“Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama,” a story by journalist Jane Mayer in the August 30, 2010 edition of The New Yorker, details the political activities of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire owners of Koch Industries, a conglomerate that owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia Pacific and a variety of other companies and interests in the oil and chemical industries.
The title of the article is a bit misleading because the Koch brothers, following in the footsteps of their father, have waged political battle against every phase of liberalism in American politics going back to the New Deal. Their father, Fred Koch, was one of the founders of the John Birch Society in 1958 who claimed that “Communists have infiltrated both the Democratic and Republican Parties.” Besides hundreds of millions of dollars, the father also bequethed his sons a distrust of government that bordered on the paranoid. Son David, in fact, became the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate in 1980. He ran against Ronald Reagen – from the right.
But the Koch political candidacy was stillborn with his ticket receiving only 1% of the vote. From that drubbing the Koch brothers took away the lesson that politicians “are merely actors playing out a script” and so the Koch’s became the script writers. They did this by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into seemingly independent organizations such as the Cato Institute and Americans for Prosperity. [The Kochs are also major funders of the Republican Governors Association, the outfit that’s been running attack ads against Deval Patrick and Tim Cahill here in Massachusetts all summer].
Not surprisingly, many of the causes championed by these Koch-funded think tanks benefit the financial interest of Koch-controlled companies particularly in the areas of pollution control, global warming, cancer research and countless others. Like criminal defense attorneys, the academic experts employed by these think tanks need not convince anyone of the truth of their positions; all they need do is raise doubts, doubts that paralyze our political system. By doing nothing, the polluters win. This is nothing new. It’s a tactic torn directly from the playbook of big tobacco.
The Kochs like anyone else are entitled to spend their fortunes however they see fit. What they should not be able to do is spend hundreds of millions of dollars influencing our political system in complete anonymity. As Mayer points out
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 [of which Mayer details the Koch’s deep involvement] and with increased awareness of the Kochs’ ties to the movement, the brothers may find it harder to deflect scrutiny.