Ever since The New Yorker’s Jane Meyer wrote a piece describing their political giving in detail, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have been in the crosshairs of the liberal establishment.
As my bloleague Peter Fenn explains here on Thomas Jefferson Street, the Kochs have been targeted by the left because their political philanthropy has been a critical source of funding for a number of center-right groups that oppose the Obama agenda.
To him--and to other critics of their efforts--I say "What’s the big deal?”
In an irony lost on most people, the strongest support for attacks on the free market system often comes from foundations and other philanthropies that were created out of an individual’s success within that same system. For years leftist groups and causes have been subsidized by the remnants of some of the nation’s great industrial fortunes--including those amassed by Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, J. Howard Pew, and others who names are now best known not so much for their economic achievements as they are for their sponsorship of programs on PBS. [See who donates the most to your member of Congress.]
On the other hand the Kochs, whose estimated net worth runs into the tens of billions, have made a decision to support rather than attack the free market. Some people find this upsetting--indeed a senior White House official singled them out for criticism in conference call with reporters, suggesting obliquely that the brothers' privately-held company paid no corporate income tax.
Their very existence is dangerous to the left-liberals who would take America farther down the road to a socialist economy. In the current political-media construct money coming from what Teddy Roosevelt called “the malefactors of great wealth” is fine, as long as it is being used to support national healthcare, higher taxes, increased unionization, anti-productivity environmental regulation and attacks on the free market system. Use it to support markets, to oppose socialism and it suddenly becomes tainted.
There are those who will argue that current-day billionaires like Warren Buffet. Bill Gates and especially George Soros have been subjected to a fair amount of scrutin--and criticism--for their political giving. Perhaps, but it seems they are far more often lionized by the establishment press for their efforts than they are condemned. The negative press they have received certainly does not approach that which has been directed at the Kochs in just one short yearwith more almost certainly to come. The media’s exposure of the Kochs role in the political life of the nation is not objective--it’s highly slanted--and not in the name of fairness or honesty so much as in the name of intimidation.