Wednesday, September 1, 2010

This is rich

Koch Industries, the Wichita, Kans.-based energy conglomerate, wants money from the health insurance reform that it opposed, according to Think Progress.

The company is owned by the billionaires David and Charles Koch, who are bankrolling the Tea Party (remember those demonstrations against health care reform last year??) and a giant network of right-wing organizations.

If you haven't read Jane Mayer's piece in the New Yorker about the Kochs, you must.

Mayer reports:

As their fortunes grew, Charles and David Koch became the primary underwriters of hard-line libertarian politics in America. Charles’s goal ... was to tear the government “out at the root.”

Only the Kochs know how much they've spend on right-wing organizations, but it's a lot. Mayer says

After the 1980 election, Charles and David Koch ... poured more than a hundred million dollars into dozens of seemingly independent organizations.

Ari Rabin-Havt, a vice-president at the Democratic-leaning Web site Media Matters, said that the Kochs’ effort is unusual, in its marshalling of corporate and personal funds: “Their role, in terms of financial commitments, is staggering.”

They started off with think tanks like the Cato Institute, which advocate deregulation, and then branched out into phony grassroots organizations.
Citizens for a Sound Economy, seemed like a grassroots movement, but according to the Center for Public Integrity it was sponsored principally by the Kochs, who provided $7.9 million between 1986 and 1993.

The brothers aren't exactly squeaky clean, Mayer reports:
In 1989, the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs investigated their business and released a scathing report accusing Koch Oil of “a widespread and sophisticated scheme to steal crude oil from Indians and others through fraudulent mismeasuring.” The Kochs admitted that they had improperly taken thirty-one million dollars’ worth of crude oil, but said that it had been accidental.

They've been investigated for evading campaign finance laws. They've settled cases in which they've been charged with causing more than 300 oil spills and coveringup the discharge of 91 tons of benzene. They were found guilty of negligence and malice when two teen-agers died from an explosion of a leaky butane pipeline.

Yet their influence is insidious. Americans for Prosperity, one of their front groups, is featured on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh without being identified as the tool of a big polluter. Says Mayer
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.