The Koch Brothers: Always the Story, Even When They Aren’t

The Left’s obsession with Charles and David Koch continues unabated. Today’s exhibit: this New York Times article on a press conference by California campaign finance officials on a fine that they levied against an Arizona group called the Center to Protect Patient Rights. For the Times, the Kochs are the story; the article is headlined, “Group Linked to Kochs Admits to Campaign Finance Violations.”

The violation occurred in connection with two California ballot propositions, #30, which would have increased taxes, and #32, which limited unions’ use of automatic payroll deductions to fund political campaigns. The Times begins:

A secretive nonprofit group with ties to the billionaire conservative businessmen Charles and David Koch admitted to improperly failing to disclose more than $15 million in contributions it funneled into state referendum battles in California, state officials there announced Thursday.

So the story apparently is all about the Kochs. Does this mean that the Koch brothers, or Koch Industries, contributed some of the $15 million that was involved in the incident that gave rise to the fine? Um, no. The Times makes no such claim, and in fact, they didn’t. But you have to read the article carefully to realize that it actually says nothing about Koch.

The group, the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights, is one of the largest political nonprofits in the country, serving as a conduit for tens of millions of dollars in political spending, much of it raised by the Kochs and their political operation….

Really? How much of the organization’s funding was “raised by the Kochs?” The Times doesn’t tell us, and their reporter has absolutely no idea. As far as I know, the Kochs didn’t raise anything for CPPR.

The center is not formally controlled by the Kochs….

“Not formally controlled?” That’s a laugh. So far, we have seen no evidence that the Kochs have anything to do with the center. And, in fact, they contributed nothing to whatever the center did on the ballot initiatives in question:

…and Robert A. Tappan, a Koch spokesman, said neither brother ultimately contributed to the California effort.

The Times doesn’t contradict this statement; on the contrary, it confirms it: the paper obtained an email from a fundraiser for CPPR to Charles Koch, asking for money. But the solicitation was unsuccessful. The Kochs gave CPPR nothing for the California ballot propositions, in part because they opposed Proposition 32, which they regarded as an infringement on unions’ free speech rights.

So the Times tries to make the story all about the Kochs, even though Koch had nothing–zilch, zero–to do with the funds that were at issue in the campaign finance complaint, and didn’t even participate in the California ballot initiatives in question.

Of course, the Times had help in their misdirection effort. California’s Democrat-controlled Fair Political Practices Commission also tried to make the story about the Koch brothers. Ann Ravel, the Commission’s chairman, gave a press conference in which, while announcing the CPPR fine, she tried to spin a tale about the Kochs:

Tony Russo and AJS decided instead to send the money to the Koch network with no strings attached, hoping that because that network has tentacles all over the country, some of the money would eventually find its way back to California campaigns, where the money was originally intended to go. And so it did. But because their was never any explicit earmarking of the funds for California campaigns—either by the original donors, or by the organization that transferred the money to the Kochs—the law as it stands does not require disclosure of the donors.

The “Koch network?” What does that mean? Apparently every conservative group is part of the “network.” But when asked specifically about where the money in question came from, Ravel admitted that she had no idea:

REPORTER: You’ve identified these groups as part of the Koch brothers network [INAUDIBLE] $11 million dollars.

RAVEL: I don’t believe we know what money was included in the $11 million, and I believe that was part of the purpose of the exchange.

So her many references to the Koch brothers, the “Koch network,” and so on, were entirely gratuitous. She just made it up. No surprise there: Ann Ravel is a Democratic Party hack. Which presumably is why President Obama has nominated her to the Federal Elections Commission. That’s right: she is leaving the California Commission, and now will be able to persecute conservatives with groundless allegations on the national level. In the Obama administration, she will fit right in. Maybe her next job can be reviewing your tax returns, or listening in on your phone calls.

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