We’ve noted before the continuing attack against Charles and David Koch, wealthy brothers who donate generously to libertarian and limited government causes, by Common Cause and the Center for American Progress (CAP), among others.
Today the ‘Action Fund’ of CAP released the latest, and certainly a contender for lamest, installment in this crusade against the right of private citizens to support causes that are out of favor with the progressive community.
Titled The Koch Brothers: What You Need to Know About the Financiers of the Radical Right, the document (I just can’t call anything this silly a report) purports to “shed light” on donations by the Koch brothers, Koch Industries, Koch PAC, and something called the “Koch Network.” It notes that “Charles and David Koch would prefer to keep their influence behind the scenes” and credits their own efforts in ferreting out the information that “exposes” the Koch’s agenda and efforts to support that agenda.
But after reviewing the report, it’s pretty clear that it’s just a recycling of previous charges against the brothers (“The Koch brothers use their considerable wealth to bankroll the right wing, including the Tea Party. This serves the purpose of furthering not only their right-wing ideology but also their bottom line.” p. 2) along with publicly available information such as a listing of the major subsidiaries of Koch Industries, organizations their charitable foundations have supported, and candidates for office that Koch PAC, the brothers personally, or individuals that work for Koch Industries have supported.
Among other problems with the report, it only contains two endnotes (a bit skimpy for a 27-page report—by comparison, a 3-page letter CCP recently sent state legislators in Arizona had 10 footnotes) along with a few embedded links and the sources for the tables listing Koch donations to groups and candidates. The time periods reported are all over the map. The data on pages 9 and 10 look to be from 1985 until the present (although this isn’t clear in the report), pages 15 and 16 use only 2010 data, and page 17 covers 2003 through 2010.
The only thing revealed by the report is that among the self-anointed campaign finance “reform” community, or at least the wing of that movement currently defined by hatred of all-things Koch, there is growing interest in looking at and possibly limiting and regulating the right of citizens not just to give to candidates, political parties, and others that directly speak out at election time, but also the right to support nonprofit groups that engage in public policy research.
Page 14 of the document includes a graphic titled “The Koch network in action” that seems to make the argument that the Koch brothers giving to nonprofit groups is designed to aid political candidates. The diagram notes that the American Council for Capital Formation is a “Koch-funded group” that put out research predicting job losses from climate change legislation, which was later used in an ad by Americans for Prosperity criticizing a Democratic candidate for Congress. The final piece of “evidence” tying all this to a nefarious plot by the Koch brothers? Koch PAC had contributed to the Democrat’s opponent!
This comes on the heels of Sunday’s op-ed in the New York Times by David Callahan, which proposes that:
…In many cases, organizations have both 501(c)3 and a 501(c)4 arms that work closely together in the same building to shape government policy. One such group is FreedomWorks, which has received significant amounts of money from the Koch brothers and is a force behind both the Tea Party political movement and the conservative libertarian policy agenda it espouses.
…the Internal Revenue Service should create a new category for nonprofits engaged in policy advocacy. Such groups would have to disclose all their donors, while traditional 501(c)3’s – museums and universities, for example – could continue to receive anonymous gifts.
The I.R.S. should also set a ceiling on the deductibility of such gifts…
Callahan mistakenly claims FreedomWorks has received money from the Koch brothers (the organization was actually created as the result of a split with the Kochs), but his overall message is clear—charitable giving to groups that research and comment on public policy is a threat to the public, and must be regulated and limited, and donors to controversial causes must be disclosed and held “accountable.”
Aside from revealing growing interest among so-called “reformers” in going after charitable giving, The Koch Brothers: What You Need to Know About the Financiers of the Radical Right is little more than a resource for hard-core Koch-haters who are enraged that the First Amendment allows people to disagree with them and even spend money in support of ideas contrary to those held by the folks at CAP. It may be helpful for those dashing off letters of outrage to their local newspaper but is not really valuable in any meaningful way.
I’m wondering if I can bill CAP for the time I wasted reading it…