There’s a good chance that readers of this page already have some idea who David and Charles Koch are, and what’s happening this weekend, as the sugar daddies of the Tea Party throw a little party of their own in Palm Springs. Invitees include a pack of their billionaire friends, plus prominent pundits, Republican Party officials and lawmakers, a number of whom benefited from hefty Koch contributions this last campaign cycle.
Together they’ll strategize how to get rid of every regulation or politician that stands in the way of wealthy people becoming wealthier; namely, taxes, healthcare reform, environmental and financial protections, Obama and what little remains of the social safety net. Citizens United will undoubtedly energize the annual end-of-weekend ritual when all the donors—40 percent of them new—whip out their checkbooks to underwrite these adventures in subverting democracy with an eye to their bottom line.
But there will also be, for the first time in the soiree’s eight year history, media attention, including a fair number of prominent bloggers, a panel discussion including such luminaries as Robert Reich and Van Jones and a demonstration organized by Common Cause. That’s actually pretty great, as Kert Davies, Director of Research for Greenpeace, reminded me. For years one of the Koch brothers’ greatest achievements was the fact that no one knew who they were or what influence they had in DC.
Now, thanks to some fine investigative reporting, we know that the brothers—the fifth-richest folks in the United States—are radical right-wingers whose dad served on the John Birch Society’s governing body. Lee Fang of Think Progress tagged them early on as primary funders for the allegedly populist Tea Party, whose coast-to-coast “spontaneous” uprisings against Obama and taxation, were carefully orchestrated by staff. A March 2010 Greenpeace report uncloaked Koch Industries as a “financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition,” and unveiled their underwriting of organizations like the Mercatus Center, Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute, whose pseudo-academic “research” and “reports” lobby for the wealthy and powerful from behind the protection of tax-exempt, nonprofit status. Jane Mayer’s August 2010 New Yorker portrait, “Covert Operations” finished ripping the mask off of the brothers mostly known on the East Coast as generous patrons of the arts, and directly connected them to what was happening in DC. (Note: for the uninitiated, this fabulous timeline cartoon provides the least painful account of the Koch family’s political history from the ’30s through today.)