Xanadu director takes on campaign finance


From the director who brought you “Xanadu” comes another unintentional howler about Charles and David Koch.

Robert Greenwald, founder of Brave New Films and director of the 1980s feature film “Xanadu”, released a video on YouTube earlier this week promoting his new documentary, “The Koch Brothers: EXPOSED.”

It’s basically a rehashing of the typical criticisms of the Kochtopus—the brothers fund climate change “deniers,” donate millions to the Tea Party as well as non-profits and political candidates that share their limited-government views, and are just generally buying American democracy left and right.

A lot has already been said about the Koch brothers and their right to support the causes and candidates of their choice. The thing that seems to be lacking in this whole debate, and the demonization of the Kochs by the “reform” crowd in general, is the simple consideration that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong about speech that comes from wealthy people.

Speech is only worth the money it costs to disseminate it if it convinces people of something. Last fall’s elections were case in point that, when it comes to politics, money can’t buy you love. What’s so scary about the Koch brothers to the “reformers” is that they’re engaging in speech the “reformers” don’t agree with and that there are ordinary people who, through their own choice, find the candidates and non-profits the Kochs help fund appealing. If the Koch brothers’ speech or that of any other billionaire didn’t fund legitimate arguments, they’d be irrelevant. It’s the substance of the discourse, not the source, which matters.

It becomes immediately clear that attacking the source of political speech is nothing more than a red herring designed side step substantive issues. Common Cause doesn’t bemoan the gobs of money George Soros spends on political speech as a matter of principle, nor should it. At its most basic level, the money spent to spread political ideas forces us to reconsider the fundamental relationship between government and individual.  This wouldn’t be possible without the Kochs and Soroses of the world and we should encourage more, not less, conversation by refraining from attacking those who choose to fund speech—especially when many people complain about Washington and “politics as usual.”

Although Mr. Greenwald is highly critical of the Kochs and their political speech, his viewers are asked no less than three times to donate to Brave New Films and become a “producer” to help spread the word about the Kochs. Interestingly, he doesn’t explicitly discourage wealthy individuals from contributing to his project criticizing the size and scope of the speech of two billionaires. I’m no big city lawyer, but it looks like Mr. Greenwald is acknowledging that it takes money to effectively spread a political message and that the source of that money shouldn’t affect the project’s overall integrity. There’s a bit of humor in there somewhere.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.