If you've paid attention to politics the past few years, you've seen the Koch brothers build up an unprecidented political organization through a network of shady political action committees and dark money - the Kochtapus.
A key player in the Koch effort has been North Carolina's own Art Pope, coordinating with the Koch brothers to place their hand-picked candidates in state and local offices, pushing an agenda to kill public education, remove environmental protections, turn over the functions of government to private companies, and gerrymander the legislature, Congress, the state Supreme Court and even local races to ensure they stay in power.
The Tea Party was an astroturf movement - a fake "grassroots" campaign to push the Koch-Pope agenda. If you look closer, however, you'll see that the Koch brothers have essentially set up their own party, parallel to the Republicans with its own organizers, consultants, and workshops and seminars to train and manage candidates, as well as a publicity and "get out the vote" machine.
Now it appears that they don't need the Republicans anymore. From Yahoo news:
The Republican National Committee’s data arm last year called it a “historic” occasion when it struck a deal to share voter information with the Koch brothers’ rapidly expanding political empire.
It was an uneasy détente between the party committee, which views itself as the rightful standard-bearer for the GOP, and the behemoth funded by Charles and David Koch, which is free of the campaign finance restrictions that bind the RNC and plans to spend almost $900 million in the 2016 election cycle to elect a Republican to the White House.
Party leaders, including the current chief digital officer for the RNC, hailed the deal as an important step forward in the GOP’s attempt to modernize itself.
However, that deal has backfired. The Koch brothers have placed all of the Republican's voter data - the Holy of Holies of the party - into their own more advanced data management system. Now that the deal to coordinate has ended, the Koch brothers don't want to give it back.
Since then, relations between the two sides have soured, turning into what one Republican operative described as “all-out war.” Interviews with more than three dozen people, including top decision-makers in both camps, have revealed that the Kochs’ i360 platform for managing voter contacts — which is viewed by many as a superior, easier-to-use interface than what’s on offer from the RNC — is becoming increasingly popular among Republican campaigns.
The RNC is now openly arguing, however, that the Kochs’ political operation is trying to control the Republican Party’s master voter file, and to gain influence over — some even say control of — the GOP.
“I think it’s very dangerous and wrong to allow a group of very strong, well-financed individuals who have no accountability to anyone to have control over who gets access to the data when, why and how,” said Katie Walsh, the RNC’s chief of staff.
This probably explains the upheaval in leadership for North Carolina's GOP and their recent installment of a TeaBagger "political novice" as party chair. It's out with the old and in with the Koch-friendly management from top to bottom with the party. It also makes clear why the Tea Baggers in the legislature have been more combative with the "moderate" McCrory and willing to override his vetoes - the power within the NC GOP has shifted.
Candidates will be currying favor with the Koch-Pope machine, not only for access to money, but to the Koch's advanced i360 voter information system.
Priebus believes the RNC is the proper custodian of the Republican Party’s master file on the nation’s electorate, which is used as a starting point for campaigns, who then use that information to build lists — called voter universes — of the people in a state or district that they want to target for both turnout and persuasion. Volunteers and donors are also targeted for recruitment using such lists.
The core issue, from Priebus’ point of view, is one of loyalty and allegiance. The RNC is a permanent entity, committed to the Republican Party without question. The Koch network is too independent from the party to be trusted with possession of the GOP’s most valuable core assets. If the Kochs — whose political history is steeped more in libertarianism than it is in any loyalty to the Republican Party — decided next week to use their database to benefit only their massive multinational corporation, they could do so.
With the voter data hostage, the Koch's don't need the Republican party anymore except as a rubber stamp for whatever crazy scheme they have in mind and access to that "R" next to a candidate's name on the ballot.
The RNC is now confronting the Kochs more openly than before, by having Walsh speak on the record for this article and by making other key players available for interviews. Their decision to take their dispute with i360 public shows the level of alarm inside the RNC at the growing clout of the Koch political empire. They have concluded that the Koch political machine wants to replace them and to essentially become a shadow party.
"Wants to replace them"? They already have.
Granted, there's money and constituents coming from many different directions among conservatives now - Libertarians, evangelicals (and their church membership lists), small government "main street business" types, the NRA (and its membership roll) - but the power - the bulk of the money and an efficient voter data machine that can be used to drive wingnuts to the polls - is all in the hands of the Koch brothers. And Art Pope.
No wonder we've not heard much from Pope since he left his post as NC's budget director. The behind the scenes dealmaking has probably kept Arthur quite busy the past few months.
What this means for NC is that the Republican crazy machine is about to be turned up to "11". As governor, McCrory has been rather benign. But Art Pope would rather have people like Scott Walker in state government. He even gave Walker an award in 2010:
Walker strode onto stage at a hotel in Washington, where several thousand (Americans for Prosperity) national donors and activists rose to their feet to greet him and give him an award for his work to curb union power. “Maybe consider this being the most valuable player in the nation for the advancement of freedom and prosperity,” said then-AFP Foundation Vice Chairman Art Pope, as he gave Walker a bust of George Washington.
It's said that "all politics is local". But, after Citizen's United and with the money and power of the Koch's and Pope, your local politics is just bought and sold like penny stocks and junk bonds in a rigged financial market.