PunditFact: Maddow's Koch Brothers Claim Mostly False

The evidence to prove that particular claim is thin.

PunditFact is a new site from the folks at PolitiFact which examines claims made by political pundits.  On Thursday they examined a recent Rachel Maddow claim that the Koch brothers were pushing and promoting a Florida law that requires welfare recipients to first pass a drug test. Representatives for the Koch brothers pushed back against the allegation, saying they were not involved with the Florida law or the Florida group who supported the law, the Foundation for Government Accountability.

At the heart of the controversy is Maddow's claim The Foundation for Government Accountability, which supported a Florida law requiring drug testing of welfare recipients, is a "Koch brothers affiliated group."

The idea of the Florida drug testing law for welfare recipients started with Gov. Rick Scott.

While campaigning in the Republican primary for governor in 2010, Scott unveiled a seven-step plan to create 700,000 private-sector jobs over seven years. As part of that umbrella promise, Scott also pledged to save the state $77 million in part by adding a drug-testing requirement for welfare.

The idea was born when Scott was still an underdog to then-Attorney General Bill McCollum and did not come from the Kochs or the Foundation for Government Accountability, said Mary Anne Carter, a senior campaign adviser who helped craft Scott’s policy plan.

PunditFact next explains the Koch brothers' very round about connection with the Foundation for Government Accountability, a Florida-based conservative think tank. 

Maddow says the State Policy Network received money from Koch, and in turn the State Policy Network gave money to the Foundation for Government Accountability. Ergo Koch money went to the Foundation for Government Accountability. Ergo the Foundation for Government Accountability is a Koch affiliate.

"The Kochs have funded an umbrella organization which disbursed money for the start-up of (the Foundation for Government Accountability) in 2011. That umbrella organization is the State Policy Network," Skowronski said.

For its part, the Foundation for Government Accountability notes the foundation did not exist until after the drug-testing law was passed, and its leaders did not communicate with Koch officials or their intermediaries about the law. (That fact significantly colors Maddow's assertion that, "They're the ones that came up with the idea that it’s a great use of state funds.")

As PunditFact says, it's easy to use the "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" game to find connections between people and groups, and even easier when talking about people like the Koch Brothers who have billions of dollars and donate to many different conservative causes. But as the site says, "in the case of the Foundation for Government Accountability, the ties to Koch are dubious."

Yes, there are some ties among Scott, Koch and the Foundation for Government Accountability. And yes, there are some slightly stronger interactions between Koch and the State Policy Network.

But it's not enough to declare the Foundation for Government Accountability a Koch affiliate.

"Maddow said the Foundation for Government Accountability, which supported a Florida law requiring drug testing of welfare recipients, is a "Koch brothers affiliated group."

The evidence to prove that particular claim is thin. We rate the claim Mostly False.

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