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For The Record  

FTR #726 The Kochtopus: The Tea Party Movement Manifests Classical Fascism

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Intro­duc­tion: The Tea Par­ty move­ment has gar­nered tremen­dous media atten­tion, most of which has focused on superficiality–images of “the angry vot­er,” false or mis­lead­ing state­ments about Oba­ma, and the assump­tion that some­how “they” are respon­si­ble for the dis­com­fort felt by the adher­ents to the Par­ty.

What has not received much pub­lic­i­ty until recent­ly is the fact that what appears to be a broad-based, “pop­ulist”, “grass-roots” move­ment is actu­al­ly dri­ven in con­sid­er­able mea­sure by insti­tu­tions financed by the very wealthy and ded­i­cat­ed to advanc­ing the inter­ests of that ele­ment of soci­ety. That advance is at the con­sid­er­able expense of Tea Par­ty adher­ents, many of whom will suc­cumb to the out­growths of the phi­los­o­phy they have embraced.

Label­ing Oba­ma alter­nate­ly “a Mus­lim” and/or “a Marx­ist” (fail­ing to under­stand the con­tra­dic­tion), attack­ing him for rais­ing tax­es (85% of Amer­i­cans are pay­ing low­er tax­es under Oba­ma) and for “try­ing to take away” their guns (he signed into law a bill allow­ing the car­ry­ing of loaded firearms on pub­lic park lands), the Tea Par­ty rank and file are mov­ing in the direc­tion of “inten­si­fy­ing pol­i­tics of free-mar­ket fun­da­men­tal­ism at the very his­tor­i­cal moment that proves the fail­ure of such an ide­ol­o­gy.”

Epit­o­miz­ing the polit­i­cal dual­ism embod­ied in the Tea Par­ty move­ment is the polit­i­cal machine put togeth­er by the bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers, David Koch in par­tic­u­lar. (David Koch is pic­tured above, at right.) Son of one of the prime movers of the John Birch Soci­ety, David Koch was a dri­ving force behind the gen­e­sis of the Lib­er­tar­i­an Par­ty in the ear­ly 1980’s, run­ning for Vice-Pres­i­dent in 1980 against Ronald Rea­gan and George H.W. Bush.

The for­mi­da­ble array of think tanks and NGO’s, jour­nal­ists and polit­i­cal pun­dits who owe their careers to the broth­ers and their insti­tu­tions, togeth­er con­sti­tute the machine termed “The Kochto­pus.”

The foun­da­tion of the Kochs polit­i­cal philosophy–embodied in the polit­i­cal real­i­ties under­ly­ing the Tea Party–is one of “cor­po­ratism” or “the Cor­po­rate State” as Mus­soli­ni put it. Indeed, Birch Soci­ety king­pin Fred Koch open­ly admired Mus­solin­i’s sup­posed “sup­pres­sion” of the com­mu­nists. (In fact, com­mu­nism was already wan­ing in Italy when Mus­soli­ni took over. See Mis­cel­la­neous Archive Show M42.)

In this con­text, one should nev­er for­get the inclu­sion of Nazis and fas­cists in the Repub­li­can Par­ty at a fun­da­men­tal lev­el.

Indeed, Charles Koch has opined that Amer­i­ca could be on the verge of “the great­est loss of lib­er­ty and pros­per­i­ty since the 1930s.” The ref­er­ence is, of course, to the New Deal. Many of this coun­try’s top indus­tri­al­ists and financiers attempt­ed to over­throw Roo­sevelt in 1934, hop­ing to set up a dic­ta­tor­ship like Mus­solin­i’s. The Bush fam­i­ly appear to have been involved with the plot­ting of the ’34 coup.

This trans­la­tion of Cor­po­ratism into a broad-based polit­i­cal move­ment is a man­i­fes­ta­tion of clas­si­cal fas­cism. Even for­mer close friends and asso­ciates of the Kochs admit that the broth­ers have con­fused “free­dom” with what will max­i­mize their cor­po­rate prof­its.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: The Koch broth­ers’ found­ing of the Mer­ca­tus Center–an arche­typ­al Kochto­pus ele­ment; the Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter’s pro­found influ­ence on Bush (II) admin­is­tra­tion pol­i­cy; the Koch broth­ers manip­u­la­tion of envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions; the effect of that manip­u­la­tion on reg­u­la­tion of formaldehyde–a car­cino­gen pro­duced by Koch Indus­tries; David Koch’s role in financ­ing can­cer research–one of a num­ber of roles that places him in a posi­tion of con­flict of inter­est.

1. Despite their attempts at cul­ti­vat­ing the image of patrons of the arts and bene­fac­tors to soci­ety, the Kochs are, in fact, at the epi­cen­ter of the anti-Oba­ma move­ment. The broth­ers main com­mer­cial under­tak­ing is Koch Indus­tries, a con­glom­er­ate with major par­tic­i­pa­tion in the fos­sil-fuels and chem­i­cal indus­tries, in par­tic­u­lar.

. . . In Wash­ing­ton, Koch is best known as part of a fam­i­ly that has repeat­ed­ly fund­ed stealth attacks on the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, and on the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion in par­tic­u­lar.

With his broth­er Charles, who is sev­en­ty-four, David Koch owns vir­tu­al­ly all of Koch Indus­tries, a con­glom­er­ate, head­quar­tered in Wichi­ta, Kansas, whose annu­al rev­enues are esti­mat­ed to be a hun­dred bil­lion dol­lars. The com­pa­ny has grown spec­tac­u­lar­ly since their father, Fred, died, in 1967, and the broth­ers took charge. The Kochs oper­ate oil refiner­ies in Alas­ka, Texas, and Min­neso­ta, and con­trol some four thou­sand miles of pipeline. Koch Indus­tries owns Brawny paper tow­els, Dix­ie cups, Geor­gia-Pacif­ic lum­ber, Stain­mas­ter car­pet, and Lycra, among oth­er prod­ucts. Forbes ranks it as the sec­ond-largest pri­vate com­pa­ny in the coun­try, after Cargill, and its con­sis­tent prof­itabil­i­ty has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two oth­er brothers—among the rich­est men in Amer­i­ca. Their com­bined for­tune of thir­ty-five bil­lion dol­lars is exceed­ed only by those of Bill Gates and War­ren Buf­fett. . . .

“Covert Oper­a­tions” by Jane May­er; The New York­er; 8/30/2010.

2. As major pol­luters and mem­bers of the ultra-rich, the Kochs stand to ben­fit from a frus­tra­tion of the Oba­ma polit­i­cal agen­da.

. . . The Kochs are long­time lib­er­tar­i­ans who believe in dras­ti­cal­ly low­er per­son­al and cor­po­rate tax­es, min­i­mal social ser­vices for the needy, and much less over­sight of industry—especially envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tion. These views dove­tail with the broth­ers’ cor­po­rate inter­ests. In a study released this spring, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mass­a­chu­setts at Amherst’s Polit­i­cal Econ­o­my Research Insti­tute named Koch Indus­tries one of the top ten air pol­luters in the Unit­ed States. And Green­peace issued a report iden­ti­fy­ing the com­pa­ny as a “king­pin of cli­mate sci­ence denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vast­ly out­did Exxon­Mo­bil in giv­ing mon­ey to orga­ni­za­tions fight­ing leg­is­la­tion relat­ed to cli­mate change, under­writ­ing a huge net­work of foun­da­tions, think tanks, and polit­i­cal front groups. Indeed, the broth­ers have fund­ed oppo­si­tion cam­paigns against so many Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion policies—from health-care reform to the eco­nom­ic-stim­u­lus program—that, in polit­i­cal cir­cles, their ide­o­log­i­cal net­work is known as the Kochto­pus.

In a state­ment, Koch Indus­tries said that the Green­peace report “dis­torts the envi­ron­men­tal record of our com­pa­nies.” And David Koch, in a recent, admir­ing arti­cle about him in New York, protest­ed that the “rad­i­cal press” had turned his fam­i­ly into “whip­ping boys,” and had exag­ger­at­ed its influ­ence on Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. But Charles Lewis, the founder of the Cen­ter for Pub­lic Integri­ty, a non­par­ti­san watch­dog group, said, “The Kochs are on a whole dif­fer­ent lev­el. There’s no one else who has spent this much mon­ey. The sheer dimen­sion of it is what sets them apart. They have a pat­tern of law­break­ing, polit­i­cal manip­u­la­tion, and obfus­ca­tion. I’ve been in Wash­ing­ton since Water­gate, and I’ve nev­er seen any­thing like it. They are the Stan­dard Oil of our times.” . . .

Ibid.

3. As indi­cat­ed above, the broth­ers learned their polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy from their father Fred Koch, a sem­i­nal mem­ber of the John Birch Soci­ety.

. . . . In 1958, Fred Koch became one of the orig­i­nal mem­bers of the John Birch Soci­ety, the arch-con­ser­v­a­tive group known, in part, for a high­ly skep­ti­cal view of gov­er­nance and for spread­ing fears of a Com­mu­nist takeover. Mem­bers con­sid­ered Pres­i­dent Dwight D. Eisen­how­er to be a Com­mu­nist agent. In a self-pub­lished broad­side, Koch claimed that “the Com­mu­nists have infil­trat­ed both the Demo­c­rat and Repub­li­can Par­ties.” He wrote admir­ing­ly of Ben­i­to Mussolini’s sup­pres­sion of Com­mu­nists in Italy, and dis­parag­ing­ly of the Amer­i­can civ­il-rights move­ment. “The col­ored man looms large in the Com­mu­nist plan to take over Amer­i­ca,” he warned. Wel­fare was a secret plot to attract rur­al blacks to cities, where they would foment “a vicious race war.” In a 1963 speech that pre­fig­ures the Tea Party’s talk of a secret social­ist plot, Koch pre­dict­ed that Com­mu­nists would “infil­trate the high­est offices of gov­ern­ment in the U.S. until the Pres­i­dent is a Com­mu­nist, unknown to the rest of us.”. . .

Ibid.

4. Dis­claimers to the con­trary notwith­stand­ing, the Tea Par­ty move­ment is deeply involved with the Kochto­pus.

A few weeks after the Lin­coln Cen­ter gala, the advo­ca­cy wing of the Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty Foundation—an orga­ni­za­tion that David Koch start­ed, in 2004—held a dif­fer­ent kind of gath­er­ing. Over the July 4th week­end, a sum­mit called Texas Defend­ing the Amer­i­can Dream took place in a chilly hotel ball­room in Austin. Though Koch freely pro­motes his phil­an­thropic ven­tures, he did not attend the sum­mit, and his name was not in evi­dence. And on this occa­sion the audi­ence was roused not by a dance per­for­mance but by a series of speak­ers denounc­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma. Peg­gy Ven­able, the orga­niz­er of the sum­mit, warned that Admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials “have a social­ist vision for this coun­try.”

Five hun­dred peo­ple attend­ed the sum­mit, which served, in part, as a train­ing ses­sion for Tea Par­ty activists in Texas. An adver­tise­ment cast the event as a pop­ulist upris­ing against vest­ed cor­po­rate pow­er. “Today, the voic­es of aver­age Amer­i­cans are being drowned out by lob­by­ists and spe­cial inter­ests,” it said. “But you can do some­thing about it.” The pitch made no men­tion of its cor­po­rate fun­ders. The White House has expressed frus­tra­tion that such spon­sors have large­ly elud­ed pub­lic notice. David Axel­rod, Obama’s senior advis­er, said, “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grass­roots cit­i­zens’ move­ment brought to you by a bunch of oil bil­lion­aires.”

In April, 2009, Melis­sa Cohlmia, a com­pa­ny spokesper­son, denied that the Kochs had direct links to the Tea Par­ty, say­ing that Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty is “an inde­pen­dent orga­ni­za­tion and Koch com­pa­nies do not in any way direct their activ­i­ties.” Lat­er, she issued a state­ment: “No fund­ing has been pro­vid­ed by Koch com­pa­nies, the Koch foun­da­tions, or Charles Koch or David Koch specif­i­cal­ly to sup­port the tea par­ties.” David Koch told New York, “I’ve nev­er been to a tea-par­ty event. No one rep­re­sent­ing the tea par­ty has ever even approached me.”

At the lectern in Austin, how­ev­er, Venable—a long­time polit­i­cal oper­a­tive who draws a salary from Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty, and who has worked for Koch-fund­ed polit­i­cal groups since 1994—spoke less war­i­ly. “We love what the Tea Par­ties are doing, because that’s how we’re going to take back Amer­i­ca!” she declared, as the crowd cheered. In a sub­se­quent inter­view, she described her­self as an ear­ly mem­ber of the move­ment, jok­ing, “I was part of the Tea Par­ty before it was cool!” She explained that the role of Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty was to help “edu­cate” Tea Par­ty activists on pol­i­cy details, and to give them “next-step train­ing” after their ral­lies, so that their polit­i­cal ener­gy could be chan­neled “more effec­tive­ly.” And she not­ed that Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty had pro­vid­ed Tea Par­ty activists with lists of elect­ed offi­cials to tar­get. She said of the Kochs, “They’re cer­tain­ly our peo­ple. David’s the chair­man of our board. I’ve cer­tain­ly met with them, and I’m very appre­cia­tive of what they do.”

Ven­able hon­ored sev­er­al Tea Par­ty “cit­i­zen lead­ers” at the sum­mit. The Texas branch of Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty gave its Blog­ger of the Year Award to a young woman named Sibyl West. On June 14th, West, writ­ing on her site, described Oba­ma as the “coke­head in chief.” In an online thread, West spec­u­lat­ed that the Pres­i­dent was exhibit­ing symp­toms of “demon­ic pos­ses­sion (aka schiz­o­phre­nia, etc.).” The sum­mit fea­tured sev­er­al paid speak­ers, includ­ing Janine Turn­er, the actress best known for her role on the tele­vi­sion series “North­ern Expo­sure.” She declared, “They don’t want our chil­dren to know about their rights. They don’t want our chil­dren to know about a God!”

Dur­ing a catered lunch, Ven­able intro­duced Ted Cruz, a for­mer solic­i­tor gen­er­al of Texas, who told the crowd that Oba­ma was “the most rad­i­cal Pres­i­dent ever to occu­py the Oval Office,” and had hid­den from vot­ers a secret agenda—“the gov­ern­ment tak­ing over our econ­o­my and our lives.” Coun­ter­ing Oba­ma, Cruz pro­claimed, was “the epic fight of our gen­er­a­tion!” As the crowd rose to its feet and cheered, he quot­ed the defi­ant words of a Tex­an at the Alamo: “Vic­to­ry, or death!”

Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty has worked close­ly with the Tea Par­ty since the movement’s incep­tion. In the weeks before the first Tax Day protests, in April, 2009, Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty host­ed a Web site offer­ing sup­port­ers “Tea Par­ty Talk­ing Points.” The Ari­zona branch urged peo­ple to send tea bags to Oba­ma; the Mis­souri branch urged mem­bers to sign up for “Tax­pay­er Tea Par­ty Reg­is­tra­tion” and pro­vid­ed direc­tions to nine protests. The group con­tin­ues to stoke the rebel­lion. The North Car­oli­na branch recent­ly launched a “Tea Par­ty Find­er” Web site, adver­tised as “a hub for all the Tea Par­ties in North Car­oli­na.”

Ibid.

5. Epit­o­miz­ing the con­struct of the Kochs’ polit­i­cal appa­ra­tus is the Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter, estab­lished at a pri­vate uni­ver­si­ty in Vir­ginia. It has assert­ed tremen­dous influ­ence on pol­i­cy, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the admin­is­tra­tion of George W. Bush, for whose elec­tion the Kochs worked very hard.

. . . In the mid-eight­ies, the Kochs pro­vid­ed mil­lions of dol­lars to George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty, in Arling­ton, Vir­ginia, to set up anoth­er think tank. Now known as the Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter, it pro­motes itself as “the world’s pre­mier uni­ver­si­ty source for mar­ket-ori­ent­ed ideas—bridging the gap between aca­d­e­m­ic ideas and real-world prob­lems.” Finan­cial records show that the Koch fam­i­ly foun­da­tions have con­tributed more than thir­ty mil­lion dol­lars to George Mason, much of which has gone to the Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter, a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion. “It’s ground zero for dereg­u­la­tion pol­i­cy in Wash­ing­ton,” Rob Stein, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic strate­gist, said. It is an unusu­al arrange­ment. “George Mason is a pub­lic uni­ver­si­ty, and receives pub­lic funds,” Stein not­ed. “Vir­ginia is host­ing an insti­tu­tion that the Kochs prac­ti­cal­ly con­trol.”

The founder of the Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter is Richard Fink, for­mer­ly an econ­o­mist. Fink heads Koch Indus­tries’ lob­by­ing oper­a­tion in Wash­ing­ton. In addi­tion, he is the pres­i­dent of the Charles G. Koch Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion, the pres­i­dent of the Claude R. Lambe Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion, a direc­tor of the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foun­da­tion, and a direc­tor and co-founder, with David Koch, of the Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty Foun­da­tion.

Fink, with his many titles, has become the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem of the Kochto­pus. He appears to have sup­plant­ed Ed Crane, the head of the Cato Insti­tute, as the broth­ers’ main polit­i­cal lieu­tenant. Though David remains on the board at Cato, Charles Koch has fall­en out with Crane. Asso­ciates sug­gest­ed to me that Crane had been insuf­fi­cient­ly respect­ful of Charles’s man­age­ment phi­los­o­phy, which he dis­tilled into a book called “The Sci­ence of Suc­cess,” and trade­marked under the name Mar­ket-Based Man­age­ment, or M.B.M. In the book, Charles rec­om­mends instill­ing a company’s cor­po­rate cul­ture with the com­pet­i­tive­ness of the mar­ket­place. Koch describes M.B.M. as a “holis­tic sys­tem” con­tain­ing “five dimen­sions: vision, virtue and tal­ents, knowl­edge process­es, deci­sion rights and incen­tives.” A top Cato Insti­tute offi­cial told me that Charles “thinks he’s a genius. He’s the emper­or, and he’s con­vinced he’s wear­ing clothes.” Fink, by con­trast, has been far more embrac­ing of Charles’s ideas. (Fink, like the Kochs, declined to be inter­viewed.)

At a 1995 con­fer­ence for phil­an­thropists, Fink adopt­ed the lan­guage of eco­nom­ics when speak­ing about the Mer­ca­tus Center’s pur­pose. He said that grant-mak­ers should use think tanks and polit­i­cal-action groups to con­vert intel­lec­tu­al raw mate­ri­als into pol­i­cy “prod­ucts.”

The Wall Street Jour­nal has called the Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter “the most impor­tant think tank you’ve nev­er heard of,” and not­ed that four­teen of the twen­ty-three reg­u­la­tions that Pres­i­dent George W. Bush placed on a “hit list” had been sug­gest­ed first by Mer­ca­tus schol­ars. Fink told the paper that the Kochs have “oth­er means of fight­ing [their] bat­tles,” and that the Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter does not active­ly pro­mote the company’s pri­vate inter­ests. But Thomas McGar­i­ty, a law pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas, who spe­cial­izes in envi­ron­men­tal issues, told me that “Koch has been con­stant­ly in trou­ble with the E.P.A., and Mer­ca­tus has con­stant­ly ham­mered on the agency.” An envi­ron­men­tal lawyer who has clashed with the Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter called it “a means of laun­der­ing eco­nom­ic aims.” The lawyer explained the strat­e­gy: “You take cor­po­rate mon­ey and give it to a neu­tral-sound­ing think tank,” which “hires peo­ple with pedi­grees and aca­d­e­m­ic degrees who put out cred­i­ble-seem­ing stud­ies. But they all coin­cide per­fect­ly with the eco­nom­ic inter­ests of their fun­ders.” . . .

Ibid.

6. David Koch has spent mil­lions to fund can­cer research. With his indus­tri­al con­cerns pro­duc­ing known car­cino­gens, such as formalde­hyde, this con­sti­tutes a con­flict of interest–a type of con­flict that often results in res­o­lu­tions that sat­is­fy the major donors.

. . . And he became a patron of can­cer research, focus­ing on prostate can­cer. In addi­tion to his gifts to Sloan-Ket­ter­ing, he gave fif­teen mil­lion dol­lars to New York-Pres­by­ter­ian Hos­pi­tal, a hun­dred and twen­ty-five mil­lion to M.I.T. for can­cer research, twen­ty mil­lion to Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty, and twen­ty-five mil­lion to the M. D. Ander­son Can­cer Cen­ter, in Hous­ton. In response to his gen­eros­i­ty, Sloan-Ket­ter­ing gave Koch its Excel­lence in Cor­po­rate Lead­er­ship Award. In 2004, Pres­i­dent Bush named him to the Nation­al Can­cer Advi­so­ry Board, which guides the Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute.

Koch’s cor­po­rate and polit­i­cal roles, how­ev­er, may pose con­flicts of inter­est. For exam­ple, at the same time that David Koch has been cast­ing him­self as a cham­pi­on in the fight against can­cer, Koch Indus­tries has been lob­by­ing to pre­vent the E.P.A. from clas­si­fy­ing formalde­hyde, which the com­pa­ny pro­duces in great quan­ti­ties, as a “known car­cino­gen” in humans.

Sci­en­tists have long known that formalde­hyde caus­es can­cer in rats, and sev­er­al major sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies have con­clud­ed that formalde­hyde caus­es can­cer in human beings—including one pub­lished last year by the Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute, on whose advi­so­ry board Koch sits. The study tracked twen­ty-five thou­sand patients for an aver­age of forty years; sub­jects exposed to high­er amounts of formalde­hyde had sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er rates of leukemia. These results helped lead an expert pan­el with­in the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health to con­clude that formalde­hyde should be cat­e­go­rized as a known car­cino­gen, and be strict­ly con­trolled by the gov­ern­ment. Cor­po­ra­tions have resist­ed reg­u­la­tions on formalde­hyde for decades, how­ev­er, and Koch Indus­tries has been a large fun­der of mem­bers of Con­gress who have stymied the E.P.A., requir­ing it to defer new reg­u­la­tions until more stud­ies are com­plet­ed.

Koch Indus­tries became a major pro­duc­er of the chem­i­cal in 2005, after it bought Geor­gia-Pacif­ic, the paper and wood-prod­ucts com­pa­ny, for twen­ty-one bil­lion dol­lars. Geor­gia-Pacif­ic man­u­fac­tures formalde­hyde in its chem­i­cal divi­sion, and uses it to pro­duce var­i­ous wood prod­ucts, such as ply­wood and lam­i­nates. Its annu­al pro­duc­tion capac­i­ty for formalde­hyde is 2.2 bil­lion pounds. Last Decem­ber, Tray­lor Cham­pi­on, Georgia-Pacific’s vice-pres­i­dent of envi­ron­men­tal affairs, sent a for­mal let­ter of protest to fed­er­al health author­i­ties. He wrote that the com­pa­ny “strong­ly dis­agrees” with the N.I.H. panel’s con­clu­sion that formalde­hyde should be treat­ed as a known human car­cino­gen. David Koch did not recuse him­self from the Nation­al Can­cer Advi­so­ry Board, or divest him­self of com­pa­ny stock, while his com­pa­ny was direct­ly lob­by­ing the gov­ern­ment to keep formalde­hyde on the mar­ket. (A board spokesper­son said that the issue of formalde­hyde had not come up.)

James Huff, an asso­ciate direc­tor at the Nation­al Insti­tute for Envi­ron­men­tal Health Sci­ences, a divi­sion of the N.I.H., told me that it was “dis­gust­ing” for Koch to be serv­ing on the Nation­al Can­cer Advi­so­ry Board: “It’s just not good for pub­lic health. Vest­ed inter­ests should not be on the board.” He went on, “Those boards are very impor­tant. They’re very influ­en­tial as to whether N.C.I. goes into formalde­hyde or not. Bil­lions of dol­lars are involved in formalde­hyde.” . . .

Ibid.

7. When cit­i­zens have become sick­ened by pol­lu­tants pro­duced by the Koch broth­ers and their ilk, they will have less chance of receiv­ing ade­quate treat­ment if the Kochto­pus has its way. The broth­ers have been implaca­ble oppo­nents of health care reform.

. . . 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.”

While Koch didn’t explic­it­ly embrace the Tea Par­ty move­ment that day, more recent­ly he has come close to doing so, prais­ing it for demon­strat­ing the “pow­er­ful vis­cer­al hos­til­i­ty in the body politic against the mas­sive increase in gov­ern­ment pow­er, the mas­sive efforts to social­ize this coun­try.” Charles Koch, in a newslet­ter sent to his sev­en­ty thou­sand employ­ees, com­pared the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion to the regime of the Venezue­lan strong­man Hugo Chávez. The Kochs’ sense of imper­il­ment is some­what puz­zling. Income inequal­i­ty in Amer­i­ca is greater than it has been since the nine­teen-twen­ties, and since the sev­en­ties the tax rates of the wealth­i­est have fall­en more than those of the mid­dle class. Yet the broth­ers’ mes­sage has evi­dent­ly res­onat­ed with vot­ers: a recent poll found that fifty-five per cent of Amer­i­cans agreed that Oba­ma is a social­ist. . . .

Ibid.

Discussion

52 comments for “FTR #726 The Kochtopus: The Tea Party Movement Manifests Classical Fascism”

  1. House­keep­ing Note: Com­ments 1–50 avail­able here.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 27, 2017, 4:02 pm
  2. Well, they did it: The Koch broth­ers pumped $650 mil­lion into Mered­ith Cor­po­ra­tion’s buy­out of Time Inc, the pub­lish­er of Time, Sports Illus­trat­ed, Peo­ple, For­tune and Enter­tain­ment Week­ly.

    But we are assured not to wor­ry about Koch edi­to­r­i­al med­dling because the Kochs “will not have a seat on the Mered­ith board and will have no influ­ence on Meredith’s edi­to­r­i­al or man­age­r­i­al oper­a­tions,” accord­ing to Merideth. Instead, we are told that the Kochs are pure­ly inter­est­ed in this ven­ture from an invest­ment stand­point. And that’s a rather remark­able claim from an invest­ment stand­point if true since, as the arti­cle notes at the end, the final price Merideth and Koch paid for Time Inc includ­ed a 46 per­cent pre­mi­um on top above price Time Inc. shares cost when this buy­out pro­pos­al was first announced. Yep, the Kochs are buy­ing big media for the invest­ment poten­tial and that alone. And they’re so opti­mistic about the prof­it poten­tial of this merg­er that they were hap­py to pay a 46 per­cent pre­mi­um for the pur­chase (and def­i­nite­ly did­n’t buy it to influ­ence the con­tent of these pub­li­ca­tions *wink*):

    The Guardian

    Con­ser­v­a­tive bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers give $650m to help Mered­ith buy Time

    Tex­ans will not get a say in edi­to­r­i­al deci­sions, says Mered­ith, as it hails ‘trans­for­ma­tive’ deal to merge mag­a­zine sta­bles

    Dominic Rushe, Mar­tin Far­rer and agen­cies
    Mon­day 27 Novem­ber 2017 01.42 EST

    Time Inc, strug­gling own­er of some of the world’s most famous mag­a­zine brands, was sold on Sun­day to rival Mered­ith Cor­po­ra­tion in a “trans­for­ma­tive” $1.8bn deal that was backed by the rightwing bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers.

    Mered­ith, which owns a port­fo­lio includ­ing Bet­ter Homes & Gar­dens, Fam­i­ly Cir­cle, all­recipes and Shape, will fund the deal with the help of $650m from the Koch broth­ers, who have said they will take no role at the merged media com­pa­ny.

    But for­mer Time employ­ees have expressed grave con­cerns about their involve­ment.

    ...

    Their involve­ment in the deal to buy the pub­lish­er of Time, Sports Illus­trat­ed, Peo­ple, For­tune and Enter­tain­ment Week­ly has raised ques­tions about whether their inter­est is polit­i­cal.

    Charles Alexan­der, a for­mer Time edi­tor, said last week that the pur­chase was like see­ing his “life’s work go down the drain”. Writ­ing in the Nation, Alexan­der said the prob­lem was not that the Koch broth­ers are “con­ser­v­a­tive”. Hen­ry Luce, who co-found­ed Time in 1923, was con­ser­v­a­tive too.

    The issue, he wrote, was that for decades the Kochs have “financed a cam­paign of dis­in­for­ma­tion designed to con­vince the pub­lic and politi­cians that cli­mate change is noth­ing to wor­ry about. In fact, any rep­utable cli­mate sci­en­tist will tell you that glob­al warm­ing is the sec­ond-great­est dan­ger to the human race, trail­ing only nuclear weapons”.

    Mered­ith moved to play down the impor­tance of the fund­ing by say­ing on Sun­day night that Koch Equi­ty Devel­op­ment, the broth­ers’ invest­ment vehi­cle pro­vid­ing the fund­ing, will not have a seat on the board of the new­ly merged group and will not influ­ence edi­to­r­i­al deci­sions.

    “[Koch Equi­ty Devel­op­ment] will not have a seat on the Mered­ith board and will have no influ­ence on Meredith’s edi­to­r­i­al or man­age­r­i­al oper­a­tions,” Mered­ith said in a state­ment. “KED’s non-con­trol­ling, pre­ferred equi­ty invest­ment under­scores a strong belief in Meredith’s strength as a busi­ness oper­a­tor, its strate­gies and its abil­i­ty to unlock sig­nif­i­cant val­ue from the Time acqui­si­tion.”

    Jeff Jarvis, a for­mer Time Inc edi­tor and now direc­tor of the Tow-Knight Cen­ter for Entre­pre­neur­ial Jour­nal­ism at the City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York, said he found the Kochs’ involve­ment “very wor­ry­ing”.

    Time, once one of the world’s most influ­en­tial mag­a­zines, lost its clout decades ago, he said. “Mag­a­zines are over. Only Don­ald Trump cares about Time now,” he said. “In oth­er cir­cum­stances I would be glad that the mag­a­zines had found a backer. There is a need for respon­si­ble, fact-based con­ser­v­a­tive news. But the Kochs are not just con­ser­v­a­tive, they are the fun­ders of pro­pa­gan­da,” said Jarvis.

    David Folken­flik, media cor­re­spon­dent for Nation­al Pub­lic Radio, said the size of the Kochs’ invest­ment raised ques­tions about their moti­va­tion. “There have got to be bet­ter invest­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties,” he said. Folken­flik point­ed out that the promis­es of oth­er media investors – most notably Rupert Mur­doch – not to inter­fere with a publication’s edi­to­r­i­al poli­cies have proved hol­low.

    The Kochs “have gone after jour­nal­ists they find over­ly crit­i­cal”, he said. “To have pro­pri­etors who are so hos­tile to the endeav­ors of jour­nal­ism gives you great pause.”

    The deal, which was unan­i­mous­ly approved by both boards, is a coup for Mered­ith, which held unsuc­cess­ful talks to buy Time ear­li­er this year and in 2013.

    It will give news, busi­ness and sports brands to add to the Iowa-based publisher’s lifestyle titles. Ana­lysts have said that bulk­ing up on pub­lish­ing assets could give Mered­ith the scale required to spin off its broad­cast­ing arm into a stand­alone com­pa­ny. Com­bined, the Mered­ith and Time brands will have a read­er­ship of 135 mil­lion peo­ple and paid cir­cu­la­tion of near­ly 60m.

    Com­bined, the com­pa­nies post­ed $4.8bn in rev­enue last year. Mered­ith expects it will save up to $500m in costs in the first two years of oper­a­tion and plans to “aggres­sive­ly pay down” debt by 2020.

    John Fahey, Time chair­man, said the sale was in the best inter­ests of the com­pa­ny and its share­hold­ers, not­ing the price rep­re­sent­ed a 46% pre­mi­um to the clos­ing price of shares on 15 Novem­ber, the day pri­or to media reports about the deal.

    ———-

    “Con­ser­v­a­tive bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers give $650m to help Mered­ith buy Time” by Dominic Rushe, Mar­tin Far­rer and agen­cies; The Guardian; 11/27/2017

    “John Fahey, Time chair­man, said the sale was in the best inter­ests of the com­pa­ny and its share­hold­ers, not­ing the price rep­re­sent­ed a 46% pre­mi­um to the clos­ing price of shares on 15 Novem­ber, the day pri­or to media reports about the deal

    A 46 per­cent pre­mi­um for a media com­pa­ny that spe­cial­izes in mag­a­zines. As media indus­try observers not, it’s a rather odd invest­ment from a prof­it-max­i­miza­tion stand­point. And it’s a rather incred­u­lous pledge that Kochs won’t exert sway over con­tent giv­en the his­to­ry of peo­ple like Rupert Mur­doch make, and break­ing, that same pledge and the his­to­ry of the Kochs them­selves going after jour­nal­ists:

    ...
    Jeff Jarvis, a for­mer Time Inc edi­tor and now direc­tor of the Tow-Knight Cen­ter for Entre­pre­neur­ial Jour­nal­ism at the City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York, said he found the Kochs’ involve­ment “very wor­ry­ing”.

    Time, once one of the world’s most influ­en­tial mag­a­zines, lost its clout decades ago, he said. “Mag­a­zines are over. Only Don­ald Trump cares about Time now,” he said. “In oth­er cir­cum­stances I would be glad that the mag­a­zines had found a backer. There is a need for respon­si­ble, fact-based con­ser­v­a­tive news. But the Kochs are not just con­ser­v­a­tive, they are the fun­ders of pro­pa­gan­da,” said Jarvis.

    David Folken­flik, media cor­re­spon­dent for Nation­al Pub­lic Radio, said the size of the Kochs’ invest­ment raised ques­tions about their moti­va­tion. “There have got to be bet­ter invest­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties,” he said. Folken­flik point­ed out that the promis­es of oth­er media investors – most notably Rupert Mur­doch – not to inter­fere with a publication’s edi­to­r­i­al poli­cies have proved hol­low.

    The Kochs “have gone after jour­nal­ists they find over­ly crit­i­cal”, he said. “To have pro­pri­etors who are so hos­tile to the endeav­ors of jour­nal­ism gives you great pause.”
    ...

    And yet Merideth assures us that the Kochs will have no sway over the con­tent and they are just real­ly con­fi­dent that this merg­er will “unlock sig­nif­i­cant val­ue”:

    ...
    Mered­ith moved to play down the impor­tance of the fund­ing by say­ing on Sun­day night that Koch Equi­ty Devel­op­ment, the broth­ers’ invest­ment vehi­cle pro­vid­ing the fund­ing, will not have a seat on the board of the new­ly merged group and will not influ­ence edi­to­r­i­al deci­sions.

    “[Koch Equi­ty Devel­op­ment] will not have a seat on the Mered­ith board and will have no influ­ence on Meredith’s edi­to­r­i­al or man­age­r­i­al oper­a­tions,” Mered­ith said in a state­ment. “KED’s non-con­trol­ling, pre­ferred equi­ty invest­ment under­scores a strong belief in Meredith’s strength as a busi­ness oper­a­tor, its strate­gies and its abil­i­ty to unlock sig­nif­i­cant val­ue from the Time acqui­si­tion.”
    ...

    “KED’s non-con­trol­ling, pre­ferred equi­ty invest­ment under­scores a strong belief in Meredith’s strength as a busi­ness oper­a­tor, its strate­gies and its abil­i­ty to unlock sig­nif­i­cant val­ue from the Time acqui­si­tion.”

    What sort of sig­nif­i­cant val­ue will Merideth and the Kochs man­age to unlock from this acqui­si­tion? That remains to be seen, although giv­en the state­ments from Merideth about how they plan to “aggres­sive­ly pay down” debt by 2020, the unlocked val­ue is pre­sum­ably going to involve lay­ing off a bunch of jour­nal­ists.

    On the plus side, at least now when­ev­er Don­ald Trump isn’t made Time’s “Man of the Year” it’s prob­a­bly going to start some sort of oli­garch war between Trump and the Kochs due to Trump’s hurt feel­ings. So that should be kind of fun to watch.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 27, 2017, 4:04 pm

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