Liberty’s legal enablers
The venture capital firm is backed by Koch Disruptive Technologies and invests in startups the Kochs can partner its lobbyists, politicians and policy experts with to influence legislation and expand profits. It’s raised $100 million so far.
“Imagine a startup able to tap into the know-how of Koch from day one,” Churi said. “They need our help.”
Five months after the retreat, it invested in Oklo, a fission tech company that’s building one of the world’s smallest nuclear reactors. The Aurora is a 1.5-megawatt microreactor that produces clean energy from nuclear waste. It can power about 1,000 homes for 20 years without refueling.
It wants to mass produce the reactors and then manage their operations. But to do all that, the nuclear industry’s outdated regulations needed revised.
Three months after Trust Ventures invested in Oklo, the “Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act of 2017” was signed into law.
It amended the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to expand the privatization of the development of nuclear reactors on national laboratory sites and provides them with greater access to government data and nuclear experts. It also reduces the costs and regulatory barriers.
The legislation was introduced by Texas Republican Representative Randy Weber and Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo. Weber has accepted at least $25,000 from Koch Industries and is a member of the Koch-backed Freedom Caucus. Crapo and his PACs have taken more than $100,000 from Koch Industries.
Other Republican Senate co-sponsors of the bill include the other Idaho Republican Senator James E. Risch ($85,000); Orrin Hatch (R-UT) ($47,500); Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) ($53,000); and Luther Strange (R-AL) ($10,000).
Republican co-sponsors in the House were Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) ($12,500); James Bridenstine (now head of NASA) ($18,000); Barbara Comstock (R-VA) ($20,500); John Culberson (R-TX) ($47,500); Randy Hultgren (R-IL) ($10,000); Steve Knight (R-CA) ($10,000); Frank D. Lucas (R-OK) ($15,500); Ralph Norman (R-SC) ($25,000); David Schweikert (R-AZ) ($39,500); and Lamar Smith (R-TX) ($72,250).
Combined, the 16 Republican sponsors and co-sponsors of the legislation have accepted at least $590,000 from Koch Industries and its employees over the last decade.
Rick Perry, who was Energy Secretary under Trump for almost three years, has accepted at least $130,000 from the Kochs. Before becoming secretary, his former spokesperson was Marc Palazzo, a previous Director of Corporate Communications and Director of Public Affairs for Koch Industries.
Oklo also needs the acceptance of the Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC). Four of the five NRC members were appointed or designated by Trump. The head of Trump’s energy transition team was Thomas Pyle, president of the Koch-funded think tank Institute for Energy Research.
Oklo shows how the Kochs utilize their operatives—like Churi the professor, Perry the agency head and Crapo the senator—to power its network and earn more than $100 billion every year for Koch Industries.
It also shows how that network connects to a larger group of conservative attorneys who have worked for decades to push the economic and religious liberty agendas of the Kochs and the Republican party.
Before Churi co-founded Trust Ventures, he was a law professor at the University of Chicago (U of C) Law School and the founding director of its Innovation Clinic.
Before that, he was the Associate Director of the U of C Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship. It’s part of the larger Institute for Justice organization that was started by two former Reagan Administration lawyers with $1.5 million from Charles Koch.
And before that, Churi was a lawyer at Kirkland & Ellis (K&E), the law firm founded in Chicago more than a century ago that generated $4.15 billion in profits last year.
Churi’s employment at the firm puts him in a unique group of past and present K&E attorneys who have worked with the Reagan, Bush and Trump administrations to suppress votes, continue gerrymandering, defend Big Pharma, decrease gun regulations, reduce women’s healthcare, enable unlimited campaign spending, prohibit immigration, deny climate change, defend Facebook, represent Russia and obstruct investigations of Trump, Mike Flynn, Roger Stone and others.
Many are members of the Federalist Society. Dozens have clerked for Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, John Roberts Jr., Anthony Kennedy, Neil Gorsuch or Brett Kavanaugh. Some are members of Opus Dei and the Catholic Information Center.
They’ve represented the Kochs, Trump, Alfa Bank, Jeffrey Epstein, Facebook, the NRA, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Hobby Lobby, Blackstone, BP, Goldman Sachs, senators Mitch McConnell, Ron Johnson and others.
Wendy Long clerked for Thomas and worked at K&E. She left in 2004 to become the attorney and public face for the Judicial Confirmation Network. Now named the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), the dark money PAC was established to promote W. Bush’s judicial nominees.
It was started with funding from the Koch’s Wellspring Committee. Over that time, it spent millions of dollars to win judicial races for state supreme court justices, lower court judges and state attorneys general.
In 2016, it donated $23 million to the JCN, which in turn spent $10 million to back Gorsuch’s nomination and more than $3 million on Kavanaugh’s nomination. It’s also supported the Federalist Society with at least $400,000.
Kavanaugh became a member of the Federalist Society in 1998, the year after he was recruited by Ken Starr to work at K&E. He joined Alex Azar to work on Starr’s investigations of Bill Clinton. They both also worked on the 2000 “Bush v Gore” legal team.
Azar clerked for Scalia, is a member of the Federalist Society and worked at K&E. He’s a former Big Pharma lobbyist and executive who now heads Health & Human Services. He worked with the Koch’s Americans for Prosperity to get a work requirement for Medicaid approved in 10 states. It was later struck down by a federal appeals court.
Kavanaugh later left K&E to become Associate Counsel in W. Bush’s White House. While there, he was “directly involved” with the administration’s policies for the war on terrorism and warrantless wiretapping. He also worked with Leonard Leo on the SCOTUS confirmations of Roberts and Alito.
Starr previously worked as Solicitor General in H.W. Bush’s administration. His deputy at the time was Roberts. Starr and Roberts worked together for 3 1/2 years on cases that “argued for limiting the scope of civil rights laws, ending race-based affirmative action, restoring some prayers to public schools and overruling Roe vs. Wade…”
Of the 66 lawyers who have clerked for Roberts, 14 also clerked for Kavanaugh at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. After Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Roberts received more than a dozen judicial misconduct complaints against Kavanaugh. None were referred for investigation.
Beth Ann Williams was Special Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary in the W. Bush administration. She also assisted with the confirmations of Roberts and Alito. She worked at K&E when she represented Facebook in multiple lawsuits regarding its 2008 IPO. She’s a member of the the Federalist Society and was president of its student chapter at Harvard University Law School.
She’s now the U.S. Asst. AG for the Office of Legal Policy and oversees the vetting process for federal judicial nominees. She also coordinates the judicial appointment process with the White House and the Senate. She helps get the conservative judges nominated and confirmed.
She won the 2014 Supreme Court case “McCutcheon v. FEC”, in which the conservative majority overturned the constitutional limit that restricted how much money a person can contribute to a national party and federal candidate committees over a two-year period.
Paul Clement is a mentor to Murphy at K&E. He joined the firm after clerking for Scalia. He was the Solicitor General under W. Bush and has argued more than 100 cases at the Supreme Court. He’s a member of the Federalist Society.
In May, he defended the rights of religious organizations from being forced to provide birth control to their employees. Last December, he defended the NRA and New York City gun owners regarding the city’s restrictions on transporting firearms outside the city limits. The city eventually dropped the restrictions.
Ten years ago, he defended the NRA in “McDonald vs Chicago”, in which SCOTUS invalidated Chicago’s ban on weapons inside the city limits claiming it infringed on a citizen’s Second Amendment rights. Since then, more than 64,000 trafficked firearms have been recovered in the city limits.
Last summer, Clement convinced SCOTUS that partisan gerrymandering couldn’t be decided by the federal courts. That decision left in place North Carolina’s gerrymandered districts. (Some of the district lines have since been redrawn.)
Clement has represented the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), FreedomWorks, Institute for Policy Innovation, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. All groups have been funded and/or created by the Kochs.
In the 2018 Supreme Court case “National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius”, Clement and Murphy were both on the losing end of getting the Affordable Care Act invalidated.
Clement was recently added to Trump’s list of suggested SCOTUS nominees.
Jay Lefkowitz is also a litigation partner at K&E. He worked there a decade ago when he represented Jeffrey Epstein and helped negotiate his sweetheart deal with Alex Acosta, then the Assistant AG for the Florida Southern District.
Acosta, a former K&E attorney, was Trump’s Labor secretary when the details of the Epstein case came out and he was forced to resign. He’d been working at the Labor Dept. for two years cutting its budget and pushing deregulation. Kate S. O’Scannlain is the Solicitor of Labor and was his top legal counsel. She now works with Eugene Scalia, son of Antonin Scalia, who replaced Acosta.
In 2018, the Labor Dept. was second among federal agencies for the most budget savings made through deregulatory actions. One of those proposed cuts was to the International Labor Affairs Bureau, the bureau that combats human trafficking, child labor and forced labor. Acosta wanted to cut its budget by at least 80% for each of the last two years.
Jeffrey Bossert Clark rejects the science behind climate change. He’s a member of the Federalist Society. He was an attorney at K&E when he left to be the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD)’s Deputy Asst. AG in the W. Bush administration.
He’s previously represented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its lawsuit against the Obama administration’s greenhouse gas rules. Last year, ENRD revoked California’s ability to set vehicle emission standards.
Last year, he was confirmed for a lifetime appointment as the U.S. Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Before that, he worked with Secretary Betsy DeVos as the general counsel for the Department of Education.
He was “responsible for providing legal advice on all aspects of the Department’s operations, including litigation, rule-making, regulation and enforcement.”
During his time there, the Education Dept. rewrote the rules for accused rapists on college campuses, scaled back civil rights investigations, rescinded guidance on the consideration of race in college admission and diverted millions of dollars in coronavirus relief to private schools.
Mark Filip also worked on the BP case for K&E. He clerked for Scalia and was VP of the Federalist Society’s student chapter at Harvard University Law School. He’s a former Chicago Asst. AG, U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois and law professor at the U of C.
He’s currently working for K&E representing Goldman Sachs in its role with the 1MDB money laundering scam. He leads K&E’s government enforcement defense and internal investigations group.
Barr was working at K&E when he sent an unsolicited letter to then Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein in 2018 claiming Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s obstruction theory to investigate Trump was “fatally misconceived” and “Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction.”
After becoming AG, he’s used the DOJ to try and invalidate Mueller’s findings and claim it was all a means to “sabotage” Trump’s “presidency.”
Last February, he issued new restrictions on opening investigations into politically sensitive individuals or entities. It requires that Barr must approve any “investigations into a presidential candidate or campaign and illegal contributions, donations or expenditures by foreign nationals to a presidential or congressional campaign.”
Barr believes in the “unitary executive” theory which he says grants the president unlimited powers. The W. Bush administration relied on it for warrantless eavesdropping on Americans. Barr pushed the theory as the AG for H.W. Bush. Before that, it was Reagan’s lawyer and AG Edwin Meese who pushed to expand presidential powers.
The theory also overlaps with Barr’s religious liberty beliefs of one God—and that God’s moral guidance—as the ultimate decider.
As he told an audience at the University of Notre Dame Law School last year: “Judeo-Christian moral standards are the ultimate utilitarian rules for human conduct. They reflect the rules that are best for man…They are like God’s instruction manual for the best running of man and human society.”
He pushes religious freedom training in the DOJ and has prioritized its religious freedom cases.
She’s clerked for Alito and Kavanaugh and later became a partner at K&E. She’s the Principal Deputy Assoc. AG and oversees more than 10 different DOJ departments including Civil Rights, Antitrust and the Environment.
In July, she issued DOJ guidance on religious groups now being able to obtain public funding. It was in response to SCOTUS’ conservative five-member majority decision in “Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue” to allow religious groups equal access to public grant programs.
Jeffrey Rosen is also a member of the Federalist society. He’s Barr’s №2 at the DOJ and has has no experience as a prosecutor but oversees the DOJ’s prosecutors’ offices, federal prisons and FBI offices. He was previously the Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Dept. of Transportation where he worked with Secretary Elaine Chao to rewrite fuel efficiency regulations and set drone policy.
Rosen was a K&E partner for almost 30 years and practiced “complex business litigation” at the firm. He and Barr both defended large corporations who used complex tax strategies to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. taxes through profits it earned in its overseas subsidiaries.
He enables Barr to carry out his Judeo-Christian agenda.
Barr’s a member of Opus Dei, the far right Roman Catholic group who came to America in 1949 “to introduce Opus Dei to the people.” Father Joseph Muzquiz, one of the first three members of Opus Dei to be ordained to the priesthood, said the group found such a receptive community in Chicago that it decided to open its first U.S. Opus Dei center for men on the city’s South side.
Its location puts it next to the U of C campus. That was because “…they wanted to try to bring people who would be influential in the general culture into closer contact with the Lord,” said Cardinal Francis George, the eighth Archbishop of Chicago.
Today, there are six Opus Dei administered schools and centers in the Chicago area.
Almost 30 years ago, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, then Archbishop of Chicago, entrusted Chicago’s St. Mary of the Angels Parish to the priests of Opus Dei. At the time, that made it one of only three parishes in North America to be administered by Opus Dei.
The Catholic Information Center (CIC) is also led by Opus Dei. It’s two blocks from the White House. It’s a bookstore, chapel and gathering place for the far right conservative Catholics in Washington D.C. Barr was the director of the CIC from 2014–2017. Leonard Leo’s now on its board.
Thomas D. Yannucci is the board’s current chairman. He’s worked at K&E since 1980 and is Chair Emeritus of its Management Committee. He’s run the David M. Yannucci Charitable Foundation with his family since 2001. It’s given at least $265,000 to the CIC over the last decade. He’s also a co-founder of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast and a contributor to the Federalist Society.
Pat Cipollone was also a CIC board member. As a student, he helped lead the Federalist Society student chapter at U of C. He was a speechwriter for Barr during the H.W. Bush administration and was recruited by Yannucci to work at K&E.
Cipollone prepped Trump for his 2016 presidential debates and was an advisor to him during Mueller’s investigation. He’s Trump’s White House counsel and was the lead attorney in his impeachment trial.
He also works with Asst. AG’s Brian Benczkowski’s office.
Benczkowski is a K&E partner and a member of the its Government, Regulatory & Internal Investigations Practice Group. While there in 2017, he represented Russia’s Alfa Bank against claims it and the Trump organization had servers sharing data.
The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the following in its Volume 5 report: “Based on the FBI’s assessment, the Committee did not find the DNS activity reflected the existence of covert communication between Alfa Bank and Trump Organization personnel. However, the Committee also could not positively determine an intent or purpose that would explain the unusual activity.”
Multiple scientists found numerous connections between the Trump, Alfa Bank and Spectrum Health servers.
Benczkowski was head of the DOJ’s Criminal Division for two years until he left in July. It was that division that received the initial whistle-blower complaint about Trump’s alleged quid pro quo with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.
Benczkowski severely constrained the investigation into Trump’s dealings with Zelensky. Deputy White House Counsel John Eisenberg hid the call “transcript” on a classified server and refused to comply with a Congressional subpoena. Cipollone worked to hide the information from Congress.
Eisenberg focused on white-collar, complex civil litigation and data-security issues for K&E. He clerked for Thomas and was Assoc. Deputy AG during the W. Bush administration. He’s now the Asst. and Deputy Counsel to Trump and legal advisor to the National Security Counsel. He was appointed by then National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
In 2017, he was one of three White House officials that leaked classified documents to Devin Nunes during the House Intelligence Committee Russia investigation. He later refused a subpoena to appear at Trump’s impeachment trial.
And there are more on the way. K&E also has a legal clinic at U of C where law students work with corporate clients to advise on various legal matters. The students successfully worked with Koch Industries on a project last year.