"Koch Funded Hack" Goes to Congress
Rep. Jim Jordan has poached talent from the New Civil Liberties Alliance.
This piece was updated 10/16/23.
Earlier this month, the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a right-wing legal outfit that receives significant funding from billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, experienced a shake-up. Litigation counsel Jenin Younes, who has been spearheading separate lawsuits for NCLA to protect COVID misinformation, exited the group.
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In a Twitter post from April 12, Younes thanked her colleagues and expressed pride in her work representing COVID contrarians in their legal fights against public health measures and social media companies.
“I never dreamed that I would bring among the first vaccine mandate challenges in the US on behalf of the brilliant and intrepid @ToddZywicki, or that I’d be part of uncovering a vast censorship regime operated at the highest levels of federal government, representing incredible people like @DrJBhattacharya @MartinKulldorff @akheriaty @HealthFreedomLA @MarkChangizi @danielkotzin @michaelpsenger, or that I’d succeed in getting a law designed to muzzle doctors with dissenting covid views enjoined (@TracyBethHoeg @PeterMazolewski @akheriaty @AzadehKhatibi),” she wrote.
Younes promised to continue her work “from my new position” before giving a defiant shoutout to the author of this piece and our past reporting.
“Also my sincere apologies to Walker Bragman, who will no longer be able to call me a Koch funded hack, though I’m sure he can come up with something equally creative and untrue,” she wrote.
Days later, Younes announced that she had been tapped by Republican Congressman Jim Jordan as a senior special counsel to the GOP Congress’s subcommittee on the weaponization of government, which was established to seek out targeting of the political right by federal agencies and recently came under fire for preparing to retaliate against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for bringing charges against former President Donald Trump.
While her role change does mean Younes will no longer be employed by a group that accepts significant funding from Koch, Jordan himself has strong links to the right-wing billionaire.
Koch-Funded Litigation Outfit
Despite her protestations, Younes’ old employer, NCLA, gets a significant amount of money from Koch. The group received more than $2 million from the Charles Koch Institute (today known as Stand Together Fellowships) from 2020-21, more than $3 million from the Charles Koch Foundation between 2017-21, and another $3 million from DonorsTrust, a preferred funding conduit of Koch network donors, from 2018-21.
NCLA was even founded with seed funding from the Charles Koch Foundation and is headed by a former in-house counsel for Koch Industries. Its work is exactly what one might expect: It wages a war on government action from a pro-business position. For example, NCLA filed an amicus brief in a case challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
The group has also been waging war on the public health measures put in place to address COVID-19. It is this battle that Younes’ work has focused on. For example, she led NCLA’s fight against the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate. More recently, she and NCLA joined a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its alleged role in the “censorship” of prolific COVID contrarians. Representing a number of prolific COVID misinformation spreaders, NCLA claims that the federal government “coerced” social media companies into removing disfavored content. Some legal experts have cast doubt on the seriousness of the allegations.
Younes was also the NCLA attorney in a California lawsuit challenging the state’s pandemic misinformation law, which empowers the state’s medical board to bring action against doctors who peddle COVID misinformation. Her clients in that suit were contrarian doctors.
Other Koch Connections
While it may have been her most direct connection to the billionaire industrialist, NCLA was not Younes’ only Koch link.
Beginning in the fall of 2020, Younes, a former public defender and self-proclaimed former Democrat, was publishing pieces with the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), a libertarian think tank in Koch’s network, criticizing lockdowns and other public health measures taken in response to COVID. In her first article, she claimed lockdowns would cause “more death than the coronavirus itself.”
The group’s then-editorial director, Jeffrey Tucker, himself a longtime veteran of Koch World—with reported ties to neo-confederate groups—was so impressed with Younes that before her first piece was even published, he’d invited her to a key meeting late in the summer of 2020 with Dr. Martin Kulldroff, a Swedish biostatistician at Harvard Medical School. That meeting would lead to the Great Barrington Declaration, an open letter co-authored by Kulldorff and signed at an AIER conference in October 2020 that called on governments to reject broad public health measures and embrace mass infection as a path to herd immunity.
Younes wrote for AIER until June 2021. She is also listed as a contributor to the right-wing Federalist Society, a well-funded organization with national reach into law schools that works to groom future right-wing judges and lawyers. Younes has spoken at events organized by student chapters and a litigation practice group.
The Federalist Society, which has been instrumental in the right-wing takeover of the nation’s judiciary, has been supported by Koch and other right-wing megadonors. The organization received $2 million from Stand Together Fellowships between 2020 and 2021.
New Boss Same As The Old Boss
All that is behind Younes now. However, Congressman Jordan has also been a longtime ally of the Koch family and its political operations. According to the Center for Responsive Politics’s database, OpenSecrets, Koch Industries, Koch’s family company, is Jordan’s fourth largest career donor. Between 2020-22, the company’s PAC gave the congressman’s leadership and campaign committees a combined total of $40,000. The donations made Koch Industries his top donor in the 2020 election cycle and his fifth top donor in the next.
Jordan was also a darling of the Tea Party movement and a founding member of the so-called Freedom Caucus. The role of Charles and his deceased brother David Koch in the rise of the Tea Party movement has been thoroughly reported.
The congressman maintains a close relationship with Americans for Prosperity, Koch’s flagship political operation, giving interviews and accepting awards. In 2015, for example, the group bestowed him with its highest honor, the Washington Award. David Koch personally presented the award at the Defending the American Dream Summit in Columbus, Ohio, that year. Accepting the honor, Jordan called AFP “a national leader in the fight for economic freedom for all.” This past December, Jordan was one of 73 GOP members of Congress to receive AFP’s Pioneer for Prosperity Award for opposing the Inflation Reduction Act.
Younes is hardly the first veteran from a Koch-funded organization to get recruited by a member of Congress. The Heritage Foundation, an influential right-wing think tank in DC that has received funding from Koch for years including 2021, boasts that its congressional fellowship program has graduated nearly 800 staffers since its launch in 2002.
AUTHOR’S NOTE TO READERS: I want to thank you for sticking with us. I know this month has seen fewer Important Context stories than normal. Rest assured, though, that big pieces are in the works. They’re just taking a little extra time. So stay tuned for more!