This article by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker gives a really good overview of one of the First Families of the New American Oligarchy, the Koch clan of Wichita, Kansas. I knew a little bit about them before reading this – their funding of conservative libertarian candidates, their climate science denialism, their anti-tax fanaticism – but what I didn’t know was the extent to which the Kochs actually created the Tea Party movement from whole cloth:
In January, 2008, Charles Koch wrote in his company newsletter that America could be on the verge of “the greatest loss of liberty and prosperity since the 1930s.” That October, Americans for Prosperity held a conference of conservative operatives at a Marriott hotel outside Washington. Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of the conservative blog RedState.com, took the lectern, thanked David Koch, and vowed to “unite and fight . . . the armies of the left!” Soon after Obama assumed office, Americans for Prosperity launched “Porkulus” rallies against Obama’s stimulus-spending measures. Then the Mercatus Center released a report claiming that stimulus funds had been directed disproportionately toward Democratic districts; eventually, the author was forced to correct the report, but not before Rush Limbaugh, citing the paper, had labelled Obama’s program “a slush fund,” and Fox News and other conservative outlets had echoed the sentiment. (Phil Kerpen, the vice-president for policy at Americans for Prosperity, is a contributor to the Fox News Web site. Another officer at Americans for Prosperity, Walter Williams, often guest-hosts for Limbaugh.)
Americans for Prosperity also created an offshoot, Patients United Now, which organized what Phillips has estimated to be more than three hundred rallies against health-care reform. At one rally, an effigy of a Democratic congressman was hung; at another, protesters unfurled a banner depicting corpses from Dachau. The group also helped organize the “Kill the Bill” protests outside the Capitol, in March, where Democratic supporters of health-care reform alleged that they were spat on and cursed at. Phillips was a featured speaker.
Americans for Prosperity has held at least eighty events targeting cap-and-trade legislation, which is aimed at making industries pay for the air pollution that they create. Speakers for the group claimed, with exaggeration, that even back-yard barbecues and kitchen stoves would be taxed. The group was also involved in the attacks on Obama’s “green jobs” czar, Van Jones, and waged a crusade against international climate talks. Casting his group as a champion of ordinary workers who would be hurt by environmentalists, Phillips went to Copenhagen last year and staged a protest outside the United Nations conference on climate change, declaring, “We’re a grassroots organization. . . . I think it’s unfortunate when wealthy children of wealthy families . . . want to send unemployment rates in the United States up to twenty per cent.”
Grover Norquist, who holds a weekly meeting for conservative leaders in Washington, including representatives from Americans for Prosperity, told me that last summer’s raucous rallies were pivotal in undermining Obama’s agenda. The Republican leadership in Congress, he said, “couldn’t have done it without August, when people went out on the streets. It discouraged deal-makers”—Republicans who might otherwise have worked constructively with Obama. Moreover, the appearance of growing public opposition to Obama affected corporate donors on K Street. “K Street is a three-billion-dollar weathervane,” Norquist said. “When Obama was strong, the Chamber of Commerce said, ‘We can work with the Obama Administration.’ But that changed when thousands of people went into the street and ‘terrorized’ congressmen. August is what changed it. Now that Obama is weak, people are getting tough.”
As the first anniversary of Obama’s election approached, David Koch came to the Washington area to attend a triumphant Americans for Prosperity gathering. Obama’s poll numbers were falling fast. Not a single Republican senator was working with the Administration on health care, or much else. Pundits were writing about Obama’s political ineptitude, and Tea Party groups were accusing the President of initiating “a government takeover.” In a speech, Koch said, “Days like today bring to reality the vision of our board of directors when we started this organization, five years ago.” He went on, “We envisioned a mass movement, a state-based one, but national in scope, of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that made our nation the most prosperous society in history. . . . Thankfully, the stirrings from California to Virginia, and from Texas to Michigan, show that more and more of our fellow-citizens are beginning to see the same truths as we do.”
These assholes have been working behind the scenes for a long time, and they’re filthy rich, which means they have more credibility in political circles than you or I ever will, and they will probably go a long ways toward their goal of fucking average Americans over and making themselves even richer before they’re done. But they may not be able to continue doing their dirty work from the shadows:
The Kochs have long depended on the public’s not knowing all the details about them. They have been content to operate what David Koch has called “the largest company that you’ve never heard of.” But with the growing prominence of the Tea Party, and with increased awareness of the Kochs’ ties to the movement, the brothers may find it harder to deflect scrutiny. Recently, President Obama took aim at the Kochs’ political network. Speaking at a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser, in Austin, he warned supporters that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Citizens United case—which struck down laws prohibiting direct corporate spending on campaigns—had made it even easier for big companies to hide behind “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity.” Obama said, “They don’t have to say who, exactly, Americans for Prosperity are. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation”—or even, he added, “a big oil company.”
Of course, the whores who depend on the Kochs for their wingnut welfare are up in arms over this exposure of their rich benefactors:
In an August 24 post, The Washington Examiner‘s Mark Hemingway wrote that The New Yorker article was a “shameful attack,” “sensationalist,” and “laden with bias an [sic] distasteful innuendo.” In his post, Hemingway also noted:
“In the interest of disclosure, I should note that for the past few summers I have mentored young journalists as part of a program funded by the Koch family. I have been paid a largely inconsequential honorarium for my significant investment of time. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t believe in the program, and as for the Koch brothers’ supposedly covert war, I will note that if I had any doubt about who I was working for, the program is called the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program.”
So, you see, Mr. Hemingway’s whoring was all on the up-and-up, since he knew exactly who his john was up front. Similarly, Erick Erickson, CNN’s house wingnut, says the article “is a coordinated character assassination against Koch Industries and the Koch brothers for daring to use their money to prevent the destruction of the American economy at the hand of a bunch of effete socialists in the White House,” and sees it as just another example of the perfidy of the liberal media, which calls for a witch hunt by the incoming Republican majority:
When Darryl Issa takes over as Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the House of Representatives, this will be one more thing he will need to investigate. It is way too convenient to be coincidental that Mr. Obama attacks Americans for Prosperity and, within days, the broadside is extended not just by left wing groups, but allegedly objective journalists.
“Allegedy objective journalist” Erickson, who CNN pays to do things like this, and who is famous for calling retiring Supreme Court Justice Souter a “child fucking goat molester,” apparently doesn’t get enough gravy from the Kochtopus, since he is forced to do fundraising pitches for the pathetically-named “Post Party Summits,” in which like-minded trolls can become “Community Organizers for Freedom,” for the low, low, low price of $50!!! Operators are standing by!
More interesting tidbits about the Koch brothers from Think Progress here.
UPDATE: Poor, poor David Koch, who has to suffer the indignity of someone writing an article about him in the New Yorker.
I’m not sure which is more amusing: Koch’s “you’re being mean to me” pityfest, or Jonathan Chait saying, “I follow politics all day long, and don’t think I could have told you a thing about (Koch) before I read Mayer’s article.” Your Liberal Media, hard at work!
Also, billionaire David Koch, who has probably increased his net worth about 10 million percent over the last 30 years, wants to make sure that Republicans continue to make the world safe for all-consuming greed:
I’m very hopeful about the midterm elections, winning a big landslide there. Whatever happens, my brother and I are going to fight until our last breath to fight to preserve our free-enterprise system, to oppose socialism, and to bring the country back to the basic values that we had when we were founded as a nation.
Me, I’d settle for a return to the basic values of 1979.