Koch-backed group fighting public transit projects across US

Koch-backed group fighting public transit projects across US
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GOP mega-donors Charles and David Koch are pouring money into efforts to kill public transport projects across the country, The New York Times reported on Tuesday. 

The Koch-financed conservative group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has campaigned against seven local or state-level ballot initiatives for public transit and opposed more than two dozen other transit measures since 2015, according to the report. Those efforts include fighting state proposals to raise gasoline taxes.

The majority of these campaigns have been successful. 

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Koch Industries includes companies that produce gasoline, asphalt, seat belts, tires and other automotive parts and some critics have questioned AFP's motivations for opposing transit projects.

The group has long espoused libertarian ideas and fought for lower taxes and for rolling back government regulations.

David Dziok, a Koch Industries spokesman, told the Times the company does not dictate the agenda of Americans for Prosperity and denied that the group’s anti-transit effort was linked to the company’s interests.

"We are an issue-based organization. We fight for lower taxes and less government," said Tori Venable, the Tennessee state director for AFP, in a statement to The Hill.

She said the claim the Koch brothers are dictating the group's agenda is "absolutely ridiculous and it goes against everything that our network stands for."

Americans for Prosperity opposed a plan in Nashville, Tenn., to build light-rail trains in May. Though the measure was initially expected to pass, it was ultimately defeated. 

The group posted a blog post in April listing the reasons for their opposition. 

“The project’s cost is out of control, topping out at $9 billion,” Americans for Prosperity posted. “That’s nearly twice the original estimate."

“On top of the cost, transit systems like the one proposed don’t even accomplish their goals. They contribute to traffic and congestion and are completely unadaptable to changing traffic patterns,” they added.

In another case the group made more than 39,000 calls and knocked on close to 5,000 doors to encourage voters to oppose a sales tax increase in Little Rock, Ark., to fund bus and trolley lines.

This story was updated at 1:43 p.m.