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MSNBC: Mark Ames and Yasha Levine
Broke the Koch Brothers' Takeover of America
www.exiledonline.com
Koch Whores / March 25, 2011

 

Update: MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan makes it official: Mark Ames & Yasha Levine “are the two journalists who broke the story about these brothers and the Tea Party in 2009 before anyone believed them.” Watch the episode here and here

It’s been sort of strange watching America’s sudden, belated discovery of the billionaire Koch brothers, and the shock realization about just how much they’ve been manipulating and managing–and ruining–our country and our lives.

It’s been a long time coming. As eXiled readers know, Yasha Levine and I first broke the story about the Kochs inventing the Tea Party as an Astroturf movement way back in February, 2009, on the eve of the very first Tea Party protests. Readers also will recall how the Kochs—using their tools in the mainstream media—waged a campaign to discredit our article. I’m talking of course about Megan McArdle of the Atlantic Monthly, who led the campaign to discredit our investigative piece, which first ran in Playboy.

Here’s what McArdle wrote to discredit us:

Playboy dips a toe into investigative journalism
By Megan McArdle

This morning, my twitter feed was all abuzz with this piece from Playboy purporting to prove that the Tea Party phenomenon was all a Koch-funded astroturf operation, with the implication that the initial Santelli rant that touched it off was some sort of a plant.

… I don’t see any evidence offered that Koch money funds FreedomWorks, or any astroturfing organization. They may–a lot of groups do it, including groups on the left–but there’s precious little evidence of it in this article. Koch is pretty open about their connection with institutions like IHS, but from what I know of them, astroturfing doesn’t really seem like their style. I’ve seen Koch in action at private events, and though I’ll respect the privacy, I’ll say that even in the company of other like-minded rich people, he displayed rather a mania for honest dealing. [bold mine--M.A.]

Indeed. If there’s one good thing about just how shamelessly McArdle carries the water for Master Koch, it’s that she’s left behind a perfectly clear example of how these billionaire oligarchs have perverted this nation, transforming everyone in their orbit into groveling little foot lackeys. I don’t remember anything this grotesque growing up in this country–the only thing close to McArdle’s stroking Master Koch is that scene in Dune, where Baron Harkonnen’s doctor showers his master with praise and compliments while draining the pus from his face:

“You are so beautiful, my Baron. Your skin — love to me. Your diseases — lovingly cared for for all eternity!”

Megan McArdle to Charles Koch: “You are so honest, my Baron! Your Astroturf–so transparent to me!”

Although McArdle turned out to be corrupt, she was able to Trojan Horse her campaign to discredit us by exploiting the Atlantic Monthly‘s credibility to back her up, credibility won over decades and decades of serious editorial work.

Thanks to the efforts of McArdle and other media Koch whores with conflicts-of-interest, our article–the first to out the Kochs’ role in the Tea Party– was discredited enough to delay this story reaching a wide audience for a year and a half, at least. Playboy, for reasons never explained, took our story down, though they didn’t disown the reporting. Meanwhile, a year later, they published a story, anonymously penned by a reputed Washington DC PR operative, headlined, “Confessions of a Tea Party Consultant.” If you’re wondering what oligarchical corruption looks like as manifested in the print media, there you have it.

Not everything was a total disaster. One of the good things to come out of our article was that we forced a lot of disclosure–a lot of  vermin scrambled out from under the floorboards: FreedomWorks disclosed (to their employee’s wife, Megan McArdle) that yes, they were in fact behind the Tea Party. Rick Santelli was forced to post a giant “I’m sorry” on CNBC’s site, and he removed himself from his one shot at a Daily Show appearance. That’s how Jim Cramer wound up getting a giant red-hot Jon Stewart poker shoved up his sweaty ass. And Megan was forced to disclose that yes, her fiancé (now husband) Peter Suderman worked for FreedomWorks…and now works directly for the Kochs at Reason magazine. While at FreedomWorks, Megan’s hubbie’s job was–you’ll never guess–Astroturfing on behalf of billionaires. Pretending to be “angryrenters.com” Megan’s husband helped create a fake renters’ group to advance billionaire mansion owners’ agenda to make sure that middle-class homeowners didn’t get any mortgage relief. Mortgage relief, by the way, was the same program that triggered Santelli’s “rant” and the Tea Party.

This being a country that still at least pretends to abide by First World standards, Megan rushed out an incomplete disclosure about her conflict-of-interest:

Full disclosure: It’s pretty much an open secret in DC, but given the content of the article I’m discussing, I think I ought to mention that I live with Peter Suderman, who once worked for Freedomworks. Other than giving me the name of the right employee to email to make inquiries (no word back yet), I haven’t asked him about his former employer, and he hasn’t told me anything. I debated whether to write about this, but since I’m not actually defending Freedomworks, I think it’s kosher.

Update: Apparently Koch used to fund Freedomworks’ predecessor group, Citizens for a Sound Economy. That’s still a long way from a Koch-directed plot to inundate our nation’s metros with tea.

Update II: . . . but apparently there was some rift between Koch and CSE, and according to my sources, Koch may have stopped funding them long ago.

That disclosure tactic is something that dogs all the Koch whores right up to this day. Over at Business Insider, Joe Weisenthal attacked us as well:

the article is kind of obnoxious, using phrases like “craziest and sleaziest rightwing oligarch clans” to describe folks who fund middle-of-the-road groups like Reason and Cato. It kind of looks like they’re compensating for, um, a lack of a smoking gun.

Anyway, consider us unimpressed by this. The whole thing is getting tired, but obviously it’s okay to rant against bailouts and such until you start ranting against one that goes to help homeowners, in which case it’s part of some paranoid rightwing plat to screw people. Yeah, that’s it.

Yeah, you’d have to wear a tin-foil hat to believe that the Kochs might be behind the Tea Party and so much else! Oh, and by the way, Joe Weisenthal thought he should add at the bottom of his article:

DISCLOSURE: In the summer of 2003, I attended a seminar at Bryn Mawr college in PA that was put on by the Institute for Humane Studies, a group that gets a lot of support from the crazy oligarch Koch family. So obviously I’m conflicted up to the wazoo on this one, and am just part of a scheming right-wing cabal to push families out of their homes.

The next day, Weisenthal leaned on McArdle, with her Atlantic Monthly credibility, to support his “skepticism”:

Hey! Check it out, that Playboy.com piece purporting to show how Santelli’s famous rant was just a big staged commercial for bad, scary, secretive right-wing oligarchs is now offline. Where’d it go? We’re looking into it. We were pretty skeptical about it right off the bat, since it mainly seemed like a bunch of name calling, tied together with some tenuous connections and a couple domain names.

Megan McArdle, who noticed that the article was offline, does a better job than us at tearing it all apart, and suggests that it’s potentially libelous, which is why it was taken offline.

Apparently being exposed as a Koch whore took its toll on poor Joe Weisenthal that week–he even lashed out at Jon Stewart, and anyone who thinks Jon Stewart’s hilarious slam on CNBC’s Jim Cramer was, well, hilarious:

Sorry, Jon Stewart’s CNBC Rant Wasn’t That Funny

Joe Weisenthal | Mar. 6, 2009, 11:09 AM

Yesterday we got a good guffaw over his attacks on CNBC, and we posted it cause we knew people would like it. But really, it wasn’t that funny.

After his rant, he went on Letterman and did the same all over again, joking about how, get this, there are three (!) 24-hour financial channels, but none of them know where the economy his going. Hilarious, ain’t it?

Seriously, Joe Weisenthal wasn’t bothered by it all. No, seriously, he wasn’t.

Now, fast-forward to last August. It’s 1-1/2 years after we broke the Koch story. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer publishes the first big mainstream media expose on the Kochs’ influence in politics. So what’s a po’ Koch whore to do, Huck? Why, disclose their relationship. That’ll make everyone feel like it’s not such a big deal, won’t it! Here’s Slate’s David Weigel, a “left-libertarian”, issuing a kind of Koch Whore Manifesto on Disclosure:

The Kochs Should Come Out of the Closet
Neither libertarians nor the Kochs should try to hide their relationship.
By David Weigel Posted Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010

Congratulations, libertarians! August 2010 was the month when you joined an exclusive club: people accused of shilling for amoral and scary billionaires.

… So pre-empt the coming exposes. Libertarians: Embrace the Kochs! Kochs: Embrace the Tea Parties! You are, Kochs and libertarians alike, among the few activists who should feel no need whatsoever to apologize for wealth and success. AFP’s Tim Phillips put it well when I asked him about this on Friday, responding to the New Yorker article by praising Soros: “This is America!” said Phillips. “God bless him! He made his money, and let him go out and try and spend it to see his vision of America fulfilled.”

That’s the way to do it. It’s not about Astroturf. It’s about the free market.

Weigel proposes a poker bluff here, playing on Americans’ gullibility about transparency, and our pop Freudianism: If a “problem” is talked about openly, then problem cured! If we’re honest about being Koch whores, it’ll look like we have nothing nefarious to hide, even if we are doing the nefarious business of shilling for our benefactors the Kochs while pretending not to! (In fact, transparency only has meaning insofar as it exposes, punishes, and prevents conflicts-of-interest. Transparency-for-transparency’s sake is just a sleazy bluff.)

So now you’re seeing more and more of these libertarian “full disclosure” disclosures. Which is sad for Koch whores, because these disclosures, when they’re published, befoul what would otherwise be perfectly decent Koch boot-shine jobs.

Here, for example, is Weigel shilling for the Kochs during the height of the Wisconsin battle to destroy public sector unions. It goes like this: Everyone’s pissed off at the Kochs. So the Kochs’ PR flaks decide to make a big stink about how David Koch donated money to a cancer research. It’s kind of like that scene in Dangerous Liaisons, when the Marquis de Valmont decides that in order to get Michelle Pfeiffer’s clothes off, he needed to make her think he wasn’t a cynical bastard–so he very publicly gifts a bunch of gold coins to some street beggars, making sure it’s all recorded by Pfeiffer’s assistant. Here’s an example of how a good PR plant gets kinda ruined by one of those dang disclosures:

SCANDAL: David Koch Wants Rich People to Fund Cancer Research
Posted Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The irony seeps through the screen in this report on David Koch at the opening of the MIT cancer research center he donated $100 million to build.
… I think the possible medical harm done by Koch’s companies is a problem; funding Republicans who want to free up taxpayers to replace government funds, not a problem.

(Disclosure: I worked at Reason, which is funded in part by Koch, for two years and change, ending in December 2008.)

Disclosure: Megan (left) and Dave (guess) both shine the Kochs’ shoes, which were funded in part by Koch Industries.

Which finally brings me to Ezra Klein’s piece last week in the Washington Post, in which he bends over backwards to minimize the uniquely malevolent influence the Kochs have exerted on the American public. Keep in mind here that Ezra Klein, though he passes for what the Washington Post considers “liberal,” is an old friend of Megan McArdle’s, and David Weigel’s. And Ezra is a colleague of Weigel’s (Slate is owned by the Washington Post).

Ezra’s shine-job, headlined “How powerful are the Koch brothers?” does its Beigeist best to muddle the reader’s head into believing that, yeah, the Kochs are kinda bad ‘n stuff, but hey, it’s just how things are:

as far as I can tell, the Koch brothers are rich ideologues/industrialists who are in competition with other rich ideologues, trade organizations, interest groups, constituents, activists, electoral incentives and so on to set the agenda of the Republican Party. Sometimes they are part of the coalition that succeeds, as in the case of energy policy. Sometimes they are part of the coalition that fails, as in the case of foreign policy.

Yeah, they win some, they lose some. Except in the Kochs’ case, even when they supposedly “lose” in foreign policy, they actually win–military contracts that is, for wars they really, really hate, as Yasha Levine points out here.

So all in all, yeah, Ezra Klein looks at this and decides, “It’s just like ACORN, nothing to worry about folks, keep moving along”:

In general, the Koch brothers are in a similar category: Influential political players court them for their money, work with them when it suits their purposes and ignore them otherwise. That makes them a lot more powerful than you or me, and certainly worthy of attention. But it doesn’t make them into a grand unified theory of conservative politics, and people should be skeptical when they’re presented as such.

Really, the problem isn’t so much Ezra–after all, he’s a former roommate of Megan’s and a longtime friend of hers, Weigel’s, and every other corrupt libertard scavenger in DC–the problem is that the Washington Post must have known what they were doing when they zeroed in on this gullible, star-fucking pipsqueak to represent the so-called liberal consensus. The Fred Hiatts and Charles Lanes chose Ezra Klein for the same reason Roger Ailes chose Alan Colmes to sit next to Hannity.

But I’m in a charitable mood today, now that America’s beloved celebrity medium, television, has finally come around to acknowledging that, well, how do I put this? I guess: “WE WERE RIGHT AND YOU WERE FUCKING WRONG” would be a start.

 

Anyway, Ezra, here’s a little advice: go back to school. Then go out and get a job. A real job: “Obama Administration waterboy” doesn’t count as a job. Meantime, here’ s a quick study guide that might help you understand why the Kochs really are very, very different:

  • From the time they founded the Tea Party in 2009 to today, their wealth shot up from 28 billion to 44 billion, nearly 60 percent;
  • They led the campaign against health care;
  • The Kochs spend more fighting climate change than anyone or any company in the world;
  • The Kochs bankrolled Scott Walker;
  • The Kochs wrote Bush’s environmental policies;
  • Cato wrote the Republican Congress’s 1995 legislative agenda, acting as the think-tank for Tom DeLay and Dick Armey.
  • The Kochs control up to 35,000 miles of pipelines in the US and Canada, enough to circle the globe 1-1/2 times.

Should I go on?

Here’s the thing: We’ve learned, since returning to America in 2008 to become free-world journalists, that it would be insane of us to expect an apology from everyone who hung us out to dry for the sin of being prematurely right. That’s what this country does to people who offend the pundits by getting it right when they get it wrong. The treatment of everyone who dared to be right about Iraq showed us that long ago.

And we know it’s equally ridiculous to expect any shame from the shills who denied everything right up to the moment they admitted it, and then went on doing the sleazy shilling they’d denied at first. Once again, that’s America, where shamelessness is adaptive.

We just want the beast to know one thing as it sinks slowly to its knees: that we put the first arrows in its hide, and we’ll be there to cut its throat.

Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.

Click the cover & buy the book!

 

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26 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. floodingupeconomics  |  March 25th, 2011 at 1:49 am

    Great ending

  • 2. John R  |  March 25th, 2011 at 3:47 am

    THANK YOU.

    I can’t describe how satisfying it is to read your work, especially after having spent several years in DC surrounded by “genteel consensus” assholes who value bipartisan circle jerks over meaningful, bruising debates.

    THANK YOU.

  • 3. Abe  |  March 25th, 2011 at 5:56 am

    You’re a god…

    Cordially,
    Abe

  • 4. Diet Koch  |  March 25th, 2011 at 6:00 am

    I don’t know why the Kochs bother you so much, they’ve been playing this game for 30 years and haven’t won dick.

  • 5. Peter  |  March 25th, 2011 at 6:32 am

    Hiatt : Klein :: Ailes : Colmes :: MacManus : Verbal King (except, you know, for the actual ending of the movie).

  • 6. Roger anderson  |  March 25th, 2011 at 6:33 am

    I’m sure the kochs are now feeling the heat. The question is when their house of cards collapses after the 2012 elections will they go easy? I think their egocentric lust for the power their money buy’s them will fog their vision.
    We have Obama to thank for the recent coming out of the koch’s because it was his election that emboldened them to come out from behind the curtain and keep the wedge created by the bushies. The t-party was the final straw, because they use them to police the the weeper of the house and his crew. Just last week they got boner and cantor to chant a new corporate tax break tune.
    Of course republicans everywhere are tripping all over themselves now to impress their new masters since we moved from a democracy to a plutocracy.

  • 7. MC Squared  |  March 25th, 2011 at 8:53 am

    I think you meant to say that the Kochs spend more money fighting climate change science… not “fighting climate change.”

  • 8. Amy  |  March 25th, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Hi, I’m a Koch Whore trolling this site, and as such, I’m going to pull my lips away from Mr. Koch’s sphincter to offer up some false equivalency commenting here that we Koch Whores think will really zing ya and protect our master. Ready? Here goes:

    I look forward to your next round of articles, which I’m sure will expose dangerous billionaire George Soros, who spends more than ten times as much per year as the Koch brothers do to try to influence our political system.

  • 9. Max  |  March 25th, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Oh, and the ‘turf battles are continuing apace. Every local paper in the country is being inundated by commenters and letter-to-the-editor writers that echo the Koch talking points. (The Sacramento Bee editorial staff is owned by this cabal.) Not sure I share your optimism, however. There is a level of dedication by the Koch Cabal that does not exist in their opponents.

  • 10. banshee  |  March 25th, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Hi. Another Koch-Slave here, paid to troll the comments section. I have another angle. I’m going to pretend that I’m outraged by the graphic, and I’m going to pretend that it’s a graphic that offends rape survivors everywhere. Sure, I shill for the biggest mass-rapists in the country, but hey, we’ve done some focus groups for the Kochs and we’ve learned that if we want to blunt liberal attacks on the Kochs, we need to pretend that the attacks on the Kochs are equivalent to rape. Works every time. Ready? Here goes:

    Great first graphic! I’m sure it warmed the heart of every rape survivor who saw it.
    But never mind. You speak from rank hatred, and that is why you cannot win. I can’t believe that this screed won you any hearts and minds; in fact, it may have lost you a few. But who cares about argument when he can make cheap appeals to our baser instincts, hey?

  • 11. José Cruz  |  March 25th, 2011 at 10:14 am

    These are very sensitive people. Way to rise their blood-pressure. The info on that black party, awesome. V

  • 12. Roberta  |  March 25th, 2011 at 10:45 am

    I wish we could find a Hercules to clean out the Augean stable the Koch’s have helped create of the Republican party. Tea bags won’t do it.

  • 13. Lavrentij "Anarchy99" Lemko  |  March 25th, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Paper-bug Joe Wiesenthal is a Koch-whore — see the disclaimer at the bottom of this article:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/plantelli-was-santellis-rant-staged-2009-3

  • 14. Mur  |  March 25th, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    If you, Levine and Brecher keep this up your American version of the Exiled will become better than the Russian one…that’s saying a lot!

    Keep up the great work!

  • 15. exploitedtimes  |  March 25th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Sweet.

  • 16. pMX?  |  March 25th, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Damn, Mark! You´re on better shape than your exile.ru days.

    Great ending.

  • 17. maha  |  March 25th, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Kill ‘em, Ames.

  • 18. unger  |  March 25th, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Arguing about whether Soros is worse than the Kochs is like arguing about whether it’s worse to have brain cancer or colon cancer. Mind or ass, you’re getting fucked either way. If only something could be done to wise up the shit-for-brains who think that one or the other are ‘the good guys’, who made their billions honestly and just want to help fight the good fight. They’re evil! They’re corrupt! They stole their money from *you*, and if they talk as if they’re on your side, it’s so they can fuck you over more!

  • 19. Dameocrat  |  March 26th, 2011 at 8:20 am

    and do not forget the kochs also funded and sat on the board of the dlc. So there is a reason centerrightist like Ezra defend them.

    http://www.americablog.com/2010/08/koch-industries-gave-funding-to-dlc-and.html

  • 20. Duarte Guerreiro  |  March 27th, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    Fuck YEAH. Teach them Fear, Mark and Yasha, war nerd style.

  • 21. gary  |  March 28th, 2011 at 12:49 am

    dont you dare compare koch to soros….soros spends millions trying to legalize pot….my hero..thats the problem with some of you ,,,it is easier to say that everyone is an asshole and woe is me…to sit in moms basement and cry “evryone is against me”

  • 22. darthfader  |  March 31st, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Shit, I remember that story.

  • 23. wetcasements  |  April 13th, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Excellent work.

  • 24. Threadkiller  |  October 3rd, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    The Cato institute even has some fake liberals;
    http://tinyurl.com/4dh6n2b

  • 25. Connor Gibson  |  August 15th, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Funny, Megan McArdle also wrote the puff piece for the Heartland Institute claiming that the “Climate Strategy Memo” that was hotly contested by Heartland (but corroborated by their leaked budget and fundraising docs) looked fake:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/02/heartland-memo-looking-faker-by-the-minute/253276/

  • 26. Robert  |  February 17th, 2013 at 6:45 am

    You should have contacted some of the old-timers in the USLP, who would have confirmed flat-out that Koch was up to no good.


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