The billionaire Koch brothers are buying flood insurance against a teacher-driven blue wave in Kentucky.

“They’re scared of teachers,” said Democratic strategist Daniel Hurt of Grand Rivers. “Why else would they be spending money to hold Republican seats thought to be safe?”

The Bluegrass State branch of Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity will spend money on a half-dozen Republican incumbents in House races: Reps. Richard Heath, Jim Gooch, D.J. Johnson, Kevin Bratcher, Phil Moffett, and Brandon Reed are about to enjoy Koch largesse.

These six candidates are taking Koch money, staff, and support: Richard Heath, Jim Gooch, D.J. Johnson, Kevin Bratcher, Phil Moffett, and Brandon ReedClick To Tweet

All of the endorsed lawmakers, save Reed, face opposition from public school teachers.

AFP-Kentucky state director Andrew McNeill told Associated Press reporter Adam Beam that the nods were based on the incumbents’ records and not “who their opponents were.”

Hurt chuckled at the claim. “It’s teachers,” said Hurt, who is managing both a House and a Senate campaign in his native western Kentucky.

Boosted by a backlash against controversial GOP public pension legislation, at least 29 teachers or former teachers are running for the legislature on the Democratic ticket, Beam wrote.

The Koch laying-on-of-hands comes with lucre for “grassroots efforts by canvassing and phone banking that will be backed up by a targeted direct mail effort,” according to an AFP-Kentucky news release.

AFP national headquarters is in Arlington, Va., a capital city suburb. “Washington, D.C., is coming to Kentucky,” said Hurt, an honorary delegate to the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council.

In 2017, Heath, Gooch, Johnson, Bratcher, Moffett, and Reed joined almost all House and Senate Republicans in passing a “right to work” law and repealing the prevailing wage.

In the last session, the sextet was on board with GOP bills that curbed workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits, cut taxes on wealthier Kentuckians and “reformed” public pensions. (A court ruled the dubious pension bill unconstitutional.)

Republican plans to go after pensions drew to the Capitol thousands of protesting teachers and others, including union members.

The release said Koch-Kentucky was helping bankroll Bratcher, from Louisville, because he helped ramrod RTW and PW repeal legislation as well as a GOP paycheck deception bill that also passed.

Bratcher is House majority whip.

He told Beam that he was glad for AFP-Kentucky support, but hedged, “I don’t agree with the Koch brothers on everything, and I don’t agree with Americans for Prosperity on everything.”

He evidently didn’t detail whatever differences he might have with the Kochs.

“It’s the same old thing,” said Hurt, the 2017 state AFL-CIO Youth Labor Award recipient. “They say what they need to say to make themselves look better to the voters but take the money.”

He said the six Republicans “are in line with Koch values, not Kentucky values. Kentucky values include support for unions and public education. The Kochs want to break unions, drive wages down and transfer tax money to charter schools.”

These six Republicans are in line with KOCH values, not KENTUCKY values. Kentucky values include support for unions and public education. The Kochs want to break unions, drive wages down, and transfer tax money to charter schools. – Daniel HurtClick To Tweet

Ronel Brown Sr., an instructional assistant at Dupont Manual High School, is taking on Bratcher.

“I’m sure they’re worried about him losing his seat,” Beam quoted Brown. “He’s not for the people of Kentucky, he’s just for the rich ones.”

Elementary school teacher Charlotte Goddard of Pottsville, is tackling Heath, who is from Mayfield.

Tracey Newport, her campaign manager, said Koch-Kentucky’s endorsement of Heath “proves that we’re doing something right. They are obviously scared of losing this seat; we’ve gained their attention.”

The state AFL-CIO also endorsed Brown and Goddard, who is also KEA-endorsed.

A footnote: Unions remember AFP-Kentucky for scheming to keep union members and their supporters at bay on Jan. 4, 2017, the day a GOP-majority House committee held a public hearing and advanced the RTW and PW bills to a floor vote.

That morning, Koch-Kentucky reserved the room where the committee was to meet and hosted a breakfast for supporters of the bills. After the free feed finished, everybody was encouraged to stay for the hearing, thus taking up most of the seats.

“Suits in there, boots out here,” chanted a crowd of frustrated and angry union members and their allies from the hallway.

The billionaire Koch brothers are buying flood insurance against a teacher-driven blue wave in Kentucky.Click To Tweet

The Koch Republicans and their Democratic opponents

  • Richard Heath (R-Koch) vs Charlotte Goddard (D-Kentucky)
  • Jim Gooch (R-Koch) vs Bruce Kunze (D-Kentucky)
  • D.J. Johnson (R-Koch) vs James Glenn (D-Kentucky)
  • Kevin Bratcher (R-Koch) vs Ronel Brown (D-Kentucky)
  • Phil Moffett (R-Koch) vs Tina Bojanowski (D-Kentucky)
  • Brandon Reed (R-Koch) vs Terry Mills (D-Kentucky)


Forward Kentucky is thankful for our Patrons and Sponsors, who help keep the work going! One of our sponsors is Junk Car Medic, who purchase used and junk cars. Visit their site to learn more!

Berry Craig
Berry Craig of Mayfield is a professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community College in Paducah and an author of five books on the Civil War in Kentucky. The last one, published by the University Press of Kentucky, is Kentucky’s Rebel Press: Pro-Confederate Media in the Civil War. His critically-acclaimed Kentucky Confederates: Secession, Civil War, and the Jackson Purchase, also from the University Press, has been reprinted in paperback.
  • Thank you, Mr Craig, for your article. I’m an Indivisible member in Sebastopol, CA and we are trying to support Democrats everywhere and appreciate your efforts about the fight for Democracy in Kentucky. ( I’m a fiddler) Ginny:)

  • Ginny:
    Thanks! There are Indivisible groups in our neck of the woods, too. Alas, I have no musical talent, though my son was an all-state trumpet player in high school.
    In solidarity.
    PS — I also write for LA Progressive.

  • so if you check koch boys rank very low in political donations, but as a progressive news site do you report on soros money in state, funny after repubs started using pacs playing same games dem did with money, dems suddenly care about money in politics, hillary spent a billion and lost, trump sent half,
    journalist are suppose to be unbiased, by admitting ur progressive, ur admitting propaganda, journalist should report unbiased, it the problem with media, you all have a political agemda, no longer is it to keep govt honest, but to help parties sell their message, sad amer once great honest news has lowered its self to that level

    • Note the tagline: “objective news, effective policy, progressive commentary.” When we do news, we do our best to report it straight-up, objective. And, the Koch money is definitely flowing into the state, including ad buys and donations, both of which are matters of public record.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Scary times we live in. Thanks for the info. Makes me want to write a letter to our Op Ed department at our newspaper. But I doubt it will appear. I have researched The Kock Brothers and they make me sick. Would like to read more of your work. Spot on!