passed through the revolving door to K Street and are lobbying Congress and the Treasury Department on the implementation of H.R. 1, the tax cut bill—including one lobbyist who left Congress right after the tax bill became law. These lobbyists have close ties to key Republican lawmakers in the tax cut implementation process.

Salim Alameddin was a legislative assistant to Republican Texas congressman Will Hurd through December 2017, when the tax cuts became law. The next month, Alameddin left Congress to join lobbying firm Crossroads Strategies, where he’s a vice president. In the first quarter of this year, Alameddin lobbied on behalf of Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, Koch Industries’ public affairs firm, on the tax bill implementation and on S.2155, the banking deregulation legislation that became law in May, among other issues.

Before working for Hurd, Alameddin was a staff member for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) from July 2015 to January 2017. According to International Business Times, Cornyn—a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which marked up its version of the tax bill, and the House-Senate Conference Committee, which negotiated the final law—inserted a special tax deduction for oil and gas investments into the Senate’s tax legislation, a break that would financially benefit 16 of his congressional colleagues. Koch Industries owns these types of oil and gas investments, called master limited partnerships, including Koch Pipeline Company LP, Flint Hills Resources LP, and PetroLogistics LP, a subsidiary Flint Hills Resources.

Other former government employees are now lobbying for Koch Industries and other corporate interests.

From 2005 to 2008, Christopher Javens was tax counsel to the Senate Finance Committee under former chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is no longer chairman but remains on the committee. Javens left Congress for Capitol Tax Partners in 2008 and as recently as the first quarter of this year was lobbying Congress, and possibly his old boss, on behalf of Koch Companies Public Sector LLC on the tax bill.

After a stint in the U.S. House, Jason Goggins joined the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) as chief of staff to Commissioner Christopher Giancarlo. The CFTC regulates the trading of commodities including oil and gas. In October 2016, Goggins joined the Daly Consulting Group, where he lobbied on legislation about commodity trading regulation on behalf of Koch Industries and other clients. In April 2018, Goggins moved on to work for Fidelity Investments.

Matthew Lavoie, Koch Industries’ current director of trade policy, once worked for two Republican leaders in Washington. From March 2006 to April 2007 he was a press assistant for then-Congressman Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who is now the vice president. For three months in 2008, Lavoie worked as Rep. Ryan’s press secretary. Ten years later, Lavoie is potentially rubbing shoulders with his former employer as he advocates Koch Industries’ trade and foreign investment interests. Lavoie joined Koch Industries in February and began lobbying that quarter.

And the revolving door swings both ways: Former lobbyist Hazen Marshall, who represented Koch Industries on tax policy in 2014, is now policy director for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). In the first quarter of 2015, Marshall lobbied on tax issues for Koch Companies Public Sector.