WASHINGTON — Koch Industries, the conglomerate run by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, has not taken a position on Republican efforts to defund President Obama's health care law as a condition of reopening the government, a top company official said in a letter sent Wednesday to senators.
Company officials believe the 2010 health care law will increase deficits and taxes and "lead to an overall lowering of the standard of health care in America," but they have not "lobbied on legislative provisions defunding Obamacare," Philip Ellender, the company's top lobbyist, said in the letter.
However, the CEO of Heritage Action, a leading group pushing the effort to strip money to pay for the Affordable Care Act from the budget, said Wednesday that his group had received $500,000 from the Kochs. Michael Needham said the donation was not the largest contribution to the organization, and he declined to identify other contributors.
"I'm not going to talk about who my donors are," Needham said at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. Later, Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler said the money came from Freedom Partners, a Koch-supported group that handed out $236 million to conservative organizations last year. Its donation to Heritage Action had previously been disclosed on Freedom Partner's IRS tax filings.
Rob Tappan, a Koch spokesman, said neither Koch brother has personally donated to Heritage Action, which does not have to publicly disclose its donors.
Heritage Action, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation think-tank, is part of a coalition of conservative groups that helped craft the legislative strategy that made derailing the health care law a condition of approving a continuing resolution to keep the government running. The group organized activists in nine cities during the congressional recess in August to challenge Republican lawmakers to defund the law as part of any stopgap spending measure.
Wednesday, Needham said addressing the health care law should be a condition of any stopgap spending bill that ends the partial government shutdown that began Oct. 1.
"The only acceptable way out of this is some sort of deal that funds the federal government without funding Obamacare," he said.
He rejected the notion that a repeal of the health law's 2.3% medical-device tax could be an acceptable compromise for conservatives who want dismantle the Affordable Care act. He called it a "laughable suggestion that shows the extent of cronyism going on in this town."
In his letter to the Senate, Koch's Ellender said the company wanted to address "false information" after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took the floor Tuesday to criticize the Kochs. Reid complained about "very rich people in America who don't believe in government" and have used the health care law "as a conduit to shut down the government."
This week, Obama also blamed the shutdown on the influence of deep-pocketed "ideological extremists" who he claims have skewed American politics.
Needham dismissed suggestions that the shutdown was caused by pressure from outside groups.
"The reason that we are currently in a government shutdown over Obamacare is not because we spent a couple hundred thousand dollars on Obamacare," he said. "It's that there are millions of Americans out there who actually stood up and went to town halls and had their voices heard."