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Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch joined the Tea Party movement. They didn’t create it.
The kochtopus doesn’t dance at the Jefferson Memorial, or even act as eight-armed puppeteer controlling the dancers.
In a roundabout way, that’s the first clue which unravels the Left’s web of fabrications about the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, Charles and David, whose vast philanthropy happens to include efforts to promote — gasp! — the free market. According to the Left’s tall tales — eagerly promoted in leftist opinion journals such as the New York Times—conservatives and Tea Partiers are essentially incapable of acting on their own without nefarious manipulations from the brothers Koch (pronounced “Coke”). Indeed, all the rest of us conservatives are just so much phantasmagoria; the Left avers that in the benighted conservative universe, only Koch is the real thing.
The Kochs are, according to an oft-quoted line from the Left, “the billionaires behind the hate.” At the blog Crooks and Liars, a columnist wrote that the brothers are “an evil force in today’s politics, feeding evil men with evil ambitions, and they should be called evil every single chance we get.”
It’s balderdash, of course, as we shall see.
THE STORY probably starts with the accusations, from then Speaker Nancy Pelosi, among many other enlightened Kultursmoggists, that the Tea Parties from the very beginning were no more than “Astroturf by some of the wealthiest people in America.” (“Astroturf” in the political sense, of course, means political organizing designed to look like “grassroots” activity when it actually is mere fake populism laid down and financed from above.) It wasn’t long before the Left identified those “wealthiest people” as the Kochs.
Funny, but I had never thought that Astroturf was named J. P. Freire.
Here’s how the first Washington Tea Party started, as I well remember it. I was working at the Washington Examiner (I’m essentially just an adjunct at The American Spectator) and I started seeing private e-mails from Freire, then wrapping up his stint as the TAS managing editor. Clearly acting on his own, Freire himself organized the first D.C. Tea Party event on February 27, 2009, timed to siphon attendees from that week’s Conservative Political Action Conference. By phone at one point, Freire said that he had seen the now-famous Rick Santelli rant on CNBC on February 19, and he called a friend in Chicago and said, hey, we on the right too often just sit on our tails and grumble; we should go out on the streets and make a show.
Via Facebook, he saw that many other Santelli viewers were reacting the same way, but nobody seemed to be doing anything in Washington—obviously, the single most important location—so he did it himself.
I remember being mildly intrigued, thinking it might be a good idea—but also thinking, hey, this might just be J. P. having some fun, as J. P. is wont to do. In my mind, I wondered if it weren’t just another lark, sort of like when, on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday in 2008, a group of libertarians thought it would be cool to hang out at the Jefferson Memorial at midnight and some of them started dancing to their iPods—little knowing that the dancing would be considered civil disobedience and get some of them arrested. J. P. was there that night, I remember being told, not really dancing but still part of the merry crew.
The first Tea Party in D.C. seemed at the time to represent the same spirit as the Jefferson dancers, and it developed so organically, by word of mouth and digital equivalents, that I figured it wouldn’t be too big a deal. When the day dawned cold and wet, I punted on covering it; I stayed inside the Examiner offices and figured J.P.’s initiative would probably fizzle in the drizzle.
I read the tea leaves wrong. Freire’s event was a big success, as were others nationwide. Six weeks later on Tax Day, a host of even bigger Tea Parties made national news. But their genesis was no more dictated from above than was the flash mini-mob at the Jefferson Memorial the year before—and indeed, Freire wrote an uncharacteristically angry TAS blog post griping about the Left’s charges of Astroturfing. He wrote that he “got no such support. None. Nada. Zilch….At a time, however, when people are saying that those in favor of limited government are in shambles, these people are organizing. And they’re doing it themselves. There was no grand conspiracy underlying a bunch of people on Twitter going, ‘Hey, how do you hold a protest where I am?’ It was genuine. Some people were some-time activists but worked in the private sector. Others were conservatives with jobs at non-profits. Others were just people who wanted to be involved.”
Yet as the months went by, the Left repeatedly demonized these “shadowy” Kochs for all sorts of other occurrences that a) weren’t nefarious and, b) were genuinely populist activity. In truth, as the Tea Party movement grew, what was remarkable about all the chatter on the right was not how unified it was, but how fractured, with various groups fighting over who was the “real” Tea Party while organizing numerous spontaneous events that clearly caught better-known groups off guard. The left seized on perhaps the most visible of the latter, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), significantly funded by the Kochs. The conservative movement and the country at large should be grateful that AFP did wonderful work wherever it operated. But to say AFP was “directing” the organic Tea Party activism, or the town hall protests in the summer of 2009, was absurd. For instance, the one town meeting I attended featured enthusiastic but utterly unorganized citizens on the right, while the lefty noisemakers all were bused in, shabbily resplendent in their purple uniforms, following instructions like zombies on pogo sticks.
INDEED, there always has been something deathly soulless about the Left’s Alinskyite efforts to pick the Kochs as targets, freeze them, personalize the attacks, and polarize mainstream America against them. As we now know, it was all by design, almost certainly by the minions of the Democracy Alliance—an umbrella group of the Left’s super-rich heavily guided by George Soros, the Hungarian insider-trading felon, and by Herb and Marion Sandler, the subprime mortgage hucksters pilloried on Saturday Night Live for helping cause the 2008 financial crisis. As Politico, hardly a right-wing site, reported on March 28, “Back in Washington last month, representatives from Common Cause, Greenpeace, Public Citizen and Think Progress huddled with researchers from the Service Employees International Union at SEIU headquarters to figure out how to make the most of the sudden focus on the Kochs. And meeting participants have continued to trade research about the Kochs and strategize via a Koch-related email listserv and a rolling series of conference calls.”
This wasn’t a onetime confab, but part of what some accounts describe as a regular meeting aimed specifically at burning Koch. Indeed, attacks on the Kochs have been relentless, organized—and decidedly bizarre. Much of the work refuting them already has been done, especially in a massive piece by Matthew Continetti at the Weekly Standard and in a plethora of sharp-as-tacks blog posts by John Hinderaker at the Power Line website. The New York Times breathlessly reported, for instance, that the Kochs “and their employees” donated a whopping $2 million to political causes in the last election cycle, 92 percent of it to Republicans. Oh, the humanity of our compromised politics! But as Hinderaker noted, the Times neglected to provide the context that the $2 million puts the Kochs nowhere even near the top 20 of givers—a level which would require 12 times as much giving, or more than $25 million—nor that 15 of those top 20 gave overwhelmingly to Democrats and four of the other five gave about equally to both parties.
The Left peddled the fiction that the Kochs were somehow the driving force behind Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s tough line against state unions, supposedly because the Kochs wanted to buy dilapidated power plants from the state on the cheap—even though the Kochs aren’t in the power plant business, have never expressed an interest in those plants, and flat-out don’t want them.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
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It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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