Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey on Flickr

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey on Flickr

The Koch lessons

“Concern for the common good is buried by the greed, deception, secrecy and cunning of a few very rich people.”

Imagine yourself as a staff writer for the New Yorker. In 2010, you write an in-depth piece, entitled “The Koch Brothers’ Covert Operations.” The article details the efforts of the libertarian Koch brothers to use their vast wealth: 1) to guide the Tea Party movement; 2) to bankroll policies that benefited their industries, weakening environmental controls in the process; and 3) to wage war on President Barack Obama.

Charles and David Koch were enraged by the New Yorker story. David Koch called the story “ludicrous.” A Koch company attorney complained to the magazine, but offered no specifics, so the editors saw no reason to correct anything. They stood by their writer.

End of story? No. The story’s author, Jane Mayer, discovered that at least six Koch operatives had been hired to dig up dirt. According to one of her sources, “If they couldn’t find it, they’d create it.” Rumors reached her about a private investigation firm going after her.

In January 2011, a New York Post reporter contacted Mayer’s editor, telling him there were “allegations” that an article was being written by the conservative Daily Caller, accusing Mayer of plagiarism in many of her stories.

Mayer acted quickly. Any accusations of plagiarism would ruin both her reputation and her career. She contacted the journalists whose writings she had supposedly lifted without giving credit to the authors. All four writers wrote letters saying the allegations of plagiarism were patently untrue. She sent the letters to the author of The Caller article, and the piece was killed.

Later, an unnamed source told Mayer, “They thought they had you.” Koch attorneys later tried to keep her article from being nominated for an award with the American Society of Magazine Editors. They failed.

Attorneys for Koch Industries refused to either confirm or deny the attempted smear when Mayer contacted them. They refused to talk with her. Largely because of this, Mayer began to write the well-researched and well-documented book entitled, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.” It took her five years to finish it and get it published.

The thesis of the book is that the Koch brothers and their allies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars beginning in 1980 to gain control of the U.S. government through the election process. Their methods were lies, deception and secrecy. They created think tanks, financed academic programs and controlled news media outlets, “that far exceeded anything the liberal opposition could put together,” according to a New York Times book review in January 2016 by Alan Ehrenhaltjan.

According to Mayer, much of the political polarization we see in this nation has come as a result of what Hilary Clinton labeled “the vast right wing conspiracy.”

Mayer’s book provides hundreds of facts, court cases, Environmental Protection Agency rulings and fines levied on Koch Industries, and eyewitness accounts. The evidence is very convincing.

While I was reading the book, I recognized that Mayer’s account had a very progressive bias. That doesn’t negate the facts she presents. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously quoted, “Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

What convinced me that her argument had validity came as a result of the story I have just shared with you. I have also witnessed the attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation using the same techniques described in Mayer’s book.

Adolf Hitler asserted in his book, “Mein Kampf,” tell big lies long and loudly enough and people will believe you. That seems to be the case with the Kochs and their allies.

The irony is that the Kochs’ deep desire is to have small or even no government. Yet, their libertarian approach threatens to enslave this nation and destroy our democracy, replacing it with an oligopoly of plutocrats. In doing so, they take away both our liberty and our wealth, leaving us enslaved by them and their allies.

Concern for the common good is buried by the greed, deception, secrecy and cunning of a few very rich people. It is individualism run amok.

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