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January 06, 2014 10:44 AM Poor Little Rich Boys

By Ed Kilgore

If you read Matea Gold’s long piece at WaPo today about the vast, byzantine web of organizations—many just dummies or decoys or the purest kind of money launderers—set up by the Koch Brothers and their friends to exert massive influence on American politics behind multiple veils of secrecy, you may have been a bit underwhelmed by the Koch’s often-repeated rationale for all the skullduggery:

In a rare in-person interview with Forbes in late 2012, Charles Koch defended the need for venues that allow donors to give money without public disclosure, saying such groups provide protection from the kind of attacks his family and company have weathered.
“We get death threats, threats to blow up our facilities, kill our people. We get Anonymous and other groups trying to crash our IT systems,” he said, referring to the computer-hacking collective. “So long as we’re in a society like that, where the president attacks us and we get threats from people in Congress, and this is pushed out and becomes part of the culture — that we are evil, so we need to be destroyed, or killed — then why force people to disclose?”

Playing the victim has long been part of the Brothers’ shtick. Some readers may recall a stomach-churning Wall Street Journal op-ed by Ted Olson early in 2012 defending the Kochs (his clients) from the omnipotent, malevolent, Nixonian hostility of Barack Obama, before which they were apparently cowering in fear. This was in the midst of a presidential cycle in which the Brothers walked very, very tall, per Gold’s estimates:

Together, the 17 conservative groups that made up the [Koch political] network raised at least $407 million during the 2012 campaign, according to the analysis of tax returns by The Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics.

That was all self-defense spending, you see—just as Sheldon Adelson’s vast investments in American and Israeli politics are merely the feeble efforts of an honest entrepreneur to protect himself from persecution.

It would be funny if it weren’t so pathologically sincere. I suggest you read Gold’s piece in tandem with Molly Ball’s fascinating profile of Frank Luntz, who is apparently going through some sort of mid-life crisis because of Obama’s re-election:

Luntz dreams of drafting some of the rich CEOs he is friends with to come up with a plan for saving America from its elected officials. “The politicians have failed; now it’s up to the business community to stand up and be heard,” he tells me. “I want the business community to step up.” Having once thought elites needed to listen to regular people, he now wants the people to learn from their moneyed betters.
Luntz’s populism has turned on itself and become its opposite: fear and loathing of the masses. “I am grateful that Occupy Wall Street turned out to be a bunch of crazy, disgusting, rude, horrible people, because they were onto something,” he says. “Limbaugh made fun of me when I said that Occupy Wall Street scares me. Because he didn’t hear what I hear. He doesn’t see what I see.” The people are angry. They want more, not because we have not given them enough but because we have given them too much.

For the time being, Luntz appears focused on breaking into Hollywood, presumably to reform the people via popular culture:

If he could, Luntz would like to have a consulting role on The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama. “I know I’m not supposed to like it, but I love it,” he says. He feels a kinship with Jeff Daniels’ character, the gruff, guilt-ridden, ostensibly Republican antihero, who is uncomfortable with small talk and driven by a “mission to civilize.” “I love that phrase,” Luntz says. “That doesn’t happen in anything that we do.”
When he’s at home in Los Angeles, The Newsroom is the high point of Luntz’s week. He turns off his phone and gets a plate of spaghetti bolognese and a Coke Zero and sits in front of his 85-inch television, alone in his 14,000-square-foot palace. “That’s as good as it gets for me,” he says.

Yes, Frank’s another poor little rich boy, weeping in frustration at the obstinate refusal of the American people to recognize the natural aristocracy that seeks to guide them away from the evil demagogues who demand limits on their wealth and power. Luntz is a relative small-fry in the counter-revolutionary universe, but the Kochs’ whining sounds to me like the warning rattle of a coiled snake.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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