This weekend, a gaggle of America’s wealthiest and most powerful individuals are gathered in a luxurious hotel near Rancho Mirage, California. Under the tutelage of the libertarian multi-billionaire Koch brothers, this secretive conclave gathers yet again to conspire on paths to undermine American liberties and weaken the Union to favor their special interests. Koch University educates this elite about paths to gain even greater power for themselves at the expense of the vast majority of Americans.
This uber-rich gang has collaborated funding astro-turf activities to provide false veneers of popular support for destructive policies, supported the creation and maintenance of ‘think tanks’ to drive America’s policy discussion ever further to the right, and been a prime player in driving America’s political discussion away from substance into distortion.
This cabal’s conclaves have occurred with greater secrecy than the election of a Pope, with virtually no press coverage and little information as to how the Koch brothers assemble these powerful to coordinate actions that undermine American democracy and weaken the prospects for future prosperity.
Last year, to the dismay of many involved, some of the documentation (invitations and otherwise) related to the meeting leaked. And, this weekend’s session is occurring with greater visibility … and significant protest.
A Greenpeace airship today flew over the secretive Rancho Mirage polluter strategy meeting hosted by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. Wealthy elite interests and oil tycoons arriving at the posh resort to plot their anti-democracy agenda were greeted with the aerial message “Koch Brothers: Dirty Money.”
Among other things, the Koch brothers have been among the most significant funders of anti-science propaganda in this country, including funding a Smithsonian Institution exhibit that “whitewashes the danger of human-caused climate change“.
With a combined worth of $43 billion, these two aging, archconservative brothers are America’s leading funders of the climate-disinformation machine. By perpetuating the use of fossil fuels, they in turn fuel their sprawling empire of oil refineries and pipelines — the second-largest private corporation in the country. The Kochs have contributed $5 million to Americans for Prosperity, the driving force behind the Tea Party. They also gave nearly $25 million to conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, two of the leading players in the climate-denial racket.
And to help kill climate legislation in Congress, Koch spent $38 million on lobbying — more than any energy company except ExxonMobil and Chevron. Last year, besides underwriting a host of conservative candidates in the midterm elections, the Koch brothers backed Proposition 23, the unsuccessful effort to end California’s crackdown on climate pollution, and funded attacks against the EPA’s right to regulate carbon emissions. In David Koch’s twisted view, global warming is actually good for us. “The Earth will be able to support enormously more people,” he says, “because a far greater land area will be available to produce food.”
This secretive cabal includes media ‘elite’ like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, ‘elite’ politicians like Bob McDonnell and Jim DeMint, and non-partisan federal ‘servants’ like Supreme Court Justices Antonio Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Clarence Thomas is in a whirlwind of controversy for what looks to have almost certainly been deliberated violations of Federal Law, due to his repeated and continued deceit about his wife’s earnings in financial disclosure statements. These violations are felony offenses. If we were talking Avon sales, this deceit might merit overlooking. However, Ginny Thomas’ ‘earnings’ came almost entirely from institutions funded by the Koch Brothers (and others in the Koch cabal) moves this from paperwork annoyance to a major question of judicial ethics and potential criminal conspiracy. How many of those funding Ginny’s activities have had cases of concern (with financial implications!) go to the Supreme Court? How many of these have hung out at Koch U coffee breaks chatting up Justice Thomas, with Thomas well aware that his household income depends on their goodwill? A legitimate question to ask, with Justice Thomas at these events, is whether Koch U is simply a training ground for paths to undermine American Democracy and further enrich plutocrats or actually a breeding grounds for criminal conspiracy for influence over a Supreme Court Justice via sending money into his household through his wife.
It is a question worth asking … and one that Common Cause has brought to the table. Common Cause has asked the Justice Department to examine whether Justices Scalia and Thomas should have recused themselves from the Citizens United case as they, themselves, were present at Koch U events where the strategy behind this lawsuit was discussed. The following are three asked questions in that petition — each with substantive backing:
1. Would a reasonable person question the impartiality of Justices Thomas and Scalia based on their attendance at secretive Koch Industries retreats?
2. Does attendance of a closed-door Koch Industries retreat constitute political activity?
3. Did Justice Thomas have a conflict of interest based on his wife’s interest in the subject matter of the Citizens United case?
4. Do Koch Industries ties to his wife’s group, Liberty Central, create an additional appearance of bias for Justice Thomas?
These four questions merit investigation … and answering.
And, they merit examination on America’s front pages, discussion in OPED pages and on talk shows, and hearings in Congress.
Notes: Extensive material available re Koch Brothers. Today’s items include, or example: Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club, The Billionair Brothers Who Make Us Sick. At Think Progress, Lee Fang Exclusive: Koch Industries Promises To Double Money Raised This Weekend, 40% Of Donors Will Be New. Etc … And, for those so inclined, check out the Yearbook photos of Koch U Class of 2010.
And, Sunday, 30 January, a live netcast panel will examine the Koch Brothers. The panel will feature Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary, Van Jones, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, Erwin Chemerinsky, UC Irvine Law Dean, Lee Fang, Center for American Progress investigative journalist and Koch Brothers expert, and DeAnn McEwen, Co-President of the California Nurses Association.