The Left Sees the Koch Brothers Everywhere

The left's ongoing obsession with the private activities of its political opponents is unhealthy for the democratic process.

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The New Yorker's Jane Mayer seems to be obsessed with Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers whose Koch Industries is among the nation's largest privately-held corporations. Philanthropists both, the Koch's considerable charitable activities in support of free minds and free markets have put them directly into the left's crosshairs, making them a bête noire during much of the Obama presidency.

Mayer has been right along side, chronicling the Koch's activities with an intense scrutiny usually reserved for elected officials and movies stars. Her interest, whether sparked by a desire to please the left, to curry favor with the Obama administration, or to develop material for a new book means that little they do escapes her gaze—even if she has to reach to make a connection.

[ Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Last week for instance, Mayer blogged about a Politico story concerning the Washington Free Beacon, a new online publication headed up by two Weekly Standard alumni, Michael Goldfarb and Matthew Continetti.

Goldfarb told Politico the publication and its parent group, the Center for American Freedom will have a budget of "several million dollars," and intends to compete in the online space currently dominated by the Center for American Progress, Talking Points Memo, and other left-wing groups and web sites. He declined, however, to identify its backers, leading some—apparently including Mayer—to conclude that the Kochs must be connected somehow to the project and producing this odd turn of phrase in Mayer's blog (emphasis mine):

A corporate spokesman for the Kochs, however, issued a preemptive denial, asserting that 'contrary to unfounded speculation by Politico and others, neither Charles Koch nor David Koch, nor any Koch company has provided funding to or has any involvement with the Center for American Freedom.'

[ Read Peter Roff on Charles G. Koch.]

In her zeal to connect the dots and get the Kochs into the story Mayer, seems to have overlooked the fact that the statement was not "preemptive"; it was issued only after the original story appeared in Politico, a person close to the issue told me. The story was edited after publication to reflect the company's response even though no note of the change appears on the web site.

It is not the case that all things anti-Obama lead back to the Kochs just as it is the case that all things pro-Obama do not lead back to George Soros. The effort to make it so smacks of the Saul Alinsky strategy of identifying a target, "freezing it," and making it out to be a demon in order to rally the interests and activities of one's own side although, in fairness, Alinsky seems to be a fan of demons.

The left's ongoing obsession with the private activities of its political opponents is unhealthy for the democratic process. It verges on the paranoid streak in American politics, which does not only exist on the right. The way those like Mayer use their positions as so-called guardians of democracy to manipulate the political debate is disheartening and discrediting to the art and science of journalism.