It started last summer with Jane Mayer’s New Yorker article “The billionaire Koch brothers’ war against Obama.” Now the battle of Wisconsin has given the occasion for the left’s renewed assault on the Koch brothers.
Yet the assault on the against the Koch brothers has virtually no truth in it. It is an ideological mugging akin to Barack Obama’s assault on the Supreme Court’s Ctiizens United opinion, with similar motives. It is a cast study in the application of Alinskyite tactics, intended to silence the opposition.
Now comes John Hinderaker to expose “The left’s unhealthy Koch habit,” a great column that RealClearPolitics has placed in its lineup this morning for the benefit of benighted readers who haven’t been following John’s work here. John writes:
What do Charles and David Koch, brothers who run the Kansas-based Koch Industries, have to do with Wisconsin’s budget battle?
Almost nothing, unless you occupy the left wing of the political spectrum. There, you’ll find a group of bloggers and commentators who are fixated on pinning the unrest in Wisconsin, and plenty of other supposedly terrible things happening in the country, on these two businessmen.
On the surface, the Koch brothers would seem unlikely targets for the political left. After all, they patronize the arts, favor gay marriage, support legalization of drugs and advocate reduced spending on defense.
But they also have a unique distinction: They are two of the very few billionaires in the country who actively contribute to libertarian and conservative causes. Consequently, many liberals have engaged in what can only be characterized as a vicious campaign to drive them out of public life.
Left-wing websites such as Think Progress and commentators like New York Times columnist Paul Krugman have conveyed the impression that the events taking place in Wisconsin are somehow all about the Koch brothers and their company. As Think Progress put it: “Koch Industries not only helped elect Gov. Scott Walker, but is the leading force orchestrating his union-busting campaign.”
Never mind that the $43,000 that the Koch Industries PAC contributed to Walker’s campaign represents one-tenth of 1 percent of the money that was spent on Wisconsin’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
One liberal blogger tried to focus attention on the Kochs with a hoax. He telephoned Walker, pretended to be David Koch, and had a 20-minute conversation, which allegedly proved Koch’s influence on the governor. Never mind that the real David Koch, who lives in New York, says he has never met or spoken to Gov. Walker.
The latest conspiracy theory being peddled is that the key to Gov. Walker’s budget is a provision authorizing the state to sell power plants it owns, with Koch Industries supposedly scheming to buy them up cheap. Krugman wrote on Thursday that “there are enough suspicious minds out there that Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire brothers who are playing such a large role in Mr. Walker’s anti-union push, felt compelled to issue a denial.”
Never mind that the proposal has been around for years, that there is zero — absolutely no — evidence to support such a claim or that Koch Industries has said it has no interest in Wisconsin’s power plants. For some, apparently, conspiracy theories trump reality.
What’s really going on here is an attempt to silence people whose views liberals disagree with. After all, they don’t have a problem with billionaires using their money to influence policies and public opinion when the money is being spent by the likes of George Soros, a left-winger who, among other things, helps fund the Think Progress site.
There are important issues at stake in Wisconsin: how states can meet the budget crises that threaten them; how unsustainable pension and health care commitments can be reformed; how states can restore balance between the inflated compensation and benefits packages that public employees so often receive and the more modest compensation available in the private sector; and how the corrupt cycle in which public officials negotiate sweetheart deals with unions at taxpayer expense, in exchange for political support from those same unions, can be broken.
Instead of debating these issues, however, Wisconsin’s Senate Democrats have fled the state in order to make it impossible for the Legislature to transact business. By doing so, they have frustrated the democratic process, deprived their constituents of representation and attempted to reverse the results of the 2010 election, in which Republicans who promised to do exactly what they are now proposing were elected overwhelmingly by the people of Wisconsin.
What do the Koch brothers have to do with this? Little or nothing. That is, unless you prefer demonization to argument. Of course, attacking the Koch brothers serves not only to change the subject, but perhaps to scare off other wealthy conservatives who might consider participating in the political process.
Charles and David Koch run one of the most successful and most admired companies in the world. They have created many thousands of jobs, have served their customers well and have paid vast amounts in taxes.
Instead of trying to silence them, perhaps we should listen to what they have to say about how free enterprise creates wealth, and how government can both be restrained and made more efficient.
Please spread the word.