Take a close look at almost any far-right-wing organization in this country and you’ll probably find that the Koch brothers have their fingers in it.The Koch brothers, Charles and David, trace their family fortune and ideological pedigree back to their father, Fred C. Koch, a John Bircher from Texas who went around in the ‘60s raving about the imminent Communist takeover of America. David Koch ran for president in 1980 as Libertarian on a platform that called for, among other things, abolishing Social Security and public schools.
Since the 1980s the Koch Boys have shifted their tactics, preferring to spread their influence behind the scenes instead of running for office themselves. As principal owners of Koch Industries, the second largest privately held corporation in America with estimated revenues of $100 billion a year, and with a combined personal net worth estimated at $50 billion, they have plenty of influence to spread.
By some strange coincidence, the “free market” (read: anti-tax, anti-government and anti-union) dogma that the Koch brothers peddle neatly dovetails with their own financial interests. Over the years they’ve given hundreds of millions to right-wing “think tanks” and other organizations, including the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and Citizens for a Sound Economy. Through the two latter groups they were the sugar daddies behind the supposedly “grassroots” Tea Party movement. Koch Industries and its employees also have contributed millions to political candidates at both the national and state level.
But the Koch vampire squid had kept its slimy tentacles out of Oregon state politics – until this year.
At least three candidates for the state legislature have benefited from Koch generosity so far. Republican Sen. Doug Whitsett got $1,500 from Koch Industries. Democratic Rep. Mike Schaufler took $3,000 – which he quickly gave back after a huge outcry from his constituents. But the big winner (if that term applies) was Bend’s own Tim Knopp, who’s trying to knock Sen. Chris Telfer out in the Republican primary and got $5,000 from Koch Industries to help him do it.
The amount isn’t huge; Knopp has raised $130,000 (more than three times as much as Telfer) since his campaign started. But it says something that the Koch juggernaut cares enough about a state legislative primary race in an obscure corner of Oregon to throw $5,000 into it – and that it has the resources to do it. And what it says isn’t encouraging about the prospects for the survival of democratic government.
Money has always talked in politics, but in today’s America it doesn’t just talk – it screams. When the Koch brothers and people like them have such a powerful bullhorn that they’re heard not only in Washington but in every legislative chamber across the country, it becomes all but impossible for any opposing voices to be effective.
We could urge Tim Knopp to return that Koch money, but we have a hunch we’d be wasting our breath. So we’ll just give THE BOOT to him and any other Oregon politicians who accept it.