This weekend, ThinkProgress reported from the ground at Rancho Mirage, California for the conservative fundraising meeting convened by Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. The event — disclosed by a ThinkProgress report last October detailing the twice annual gathering of wealthy business executives, Republican politicians, conservative “journalists,” and political operatives — was met by a protest organized by the good government advocacy group Common Cause. A coalition of progressive and California-based groups assembled about 1,500 people for a demonstration yesterday outside the gate of the resort where the Koch meeting was occurring. Activists from Code Pink and the Ruckus Society staged a civil disobedience action resulting in the arrest of 25 individuals, who were charged with trespassing.
The Koch gathering was highly guarded by a phalanx of police officers, a helicopter, and even a no-fly zone around the resort. David Dayen, who chronicled much of the demonstration, reported that the city of Rancho Mirage contracts its police force from Riverside County sheriffs. Ironically, Koch’s front groups lobbied aggressively to kill some of the funding for the very sheriffs who worked tirelessly to ensure safety at the event. In 2009, Koch’s Americans for Prosperity (AFP) front group started a website “NoStimulus.com” to defeat President Obama’s stimulus plan. AFP also held Tea Party rallies denouncing the stimulus, and during the midterm campaign even ran ads attacking candidates for voting for the “failed” stimulus. Watch it:
Despite the Koch claim that the stimulus “failed,” it helped save dozens of jobs for Riverside County sheriffs. In recent years, the Riverside County sheriff’s department faced massive budget shortfalls, according to Melissa Nieburger, a spokeswoman for the department who spoke to ThinkProgress. President Obama’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus, provided $13 million in emergency funding and helped maintain about 50 sheriff jobs in the county. The stimulus-supported sheriffs weren’t only guarding the Koch brothers, but also Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), a Koch meeting attendee whose party is now seeking to defund the unused money from the stimulus.
Although the Koch’s mask their right-wing, dangerous business agenda with rhetoric about the virtues of the “free market,” Koch Industries is notoriously dependent on government services, taxpayer money, and special carve-outs. Yasha Levine, writing for the Observer, notes a number of examples of Koch exploiting government programs to pad their bottom line. Koch Industries also leveraged its relationship with Republican administrations to squash millions of dollars in penalties for leaking cancer-causing chemicals in Texas and to win lucrative oil contracts with the government on both the state and federal level. There is even a line in the federal tax code, written by Koch lobbyists, specifically benefiting one of Koch Industries’ refineries in Minnesota. In reality, Koch Industries takes advantage of government money for the same reason it funds climate change-denying journalists, academics, front groups, and think tanks: its goal is to maximize profit, even if it comes at the expense of the American public.