The Rightwing Koch Brothers Fund the DLC
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Do deep-pocketed "philanthropists" necessarily control the organizations they fund? That has certainly been the contention of those who truck in conspiracy theories about the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations funding liberal and neo-liberal organizations. As for the rightwing, journalists such as Joe Conason and Gene Lyons uncovered that the "vast right wing conspiracy" -- or the New Right network of think tanks, media outlets and pressure groups -- was marshalled under rightwing billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife for his Get-Clinton campaign. Prior to the work of Conason and Lyons, Russ Bellant extensively documented in "The Coors Connection" how the Coors Family, Scaife and other wealthy rightwingers have funded the New Right movement since the early '70's. Among these rightwing benefactors are the Koch brothers. But the Kochs have been working both sides of the fence. As Bill Berkowitz writes, the Koch brothers have also been funding the Democratic Leadership Council.
According to SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media & Democracy, the brothers are "leading contributors to the Koch family foundations, which supports a network of Conservative organizations and think tanks, including Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Manhattan Institute the Heartland Institute, and the Democratic Leadership Council."
Charles Koch co-founded the Cato Institute in 1977, while David helped launch Citizens for a Sound Economy [now FreedomWorks] in 1986.
This is no less stunning than if Scaife or the Coors family were funding the DLC. So do the Kochs just throw money at the DLC -- as long as the Council supports a free-market" (i.e. unrestricted/unregulated corporate power) agenda that the Kochs generally agree with. Or is it more than just that -- does this really buttress what Greens and other disaffected liberals contend -- that the DNC has just become a party of "Republicrats", thanks especially to the DLC? They would say that corporate backers like the rightwing/libertarian Kochs have co-opted the Democratic establishment -- a hostile takeover of (what was once) the opposition.
A Washington Post interview with Thomas Frank, author of "What's the Matter with Kansas?", touches on this question.
In the concluding chapter of "Kansas," Frank assigns "a large part of the blame for the backlash phenomenon" to the "criminal stupidity" of the Democratic Party in abandoning its commitment to labor and economic justice in pursuit of white-collar votes and corporate contributions. The DLC in particular, he writes, thinks that "to collect the votes and -- more important -- the money of these coveted constituencies," Democrats must stand firm on issues like abortion rights while making "endless concessions on economic issues" such as NAFTA, welfare, privatization and deregulation. The result? Democrats become Tweedledum to the Republicans' Tweedledee on the laissez-faire economy, leaving their opponents free to woo blue-collar voters with backlash issues.
Earlier in the book, Frank takes his anti-DLC rhetoric to an even higher pitch. He notes that generous contributions from the Kansas oil billionaires who run Koch Industries have propped up numerous institutions that champion laissez-faire economics, from the Cato Institute to Citizens for a Sound Economy. And he includes the DLC on his list of Koch-funded "hothouses of the right."
"That's crazy," says Ed Kilgore, the DLC's policy director. "If you can't tell the difference between the DLC and the Republicans, you're not paying attention."
Sure, the DLC took some Koch money, Kilgore says. But it has never advocated abandoning the working class or taking economic issues off the table, and it is proud of Clinton's economic record. "If you have to be self-consciously and vocally anti-business in order to be considered a legitimate Democrat or progressive," he says -- well, sheesh: That would rule out the party's current presidential nominee.
Informed of this return fire, Frank seems uncharacteristically exasperated. But his fundamental stance remains: Bring 'em on.
Has the DLC taken economic issues off the table? "Of course they haven't taken them off the table -- they've just become Republicans."
Does a Democrat have to be anti-business? "I don't think I'd call myself anti-business. . . . I'm critical of the species of capitalism that we're living under today."
Is that Koch money innocent? "Okay, it is Koch that funds right-wing organizations. And it's the Democratic Leadership Council that's been working hard for years to push the Democratic Party to the right. Not to the left. To the right."
But isn't that where the American mainstream has been heading for decades? And hasn't he positioned himself way outside it?
Frank concedes this last point, but nothing more.
The Koch brothers also fund "Triad Management", which was at the center of a Republican money laundering scandal back in 1996. In fact, this was the very first Tom DeLay scandal -- and Koch money was present back then as well. For more on "Triad", here is a PBS report on the affair.
In a related thread, Democrats.com member Bill Harding writes:
The following quotes are from today’s NYT Letters to The Editor section. They underscore how Democrats are perceived by a cross-section of readers, under our current “centrist” DLC, stand-for-nothing “leadership.”