Pollutocrat billionaire David Koch says Tea Party “rank and file are just normal people like us”

The Koch family of polluting billionaires put together the Tea Party movement and much of the modern right-wing infrastructure.   Koch Industries has surpassed Exxon Mobil in funding climate science disinformation and clean energy opposition.

Amazingly, Lee Fang of ThinkProgress, who has led the way in exposing the Kochs, pulled off an extended video interview with David Koch this week.  Below is Part 1.

Wednesday, David Koch “” one of the richest men in America, co-owner of the conglomerate Koch Industries, and a top financier of right-wing front groups “” attended the swearing-in ceremony for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and also hosted a party for the new Republican majority he helped bankroll.

Perhaps no one has been more aggressive in exposing Koch’s activities than ThinkProgress. We first reported in April 2009 that Americans for Prosperity, the front group founded and chaired by Koch since 1984, helped orchestrate many of the first Tea Party rallies and anti-Obama protests. ThinkProgess also unearthed a memo detailing how Koch convened a meeting of executives from Wall Street and the oil industry “” along with hate talker Glenn Beck and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “” to plan how to win the November elections for Republicans in 2010.

Wednesday, ThinkProgress came face-to-face with David Koch, so we seized the opportunity to conduct an impromptu interview. We ran into him outside of the Capitol, where he was chatting with one of the freshmen lawmakers he helped elect, Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH), as well as Tim Phillips, a longtime “astroturf” lobbyist and former Jack Abramoff associate now hired by Koch to lead his Americans for Prosperity front group. Koch told ThinkProgress that he expects the new Republican Congress to “cut the hell out of spending, balance the budget, reduce regulations, and support business.” Asked about the Tea Party movement, Koch cautioned that there are some extremists (indeed, Koch-funded Tea Party events have featured signs comparing health reform to the Holocaust). However, Koch said he “admire[s]” the Tea Party movement, saying that “the rank and file are just normal people like us”:

TP: Hi sir, I’m Lee Fang. I’m with the blog ThinkProgress. I’m just asking what you’re expecting from the new Congress under Speaker Boehner?

KOCH: Well, cut the hell out of spending, balance the budget, reduce regulations, and uh, support business.

PHILLIPS: Hey David, Lee here is a good blogger on the left, we’re glad to have him-

TP: Just a quick interview. Are you proud of what Americans for Prosperity has achieved this year?

KOCH: You bet I am, man oh’ man. We’re going to do more too in the next couple of years, you know.

TP: What are you planning on doing. What are your goals?

KOCH: I just told you what we hope the Congress will do and AFP is going to support that.


TP: I’m curious to know, Mr. Koch, are you proud of what the Tea Party movement and what they’ve achieved in the past years-

KOCH: Yeah. There are some extremists there, but the rank and file are just normal people like us. And I admire them. It’s probably the best grassroots uprising since 1776 in my opinion.

It’s interesting that Koch, who inherited his wealth from his father’s oil company and is now worth $21.5 billion dollars, considers himself just another “normal” Tea Party member. Despite the myth that the Tea Party represents some kind of “spontaneous” uprising of middle class voters, many of the drivers of the movement come from America’s wealthy elite. Millionaire Steve Forbes and corporate lobbyist Dick Armey own the other significant Tea Party organizing group, FreedomWorks. Cliff Asness, a wealthy hedge fund manager who attended several Republican planning meetings and Koch’s secret meeting last June, considers himself a card-carrying member of the Tea Party movement.

Despite the Tea Party veneer, Koch and other wealthy businessmen have a self-interested reason to invest in anti-government movements and Republican politicians. Koch funneled large amounts of donations into electing George Bush in 2000 (even sending Koch-linked lobbyists to help disrupt the Florida recount). At the time, Koch Industries faced 97-count federal indictment charging it with concealing illegal releases of 91 metric tons of benzene, known to cause leukemia, from its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. When Bush took office, his Justice Department dropped 88 of the charges and settled the case for a small amount of money. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Koch front groups largely dictated Bush’s environmental regulatory policy and Koch lobbyists gained appointments to key environmental regulatory position in the administration.

Although Bush is gone, Koch still flexes his muscle over major policy issues in the Obama era. Americans for Prosperity, leveraging its large budget and over 80 campaign operatives, coordinated Tea Party protests to kill clean energy reform (Koch Industries is a major oil company and is still one of the worst polluters in America), pass tax cuts for the rich, and to slow down financial reform (Koch Industries is also very active in the unregulated derivatives market). Koch’s vast network of front groups are also credited with successfully distorting the public’s understanding of climate change.

Lee Fang in a ThinkProgress cross-post.

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12 Responses to Pollutocrat billionaire David Koch says Tea Party “rank and file are just normal people like us”

  1. Johne says:

    This is from 1977, an Isaac Asimov interview. Of course he was not the first to recognise the issue, but he does a pretty good job of explaining. Pity he wasn’t listened to – we might have had a chance to do something earlier!

  2. pete best says:

    Sums up what the liberal left in the UK reckon to the republicans. Reaching out to fossil fuels companies shows us that the USA has a fight on its hands to mitigate carbon emissions in any meaningful way.

  3. Bob Doublin says:

    front group Americans for Prosperity FOUNDED IN 1984.How incredibly appropriate considering they’ve taken Orwell beyond that poor man’s WILDEST dreams and nightmares.You can’t make this stuff up.

  4. Nell says:

    Normal people are generally not guilty of crimes against humanity.

  5. Chris Winter says:

    “At the time, Koch Industries faced a 97-count federal indictment charging it with concealing illegal releases of 91 metric tons of benzene, known to cause leukemia, from its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas.”

    Regulation of benzene is one of the things Michael Crichton had his alter ego John Kenner complain about in State of Fear. I’m aware that it’s customary not to speak ill of the dead (Crichton died of cancer in 2008) but I expect the novel may be cited again in upcoming hearings. In that case, it’s important to understand the history. I’m still researching it, but here’s one view:

    “The petroleum industry has long been aware of benzene’s hazards, yet has both manipulated research on benzene hazards and fought federal regulation designed to protect workers. For more that [sic] one hundred years, scientists have suspected that benzene is hazardous to humans. By 1950, human and animal studies confirmed that benzene inhalation could cause leukemia, and was associated with poisoning at less than 10 ppm. When addressing its members privately the American Petroleum Institute (API) stated that there was no safe level of exposure to benzene in 1948. However, the API kept this information from the medical community and even challenged OSHA’s emergency temporary standard (ETS) of 1 ppm in 1977. They successfully delayed the acceptance of a 1 ppm benzene limit for a decade. This delay has been estimated to have caused over 200 excess deaths in workers. This is one example of how corporations can use their power over the discovery and distribution of knowledge to enhance profits and externalize environmental and occupational costs to an unsuspecting public. The petroleum industry’s subterfuge regarding benzene fit a pattern of unethical industry manipulation of scientific and regulatory standards that interferes with the public’s right to full information about workplace and environmental risk.”

  6. John Mashey says:

    Some of us have been puzzled by George Mason University’s strange handling of academic misconduct complaints involving Edward Wegman and 2006 Wegman Report. One conjecture is the Koch connection with GMU, see Section 5 in Strange Inquires at George Mason University … and even strange comments (SIGMU2).

  7. Mike Roddy says:

    So David Koch says that he is “just a normal person”. Nice try.

    John Mashey, please keep us posted here on CP about developments. A lot of us were surprised that George Mason did the right thing and investigated Wegman, and we can only imagine the pressure being applied to the GMU Administration behind the scenes. I would guess that the final report is going to be so hedged and contorted that it will be painful to read.

  8. Theodore says:

    Money intoxicates. Possession and use can lead to severe delusions and various persistent mental disorders. We should not condemn those addicted. We should offer appropriate therapy. Institutionalization may be appropriate in some cases.

  9. Peter M says:

    How will Koch rank with the 21st centuries worse villains? Time will tell.

  10. Jim Groom says:

    Tea Party folks are just ‘rank and file…like us.’ Really, I guess I must have missed the bus since I’m a member of the normal people he is referring too…except for the billions of dollars part. What a truly ignorant man, albeit a very rich one, not to memtion dishonest to the core.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Peter M #9, I’m certain that our probably highly abbreviated posterity will see the climate denialist industry as by far the most malign human endeavour ever, because of the damage it will have willfully imposed on the whole of humanity. But the denialists are, in a way, merely a symptom of a greater malevolence. That is market capitalism, a system that exists to turn everything that lives and breathes, and the very substance of the planet, into money. It is a system that inherently has no moral constraints, they having all long been purged in favour of a one-dimensional universe where profit maximisation is the sole value. Of course capitalism could not exist without capitalists, those human beings empowered by the system, and who are selected for success because of their greed, ambition, egomania, unscrupulousness, lack of concern for others and contempt for future generations. Even a partially humanised capitalism, such as Chinese state capitalism, has enough intelligence and concern for the future to recognise that ‘business as usual’ is suicidal, hence the great efforts they are putting into renewables and pollution reduction, but the Western, ‘market fundamentalist’ type, built on the pseudo-scientific imbecilities of neo-liberal economics, is inherently and irredeemably destructive of all that nourishes life.

  12. A face in the clouds says:

    Dave is partly right; some of the Tea Partiers are exactly like him. He just hasn’t been diagnosed yet. Suffice to say the normal rank and file protesters would all be crowded onto one side of the news photos and footage if they knew.