Tonight, the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) will open its 70th anniversary season with a ceremony featuring the gala’s honorary chairman Michelle Obama, and a host of other celebrities including Robert DeNiro, Isabella Rossellini, and Caroline Kennedy. Bloomberg is reporting that the First Lady is expected to pay tribute to David Koch, the right-wing oil and manufacturing billionaire who bankrolled and founded Americans for Prosperity (AFP). With Koch’s funding, AFP has been the leading group orchestrating anti-Obama tea party protests. While Koch funds radical conservative causes, he will be honored tonight for his generous donations to the arts and his funding of the ballet theater:
Koch said he has given $500,000 a year in donations and millions more to help fund individual ballets. The ABT reported a deficit of about $882,000 in 2009 on a budget of $37 million. Koch gave a matching grant of $2.5 million for ABT’s $5 million production of “The Nutcracker,” which it will present in lieu of a fall season.
Last year, shortly before Koch-funded groups organized protests featuring signs comparing health reform to the Holocaust, Koch took credit for creating the right-wing tea party movement in a speech to his Americans for Prosperity Foundation. He thanked his operatives for fighting health reform, climate change “hysteria,” and the estate tax. He also gave an award to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) for his unflinching opposition to Obama’s agenda, and he praised DeMint for “head[ing] resolutely into the conflict” and refusing to engage in bipartisanship.
Bloomberg has changed its original article, now reporting that Michelle Obama will not be in attendance tonight. It had initially stated that Obama was “among the 970 guests expected.”