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Koch Brothers

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The Koch brothers, Charles and David, are famous for the wealth they've amassed through Koch Industries - together they're worth more than $100 billion - and for creating a powerful political influence network. The network is designed to amplify messages pushed by Koch Industries, support legislation that favors Koch's needs and goals and defeat legislation that stands in the way of Koch profits. Koch has used this network to prevent or try to dismantle regulations that affect the businesses.

When Michael Howard arrives for a checkup with his lung specialist, he's worried about how his body will cope with the heat and humidity of a Boston summer.

"I lived in Florida for 14 years and I moved back because the humidity was just too much," Howard tells pulmonologist Mary Rice, as he settles into an exam room chair at a Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare clinic.

Reform-minded Democrats have long held up "dark money" — political money that can't be traced to its source — as a symptom of what's wrong with politics in Washington. But while House Democrats this winter passed a bill to end the secrecy shielding donors behind unregulated dark money contributions, liberal activist groups now deploy those funds to boost the party's candidates in the 2020 elections.

Climate change is often thought of as a partisan issue in the United States, but New York Times journalist Nathaniel Rich says that wasn't always the case.

Rich says that from 1979 until 1989, climate change was viewed as a bipartisan problem — then the the oil industry "descended and bared its fangs" and everything changed.

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A new report on changes to Ohio sentencing laws says reform efforts may have saved 500 million dollars over several years but more is needed to reduce the state's prison population. 

The VA Mission Act passed into law with broad bipartisan support last year, but that unity began to wane immediately, when President Trump signaled after signing it that he wouldn't give it an additional stream of funding.

The Trump administration is rolling back another Obama-era energy regulation, this time one that aimed to curb methane leaks from oil and gas operations on tribal and public lands.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday insisted that many donations to predominantly conservative political nonprofit groups — what's often called dark money — be disclosed, seven weeks ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

The ruling closes, at least for now, a loophole that has allowed wealthy donors to finance aggressive ads while staying anonymous. Crafted by the Federal Election Commission nearly 40 years ago, the loophole flourished after the 2010 Citizens United ruling.

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The Koch brothers' political network is announcing plans to support its first wave of U.S. House candidates, including Republican Ohio incumbent Steve Chabot. 

President Trump hasn't yet nominated a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, but the fight over confirming that nominee began the day Kennedy gave notice.

David Koch, one half of the billionaire duo that built one of the nation's largest privately owned companies and one of its most controversial political networks, has announced his retirement from politics and business.

In a letter to Koch Industries employees written by his brother Charles Koch, the men announced that David was stepping down due to health concerns.

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A Koch brothers group is praising the Republican U.S. Senate nominee in Ohio in new ads and mailers.

The Koch brothers are going rogue.

For years the political network funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch funded politicians on the right, laying the foundation for the libertarian causes the two support. Their support has gone almost exclusively to Republican candidates, with rare exception.

But in the era of Trump, what it means to be on the "right" is changing, and the Koch network's tactics are changing to reflect new realities.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has proposed a new rule that restricts scientific research that can be used by the agency for its regulatory decisions.

The proposed rule only allows the use of studies that make all data publicly available for anyone to analyze. Pruitt proposed the new rule as a way to make the agency's decision-making more "transparent, objective and measurable."

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

A conservative group funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is turning its attention to a new front: promoting federal judges at the grass-roots level. Americans for Prosperity is willing to spend nearly $1 million to confirm judges this year. Those lifetime appointments could reshape the courts for a generation.

"The fact of the matter is that so much of what affects us in our daily lives plays out in the courtroom," said Sarah Field, the group's new vice president for judicial strategy.