Why Can’t the Obama Administration Make Its Case Without Disseminating Hate?

Have we ever had an administration like Barack Obama’s? An administration that tries to benefit from pitting Americans against one another? An administration that uses its billion-dollar slush fund, not to mention the resources of the Executive Branch, to demonize private citizens who disagree with its policies? An administration that uses hate as an instrument of domestic politics? I don’t believe that there is any precedent in American history for the mean-spiritedness that now emanates from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

We wrote here about Obama’s effort to raise money by falsely demonizing Charles and David Koch, two principled private citizens who disagree with his policy positions, and here about the Koch Companies’ response to Obama’s misrepresentations.

Now the Obama campaign has fired back, evidently believing there is more political profit to be gained by demonizing private citizens:

The president’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, sent a letter to Philip Ellender, Koch’s president for government and public affairs, disputing Ellender’s claim that an organization partially backed by the brothers [Americans For Prosperity] represented the interests of thousands of grassroots donors.

It is an indisputable fact that nearly two million Americans have participated in Americans For Prosperity’s activities, and around 50,000 Americans have contributed to the organization.

“You argue that Americans for Prosperity is a grassroots organization of everyday citizens. But its emphasis on rolling back environmental protections and blocking a clean energy economy appears to be nothing more than an effort to promote the corporate interests of your employers and others who lavishly, and secretly, fund its operations,” Messina wrote.

It is no secret that many millions of Americans–including us!–want to develop America’s energy resources. This is one of the fundamental political issues of our time. The idea that creating American jobs and American wealth by allowing American energy resources to be developed is “nothing more than an effort to promote the corporate interests of your employers and others” is, frankly, idiotic. It would be accurate, on the other hand, to say that the Obama administration’s funneling of many billions of dollars to inefficient “green” energy scams is “nothing more than an effort to promote the corporate interests of” Obama’s political backers.

“You note in your letter that Americans for Prosperity has tens of thousands of members and contributors from all walks of life across the country, suggesting that this is the source of AFP’s funding. There is one way to verify your point: disclose those donors for the public to make that judgment,” Messina writes.

This is profoundly stupid. Neither Koch Industries nor any other Koch entity controls Americans For Prosperity. Koch has no ability to “disclose” the identities of the tens of thousands of Americans who have contributed to AFP, or to order AFP to do so. Under federal law, AFP is not obliged to disclose its donors. But, hey: disclosure is a two-way street. How about if Barack Obama persuades the many liberal organizations who support his policies–MoveOn.org, the Center for American Progress, the Democracy Alliance and many others–to disclose their donors? Hmm? Don’t worry, that isn’t going to happen. The Democrats would be embarrassed to admit that their funding comes from 1) rich liberals, and 2) union dues that are coerced involuntarily from union members, with hardly any coming from ordinary Americans who freely give their own money.

For Koch’s characteristically temperate and reasoned response to the Obama administration’s latest demagogic attack, go here. An excerpt:

Your letter never addresses the fundamental issue I raised concerning the impropriety of a sitting President and his campaign publicly attacking two private citizens for exercising their free speech rights. While we encourage and welcome a principled and civil debate about the important issues our great nation faces, it is inappropriate and beneath the office of the President to denounce an American company like ours that employs 50,000 people here in the United States, malign its owners with repeated misstatements and distortions, and harass our effort to speak out just because you disagree with our consistent support for the principles of a free society.

Your demand, for instance, that Koch disclose the names of Americans for Prosperity donors is misguided given that AFP is a separate and independent organization. Your demand is also hypocritical, particularly given the President’s own reliance on anonymous donors now and in the past. Koch complies with all laws regarding disclosure of political contributions. However, given the hostile rhetoric that you, the Democratic party, and your allies have aimed at us and others who disagree with your point of view, it is easy to understand why people have valid reasons to retain their privacy. To cite just one example, Koch and its owners have been the target of many threats of violence over the past two years by some who disagree with our view on public policy issues. In light of that, I think most Americans would agree it is at odds with our national values for the President and his aides to single out and personally impugn private citizens for political gain.

The Obama administration continues to embarrass itself through its uniquely repugnant combination of ignorance and mean-spiritedness.

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