The Koch Brothers: Corporate Wizards of Oz

August 31st, 2010 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

The Aug. 30 New Yorker story “Covert Operations,” Jane Mayer’s chronicle of the Koch brothers’ “war against Obama,” is worth reading.

Mayer may overstate the power of those wealthy far right activists, but she does support her hypothesis with evidence and – here’s our local angle – the article casts some (incidental) light on the Albuquerque Journal.

Before we get there, let’s recap Mayer’s story. David and Charles Koch, 70-somethings, own Koch Industries of Kansas, a conglomerate based on oil refineries and pipelines with significant interests in lumber (Georgia-Pacific), textiles (Stainmaster carpets, Lycra) and paper products (Brawny, Dixie cups).

They have given millions to laissez-faire foundations, several “institutes” that fight environmental regulation, the market-oriented Mercatus Center at George Mason University and groups abetting Tea Party activists.

Koch founded Americans for Prosperity (led by Tim Phillips, former Ralph Reed business partner) and FreedomWorks (chaired by former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey), according to Adele M. Stans of AlterNet (, which explored the story early.

The Koch company has denied direct links to the Tea Party, writes Mayer, but:

“As their fortunes grew, Charles and David Koch became the primary underwriters of hard line libertarian politics in America.”

That’s Libertarian, not conservative.

When David Koch ran for VP on the Libertarian ticket in 1979-80, “his campaign called for the abolition not just of Social Security, federal regulatory agencies and welfare but also of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and public schools — in other words, any government enterprise that would either inhibit his business profits or increase his taxes.” (Read “The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party,” a summary by Frank Rich, N.Y. Times Aug. 29.)

The late conservative William F. Buckley called it, “Anarcho-Totalitarianism.”

Getting the picture? Good. We’re nearing the New Mexico angle.

In 1977, the Koch brothers helped launch the nation’s first libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. (They sparked the laissez-faire Heritage Foundation, too.)
Cato campaigns against government regulation of business and environmental abuse, while decrying Social Security and Medicare.

That same CATO played rich uncle to the Rio Grande Foundation of New Mexico, providing seed money.

Regular Journal readers know that Rio Grande Foundation president Paul J. Gessing frequently opines for the Journal. And that RGF board and staff members also write columns for the Journal; sometimes, they’re even so identified.

Observant readers also see many Gessing letters. Journal reporters quote him often. And – such is the Journal’s appetite for Gessing’s expertise – the daily profiled him this spring.

As Tracy Dingmann noted in her Journal Watch post of May 13, Gessing was frank:

“Right now, of course, a lot of the talk’s on trying to work with and maximize the effectiveness of the tea parties and keep them on message and try to help guide that whole thing without trying to manage it.”

Great image, no? The “independent” and “nonpartisan” Rio Grande Foundation helping “guide” the “nonpartisan” tea parties.

But the picture of the Journal and Rio Grande Foundation ambling down Newspaper Lane hand-in-hand raises better questions. Independent or co-dependent? Platonic soul mates or bedmates? Financially, I mean.

I don’t know the answers. Indisputably, however, the Journal’s adoration of Buckley conservatism is history, its worship of St. Pete the Subsidizer, waning. The newspaper’s dominant narrative is laissez-faire.

Like the Koch brothers.

Since that’s where we came in and you now see how their crusade for corporate sovereignty connects with the Albuquerque Journal-Rio Grande Foundation narrative, I’ll quit here.

After asking that you read my entire connecting-of-dots as FYI. Because you’ll never read it or anything similar in the Journal.

Asking who’s behind the curtain is not the Journal’s cup of tea. Not, that is, when the Wizards manipulating the innocents of Oz are corporatists.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • John McKean

    It might also be a good time to revisit the role of Koch Industries in the widening of NM Highway 44 (now US 550) between Bernalillo and Aztec. I’ll admit I use it regularly, but I wonder if anyone has calculated the true cost and if Koch is living up to its maintenance agreements.

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