Several months back, wealthy libertarian philanthropists Charles and David Koch held a gathering of likeminded people in California to discuss politics and public policy. The event was condemned by the more hysterical wing of the so-called campaign finance ‘reform’ movement, with Common Cause organizing a protest outside and bussing in hundreds of demonstrators.
The protest was in some ways the First Amendment at its finest, where citizens voiced their opinions on pressing matters. In other ways, it was troubling – the protesters were literally demonstrating against the right of the Koch brothers to spend their own money advocating their beliefs, and it took an ugly turn when several of the demonstrators were interviewed suggesting that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas be lynched or at least “put him back in the fields.” Thirty protesters actually were arrested when they attempted to break into the meeting.
One of the basic messages of this protest was that wealthy Americans spending money to promote their political views was somehow corrupting and a subversion of democracy.
Well, it turns out that there’s another group of very wealthy Americans that are gathering at this moment to discuss and plan how to spend millions of dollars in order to influence the political debate leading up to the 2012 elections. From I Watch News (a project of the Center for Public Integrity):
The palatial Montage resort in sunny Laguna Beach provided a luxurious spot for wealthy liberal donors to relax and listen to pitches from Democratic activists seeking big bucks.
Little wonder that leaders of four fledgling Democratic groups aiming to raise tens of millions for the 2012 elections flew out west earlier this month to woo dozens of donors and advisers to the rich.
Most of the contributors in attendance belong to the Democracy Alliance, a network of affluent liberals which hosted the seaside event April 14-16.
The meeting drew the likes of Rob McKay, the heir to the Taco Bell fortune, and Pat Stryker, whose family founded the medical giant Stryker Corp. Also on hand were Michael Vachon, the political adviser to billionaire George Soros, and Marge Tabankin, who advises Hollywood celebrities such as Barbra Streisand and “Lost” executive producer J.J. Abrams.
Apparently this gathering has not drawn the same throngs of protesters as the earlier Koch gathering, however. Apparently there’s a double standard at work, where money spent by wealthy Americans to support causes generally thought to be libertarian and conservative is somehow a threat to the Republic, while funds spent by wealthy people to promote messages considered liberal and progressive is given a pass.
In fact, this exact hypocrisy was demonstrated perfectly by ThinkProgress blogger Lee Fang (who plays the role of Inspector Javert when it comes to the Koch brothers), who when asked why ‘reformers’ were alarmed over Koch money but not Soros’ funding of liberal causes, Tweeted:
“don’t you think there’s a very serious difference between donors who help the poor vs. donors who fund people to kill government, taxes on rich?” (translated from original Tweet).
Fang’s moment of candor perfectly captures what drives much of the ‘reform’ movement – a desire by ideologues to diminish and even eliminate the ability of their ideological opponents to communicate with the public, while of course leaving their own side free to speak. Worth remembering the next time a ‘reformer’ starts ranting about the evils of money in politics.