Alex Constantine - August 23, 2010
This morning, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer published an explosive investigative piece detailing the role of the Koch family in orchestrating not only the Tea Party movement, but much of the modern right-wing infrastructure. The brothers David and Charles Koch, heirs to the oil and chemical conglomerate Koch Industries, have founded or funded dozens of conservative or libertarian publications, think tanks, and attack groups. Their father, Fred Koch, similarly fueled the paranoid right-wing movements of the fifties and sixties through his financing of the John Birch Society.
Mayer’s piece builds off the original reporting conducted by ThinkProgress since the very beginning of the Tea Party movement. Here’s a review of what we’ve reported:
– In April 2009, ThinkProgress revealed that Americans for Prosperity, a group founded by David Koch, was helping to plan dozens of the first national Tea Party rallies. Americans for Prosperity staffers organized events, from making reservations, to providing talking points and signs, to calling activists to encourage them to participate.
– In August 2009, ThinkProgress obtained an exclusive memo from a Tea Party group supported by Koch’s Americans for Prosperity. The memo outlined various ways for Tea Party activists to intimidate Democratic lawmakers and disrupt their town hall meetings on health reform. ThinkProgress published half a dozen articles exposing the role of Koch-funded groups like “Patients United” in encouraging opposition to health reform. For instance, in Virginia, a Koch-funded operative Ben Marchi assisted a birther who followed Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) around, yelling at him at town hall meetings.
– In May 2009, the Wonk Room published a detailed history of Tim Phillips, an astroturf lobbyist Koch appointed to run his Americans for Prosperity front. Phillips had served as a business partner to Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed.
– Writing in the Boston Globe, ThinkProgress commented on the similarities between David and Charles’ Tea Party movement to their father’s efforts to attack President John Kennedy through the John Birch Society.
– The Wonk Room reported on thirty years of Koch Industry environmental front groups. The timeline showed how Koch tried desperately to smear the cap and trade system set up to address acid rain with a “grassroots” group without a single grassroots member.
– At Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) “House Call” rally, ThinkProgress produced a video report exposing Koch for paying for dozens of buses for anti-health reform activists to reach DC. We also captured the picture of a large banner comparing health reform to the Holocaust.
– The Wonk Room investigated Koch Industries’ role in the effort to repeal AB 32, the landmark California climate change clean energy law. The Wonk Room’s video report revealed how Koch Industries’ reliance on high-carbon Canadian crude would become less profitable if similar laws like AB 32 are enacted around the country.
– ThinkProgress reported how a variety of right-wing fronts supported by the Koch family and its political deputies not only helped overturn nearly a hundred years in campaign finance law in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, but also is lobbying aggressively against the DISCLOSE Act, which would provide transparency into the campaign spending for plutocrats like the Koch family.
– The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson reported extensively on the multiple climate-denying campaigns orchestrated by the Koch family. Johnson has lampooned some of the Koch family’s more ridiculous attempts at billionaire populism.
– ThinkProgress partnered with Climate Progress to investigate David Koch’s funding of the Smithsonian Institute. We spoke to the Smithsonian director, who continued to express gratitude to Koch, and whitewashed Koch’s role in distorting public knowledge of climate science. Similarly, we have long chronicled the “Swift Boat” style attack campaign conducted by Koch’s various anti-science fronts.
– The Wonk Room reported on how Koch-backed groups and media outlets spread the myth that the so-called “Climategate” e-mails showed that scientists had concealed climate data from the public.
Mayer’s article sheds light on many other ways in which the Koch family has intertwined its business interests with its investment in right-wing groups. She also exposes a serious conflict of interest with David Koch’s position as a board member to the National Cancer Institute, an honor granted to him by President Bush. Mayer notes that while 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.”