The United States is the most plutocratic ‘democracy’ on the planet. We’re not even close to being second ranked. Some say that’s not so bad – that we were founded and organized as a plutocracy, of sorts. In order to vote, you had to own land and had to be a white male, and you were allowed to own African slaves. It was only much later that black men were allowed to vote, and even later women. We were founded as a republic – a representative ‘democracy’. Voters voted for representatives who would in turn write, pass, and implement laws and policy.
The founding fathers, by and large, were semi-wealthy, white men who owned significant land and other property, and were naturally inclined to favor a system of government that protected the financial interests of their own class. But they were also, generally, well educated, well read, and fairly intelligent. The historical musical Hamilton is helping to inform Americans of that intellectual heritage.
The word “democracy” does not appear in the US Constitution. The founding fathers were afraid of true democracy; they warned of the dangers of the tyranny of the majority if America adopted a truly democratic government. Hamilton claimed that ‘The people should have as little to do as may be about the Government.’
As the nation developed and evolved, our ‘democracy’ slowly became more inclusive. Blacks were finally allowed to vote, then women, then the 18 – 20 year olds, although the black vote was – and still is – thwarted and controlled by voter registration restrictions and barriers.
Although we are much more of an inclusive democracy today than at previous times in our history, we are also more financially unequal and distorted today than at any other time in our history – including the so-called ‘Gilded Age’. Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States provides a good background up to about ten years ago. And since then, the situation keeps getting worse.
Jane Mayer’s Dark Money is one of the more recent treatments of plutocracy in America. The book is subtitled: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the rise of the Radical Right. The book was apparently stimulated by her 2010 New Yorker piece titled Covert Operations. The Kochs took issue with much of what she wrote. So she’s spent much of the last five years fleshing out the situation, releasing Dark Money in early 2016.
With the election of Obama in 2008 and the Democrats having majorities in the House and Senate, the far right Republicans began right away to orchestrate a Republican takeover, using plutocratic dollars. Well described in Dark Money, they developed the Redistricting Majority Project, the REDMAP – a strategy to take over key state legislatures in order to use the 2010 census to gerrymander their state’s congressional districts. It was an audacious and actually brilliant, if immoral, strategy. By targeting their plutocratic resources on key swing state legislatures, they succeeded in getting right wing Congressmen elected from many districts that would otherwise have likely elected far more moderate people. Gerrymandering cost, but paid back handsomely in taking the House. And then came Citizen’s United and the opening of the plutocratic dollars floodgates,
A recent op-ed in The Guardian, by Mike Lofgren defined ‘Deep State’ as:
… a hybrid association of elements of government and top-level finance and industry that is able, through campaign financing of elected officials, influence networks and co-option via the promise of lucrative post-government careers, to govern the United States in spite of elections and without reference to the consent of the governed…. when there are economic incentives for war, fear becomes the Deep State’s weapon of choice….
Steve Israel, a Democratic member of Congress who announced his resignation after eight terms:
‘It’s horrific. I don’t think I can spend another day in another call room making another call begging for money,’ he said. His op-ed prompted a New York Times Editorial:
…he estimated he has spent 4,200 hours in call rooms, plus 1,600 more at fund-raising dinners, raising $20 million in donations. Plus untold multimillions more in his time running the campaign machine of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Money grubbing is so relentless for both parties that a Democratic directive for arriving freshmen members that surfaced … two years ago candidly advised them to devote four hours of each working day to ‘call time’ if they entertained hopes for re-election — as opposed to three to four hours for the actual job of lawmaking. Members are regularly seen leaving the Capitol after a vote to put in more call time, as if feeding gluttonous parking meters.
The growth in plutocracy was significantly emboldened by the Supreme Court decisions which equate political monetary donations with free speech. Political campaigns now utilize hundreds of million of dollars from ‘donors’ and ‘organizations’. Presidential campaigns ‘require’ upwards of a billion dollars today. The Supreme Court’s recent rulings have basically endorsed political corruption, plutocracy, and almost outright bribery.
In addition to the outright ‘purchase’ of Congressmen/women, state legislators, Governors, and others, campaign strategies are so advanced and sophisticated that very small interest groups and even individual voters can be directly targeted – almost as if individual votes can now be directly purchased – and the Supreme Court, given its present makeup and track record, may well find nothing wrong in selling – or buying – individual votes.
Zephyr Truthout writes in her own book, Corruption in America: ‘
…the Constitution was designed in significant part as protection against corruption … since 1976 the Supreme Court has seriously constrained public power to pass anticorruption statutes, and since 2006 it has definitely rejected the traditional concept of corruption.
She concludes her book with:
... democracy, without constant vigilance against corruption, is an unstable, unmoored thing, … and likely to collapse.
And if all that is not enough, the process can go in the other direction – Congressmen actually approaching lobbyists and plutocrats for money in exchange for votes on a bill – i.e. outright extortion. Former Speaker Boehner has been accused of such extortion related to key bills. A New York Times piece, The Extortion Racket, described the ‘tollbooth’ strategy to raise ‘donations’. There’s even a book out titled Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money. House Speaker John A. Boehner was apparently a master of such tollbooths.
On January 20, 2009, when the Obamas were dancing at inaugural balls, a group of Republicans, including Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, were planning the end of the Obama presidency before it even got going. They promised each other that they would filibuster and obstruct any and all legislation supported by the new president. They would do everything possible, for as long as it took, to make his a ‘failed presidency’.
“Plutocracy is why you ran in 2012 on a no dollars platform,” Jay recalled. “That’s what attracted me to your campaign, as did your slogan: For a Sustainable Future…”
“I did spend $5,600 on my campaign for Utah District 2 – $600 over budget.”
“The Don Quixote campaign,” Bill noted. “But we all loved it.”
“And others ran on similar platforms – especially Bill Barron for Utah Senate and then in 2014 for Congress, District 2,” I said. “I was stimulated by Ralph Lessig’s then new book, Republic, Lost – all about plutocracy. And it just keeps getting worse. There’s so much money, influence, and expectation about money in politics that even the generally optimistic Bill Moyers now comes across almost despondent – watch his discussion with Truthout and Lessig. Amy Goodman has also interviewed them.”
The dynamic Zephyr Teachout (she’s a woman) tried to become Governor of New York on an anti-plutocracy campaign. It is clear that our democracy/republic is in danger of being destroyed. A frightening Lessig quote is: ‘We will, I fear, simply tolerate the corruption, as a host tolerates a parasite that is not life-threatening. Until it is.’
The good news is Teachout is now running for New York’s District 19 House seat.
In 2012 Obama met with major Democratic donors some 8 months before the election. Vogel, in Big Money, quotes him as saying:
I may be the last presidential candidate who could win the way I won [in 2008]…who had the time and the space to mobilize a grassroots effort…started off small and able to build…
He meant he didn’t have a lot of big donor, special interest support at the beginning of the campaign, although such support did develop later.
Facing wealthy donors and supporters in early 2012, he said:
…you genuinely have a situation where 10 people could each write a check…five or six in this room tonight could make a decision on the next president…. That’s not the way things are supposed to work.
In early 2007, when Obama declared his candidacy, he said it was time to ‘
…take government back from the cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests who’ve turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.
But at the 2012 meeting, Kenneth Vogel reports, in Big Money:
Obama was admitting that was no longer achievable in the current system – that American politics had fundamentally changed in a way that made it, at the highest levels, a game for the ultra-rich….a new political reality was here to stay.
He admitted the plutocracy was even more entrenched, even more difficult to overcome.
“Isn’t that why Trump got so much traction?” Jay asked. “He is his own rich guy, so he can’t be bought. He doesn’t need the plutocrats dollars.”
“Maybe. The public understands the problem. They don’t see a solution,” I said. “Some think the ‘solution’ is to support a very rich candidate – like Trump or Bloomberg. Although Bloomberg might be ok, his wealth should not be the reason to vote for him.”
The present Supreme Court is a key part of the problem. Injustices, published in 2015, reviews the present Court’s many problems – and the unlikelihood of any change in the very near future. The film Citizen Koch has a good section on the Supreme Court and its Citizen United decision. One justice change is all it took.
The major plutocrats have been energized by their successes to date – and by the Court’s endorsement of their actions and activities. It’s the plutocrats who buy the presidential candidates, the Congressmen, and even the Governors. They are the base of our pyramid of problems. Which is why harmless must address – and treat – the major plutocrats privately, personally, directly.
The Koch Brothers
“There must be something like 25 or so very rich, political, biased, hard-ass plutocrats,” Jay said. “People like Adelson, Mercer, Schwarzmann, Neugebauer, Braman, Rasteller, Singer, Griffin, Rauner, Ricketts, Simmons, and many others.”
“That’s a good list! There are many politically active plutocrats,” I said, ‘including a few Democrats. But we can’t treat all who need treatment. We have to select and get to a few whose change of ‘heart’ – whose actions – will generate great media and public interest – and hopefully initiate a change in perspective and behavior.”
“We need to become experts on all those we choose to try to treat, correct?” asked Jay.
“And we need to help direct the actions of their heirs – go on…”
“Yes, we really need to know our patients – and their close family, friends, their care-givers, their advisors, their heroes – and their heirs.”
“The Koch Brothers should be first on the list, for their own actions and for their efforts in organizing billionaire politics at their regular gatherings,” Bill said.
“Did you see the Kochs set up a Utah chapter of Americans for Prosperity?” Jay asked.
“And the Salt Lake Democrats are saying that the chapter is already influencing County budget hearings,” I noted.
“That means Koch-Utah has gotten up and running very quickly,” Bill said. “They are effective.”
“I could use a little part time additional income,” Jay smiled. “Think I should apply?”
“They’re after conservative Utah money that will no longer go to another Romney campaign,” I suggested. “The Romney defeat in 2012 really impacted Charles and David Koch. They really didn’t expect it.”
“Mike Lee might ask for more of it – he’s up for reelection,” Jay said. “Better I earn some of it.”
“If you need a reference, you can use me,” Bill smiled. “I’ve been on their Montana ranch.”
“You mean Centennial Valley?” I asked.
“Yes. You have to drive right through the Koch spread to get to the U’s Humanities Center – the Taft Center. It’s 26 miles from Interstate 15 on an unpaved road.”
“The Koch Brothers’ father, Fred, started the Koch empire with a number of cattle ranches, right?”
“Yes, ranches were part of it. The spread in Southern Montana is Beaverhead Ranch, part of their Matador Cattle Company,” Bill noted. “It borders a major National Wildlife Refuge.”
“The Taft Center is a great facility,” I recalled. “Diana and I visited there some five years ago. On the way out, heading East towards West Yellowstone, we were stopped by a shredded tire.”
“The way in and out from the West is shorter and easier on tires,” Bill said.
“Maybe the Kochs could have an event there, perhaps tied to honoring their Dad, Fred. His birthday is Sept. 23 – and Charles and the Company celebrate it each year as Founder’s Day.”
Bill added: “Maybe John Taft could take them around the refuge in his open jeep, feeding them Ananda’s chocolates along the way.”
“Several of Fred Koch’s boys spent summers at the Montana ranch – Bill, Charles, and – perhaps – David. It could be a homecoming gig.”
“I assume there are easier ways to get to them,” Bill said. “David is quite a philanthropist – and even supports some so called liberal causes.”
“And they may prefer Dana Point to Lakeview, Montana,” I said.
Dana Point is a spectacular luxury site on the California coast where the Kochs had another in their ‘Koch Primary’ conferences. Jon Stewart – in one of his last Daily Show programs – reviewed the event – showing the five participating candidates suckling on a large Charles Koch mother pig! Fiorina, Walker, Cruz, Rubio, and Jeb Bush were all there saying nice things about the Koch brothers and their supporters. The Koch candidate and donor ‘conferences’ or seminars have been going on for over ten years.
“Earlier, I thought the Kochs would be hopeless, but I recently learned some things to change my mind. They’ve had a very rough family life – and they are pushing 80, some with young kids and grandkids – likely heirs.”
“There’s been some press that they’re trying to improve their image,” Jay added. “Their recent activities in prison reform, the Koch Scholars scholarships, and some action related to an Hispanic initiative suggest some diversification.”
“My Latino friends looked into their Libre Initiative,” I said. “It’s basically the Koch 101 philosophy.”
From the web site:
LIBRE is dedicated to informing the U.S. Hispanic community about the benefits of a constitutionally limited government, property rights, rule of law, sound money supply and free enterprise through a variety of community events, research and policy initiatives that protect our economic freedom.’
“Not much there on climate change or energy, is there?” Jay smiled.
“No, I’m afraid they just want to clone a few more Rubios or Cruz-es,” I said.
“They want the Hispanic vote,” Jay said. “The Libre folks were giving away free turkeys in exchange for signing on to a mailing list and doing a questionnaire. Libre has some 70 employees in nine states.”
“The Kochs fund the operation via their Freedom Partners group – nearly $16 million, the Times said recently.”
“I did do some homework,” Bill offered. “Charle’s wife, Liz, seems reasonable and involved…and annoyed with being portrayed as part of an evil empire. She’s reported to have said:
I’m so hopeful that there will be something, SOMETHING in the world out there besides ‘Evil Koch Brothers’. Jesus H., I’m sick of it.
“I read that Liz sometimes talks like a longshoreman,” I smiled. “She’s nine years younger that Charles and very loyal and committed.”
“She stands by her man,” Jay said.
There are four Koch Brothers, although Charles and David get most of the attention. Charles basically runs the company and is largely responsible for its growth and profitability. He’s talented, driven, motivated, aggressive. David is an Executive VP with his own responsibilities; he seems to be the greater philanthropist and is more public than Charles. Charles’ philanthropy tends to focus on his Libertarian, Hayekian, and Ayn Rand-based values and goals. Charles and Liz live in Wichita. David and much younger wife, Julia, live in Manhattan.
From a recent news story:
Charles is the steady, driven one. He’s grounded in the Kansas soil of their birth.
David is his outgoing younger brother. He’s a New Yorker now, and pronounces himself forever changed by a near-death experience.
Bill is David’s free-spirited twin, a self-described contrarian whose pursuits beyond business include sailing, collecting things and suing people (his brothers included).
And then there’s the oldest, Frederick, who’s as likely to turn up in Monte Carlo as at his apartment on New York’s Fifth Avenue and doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the lot.
They’re all fabulously wealthy, all donate lavishly to charity, all tall — Frederick is the shortest at 6-foot-2 — and all are prostate cancer survivors.
The family now lives night and day with bodyguards. Charles Koch has said:
We get a lot of death threats. We get threats to fire-bomb our facilities. We get attacks by ‘Anonymous,’ trying to break in, destroy our communications, computer systems – cyberattacks.
David Koch, now 75, lives in New York and, reportedly, tells his three children, ages 7 to 15, that their bodyguards are like nannies, hired to help the family.
The four brothers were exposed to philanthropy and art via their mother, Mary, who died in late 1990. Mary Koch graduated in 1929 from Wellesley College, majoring in English and French; she married Fred Koch in 1932. Fred was a hard working, driven, perhaps obsessed, John Wayne-like character. He was a fearless boxer in college. Mary was apparently somewhat afraid of husband Fred, according to a perhaps controversial Rolling Stones piece by Tom Dickinson.
Their first born, Fred or Freddie (1933), shared his mother’s interests in art and history. He was not, perhaps what father Fred expected for his son. The John Wayne-like drive and toughness was just not there. He was sent away to boarding school, perhaps to minimize friction within the family. Charles, born 1935, responded to his father’s expectations. He worked hard, excelled in sports, and became a good little anti-Communist and student of libertarian economics. Charles has been an avid skier and kayaker.
David and Bill (Bill) came in 1940, as twins, rounding out the four Koch Brothers. All but Freddie went to MIT and studied engineering – as had their father. Charles was going to be a nuclear engineer, but changed his mind when he realized that most jobs in the profession were via the Federal government. He certainly did not want to work for the government.
Charles Koch is 6 feet 3, lean, eats healthy, and does a daily 90-minute workout. He’s had both knees and his right shoulder replaced; his joints took a beating from years of strenuous athletics.
Liz Koch says that Charles has a conviction that free markets are the only way to create prosperity. Even those who live in poverty, he believes, have more money and more opportunities for jobs if they live in a free-market economy rather than one controlled by dictators or socialists intent on redistributing wealth. A friend, a Wichita realtor, said that, in the early 1960s, Charles was a skinny young guy who read about economics night and day, and spoke about helping the world.
Liz recalled that Charles knows there are certain laws that govern the natural world. So he asked if that isn’t also true for the societal world. Are there laws that determine to what extent people can achieve their ends – the extent to which people are more prosperous, more civil, peaceful? ‘I became very passionate along with him,’ she said. He’d read Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman – economists deeply committed to keeping government out of private enterprise.
Charles feels that organizations, economies, entire societies operated according to the same fundamental principles. He wants people to understand there are principles in life, like in engineering.
“He certainly appears interesting, passionate, committed,” I said. “The problem is he’s extrapolated his engineering rules and laws directly into the public sector. He assumes that the simplistic ‘rules’ and assumptions applied by his father, by Ayn Rand, by Hayek are as reliable in the social arena as Newton’s Laws and the rules of chemistry are in the physical science arena.”
“He obviously never studied Quantum Mechanics, did he?” Bill asked, “or the Uncertainty Principle.”
“I doubt it. Charles and David are basically mechanical engineers, with some chemical engineering thrown in.”
“Why do so many engineers seem simplistic, arrogant, and ignorant of social issues and problems?” Bill asked.
“That question came across loud and clear when I served as Dean of Engineering at the U. I got to know some 120 academic engineering faculty – representing all major disciplines. The simple rules of the physical sciences have a seductive simplicity. If that’s how you’re trained, it’s hard to understand that social, human scale issues and problems should be so hard.”
“But that’s why they chose engineering or science in the first place,” Jay said. “They didn’t want to deal with people issues and problems. They wanted to work in the more predictable and understandable physical world.”
“Yes – that’s the big boundary between the humanities and the sciences – the world of people and the ‘natural’ world. Although biology bridges both, most engineers and physical scientists are still largely uncomfortable with people issues.”
“I love the semantic ‘seductive simplicity,’ Bill said. “It makes so much sense.”
“The other major problem with the Kochs, as with all Libertarians and even Reaganites, is that their economic philosophy is rooted in 18th and 19th century assumptions about the world – about the planet,” Jay added. “We now know the planet and its resources are limited and not infinite.”
“Right. Charles – and David – need to be introduced to another Fred,” I said. “Frederick Soddy.”
“OK, I’ll bite,” Jay said. “Who’s Fred Soddy?”
“He was a Nobel laureate in Chemistry, 1921, for work on radioactive decay. He really understood thermodynamics – including entropy and uncertainty.”
“So? There must be more,” Bill smiled.
“He became focused on societal issues and problems – stemming from the aftermath of World War I – and turned his attention to economics. He recognized, way before the great depression, that the economy was a vast pyramid scheme – a perpetual motion machine – operating with no knowledge of basic thermodynamics.”
“So was he the first to consider limits and advocate sustainability?” Bill asked.
“Yes – and written off as a crank by the economics – business – political worlds.”
Frederick Soddy’s views on economics were based on physics – on the laws of thermodynamics – the most basic scientific principles we know. Nearly everything in science derives from the Laws of Thermodynamics. They forbid perpetual motion – schemes in which machines create energy out of nothing. Soddy criticized the prevailing – and still largely current – belief that the economy could generate continuous and growing wealth – expanding forever. His ideas eventually lead to the field of eco-economics, pioneered by Herman Daly, and to the general concept of sustainability. Soddy wrote a book in 1926 (subtitled The Solution of the Economic Paradox) presenting his concepts and analyses, but they were largely ignored. The last chapter of the 1961 edition of the book, ‘Summary of Practical Conclusions’, should be covered on every economics, political science, and law student’s final exams. Soddy died in 1956. His work on radioactivity inspired H G Wells to write the novel The World Set Free.
“Thermodynamics is one case where scientific principles can indeed be directly applied to society – to the economy. Charles and David – in their MIT engineering training – apparently never learned that. We need to teach them,” I said.
“There you go trying to play professor again.”
“Once a teacher, always a teacher,” I said. “We never give up on a student… I just learned that Charles received ALEC’s Adam Smith Free Enterprise award in 1994, together with brother David,” I said.
“You mean from the American Legislative Exchange Council – that ALEC?” Jay asked.
“Yes, the group that bribes state legislators to pass legislation written by ALEC or its sponsors – and dismisses global warming and pollution.”
“I doubt that ALEC even knows Smith wrote an earlier book called The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” Bill said.
“And I wonder if they know Moral Sentiments’ subtitle: An Essay towards an Analysis of the Principles by which Men naturally judge concerning the Conduct and Character, first of their Neighbours, and afterwards of themselves.”
“That’s news to me,” Bill noted. “I guess the more recent reprintings don’t bother with the long subtitle.”
“And since they likely haven’t read it, they probably don’t know that Smith actually covered empathy – something to do with ‘conduct and character’. A 2014 book, The Empathy Exams, cited Smith’s Moral Sentiments discussion.”
“Well, I assume Charles Koch did not read it. But he has read Hayek.”
“Do you think he read the parts that deal with safety nets and social insurance?” I asked.
“Oops, perhaps not. And I’ll bet neither did two other well known Hayek fans: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.”
“Is he an Ayn Rand fan?” asked Jay.
Before I could respond, Bill jumped in:
“Wait! Let me add this cool fact. I was at the post office mailing a package and used a 93 cent stamp – the Flannery O’Conner stamp.”
“So? Who’s she,” Jay asked.
“She’s a fiction author – I didn’t know her so I looked her up. The web profile said she wrote a letter to a friend saying: ‘Friends don’t let friends read Ayn Rand.’ Her critique was that it’s crappy fiction.”
“I just saw a Times review of Rand’s newest, perhaps her very first book/play, unpublished until now. It’s titled Ideal,” I added. “The reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, wrote:
Rand’s embrace of selfishness and elitism and her contempt for ordinary people … underscores the reasons that her work — with its celebration of defiance and narcissism, its promotion of selfishness as a philosophical stance — so often appeals to adolescents and radical free marketers.
“Remember what Peter said before?” Jay recalled. “It’s a philosophy for adolescents – on their way through puberty. But some never get beyond their intellectual puberty, like Paul Ryan – or perhaps Charles Koch.”
“And that’s exactly what you said earlier – seductive simplicity,” Bill said, looking at me. “It’s exactly what adolescents want and need: simple, firm, apparently reasonable rules, because they haven’t yet learned to think for themselves.”
“I was looking at a recent book on libertarianism, called Uncivil Liberties. The Foreword is by Hazel Henderson, who wrote, regarding her own initial fondness for Ayn Rand: ‘For me, reality overtook my adolescent escapism.’
“Hasn’t the Cato Institute been funding professorships to specifically teach Ayn Rand and libertarian economics?” Jay asked.
“And, if I recall correctly, there was lots of flak about the Kochs directly micromanaging who was to be hired and how they were to be evaluated,” Bill recalled.
“And there are other Ayn Rand – addicted rich plutocrats,” I added. “Do you remember that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was dumped in the primary by a guy named Brat, who went on to win the seat?”
“Yes, it was quite a surprise as Cantor was so conservative and well funded,” Bill recalled.
“Brat is interesting. He’s an academic. His professorial position at Randolph-Macon College, where he taught Ayn Rand and Libertarianism, was funded by a John Allison – an Ayn Rand – loving CEO of a failed bank – bailed out by Bush bailout funds.”
“So he’s a bank CEO plutocrat?” Jay asked.
“Not anymore. Shortly after getting the bailout, he bailed to become President of the Cato Institute.”
“Surprise!” Bill smiled. “And Cato is at least partly funded by Koch. The Ayn Rand folks are everywhere.”
“Right. And although Charles may be somewhat well read, I think his early influences – especially his John Birch dad – set him up to read uncritically – simply reinforcing those Birch-Libertarian beliefs he inherited.”
“We know his degrees are from MIT,” Jay added, “back when it was not exactly an institution providing a well-rounded education.”
“He’s getting older, wants to do good, and is genuinely concerned about the nation, even if he avoids the issue of what Koch Industries is doing to the planet,” I surmised. “Somewhere on the Koch Foundation website it says support of various causes which ‘further social progress and sustainable prosperity’.”
“That sounds like sustainable economics to me,” Bill said.
“Maybe. His second book, called Good Profit, just came out. Earlier, the book’s web site accepted questions to Charles.”
“You didn’t?” Jay teased.
“I did – I asked him about Frederick Soddy, thermodynamics, and free market economics.”
“Are you trying to blow our cover? Did he respond?” Bill asked.
“Nope, at least not yet.”
“There’s now a Koch Industries’ ‘We are Koch’ ad campaign,” Bill said. “Jon Stewart’s parody of their ads is worth watching!”
“The ads – and Charles’ recently increased emphasis on the prison-incarceration-justice issues – suggest hope. We all mellow with age – and hopefully develop some wisdom. We’ll try to treat him – assuming we can get to him.”
“Don’t be overly optimistic,” Jay cautioned. “The Kochs were cooperating nicely with Obama’s decreased incarceration initiative – for a while. But they are holding out for a weakening or repeal of the ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse’ standard – especially for corporate ‘ignorance’.”
“They want to institute the ‘mea culpa’ cop-out – especially for pollution and degradation statutes, I bet,” Bill said.
Charles has indeed pondered and considered his upcoming mortality, legacy, and continuity issues.
Charles and Liz (Elizabeth B.) have a daughter, Elizabeth R. She now runs Catapult, a very new publishing and writing firm. She was born in 1975. Elizabeth R may still be unmarried. Although she has attended at least one of Charles’ regular political/donor ‘seminars’, Schulman, in Sons of Wichita, writes:
Elizabeth … has taken little interest in the affairs of the family company. … ‘My father is very big on creating value. I told him I may not make the world a better place – right away.’ Charles’ literary daughter is deeply conflicted – haunted even – by her family’s colossal wealth, and she has written unsparingly about her ‘disturbed and convoluted relationship with money.’
‘Even though I was born into an obscenely wealthy family, I do not toss money around…’ she wrote …she has ‘invested great amounts of creative energy into pretending’ she does not come from money. ‘Gratitude is in me somewhere, but so buried in shame I have trouble finding it’.
Charles’ son Chase, born 1978, is senior vice president at Koch Agronomics Services. His father’s lectures on economics apparently influenced him. Chase married Annie Breitenbach, in 2010. She’s a nurse. Chase serves on the Charles Koch Foundation Board, together with his mother, Liz, and Charles’ friend Richard Fink. Chase and Annie have two children.
“So Charles and Liz now have grandparent duties,” Jay suggested.
“Yes – and in a few years Charles can start their Hayek/Rand – based economics lessons,” I smiled. “And a range of tough physical and work challenges.”
“The Koch Brothers were ridden quite hard by their dad – and thoroughly indoctrinated as libertarians and even John Birchers along the way, I understand,” Bill added.
“You watched Koch Brothers Exposed?” I asked.
“Yes, both the original and the new version which includes the Citizens United decision,” Bill answered.
“Yep – I saw the first version,” Jay said. “The most sickening part, for me, was their trying to take over a local school board.”
“All the ten or more segments – examples – made me sick,” Bill said.
“And I’m especially sickened by their attempted purchase of higher education – the various Koch professorships,” I said.
“Like the one at Utah State?” Jay asked. “Some guy named Randy Simmons, who can’t even analyze wind energy data without distorting it!”
“The Deseret News just reported that the Koch Foundation has awarded 1.54 million to USU – for two tenured professor positions in their Institute for Political Economy,” Bill noted.
“No big surprise,” I said. “Maybe John Huntsman, Sr. will ask to get his name taken off their Business School.”
Charles started thinking about – and studying – society, philosophy, economics after he returned to Kansas, about 1961. He frequented a John Bircher bookstore in Wichita. A philosopher named Gus diZerega credits Charles with giving him books by von Mises and Hayek. David and Charles had absorbed their father’s conservative politics, but they did not share all his views, according to diZerega. Charles eventually invited Gus to the Kochs’ mansion, to participate in an informal political-discussion group. ‘It was pretty clear that Charles thought some of the Birch Society was bullshit,’ diZerega recalled.
In 1984 Charles and David established Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). Richard Fink was its first president. CSE was an exercise in community organizing. It rallied grassroots voters in support of reduced spending and lower taxes.
Charles is not an Obama fan: ‘He’s a dedicated egalitarian,’ Charles has said about Obama.
I’m not saying he’s a Marxist, but he’s internalized some Marxist models—that is, that business tends to be successful by exploiting its customers and workers.
David agrees, saying
He’s the most radical president we’ve ever had as a nation, and has done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we’ve ever had.
David suggested the president’s radicalism was tied to his upbringing – to his father being a socialist in Kenya. ‘It just shows you what a person with a silver tongue can achieve,’ David said.
Interesting. But apparently their Dad’s ‘silver tongue’ didn’t influence the Koch Brothers Libertarian/Birch ideologies?
The brothers believe the cost of a carbon-free economy is too high.
There’s a direct correlation between the energy use of a country and its standard of living. If your energy use is massively reduced, it’s going to damage your standard of living.
With the uncertainty and the politicization of the science so far, to go spend trillions of dollars a year changing the whole world economy to satisfy something this uncertain, because you have some religious zealots like Al Gore going around preaching this – it doesn’t make sense.
Those quotes are from some years ago, but they apparently have not been corrected. It is unlikely that today David and Charles, given their ‘rational’ engineering background, would continue to believe the science and situation is ‘uncertain.’
Charles and David don’t understand why their visions don’t get more support and acceptance. Isn’t it obvious that small government and free markets result in a better world? The Kochs thought their aim was to increase the standard of living for everyone. The way to do this, they believed, was by applying to society the same methods that had grown their company.
According to Continetti, a writer for The Weekly Standard,
For the engineer Kochs, devotees of the ‘science of human liberty,’ the answer to the social problem was as clear cut as a blueprint for an oil fractionation device.
They assumed that if you educated people in the laws of economics, they would see the light.
Richard Fink agrees:
I just don’t understand why the overwhelming benefits of the free market aren’t understood.
Clearly – to harmless – Fink, Continetti, Charles, and David are victims of the seductive simplicity of Libertarian, Hayek-ian, Rand-ian thinking. They cannot understand that their simplistic economic, free market rules and laws are insufficient for the real world of people, goods, and markets. They are so hard-wired – so rigid – that planetary constraints and human complexities cannot penetrate. Hence the need for therapy.
DiZerega, who has lost touch with Charles, eventually abandoned right-wing views, and became a political-science professor. He credits Charles with opening his mind to political philosophy, which set him on the path to academia. Charles is one of three people to whom diZerega dedicated his first book. But diZerega believes that the Koch brothers have followed a wayward intellectual trajectory, transferring their father’s paranoia about Soviet Communism to a distrust of the U.S. government, and seeing its expansion, beginning with the New Deal, as a tyrannical threat to freedom.
diZerega moved beyond his earlier interests in seductive simplicity. He’s quoted in Dark Money as saying: ‘Perhaps [Charles Koch] has confused making money with freedom’. He’s also said
… the chief moral weakness of many libertarians… They appear unable to imaginatively place themselves in the shoes of people unlike themselves. They have a failure in empathy.
“Maybe we should ‘treat’ many other Libertarians – they likely all have a ‘failure in empathy’,” Bill suggested.
“Sure,” Jay added. “Let’s get to a Libertarian convention or other big meeting. We could donate Ananda’s Chocolates – one in each member’s convention bag.”
“Cool. We could call it Ananda’s Freedom Collection,” Bill smiled.
“A good idea,” I said. “Let’s get back to it later.” I continued: “Charles had an ‘intellectual epiphany’ when he was about 40 – perhaps earlier. He discovered Robert LeFevre, an early Libertarian pacificist who ran a Freedom School to preach freedom and free market ideologies – and pacifism.”
“So he actually did change his mind, at least once?” Bill asked.
“Actually twice. The first time was choosing LeFevre’s over the John Birch philosophy. That was apparently after father Fred died in 1967. It was a significant revelation, though not as major as the one we hope to engineer. Father Fred talked Charles, who was enjoying an engineering job in Boston, into returning to Wichita to run the company. Fred then died about six years later.”
“I heard father Fred died in Utah. True?” Jay asked.
“Apparently so. He was duck hunting with a friend along the Bear River. He had just shot one, went to reload, and had a massive heart attack. Charles, at 32, became president and CEO of the family company. He’s done very well – if you ignore all the environmental and dirty energy issues.”
“Daniel Schulman’s Sons of Wichita is complete, thorough, and fairly current,” Bill mentioned. “Terry Gross of Fresh Air did an interview the author. Much of the book has appeared as stories in Rolling Stone magazine.”
“Mayer’s New Yorker piece, Covert Operations, is also very good. She credits a Cato Institute official with saying: ‘Charles thinks he’s a genius’.”
“Given what he’s done with the company and its pseudo-Libertarian initiatives,” Jay said, “he does seem to be a genius in an obsessive-compulsive-like way – focused on one idea or ideology and resistant to, impervious to, anything else.”
“He’s certainly focused on growth and on making money,” Bill added.
“He’s what I call a highly focused and effective believer-type. And he’s had help – or at least reinforcement. Richard Fink, his long-time politico-economic advisor/assistant, has been referred to as Koch’s Brain. Fink has said: ‘Charles is the most consistent person I have ever met’.”
“That’s what hard core believers are:” Bill said, “consistent, unchanging, firm, uncritical.”
“Remember a New Yorker cartoon? Mom and Dad are on the couch doing their own thing. Their kid, young adult, standing – is saying to them: ‘The thing is, I’ve grown – and you haven’t.’ DiZerega grew, Charles didn’t.”
“And David hasn’t much, either,” Bill added.
“The Kochs have ideology in their DNA – according to an Economist piece in 2014,” I concluded.
By late 1979, Charles had become the libertarian movement’s primary funder. He had cofounded the Cato Institute as an incubator for libertarian ideas, bankrolled the magazine Libertarian Review, and backed the movement’s youth outreach arm, Students for a Libertarian Society. Charles sought to transform the Libertarian Party into a viable third party. Over the years, he would spend millions propping up a league of affiliated think tanks and front groups – a network of Libertarian-based groups that became known – initially critically – as the Kochtopus.
Now 80 – owning a large chunk of the Alberta tar sands and using his billions to transform the modern Republican Party into a Libertarian-like organization – Charles Koch is unlikely to have another revelation – at least not without assistance. He apparently has no interest in slowing down. He has made it clear that he has no retirement plans, saying ‘I’m going to ride my bicycle till I fall off.’
The criticism against him, brother David, and Koch Industries continues to expand and become more intense. Even President Obama is calling them out by name. Robert Kennedy, Jr. recently said the Koch Brothers
…are the apocalyptical forces of ignorance and greed. These are the four horsemen from the book of Revelations herding humanity toward a dystopian nightmare of their creation. Koch Industries is not a benign corporation. It’s a suicide pact for creation. It’s the archetype of ‘disaster capitalism.’ It’s the command center of an organized scheme to undermine democracy and impose a corporate kleptocracy that will allow these greedy men to cash in on mass extinction and the end of civilization.
Although Charles and David see it differently, if they had even a little empathy, they might understand how most of the rest of us tend to see it more as Kennedy does.
Asked about Mr. Trump’s plan to bar foreign Muslims from entering the United States, Charles said that such a policy was antithetical to what America represents:
Well, then you destroy our free society. Who is it that said, If you want to defend your liberty, the first thing you’ve got to do is defend the liberty of people you like the least?
Charles also said that Cruz’s plan to “carpet bomb” the Islamic State militants would be fruitless, wondering if the next step would be to go country to country bombing Muslims. He continued:
I’ve studied revolutionaries a lot. Mao said that the people are the sea in which the revolutionary swims. Not that we don’t need to defend ourselves and have better intelligence and all that, but how do we create an unfriendly sea for the terrorists in the Muslim communities? We haven’t done a good job of that.
Harmless keeps discussing Charles – trying to understand him and how best to approach him. We understand he’s been a very young and gifted intellectual, learning his philosophical foundations during puberty in the Libertarian echo chamber ruled by his confident and dominating father. He then built upon and strengthened that foundation with little or no input from any different views. Although he says otherwise, it’s clear that he does not appreciate contrary views or inputs. He’s apparently not had the experience of talking seriously with people of a different persuasion – of people outside the Libertarian echo chambers. And now, entering his ninth decade, he seems to be starting to see the conflicts between Hayekian Libertarian economics and a finite, limited planet. It will be difficult for him to let go – even a little – of the previous seven decades of Libertarian influences and beliefs.
David Koch shares Charles’ political, philosophic, and economic interests and beliefs. They work as a team of close ideologues.
David Koch considers himself a social liberal. He supports women’s right to choose, gay rights, same-sex marriage and stem-cell research. He opposes the war on drugs, supports policies that promote individual liberty and free market principles, and supports reduced government spending. David was born in 1940, together with his twin brother, Bill.
“I wonder if he’s aware of the Cognitive Liberty movement?” I asked.
“Cool semantic,” Bill said. “I’ll bite. Go on.”
“It’s the idea that liberty includes within its definition the personal right to expand our individual cognition,” I said.
“You mean like education?” Jay smiled.
“Cognitive liberty also means like drugs, and unpopular ideas, and strange practices. There’s a law professor at the University of Leicester, a Charlotte Walsh, who seems to be the best spokesperson. She has several online videos on the topic.”
“Like a basic human right?” asked Bill.
“Yes. She says cognitive liberty is basically just freedom of thought – and refers to the European Convention on Human Rights. She considers psychedelic drug users as a minority group, says drug prohibition is a type of censorship – like putting filters on the internet. She says that the inner world of each person is her or his own religious sphere, and its exploration via drugs or whatever is essentially religious use – even if no dogma or church is involved.”
“Amen,” Jay said.
“And a brief fyi,” I added, ‘this from a short piece in a recent New Scientist, titled Need for Weed’:
The Mexican Supreme Court ruled by 4 to 1 that banning the consumption and cultivation of cannabis for personal use violates the human right to free development of one’s personality.
“Cool. Libertarians should be in agreement with the Mexican Court – and rich ones should support Walsh’s work,” Bill suggested.
David Koch survived a serious plane crash in 1991 and a prostate cancer diagnosis shortly thereafter. All four brothers have prostate cancer, and all have been treated successfully. As a cancer and plane crash survivor, David is well aware of his mortality. He said, via a Barbara Walters question, his tombstone might read: ‘He did his best to make the world a better place.’ In the same interview, he shared a personal revelation, that the Lord saved him from the Los Angeles crash so he could do good. And this revelation apparently inspired and empowered his extensive philanthropic efforts.
“So he has received at least one revelation,” Jay smiled. “Time for another, I’d say.”
David and wife Julia have three young children: David, Jr., John Mark, and Mary Julia, ranging in ages from about 9 to 17 (David, Jr.). They married in 1996 when he was 56 and she 34, after knowing each other for five years. They apparently met via philanthropic activities and began dating after the 1991 plane crash. David is even taller than Charles, apparently 6 feet, 5 inches. He has artificial knees.
He is skeptical about anthropogenic global warming, saying a warmer planet would be good because
Earth will be able to support enormously more people because a far greater land area will be available to produce food.
He contributes to both Republicans and Democrats, with the majority of his contributions going to Republicans.
According to a 2010 New York Magazine story, David is ‘gaga about dinosaurs…his childlike quality is genuine … ‘. He cries easily. He’s deeply antagonistic to the Obama administration. He opposes Obama’s climate change proposals and actions… He’s dealt in ‘astroturfing’: funding movements designed to look grassroots, but which in fact represent corporate interests.
He was profiled in the documentary 740 Park Avenue. There’s a good segment in the 740 Park film about Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, and Paul Ryan’s simplistic infatuation with her beliefs. It also covered other ultra-rich plutocrats, including Stephen Schwarzman of Wall Street bailout and gargantuan bonuses fame. Michael Gross, author of 740 Park, says ‘Stephen Schwarzman is the poster child of capitalistic greed.’ There are some 30 units at 740 Park Avenue occupied by the ultra-rich. 15 Central Ave is another really rich folks’ address. Gross has written books on each address.
“It sounds like harmless should just treat the entire building,” Jay said. “I’ll look into it. With all the Legionnaire’s disease issues in New York City, one more building wouldn’t raise too much suspicion.”
“I’ll bet this one has incredible security and maintenance,” I said.
“Did you see the piece on Schwarzman in Sunday’s NY Times? Last year he made nearly $700 Million! That’s pushing a cool billion,” Bill enthused. “His firm, Blackstone, apparently only pays 4.3 percent in Federal taxes, due to the ‘carried-interest gains’ loophole.”
“Interesting,” I said. “And in the film 740 Park it shows him lobbying Congress to keep that loophole intact.”
“The more you get, the more you want, I guess,” Jay added.
“He’ll be – or perhaps is – 70,’ Bill added. “The Times said he has no plans to retire.”
“Isn’t he the guy who threw his own incredible 60th birthday party?” I asked. “I think it was mentioned in 740 Park.”
“The Times piece said he suggested ‘…the company might even have a higher calling than minting money for its partners’,” Bill continued.
“I wonder what that means?” Jay asked.
“Well, he is a philanthropist of sorts,” I said. “He’s funded the NY Public Library Building and a major new complex at Yale University.”
“Let’s talk with the caterer for his big 70th bash,” Bill suggested.
“And the doorman at 740 Park Avenue,” I smiled.
“Sure. We can just give the doorman a $100 bill and ask him to give chocolates to the tenants as they enter and leave,” Bill said. “David Koch opposes the war on drugs – so why not an empathogen for he and his friends – and for Schwarzman?”
“Ask the doorman to also give a chocolate to Julia and to Christine Hearst Schwarzman,” Jay reminded.
The David H Koch Charitable Foundation is accessed via the Koch Family Foundations site. There is very little information on the sparse site. The Foundation’s IRS 990 report for 2013 is there, and lists David as President, Ruth E Bills of Wichita is Secretary, and Heather Love, also of Wichita, is Treasurer. There are no advisory boards, grants board, or other officers listed.
The Charles Koch Foundation is similarly brief and sparse. Its 2013 IRS 990 includes pages and pages of grants to colleges, universities, and related groups. The higher education funding has prompted a set of pushbacks.
Charles is Chairman of the Charles Koch Foundation – Richard Fink is President. Son Chase and Charles’ wife Elizabeth B. (Liz) are listed as Directors. Brian Menkes of Arlington is Secretary; Heather Love of Wichita is Treasurer. Elizabeth R., the daughter, is not listed as an officer or Director.
There is a Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, focused on Kansas giving, and a Koch Cultural Trust, also locally focused. Both seem to be managed and directed by Elizabeth (Liz) B Koch (Mrs. Charles). Her site bio says
I am interested in the creative process, the creative process of launching people who hope to become artists. I am very interested in young people. So we look at students of the arts and try to create a way of either launching a career or getting a student to a summer camp or something that would further their interest in their chosen art form, whether dance or painting or drawing or sculpting or music.’
The brothers’ first major public step came in 1979, when David, then thirty-nine, agreed to run as the Libertarian Party Vice Presidential candidate. Charles and David were backing its Presidential candidate, Ed Clark, who was running against Ronald Reagan. Frustrated by the legal limits on campaign donations, they realized that David, upon becoming a candidate, could spend as much of his personal fortune as he wished on the campaign without concern for Federal campaign funding constraints. The ticket’s slogan was ‘The Libertarian Party has only one source of funds: You’. In reality You was David Koch, who spent more than two million dollars on the campaign.
Ed Clark told The Nation that libertarians were getting ready to stage ‘a very big tea party’. That was a beginning – the so-called ‘grass roots’ Tea Party came some 25 years later.
In November, 1980 the Libertarian ticket received 1.1 per cent of the vote – the Kochs expected more. That result was in part responsible for Charle’s turn from conventional politics:
It tends to be a nasty, corrupting business. I’m interested in advancing libertarian ideas, he reportedly said. According to Doherty’s book on the Libertarian movement (Radicals for Capitalism), the Kochs came to regard elected politicians as like actors playing out a script. Doherty was told that the brothers wanted to write those scripts. In order to change the direction of America, they had to ‘…influence the areas where policy ideas percolate from: academia and think tanks.’
Recalling Keynes’ words
Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence are usually the slaves of some defunct economist … Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.
The Kochs apparently would like to be those ‘madmen in authority’ – empowering ‘academic scribblers.’
“They want to alter the direction of America – that sounds like State Change to me,” Jay said.
“We want to alter it, too,” Bill said, “but in a very different direction.”
“They want to alter it by plutocratic influences – by buying people’s minds,” Jay continued. “We want to alter it by simply chemically enhancing the Kochs’ minds – and those of their heirs.”
“And likely delivered through chocolate,” I said.
After the 1980 elections the Kochs decided to spend millions in efforts to ultimately take over the Republican Party; the Libertarian one was just too small and ineffective for their State Change goals. The work began close to home: the Kochs had become dedicated patrons of Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, who ran interference for Koch Industries in Washington.
They actively funded and supported organizations that contributed significantly to Republican candidates, and that lobby against efforts to expand government’s role in health care and in combatting global warming. According to Mayer, in 2008 the three main Koch family foundations contributed to 34 political and policy organizations, three of which they founded, and several of which they direct.
In trying to stand up for full personal freedom, David and Charles each made $10 million grants to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to fight the Bush administration over the Patriot Act, ‘…substantially more than the Kochs have contributed to all political candidates combined for at least the last 15 years,’ according to Reason magazine.
OpenSecrets.org has presented a graphic of their giving titled A Maze of Money, showing the various recipients and their relationships.
As the first anniversary of Obama’s 2008 election approached, David Koch was in Washington to attend a triumphant Americans for Prosperity gathering. Obama’s poll numbers were falling fast. Not a single Republican senator was working with the Administration on health care, or much else. Pundits were writing about Obama’s political ineptitude, and Tea Party groups were accusing the President of initiating a government takeover. David said
We envisioned a mass movement, a state-based one, but national in scope, of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that made our nation the most prosperous society in history. . . .
Nearly the entire anti-Obama ’mass movement’ was largely funded by the Kochs, according to Mayer’s Dark Money.
Thankfully, the stirrings from California to Virginia, and from Texas to Michigan, show that more and more of our fellow-citizens are beginning to see the same truths as we do.
“See the same truths we do?” questioned Bill.
“Sure – we all accept the Law of Gravity and Newton’s Laws of Motion,” Jay nodded, continuing: “And if physical truths work for the natural world, then certainly Koch Libertarian truths have to work for the world of societies, governments, and economies.”
“But Libertarian ‘truths’ seem to ignore the laws of thermodynamics,” Bill added.
“Amen.” We all smiled.
Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, one of the Koch-funded groups, has said ‘…ideas need patrons.’ The Koch brothers, after helping to create Cato, Mercatus, and Americans for Prosperity concluded that think tanks alone were not enough. They needed a mechanism to deliver those ideas to the street – to attract the public’s support. In 1984, David Koch and Richard Fink created, with Kibbe, Citizens for a Sound Economy, sponsored principally by the Kochs via $7.9 million between 1986 and 1993 – according to the Center for Public Integrity. Its mission, Kibbe said,
…was to take these heavy ideas and translate them for mass America. . .We studied the idea of the Boston Tea Party as an example of nonviolent social change. We learned we needed boots on the ground to sell ideas, not candidates.
Within a few years, the group had mobilized fifty paid field workers, in twenty-six states, to rally voters behind the Kochs’ agenda.
And, some years later, we got the Tea Party.
After mounting an unprecedented political effort in 2012, resulting in the Romney- Ryan dramatic loss, the brothers regrouped for another battle. Their advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, injected some $125 million into the 2014 midterm elections, with minimal success. Their 2016 effort is likely to be bigger and more expensive – together with their allies and fellow plutocrats, spending in the neighborhood of $800 million – nearly a billion dollars!
The Kochs have, through Americans for Prosperity, succeeded in persuading many members of Congress to sign a little-known pledge, www.noclimatetax.com, promising to vote against legislation relating to climate change unless it is accompanied by an equivalent amount of tax cuts. Since most solutions to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions require costs to the polluters and the public, the pledge essentially committed those who signed to vote against nearly any meaningful bill regarding global warning, and acts as yet another roadblock to action. By mid-2013 four hundred and eleven current office holders nationwide had signed the pledge, including the entire Republican leadership in the House, a third of the members of the House as a whole, and a quarter of U.S. senators.
NPR has provided discussions of Mayer’s Dark Money as well as Charles Koch’s recent political perspectives: Mayer said:
Charles Koch … is an ideological true believer in some of the most hard
line libertarian philosophy that you can come across in American politics.
Charles told NPR:
[We try] to find candidates who will move us toward policies that will enable people
to innovate and contribute…
“Parts of Charles’ recent NPR interview seemed somewhat incoherent to me,” I said.
“You think he could also be losing it?” Jay asked. “He is 80 or so years old.”
“Losing it may be a bit strong,” I said, “but he certainly seemed to be mixed up on free speech, political donations, and government spending. He seemed to say that all government spending is a form of political spending – of political influence.”
“That’s a stretch,” Bill said.
“Almost everything hardcore Libertarians espouse is a hard stretch,” Jay explained.
“I still think that – in his senior phase of life – he may be struggling with the coherence, relevance, and reasonableness of his hardline positions. It’s more than legacy – he thinks he’s rational, objective, scientific. But he’s based his last half-century of actions and politics on a set of fundamental, now irrational – and even suicidal – assumptions. Maybe he’s now, finally, starting, perhaps only subconsciously, to process that inconsistency.”
“It may be an ideal time for MDMA for him – to release him from the fear of changing his mind – of changing his hardcore positions,” Bill suggested.
“Perhaps – it’s worth a try.”
“David may also be salvageable,” I suggested. “His giving is heavily focused on cancer and on the arts.”
“So, what makes him ‘salvageable’?”
“He has a masters in Chemical Engineering – he understands chemistry. He now knows something about air and water chemistry and pollution. And he has a strong personal and philanthropic interest in cancer: My guess is that he’s certainly put all that together, even if he can’t talk about it openly.”
“Right,” Jay added. “Libertarian philosophies have to be incredibly simple. As soon as you weight them down with real world issues and constraints, they disintegrate.”
“Yes, so he has to keep his slowly evolving wisdom to himself,” I suggested, “otherwise his – and Charles’ – Libertarian world would crumble.”
I continued: “David Koch got caught up in the formaldehyde issue popularized by Sixty Minutes recently – about China-made flooring with very high formaldehyde emissions. The Kochs own Georgia-Pacific, which makes extensive use of the chemical in its laminates.”
“I remember now. The Kochs have lobbied for years against classifying formaldehyde as a human carcinogen,” Jay recalled.
“Correct. And David’s online resume shows that he received a presidential appointment to the National Cancer Advisory Board in 2005, serving a five year term.”
“Isn’t that a conflict of interest?” Bill asked. “It is a human carcinogen, isn’t it?”
“Formally, I think, since about 2011.”
“After Koch left that advisory board? Interesting, as you would say,” Bill concluded.
“So David will eventually have to own up. His strong personal interests in cancer and the Corporation’s strong involvement with formaldehyde will have to be addressed, probably via formaldehyde substitutes or replacements. He may be looking, perhaps subconsciously, for a way to address the conflict.”
“Perhaps harmless can help,” Jay smiled.
Bill Koch, David’s litigious twin, is also 75 years old. He’s 6-4 in height, and has a PhD (actually a DSc.) from MIT in 1971 – on gas flow through porous materials.
Their father had loathed publicity, scrupulously guarding the family’s privacy. Brother Bill became concerned that Charles and David’s political activism was beginning to draw attention to the company and the family. Bill also wanted more money. Bill felt Charles was donating too much corporate money to his personal political interests, so he tried to organize a corporate leadership takeover bid to replace Charles as Board Chair, allying with Fred and another major shareholder. That failed, as Charles, David, and other shareholders held firm. But it did lead to a familial split which is in part still ongoing.
Fred and Bill sold their stock in the firm in 1985 for about a billion or so dollars. Charles and David then had nearly full control of Koch Industries.
After the sale, Bill felt he had been shortchanged, claiming Charles misrepresented the company’s assets and worth. Fred joined Bill – and they filed suit to receive greater compensation. The lawsuits dragged on for a dozen or so years, with Charles and David being the victors. There were many long years of controversy, charges, testimony, and acrimony, resulting in wounds and scars which continue to endure. A Wichita judge said
…it is no secret that the courts have become a stage for the unraveling of a family.
In a 1978 essay, the then 41-year-old Charles had claimed that business leaders had been hoodwinked by the notion that regulation is in the public interest. He advocated the barest possible obedience to regulation and implored
Do not cooperate voluntarily, instead, resist whenever and to whatever extent you legally can in the name of justice.
As time went on, Koch Industries’ risk-taking and regulatory disobedience crossed over into recklessness and even liability.
In his 2007 book, The Science of Success, Charles acknowledged his company’s recklessness: While business was becoming increasingly regulated, we kept thinking and acting as if we lived in a pure market economy. The reality was far different.
That was Charles’ Revelation #2: the government is Koch’s customer – and Koch must play by its rules – like it or not.
Bill now runs the Oxbow Group, his energy development holding company based in West Palm Beach, Florida. It started out fairly green (thanks to government subsidies, he claims) and has more recently transformed to a more typical dirty energy firm. He said, via a Florida Weekly piece in late 2013, that alternative energy only exists with mandates and subsidies: ‘So let’s not count on alternative energy to save us.’ Although not a hardcore climate denier, he believes if we want to live lavish lifestyles we need to accept dirty energy.
“A lavish lifestyle – that’s what we all want? That makes him a denier and an anti-environmentalist, in my book,” Bill said.
“Definitely,” I agreed. “Plus he’s given a lot of money to the Cape Cod Alliance to stop the large off shore wind farms, because he thinks he’ll see them from the properties he has there. So he’s probably not a wind energy fan.”
“But he’s not really a practicing plutocrat, is he?” Jay asked.
“No, certainly not like his brothers. But he is a Forbes-listed billionaire – worth in the range of perhaps $2 to $4B or so – who’s getting old with a wife and six kids – apparently via five different women!”
“And those heirs are getting old enough to have their own views and interests, I assume,” Bill said.
“He’s very proud of the private school he founded in Palm Beach, the Oxbridge Academy, that his kids attend,” I continued.
“And certainly the teachers there ought to be sympathetic to environment- and climate-connected education,” Jay said. “- and chocolates.”
Bill married Bridget Rooney, his third wife, in 2005. Twin brother David served as best man – so there has been some reconciliation of sorts.
He started Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches in 2011 – in West Palm Beach – an independent college preparatory school founded on project-based learning: ‘I wanted the school to teach the reality of accomplishment.’
Mrs. Koch jokes that when Bill Koch starts a school, it’s an instant school.
I believe the school will be Bill’s legacy. I really do. One of his finest accomplishments … He’s really a kind-hearted man … He’s so generous … Most people don’t see that side. They see him as a businessman, the America’s Cup winner, a tough litigator … He’s really a sweet, kind-hearted soul.
Two-thirds of the student body at Oxbridge receives financial aid and most of that aid comes via Bill. Four of his children go to Oxbridge.
He describes his son Wyatt, now about 30, as a gentleman. His daughter, Charlotte, is 17. His stepson Liam is also 17 – a star athlete. His son Bill, Jr. is 16 and also into sports; daughter Robin is 14. His youngest Kaitlin, 7, goes by the nickname K.K.
Bill has set up trusts and property for each of his kids:
I’m always preaching to them to get along with one another. When I die … there will be nothing for them to fight about like my brothers and I did … I’m making sure there’s no financial incentive for them to fight.
At a reconciliation event with David’s family, now some years ago, David, Jr. and Bill, Jr. were pre-school buddies.
Bill spent five summers on his Dad’s Montana ranch, working 10-hour days, seven days a week at 50 cents an hour:
I fell in love with the West as a result, and I like the old code of the West: Stand your ground and help your neighbor, very simple things … If you didn’t have help from your neighbor, you wouldn’t survive.
“Say, perhaps Bill could call for a reunion of sorts in Lakeview, Montana,” Bill said. “I’ll bet he doesn’t even know the U’s Taft Center is there.”
“We could try to contact him – tell him we learned about him and the ranch via Sons of Wichita – and we’re fans of Centennial Valley,” I said.
“It’s worth a try – his kids should get to know the place – and perhaps Chase and Annie’s two, as well as David and Julia’s three.”
“What a great way to get them all in one place at one time – perhaps the U could initiate the invitation?” Bill considered.
“There’s another Montana connection,” I noted. “Dark Money says that sometime in the 90s, a Koch group, the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE), held special seminars for judges. Later, one or more of those judges were involved in decisions opposing the regulation of ground level ozone, subscribing to the argument that ozone is good for you!”
FREE still exists, based in Bozeman, and continues to offer expense-paid seminars about its philosophy, held primarily at resorts and private ranches in Montana, including its Gallatin Gateway ranch (www.free-eco.org ). FREE says (via Wikipedia) it is an American think-tank that promotes free-market environmentalism, emphasizing reliance on market mechanisms and private property rights, rather than on environmental regulation. One of its major funders is the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, largely controlled by Charles Koch, who dissolved the foundation in 2013, again according to Wikipedia.
Although Bill Koch is anti-Obama and was pro-Romney, he’s given money to Democrats in the distant past, including Hillary Clinton and Al Gore.
Regarding his brothers’ activities, he said to a Tampa Bay paper:
I think some of the things they are doing are great. I like that they’re fighting regulations. I like the fact that they are pointing out a lot of the weaknesses in the Democratic standard positions. I like the fact that they are … putting their money where their mouth is. And I like the fact that they are trying to be very clever, a bit Machiavellian.
He’s also said:
I’ve become much more libertarian in my old age … I’m obsessed – obsessed with winning.
Bill Koch and family live on that Palm Beach stretch of water and status that some call Billionaires’ Row – South Ocean Boulevard. He’s ranked in the top quarter or so on Forbes’ list of the world’s 400 richest people.
“His Palm Beach mansion may need to build a sea wall,” I said. “Remember that letter that Florida mayors sent to Rubio on the need for action on climate change? One of the many signors of those letters was Jeri Muoio, the mayor of West Palm Beach.”
“Maybe Bill and twin brother David can build their individual sea walls together?”
“Just how ‘salvageable’ might Bill Koch be?” Bill asked.
“Well, he has kids and perhaps soon grandkids to think about,” I responded. “He has a legacy in the Oxbridge Academy. The school even has students winning science project prizes for environmental work.”
“Isn’t that the Florida high school with a polo program and team?” Jay asked.
“What would you do without the New York Times?”
“I’d be bored.”
“And his current environmental perspective?” Bill asked.
“The motto or slogan on the oxbow.com site says: ‘Producing natural resources for the world – responsibly.’”
“I wonder what ‘responsibly’ means?” Jay pondered.
“There is a Sustainability page under the About Us tab,” I reported. “And a Safety-Community-Environment Venn diagram. There is really nothing else on the site about environment or climate concerns.”
“We’ll just have to work on his wife, all the kids, and the Oxbridge school – and maybe a gentle competition with Charles or David.”
“And perhaps that West Palm Beach mayor,” Jay added.
Frederick Koch is now 82 and is very private. He has many properties in Europe and the USA. He has a New York City Fifth Avenue ‘apartment’, near David although they seem to have little contact.
Frederick was always the outlier among his rough, competitive brothers. While the three younger brothers took after their John Wayne-like father, Frederick gravitated toward his mother’s artistic interests.
‘Fred sort of segregated himself from the family very early on,’ a family friend has said. ‘I think everyone was more comfortable with that.’ According to Bill, ‘Freddie wanted no part of the family and did his own thing.’ Frederick studied humanities at Harvard (BA 1955) and received an MFA from Yale School of Drama in 1961.
He was closest with his mother, Mary. They shared a love of fine art, music, and theater. He has collected musical scores, manuscripts, historical documents, and artistic materials, much of it purchased anonymously. His Frederick R. Koch Collection is now housed in Yale’s Beinecke Library. He is a scholar of the fine arts and a natural storyteller.
There seems to be no information on potential heirs or on his relationship with his nieces and nephews.
“We’ve learned a lot, but we don’t really have any strategy or access,” Bill surmised.
“And they’re quite old – I worry about feeding them 100 mg of MDMA, although I really don’t think it would hurt them. They seem fairly robust and healthy,” I said.
“Let’s not worry about Frederick,” Jay said. “It’s likely his assets will go to art-based groups.”
“There’s some opportunity via Bill, I think, connected in some way to the Oxbridge School.”
“What if we let the school know about Bill’s Centennial Valley history – and the U’s Taft Humanities Institute? Maybe Bill would spring for getting a group of students to the ranch and the U facility,” Bill suggested.
“And perhaps invite David and Julia,” Jay said. “Their sons – the juniors – David and Bill – seem to like each other.”
“I did find wife Bridgett sis on the Board of the Palm Beach Zoo. That’s at least a start.”
“The impact of climate change on animals?” Bill suggested.
“Regarding Charles, he did say once:
The biggest problems in society have occurred in those areas thought to be best controlled in common: the atmosphere, bodies of water, air …
“So he may be familiar with The Tragedy of the Commons problem,” Bill said.
“Yes, he even mentioned it in his Science of Success book. He quotes Garrett Hardin, ‘… in a world that is limited. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all’. His ‘solution’ is that the individuals using the commons need to bear ‘… the full costs of their actions…’”
“So what’s with his aversion to regulation – to government?” Bill asked.
“Charles told NPR recently:
… on environmental regulations, it is definitely a role of the government to set standards on emissions based on sound science…
And in the Preface to his new book he advocates
…allowing people the freedom to pursue their own interests, within beneficial rules of just conduct.
But he can’t seem to get his head around those ‘beneficial rules’ – or their enforcement.”
“He really sounds conflicted,” Jay added. “As an engineer, he understands resources are limited – that we live in a commons – and yet can’t overcome the seductive simplicity of totally private property and largely unregulated actions.”
“That’s his problem,” I agreed. “And given his now politically active billions, it’s a serious problem for the country and its politics. And yet there may be some hope. Maybe he’ll age his way into wisdom – out of his obvious philosophical conflicts.”
“Well, he’s also quoted as saying:
Universities are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas and encourage different thinking, not, ‘Oh, we don’t want any student to be uncomfortable’. … you want all the students to be uncomfortable because they are exposed to new and different ideas that challenge the way they are thinking to help them develop thinking skills….Let’s have a free and open debate. That’s what a free society is all about.
“Amen,” Bill said.
Daniel Fisher of Forbes recently interviewed Charles Koch in his Wichita office, to discuss Good Profit and his 2016 election perspectives:
A Picasso-esque painting of a figure in red hangs on one wall, the precocious work of his daughter Elizabeth, now a publisher in L.A., when she was 16. A portrait of Koch’s father, Fred, hangs on a wall to the right of his desk.
Fisher notes that Charles is now 80 and still very much in charge at Koch Industries. His son Chase, a graduate of Texas A&M, runs Koch’s agronomics division. His daughter Elizabeth, who graduated from Princeton, runs a new publishing company called Catapult.
In response to a question on the Warren Buffett pledge, Charles told Fisher that he has already done his estate planning, and his final assets will go to his foundations.
A full chapter in Sons of Wichita was titled Legacy, covering Charles’ two children, Chas and Elizabeth.
“That’s the most recent input we have on Charles’ views and perspectives. He’s far less specific and dogmatic than his earlier interviews and writings,” I said.
“Perhaps he’s beginning to understand his own limitations and that his earlier positions and perspectives may not be as clear and appropriate as they once were,” Bill said, seriously.
“I think so. Other parts of the interview suggest that Charles may indeed be starting to question them. That is the beginning of wisdom and of education,” I said, “knowing how little you know and understanding that the world is indeed very complex – not amenable to simple solutions and positions.”
“But given all he’s invested in those earlier, dogmatic and simplistic views and positions, how does he get out of it – how can he transform?” Jay asked.
“We have to help him escape the fear of changing his mind – the fear of contradicting his earlier self,” I suggested. “Maybe daughter Elizabeth can help him.”
“He did say in that Forbes interview, responding to a question about his kids, that Elizabeth
…is a much better writer than I am. She’s terrific. I’m really proud of both my kids. They have great values, they treat other people with dignity and respect and great work ethic.
“The homework I’ve done on Elizabeth turned up the quote ‘We’re very close but we’re all different…’. Another one from her 2007 writings is ‘My mother … just e-mailed me. She thinks we’re growing apart’. So it’s clear, I think, that the family is close and does interact.”
“So Elizabeth, who, apparently, has never bought in to Charles’ dogmatic Libertarian ideals and philosophy – may be our best intellectual access to Charles.”
“Perhaps,” Jay said, not very convinced.
Elizabeth R. Koch is the literary member of the Koch family. She’s 40, studied English at Princeton, and received an MFA in creative writing from Syracuse University, where she studied with author George Saunders. She recently launched Catapult, www.catapult.co , a new firm publishing paperback and e-books and providing services and outlets for writers.
She told a Wall Street Journal reporter in late 2015 that she hopes to create the same kind of safe, collaborative atmosphere that she found at Syracuse, where she finally became comfortable with the idea of being a writer. At Syracuse, she said, she and her classmates were encouraged ‘to show our most vulnerable selves. We were really encouraged to take risks.’
The Catapult team is Elizabeth Koch as CEO, Andy Hunter is publisher, and editor-in-chief is Pat Strachan. Catapult will offer fiction, narrative nonfiction and graphic novels.
Elizabeth grew up in Kansas, and wrote stories from the time she was young. After her Princeton studies she held a series of jobs, editing books, working at magazines and doing a brief stint in journalism. Growing up as Charles Koch’s daughter, she had instilled in her the need to be productive, to be busy, to be doing.
I was doing so many other things because I didn’t have the courage to write. It wasn’t until I got into Syracuse that I felt, okay, now I think I have permission. That’s part of what we want to do at Catapult—give people permission. Don’t quit… We’re here, we’re with you, we support you.
Elizabeth has noted that her earlier publishing experience involved a deep-seated belief that a well-told story can be a training ground for empathy, for expanding our minds and developing personally. Ms. Strachan said Catapult wants to have ‘…empathy for writers. That’s one of the most important things for an editor to have.’ And Elizabeth has said ‘I just want my writing to be judged on its own merit … That’s what every writer wants.’
George Saunders, Elizabeth’s Syracuse mentor, said.
She’s one of the most verbally gifted writers I’ve worked with, just wildly imaginative. Her work is kind of dark but personally, she is very optimistic and bright. The darkness is the willingness to acknowledge that things don’t go perfectly… Some people come in and light up the room and raise the bar and she was one of those.
She was also an executive producer on the Netflix original film Beasts of No Nation.
She wrote an 11-part travelogue in 2006-07, which is online, saying
Having money upsets and confuses me into feeling crappy and spoiled and quivering with self-loathing. … I expend a lot of energy pretending I don’t have it.
A Wall Street Journal article on Catapult compared its goals briefly to that of Graywolf Press and noted its recent best seller The Empathy Exams, 2014. Given that title, harmless did some homework on the book and read its first essay, also titled The Empathy Exams. It refers to a medical actor, presumably the author, Leslie Jamison, acting out disease or ailment symptoms for medical students to diagnose. The essay asks questions about our basic understanding of others: How can we feel another’s pain? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? She discusses Yeats and the Joni Mitchell song Slouching toward Bethlehem as well as Joan Didion.
“There’s more and more material coming out on empathy,” Jay said.
“And remember MDMA – the Movie?” Bill asked. “It may be released in late 2016.”
“harmless’ actions are just in time then,” I smiled.
“And we’ll soon be doing the Centennial Valley gig – for the Kochs, and perhaps Ernst, Gardner, Lee, and Inhofe. I’ve been planning for early September so the weather in southern Montana is still pleasant.” Bill said.
“There are so many patients who need treatment,” Jay said, without enthusiasm.
“It’s good to know we’re needed, even if we’re not wanted,” Bill offered.
“Yes, we – harmless – are definitely needed. But we can’t treat them all.” I said. “We need to successfully treat very key and important patients, demonstrating that they are indeed treatable. And then, hopefully, others will follow in our footsteps.”
“You mean we need to empower fellow activists to do their own revelation engineering work, correct?” Bill said.
“Exactly,” I said. “There are many approaches to revelation engineering. MDMA just happens to be the most efficient and effective approach for harmless.”
“And we’re showing, in this book and via our actions, that MDMA can be easily made and delivered – even though it’s now illegal,” Jay continued.
“Others will assume the responsibility and take the risk – just as we’re doing – just as Tim DeChristopher did,” Bill added.
“The clinical trials with MDMA are continuing and expanding. The efforts to re-legalize MDMA are increasing. MAPS, EmmaSofia, and likely others will eventually succeed, at least to some extent,” I said.
We then briefly discussed a recent Colorado Public Radio segment we had all listened to on a current FDA approved and MAPS – facilitated study of MDMA for PTSD victims. One of the physicians involved, said in response to a question,
…MDMA should be approved [for physician prescription] within five years.
“We need to carefully focus. We need to demonstrate that moral enhancement, empathy enhancement – revelation enhancement – is possible and really works. And we need to do demonstrate that with some very high profile patients,” I surmised.
“Like the Koch Brothers,” Bill said.
“Like the Koch brothers,” I agreed.
“But there are three more I’d like us to get to and treat – not normally considered plutocrats or ultra-greedy CEOs,” I said. “But they’re just as significant and influential – and perhaps even more evil than the Kochs.”
“Yes?” Jay asked.
“Wayne LaPierre, Grover Norquist, and Thomas Donohue. First – LaPierre and his National Rifle Association – the NRA.”
Wayne LaPierre is now about 65, has served as Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association since about 1991; he has been with the NRA since 1965 – his first 20 years as a lobbyist. He is the NRA’s major public face and voice. Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times says, ‘He is the NRA – he’s built the NRA.’ She told Frontline
The membership wanted a tough guy … somebody that drew a red line, who didn’t compromise, who didn’t cave.
LaPierre grew up in a home without guns only to embrace the right to own many with near-religious fervor. He apparently has no kids and never served in the military. He is now married to Susan, who helps raise money for the association and is a co-chairwoman of its women’s leadership forum, which sponsors an annual luncheon that has featured prominent political spouses including Callista Gingrich and Ann Romney.
‘He’s a student of it – lives, eats and breathes politics,’ says friend and former chief NRA lobbyist James Jay Baker. Grover Norquist has said, ‘He’s a guy who will never fold.’ He devotes himself to the NRA, serving as spokesman but also top administrator. He spends his weekends traveling to NRA gatherings across the country, sometimes making multiple stops in a single weekend.
He works very hard, saying
You don’t have any time in this town. I mean you work from 7 in the morning until 11 at night, night after night, you end up working weekends . . . and your life goes by.
“Maybe he’s thinking of retiring,” Jay said. “He’s been very quiet after the recent shootings.”
“You mean in Oregon and San Bernardino?” Bill asked.
“Yes – and even after the Paris terrorist actions, he seemed to be relatively quiet,” Jay added.
“Since he basically works for the gun manufacturers, he doesn’t have to say anything. Their stock and sales keep going up – after every shooting,” I fumed.
LaPierre won’t say when or if he might leave the job. But when asked what a former NRA chief might do with his life, he smiled:
Probably [go] up to northern Maine, I’m serious, and open an ice cream shop.
The group Everytown for Gun Safety recently reported that the NRA is
…losing the American people. The NRA is getting desperate, so they’re tightening their stranglehold on Congress. Their membership revenue is plummeting — by some estimates, they lost an annual $47 million over just one year. They’ve had to raise their membership dues for the first time in more than twenty years. And they’re embarking on a fundraising campaign so aggressive that many members are ripping up their membership cards.
The National Rifle Association does not exist to offer sensible public policy or participate in conversations or pretend to be sensitive about tragedies. The NRA exists for gun manufacturers – and to help them sell guns and accessories. That is their job, summed up, in its entirety according to Jason Linkins in the December, 2012 Huffington Post. Gun manufacturers’ stock doubled in 2015.
The message of security, fear, paranoia – and ‘they’ll come for your guns’ – continues to resonate.
The NRA works closely with the far right, with libertarians, with the Tea Party, with ALEC, and with the industry. The various gun industry firms make major gifts to the NRA, have strong Board representation, and generally think of the NRA as their trade organization. In recent years it has built and maintained its flagging individual memberships by stoking fear and paranoia. The NRA and its industry is followed closely by Josh Sugarmann, the executive director of the Violence Policy Center.
‘LaPierre is not a gifted orator, skilled rhetorician or naturally talented performer’, writes Blannelberry at www.gunsamerica.com:
… far from it. His voice is shrill. His delivery is anything but smooth. He frequently makes mistakes … His body language is incredibly stilted, and even downright awkward. He is strangely intense.
Some LaPierre quotes:
What people all over the country fear today is being abandoned by their government. If a tornado hits, if a hurricane hits, if a riot occurs, that they’re going to be out there alone, and the only way they will protect themselves, in the cold, in the dark, when they are vulnerable, is with a firearm.
Our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters.
I ask you, do you trust this government to protect you?
We live in the most dangerous of times. America has been infiltrated by terrorists and Mexican drug criminals … lurking and plotting to murder us.
Americans are facing the reality that they’re on their own.
He did begin a recent speech with
We as Americans are wary, we’re despairing, we’re sad.
No new federal gun control legislation has been passed since 1994. The very minimalist executive orders Obama issued after the San Bernardino massacre are being opposed and challenged by the right and the Second Amendment crowd.
The NRA – and La Pierre – seem to thrive on criticism. Brian Anse Patrick in NRA and the Media, 2002,?? wrote
the more negative coverage … [it] has received, the larger its membership has grown.
The NRA and its membership express a fervor as strong as religious zealots. The leaders manipulate those passions to consolidate political power and keep the money flowing, according to Richard Feldman in Ricochet.
The NRA Board consists of 76 very gun-oriented, gun-supportive individuals who think of themselves as patriots protecting fundamental freedoms – especially the Second Amendment.
Board members are 86% men, 93% white, 33% current or former lawmakers and government officials.
To LaPierre, and the gun owners he represents, the real, overriding reason to own a gun isn’t protection from tyranny or some warped sense of civil duty, it is fear: terror at what’s perceived as an increasingly dangerous, fractured society; paranoia about coming natural disasters or apocalyptic events; and an obsession with criminals and drug gangs – you know: ‘bad guys.’
LaPierre, in his Year 2000 NRA meeting ‘Moms’ Speech’, ‘Well, it’s all a big, stinking, dangerous Al Gore lie. ABC, NBC, CBS, … are you reporting my words? Because I defy you to argue with the truth.’
Writer Lupica ?? is especially direct, saying LaPierre is
…a cheap, dangerous demagogue … fronting for the big gun companies…[he] isn’t a patriot, he’s a pimp.
LaPierre once told a cheering NRA crowd that ‘…the guys with the guns make the rules.’ Although – as far as the NRA is concerned – it is now the guys who make the guns who make the rules, via the NRA.
The NRA’s ‘number-one legislative priority’ in 2005 was a law blocking liability lawsuits that once threatened to expose the industry’s darkest business practices. The law was enacted.
The notorious ‘stand your ground’ law was the brainchild of former NRA president Marion
Hammer. It makes it legal for a person who is attacked in public to use lethal force as
a first resort. As we learned earlier, the first such measure was passed in 2005 in Florida – championed by an ambitious state legislator named Marco Rubio and signed by Governor Jeb Bush.
The National Rifle Association partners with ALEC to steer similar laws through other state legislatures. Since 2005, the NRA, through ALEC, has taken stand-your-ground nationwide, helping to pass laws in 24 other states. At least 10 of those laws are all but identical to the language of the Florida legislation.
In Florida, Trayvon Martin’s home state, ‘justifiable homicides’ tripled between 2005 and 2011. A new study from Texas A&M found that by ‘lowering the expected costs associated with using lethal force,’ these stand-your-ground laws have driven an eight percent increase in murders and manslaughters.
“Did you hear about the new studies using plagiarism-detection software to analyze legislative bills?” I asked.
“Not really – but we’ve heard of situations where candidates and even elected officials have been induced to resign due to charges of plagiarism,” Bill said.
“New Scientist just reported studies looking specifically at legislation, to determine the origin of the bills – often coming from activist and special interest groups.”
“Like ALEC,” Jay smiled.
“Especially ALEC. And now there’s also a real time fact checking program, called ClaimBuster.”
“Cool. These sound like good tools to help identify and communicate just how common and pervasive ALEC is in state legislatures and local government.”
“They just had their annual meeting – the States and Nation Policy Summit,” Bill said. “Scott Walker and Ted Cruz were among the keynote speakers.”
“ALEC now includes something called the American City and County Exchange – the ACCE.”
“So they now are peddling their libertarian wares to the very local political level,” I said.
“It just keeps getting worse,” Bill said.
NRA’s corporate patrons include about two dozen firearms manufacturers, half of which are makers of assault weapons, according to a 2011 analysis by the Violence Policy Center. Gifts also flow from dozens of firms that profit from high-capacity magazines, including Browning and Remington. Donors from the industry and other corporations – including Xe, the new name of the mercenary group Blackwater – have funneled up to $52 million to the NRA in recent years.
NRA’s active lobbying division is the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA). The NRA backed Bush to the hilt in the 2000 race. ‘The gun issue cost Al Gore the White House,’ says Feldman. ‘Absent the gun issue, he would have won Tennessee, Arkansas and West Virginia.’ The Bush administration rewarded the NRA by appointing John Ashcroft as Attorney General.
In 2012 the NRA was the eighth-largest dark-money group in the country. In the 2012 election cycle, it spent more than $24 million in both regulated and dark money.
Richard Feldman worked as a lobbyist for the NRA, and now says:
They have really gone after the gun industry. …[They are a] …cynical, mercenary political cult.
The NRA’s unbending opposition to any gun-control measures does not match the views of most gun owners or most of its members. ‘Their members are much more rational than the management of the NRA,’ Rolling Stone has reported: ‘They’re out of touch.’ Perhaps intentionally so.
And now LaPierre is railing against the United Nations and the international community. His most recent book is America Disarmed: Inside the U.N. and Obama’s Scheme to Destroy the Second Amendment. The one just before was called: Guns, Freedom & Terrorism. These are more recent versions of earlier books by him on the same subjects. The books, the speeches, the positions of LaPierre and the NRA are consistent with fear, paranoia, and libertarian-like attitudes – very similar to that of the Tea Party and those generally older, largely uneducated, and white men who feel their traditional world and values are disintegrating before their eyes. Rollert in an article on empathy, in The Atlantic, caught their mental state:
To be haunted —and how else to describe a life hemmed in by fear—is to be viscerally present, at every moment, to the darkest possibilities.
They exist in a sad, unpleasant, and – to them – dangerous world.
“And it’s all reinforced by their simple-minded right wing politicians and the right fear-baiting media,” Jay said.
“Diana and I like to watch an Italian mystery show, Don Matteo, about a Catholic priest who helps the local police solve killing mysteries. The other night the show dealt with gun trafficking. Father Matteo quoted a small child as saying
Father, Aren’t those that make and sell the guns guilty of murder – because they know the guns will be used for killing?”
“The wisdom of kids,” Bill said. “But Republican adults have no such wisdom. It was Jeb Bush who in 2003 told the NRA: ‘The sound of our guns is the sound of freedom!”
“It’s all about fear and paranoia,” Bill concurred.
“Let’s try to turn this around,” Jay said. “Where does the ‘stand your ground’ idea come from?”
“From defending your home, property, family,” Bill responded.
“Right. A man’s home is his castle. It’s been called the Castle Doctrine – and part of the background to the Supreme Court’s stand your ground decision.”
“Some call it the ‘Go on – make my day!’ law, uttered by trigger happy vigilantes,” Jay said. “But let’s say my home – my castle – is defined to be Planet Earth. If I catch you trashing and destroying it, can’t I stand my ground to protect it?”
“Wow, interesting. And since Stand Your Ground, thanks to the NRA and ALEC, is now legal in some 25 states, we should use the law to prevent Earth destruction in those states,” Bill said.
“It’s even more reasonable to use the castle doctrine laws – valid in some 45 states,” Jay added. “In any event we should be on firm legal ground to really get tough on planetary protection.”
“These laws don’t say we can drug the bad guys – we can only shoot or kill them. Drugging them is still illegal.”
“Unless the drug is lethal?” Jay asked, smiling.
“I don’t think any environmental activists have ever used a castle doctrine or stand your ground defense,” I said. “I’ll talk with Matt about it.”
The younger LaPierre said, on May 1, 1999:
We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools, period.
That was in response to the Columbine High School massacre.
The older, more experienced, hard-nosed LaPierre said in response to the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in December, 2012, some 13 years later:
The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
He then proposed having armed, NRA-trained vigilantes patrolling each of the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools.
But good guys can go bad. PeterR, an online blogger, wrote:
Good guys blinded with anger do bad things. Good guys blinded with anger who have guns at hand kill people.
As a young man, LaPierre was not particularly fond of guns. As a newly minted political science graduate, he found an outlet for his interests in politics and political strategies. He found a calling, an opportunity. And now he seems to have morphed or evolved from an opportunist, to an ideologue, to an individual thriving on the fuel of brute power.
“LaPierre is now older, perhaps a bit tired, and may be moving towards more adult, mature, and reasonable perspectives. Perhaps it’s time for that ice cream shop in Maine he mentioned,” I said.
“So you’re thinking he might be responsive to a harmless treatment?” Jay asked.
“Yes. As some people get older, they get more conservative, fearful, even paranoid. But others – even ideologues – go in the other direction. They can mellow and even get wiser. They can think about the future, the younger generations, their grandkids.”
“Boy, you still are naive!” Bill said. “And so optimistic.”
“But LaPierre doesn’t even have kids, or grandkids,” Jay added.
“He’s married now; perhaps he has nephews, nieces; perhaps he’s mellowing. Maybe he’s fond of chocolate. It’s worth a try.”
His wife, Susan, may not be much help. She’s been called a ‘trophy’ wife, likes expensive dresses, and doesn’t seem to have her own calling or direction. According to Feldman in Ricochet:
… Wayne LaPierre and his wife, Susan, holding court at one end of the white-draped refreshment table. Although the room was small, the lighting was subdued and I couldn’t tell from the doorway whether Susan was wearing one of her designer dresses that had increasingly become her trademark. Her haute couture had caused a stifled groundswell of discontent among the traditional conservative higher-ups in the official family. It was one thing to make a killing in a nonprofit, membership-funded organization. But it was another thing altogether to flaunt it.
“There are some on line photos showing the LaPierres with Larry King at some cardiac foundation event,” Jay said. “Perhaps we could get Susan to deliver chocolates to the NRA’s Women’s Forum – or get some into their registration packets.”
“Why doesn’t Ananda offer them as a promo to gun manufacturers displaying at the meeting?” Bill added. “If not to all registrants, perhaps just the Board members.”
“Perhaps if we approached Susan,” I said. “Don’t trophy wives like chocolate?”
“They all do,” Jay said.
Grover Norquist is founder, president, and the face of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).
According to its site, ATR works to limit the size and cost of government and opposes higher taxes at the federal, state, and local levels and supports tax reform that moves towards taxing consumed income one time at one rate. ATR organizes the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which asks all candidates for federal and state office to commit themselves in writing to the American people to oppose all tax increases.
Arianna Huffington calls Norquist ‘The dark wizard of the Right’s anti-tax cult.’
Americans for Tax Reform is a wonderful-sounding name.… As far as I’m concerned, it’s a front organization for Grover Norquist’s lobbying activities,’
said former New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman.
Lee Fang in The Nation wrote that Norquist has a long history of helping his corporate donors lobby for tax subsidies and other gifts.
Charlie Cook of Sixty Minutes has called him
…the single most influential conservative in Washington or, for that matter, the United States.
One aspect of Norquist’s pledge is the promise not to raise rates. The second – and less well known part – is a commitment to sustain all existing corporate tax subsidies or credits.
Although rigorous Libertarians like Charles Koch often argue against any and all government subsidies, Norquist argues to maintain all such tax subsidies now in place. And firms receiving major subsidies often donate to ATR to empower Norquist to keep lobbying on their behalf. As an example, Fang reported that from 2008 to 2011 the American Petroleum Institute gave $525,000 to Americans for Tax Reform.
Norquist is not above equating tax collection with a street mugging, or suggesting that arguments for higher taxes on rich people echo the ones Nazis used to justify their targeting of Jews. ‘Bipartisanship is another name for date rape,’ he once told a reporter. He likes to say he wants to shrink the size of government in half over the next 25 years ‘…to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.’
ATR has received major funding from the Center to Protect Patient Rights, which is itself primarily Koch Brothers funded, with some help from Stephen Schwarzman. Another major funder of ATR is Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove group, which is in turn heavily funded by Paul Singer, a vulture hedge fund player. Singer is worth about $2B and is worried that civilization may end via an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event.
“Civilization won’t end,” Jay said. “But much of our wireless and computer electronic infrastructure might fry and crash.”
“Books will survive,” Bill said. “And music, and plays.”
“And most of us – and the living world – would likely survive.”
Norquist’s lobbying career has now spanned many decades. He, via ATF, helped provide money laundering services for Jack Abramoff’s clients, yet Norquist emerged from the Abramoff scandal largely untainted. There’s a lot on Norquist in the first third of Abramoff’s book Capitol Punishment (2011). Norquist and Abramoff apparently influenced and helped each other in their early careers.
Norquist’s written several books. His newest is End the IRS before it Ends Us, out in early 2015. Earlier ones are: Leave us Alone: Getting the Government’s Hands Off …in 2009; and, with John Lott, Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs …, 2012; a recent mini-book is called A U-Turn on the Road to Serfdom. In it is his 2013 Hayek lecture on reducing the size of the state. The lecture is on-line at: http://www.iea.org.uk/multimedia/video/annual-iea-hayek-memorial-lecture-grover-norquist-speaks-on-tax-policy
Norquist is an entertaining speaker and make a good case for ‘leave us alone’ – for freedom and liberty, but then constantly stumbles over himself when discussing public needs and services.
It’s interesting that the Hayek lecture the year before, in 2012, was given by Elinor Ostrom on the Future of the Commons. Ostrom is a Nobel prize economist who worked on sustainable economics. Norquist – as well as the Koch Brothers – would have benefited from hearing her lecture.
There are several books about Norquist. And, of course, he’s had his moments with Jon Stewart.
Donald Trump and Jeb! Bush have not signed (as of 9-1-2015) Norquist’s No New Taxes pledge. Trump is now discussing raising taxes. Grover, where are you?!
So who is Grover Norquist, beyond being a pre-puberty political prodigy?
‘Politics is what I do,’ he said in an interview.
I read murder mysteries. I exercise 40 minutes a day. I watch videotapes while I exercise. I listen to audiotapes when I am in my car.
Politics hit him like puberty, and he has never looked back. He had the no tax pledge idea when he was 12 years old and working for the Nixon campaign.
“But he did get through puberty without reading Atlas Shrugged, I understand,” Bill said.
“After folks suggested his ideas were Ayn Rand – like, he asked ‘Who’s Ayn Rand?’ – he’s now read Atlas Shrugged, and seen the film, stating he thought it was ‘excellent’”.
“So did Sean Hannity,” Jay smiled.
Michael Scherer wrote, back in 2004:
By the age of 12, he already knew that government was bad, that the Soviet Union must be eliminated, that public monopolies were worse than the private sector, that social freedom was more important than social fairness. He isn’t about to change his mind now.
“That all sounds like Ayn Rand to me,” Jay said.
“Did you know Ayn Rand thought of herself as a right-wing John Steinbeck?”
“I doubt that Steinbeck would tolerate any comparison to Rand,” Jay said.
“Norquist called Paul Ryan a ‘brilliant choice’ for Romney’s Vice-President in 2012,” I added.
“I expect that Norquist would have endorsed any Ayn Rand – loving politician,” Jay said.
One classic Norquist quote is
My ideal citizen is the self-employed, homeschooling, IRA-owning guy with a concealed-carry permit. Because that person doesn’t need the goddamn government for anything.
“Sure, until he’s stricken by cancer, shot by a stand-your-ground vigilante nut, hit by a big earthquake, or caught in an unpredicted flash flood,” Bill said.
“I just quickly read his recent, current book on End the IRS … – the subtitle says it all: How to Restore a Low-Tax, High-Growth, Wealthy America (in red, white, and blue colors, of course!).”
“Anything about environment or pollution?” Bill asked, cynically.
“How’d you guess? No such words in the Index. But climate change appears on pp. 291-2: a rant against Al Gore and environmental-climate concerns that reads like it was written at least a decade ago. He’s learned nothing in the ensuing ten or so years.”
“What did you expect? He’s a Libertarian ideologue,” Jay said.
“But I’ve learned he apparently has a sense of humor. He volunteers as a stand up comedian – and is reportedly quite good.”
Norquist has competed three times in the comedy fundraiser Washington’s Funniest Celebrity and placed second in 2009. Baratunde Thurston, a comedy writer and performer, who has observed Norquist on stage, has said:
The culture we’re in wants to vilify people who disagree with you. I wanted Grover to be a pure devil, a heartless, rapacious capitalist. But there’s a heart that beats in there. And it’s disappointingly humorous.
“So he may really have a heart – and a personality?” Jay asked.
“Perhaps – and he’s still young. And he’s willing to consider a carbon tax, if…” I said.
“If it means lower taxes elsewhere – or perhaps the Citizens’ Climate Lobby revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend plan.”
“So he may not be as ultra-rigid and dogmatic as we normally believe?” Bill asked.
Norquist describes himself as a ‘…boring white bread Methodist.’ He has long been active in building bridges between various ethnic and religious minorities and the free-market community. He has close professional and personal ties to Islamic political activism. He co-founded the Islamic Free Market Institute. He has said
George W. Bush was elected president of the United States of America because of the Muslim vote, because more than 46,000 Muslims in Florida voted Republican in 2000.
He married Samah Alrayyes in 2004 in a Methodist ceremony. They adopted a Palestinian child in 2008, and a second one more recently. Their two girls are named Grace and Giselle. And he and Samah attended Burning Man in August 2014 in Black Rock, Nevada. When asked why, he explained that he attended because,
There’s no government that organizes this. That’s what happens when nobody tells you what to do. You just figure it out. So Burning Man is a refutation of the argument that the state has a place in nature.
Samah was formerly a director of the Islamic Free Market Institute and specialist at the Bureau of Legislative and Public Affairs at the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Samah was born in Kuwait to Palestinian Arab parents.
From an online bio:
She is the Public Affairs Specialist for Arab and Muslim outreach at the Bureau of Legislative and Public affairs at USAID
Norquist’s sister Lorraine is married to Majed Tomeh, founder of the Islamic Institute. In 2010, Norquist emerged as an outspoken Republican foe of politicizing the mosque-in-Manhattan issue, calling it a ‘distraction’.
Norquist is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. For a while he was apparently on leave from his Board position in the NRA, but seems to be back on now. According to friend and former roommate John Fund, Norquist’s devotion to his political causes is ‘monk-like’. His profession, as noted on his marriage certificate, is ‘economist’. His politics appear to fit under the banner of Libertarian rather that right wing, evangelical, or tea party.
Norquist does not fit the caricature of the right-wing nut the media and Democrats have made him out to be. He serves on the advisory board of GoProud, a political organization representing gay conservatives. He stands up to those who portray all Muslims as terrorists.
Every year during the Islamic month of Ramadan, Norquist co-hosts Iftar, when Muslims break their fast; it is an inter-denominational event held in the DC area.
“He is definitely an interesting fellow,” I surmised. “And he’s getting older, if not wiser. The Dedication to his new IRS book reads:
And to my wife, Samah, who in addition to everything gave me two powerful reasons to fight to restore and expand our freedoms: our daughters, Grace and Giselle.
“Isn’t that sweet,” Jay grimaced. “He wants to expand their freedoms to breathe crappy air, drink polluted water, and endure climate chaos.”
“But probably in a gated, controlled country community or building – maybe at a Koch ranch or a Manhattan luxury pad,” Bill suggested.
“Well, guys,” I shrugged, “Perhaps now having a wife and two girls, he may be in the mood to think more about the future of the country and the planet. Let’s let Ananda get to him – and see what happens.”
“Don’t be too disappointed if our magic potion doesn’t have much of an effect,” Jay cautioned, “although LaPierre may be an even worse bet.”
Thomas J Donohue is the President and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce. He has a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and a master’s degree in business administration from Adelphi University. The Chamber supports pro-business causes. Donohue has been its president since 1997. He rapidly grew its Board to more than 100 seats. His 2013 paycheck was reported as $5.5 million. He has been criticized for big, lavish parties to do the Chamber’s business. He was born in 1938 and is now 78 years old. Donohue’s wife is Liz Donohue. They have three sons and five grandchildren.
“Just right for a near end of life revelation,” Jay said.
“His actions in encouraging cigarette sales world-wide decrease the longevity for his many victims,” Bill added.
“It really is criminal what he and the US Chamber does,” I said. “They shouldn’t be called the ‘US Chamber’ because it makes it seem like the USA is endorsing world-wide cigarette sales.”
“The US government has always been about supporting and expanding US industry,” Jay said “Howard Zinn made that crystal clear in his People’s History of the US book.”
Mother Jones’ recent Marlboro Country piece shows an Indonesian five-year-old smoking. Indonesia is apparently a playground for large tobacco countries. More than seventy percent of men there smoke, and more than 40 percent of the 13- to 15-year age boys – Indonesia’s ‘Marlboro boys’.
Donohue has been called ‘…a bodacious, hard-charging, in-your-face kind of guy…’ He threatens, cajoles, badgers — whatever it takes to get what he wants… The Wall Street Journal says Donohue’s
… most striking innovation has been to offer individual companies and industries the chance to use the chamber as a means of anonymously pursuing their own political ends. …Major corporations donate funds to the Chamber, earmarked for particular political topics, and the Chamber spends them under its own name.
Like LaPierre, Donohue took a fairly weak and small organization and built it into a major political powerhouse. His Chamber web site bio:
Under Donohue’s leadership, the Chamber has emerged as a major political force in races for the Senate and the House of Representatives. As part of this bipartisan effort, millions of grassroots business advocates, as well as the Chamber’s federation of state and local chambers and industry associations, mobilize in support of pro-business candidates.
A key person with the Chamber is Karen Harbert, president and CEO of its Institute for 21st Century Energy. She, her Institute, and the Chamber are strongly anti-Obama’s and anti-EPA’s efforts in behalf of clean air improvement and fossil fuel regulation. In addition to tobacco ‘freedom’, the Chamber is filing a lawsuit challenging the latest EPA ozone standard.
“Hey, if nicotine is ok for you, what could be the problem with ozone?” Bill laughed. “Maybe they cancel each other out!”
“No, they are synergistic,” I said. “One causes lung cancer, the other aggravates allergy and COPD.”
“Their 2015 Agenda was Jobs, Growth, and Opportunity,” Bill said.
“Doesn’t that sound like the Ryan, Rubio, and Cruz political books?” Jay asked.
“It’s the standard GOP mantra – based on 18th and 19th century assumptions and mentalities.”
“Coal emissions, ozone, and nicotine – a very healthy mix – for very dirty industries,” Bill added.
A Washington Monthly story in 2010 noted that Donohue
…has a well developed talent for self promotion. He makes a point of being the last person on any stage… He travels in a chauffeured Lincoln and a leased jet, and his salary … makes him the sixth highest paid lobbyist in the country….
The Chamber’s revenues in 2010 were over $200 million, making it one of the best funded lobbying and political interest groups in the country. He says ‘…you can never have enough money.’
….a large part of what the Chamber sells is political cover. For multibillion dollar insurers, drug makers, and medical device manufacturers who are too smart and image conscious to make public attacks of their own, the Chamber of Commerce is a friend who will do the dirty work
The Chamber was profiled recently via Peter Hanby of CNN. As a nonprofit trade association, it can raise unlimited funds but is not required to disclose its donors, opening the door for corporate
spending on behalf of candidates in political races. It is known mainly for its heavyweight policy and lobbying practices, spending $74 million on lobbying in 2013, according to the Center For Responsive Politics. The Chamber works with the GOP establishment to ‘extinguish’ tea party ideologues wherever they threaten business backed candidates.
Michael Podhorzer, the political director of the AFL-CIO, said
Their efforts, like the Koch brothers, are distorting the political process gravely. They are out to undermine all of their political opponents and unions are at the top of that list.
The Kochs organized Freedom Partners as a 501(c)6 organization, following the Chamber’s model for political lobbying.
Some of the Chamber’s chapters have distanced themselves from Donohue’s office, out of fear of offending their elected officials or and over disagreements on policy matters like climate change.
“I noticed on the Chamber’s site that Salt Lake City’s Chamber President, Lane Beattie, is on the US Chamber’s Board,” I reported.
“So maybe Lane can get one of us an invite to the Chamber’s big annual Christmas Party,” Bill said.
“Well, I did contact their Byron Russell and, I think, Wesley Smith when I was trying to make the local Chamber aware of The Leonardo. I’ll call them.”
“Good luck. What they do, working to export lung cancer around the world – and targeting youth – is not only criminal – it is evil,” Jay added.
A New York Times 2015 report covered the partnership between big tobacco and the US Chamber – and its affiliates (called AmCham). There seems to be a revolving door between Chamber staff and big tobacco staff.
Diplomats at more than 40 American embassies serve as honorary board members or in other capacities at the chamber’s foreign affiliates, blurring the lines between the organization’s policy and American policy.
The Chamber has worked systematically in countries around the world to fight measures to reduce tobacco use and even works to influence international trade agreements to benefit tobacco companies. The US Chamber’s involvement leads to the perception that the full force of the U.S. business community is behind these efforts.
According to online DC party information, DC staffers like to attend parties by Google, Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The US Chamber’s main office and headquarters is in DC at 1615 H Street, NW.
“There’s a good chance that both Norquist and LaPierre will be at Donohue’s party,” Jay said.
“Time for a revelation or two,” Jay suggested.
“Time for a DC holiday party gig,” I replied.