A 1980 campaign you may have missed

Pitching in to promote the Democrats’ leading theme of this campaign season, the New York Times features Nicholas Confeessore’s page-one story in today’s paper: “Quixotic ’80 campaign gave birth to the Kochs’ powerful network.” Confessore’s story comes out of a deep dive into the Libertarian Party archive at the University of Virginia.

Like the Washington Post’s ludicrous Koch/Keystone pratfall, Confessore’s story is derived from the shadow world of well funded left-wing groups. Confessore writes: “The Times was alerted to the archive by American Bridge, a liberal political organization that has been critical of the Kochs.” And as one can infer from the headline, Confessore uses some of the mandatory buzzwords that seek to portray the Kochs in a fearsome light.

Confessore claims to have reviewed thousand of documents from the University of Virginia archive, but he didn’t come away with much. Confessore’s story must be a great disappointment to his friends at American Bridge, which despite Confessore’s anodyne description appears to be a PAC headed by David Brock. I’m giving Confessore partial credit for disclosure.

The story focuses on David Koch and his 1980 run on the Libertarian Party’s presidential ticket; Koch had the party’s nomination for vice president. David Koch comes across to me as a likable, public-spirited, good-natured and constructive figure of enormous common sense.

The heart of the article draws on David Koch’s 1980 run for office. Here is one highlight:

In an energy policy speech that May in Portland, Ore., David Koch railed against what he saw as overregulation. Presidents Nixon and Carter had bequeathed an “Alice in Wonderland” energy policy, he argued, a mix of subsidies and price controls that had stymied market forces and caused high prices and shortages.

Confessore doesn’t mention that Ronald Reagan was persuaded that Koch had a point. Among his first acts in office was an order killing the Carter-era price controls on oil and natural gas, immediately setting us on the path that would end our economic malaise.

Koch learned something from the experience of running for office:

“As a candidate, meeting only libertarians, it seemed to me that everyone was voting for us,” David Koch wrote in a letter to raise money to clear the party’s debts. “We all got a little too optimistic.”

Also in the category of lessons learned is this one:

Since 1980, the Republican Party has moved closer to the Koch family’s views on government regulation. Its rising members now court the Kochs and like-minded donors at twice-yearly “seminars” that the brothers organize. In 2012, David Koch was a delegate to the Republican National Convention.

“I think the Republican Party has a great chance of being successful and that’s why I support it,” Mr. Koch told reporters at an American Prosperity reception in Tampa, Fla., that year. “The Libertarian Party is a great concept. I love the ideals, but it got too far off the deep end, and so I dropped out.”

The online version of the article concludes with a humorous Times correction, indicating the Times came a closer than usual to getting it right: “An earlier version of this article, when giving the vote total for the 1980 Libertarian Party ticket, misidentified the presidential candidate. It was Ed Clark, not Ed Crane.”