The Weekly Standard’s Matt Continetti, a writer who gained fame defending Sarah Palin from public scrutiny, has a new article blasting critics of Koch Industries and its billionaire owners, David and Charles Koch. Continetti traveled to Koch’s headquarters in Wichita, gained unprecedented access to the brothers, as well as their top executives, and came away with nothing but praise for the company and its peerless role in financing right-wing front groups.
In over 8,000 words of hagiography, Continetti did not find space to disclose that his fellow opinion editor at the Weekly Standard, Michael Goldfarb, is currently employed by Koch Industries to help improve the company’s political image. Or that the Weekly Standard’s reporters routinely attend Koch’s secret political strategy and fundraising meetings. Or that Continetti had received a fellowship funded by the Phillips Foundation, a nonprofit heavily reliant on Koch funds. Or that the Weekly Standard is owned by billionaire Phil Anschutz, a friend of the Koch brothers and an attendee of Koch donor events.
The article includes a deceptive claim that the Koch brothers do not lobby or fund groups to financially benefit Koch Industries. The evidence would suggest otherwise:
– As we have reported, the Koch Industries business empire is inextricably linked to carbon pollution. Koch refineries specialize in high-carbon crude, Koch fertilizer plants emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, and its manufacturing plants are particularly harmful. Just as Koch funded opposition to acid rain regulations using “libertarian” fronts in 1990, the current $50 million Koch-funded campaign to deny climate change is an effort to allow Koch Industries to pollute for free. Tim Phillips, one of Koch’s top political deputies, has admitted that his efforts are less about debating the nuances of climate science and more of a political strategy to take clean energy solutions off the table.
– The tax giveaways to the rich, from oil company subsidies protected by Koch’s favorite lawmakers, to the extension of the Bush tax cuts to the rich, of course benefit the Koch brothers. Let’s assume the Koch brothers make another $11 billion in the next two years, which is roughly the amount they made in the last two. In this hypothetical situation, the extension of the Bush tax cuts would save them over $500 million dollars. At one of his Tea Party conferences, David Koch’s political assistants even instructed attendees to help repeal the estate tax on billionaires like Koch.
– Koch’s charitable giving strategy is directed from Koch’s lobbying office in DC. Kevin Gentry, Richard Fink, and other Koch executives at Koch Industries’ lobbying office (Koch Public Sector) — one of the most expensive lobbying operations in the country — are simultaneously in charge of giving out Koch charitable donations to libertarian nonprofits. To Continetti, perhaps this is a coincidence. But given the fact many of Koch’s conservative front groups blatantly further Koch Industries’ business interests, we doubt it.
All the talk about Charles Koch as a selfless libertarian is a bit silly. Of course, not every dollar Koch donates is linked to the Koch bottom line. But it should be noted that the libertarian thinker who supposedly inspired Charles, F.A. Hayek, wrote that government has a duty to regulate pollution. Charles apparently disregards this aspect of libertarian philosophy as he directs donations to “libertarian” outfits obsessed with slashing environmental safeguards. Moreover, the term “Kochtopus” was invented by libertarians — not progressives, as Continetti’s piece seems to suggest — to decry the Koch brother’s moneyed takeover of the libertarian movement.
Continetti’s piece, and more articles like it, are to be expected as Koch’s public relations machine moves into gear and contacts more friendly journalists. As ThinkProgress has reported extensively, Koch hired a small army of communications consultants to spin the facts about the brothers and their role financing the Tea Party, climate change denial, and various front groups dedicated to making companies like Koch richer. Recently, ThinkProgress revealed that one of Koch’s most stalwart defenders in the conservative blogosphere works at a law firm that counts Koch as a major client. We also uncovered the fact that Koch employs a company called New Media Strategies to unethically air brush Koch’s Wikipedia page.