The Koch Brothers Pity Party

Need a quick boost to your blood pressure? If so, I strongly recommend that you read the Wall Street Journal op-ed today penned by former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who holds a bizarre pity party for his law clients the Brothers Koch.

Doing everything in his power, short of shaking his jowls and making double V-signs, to evoke memories of Richard Nixon and incongruously attach them to Barack Obama, Olson claims the president and his sinister henchmen have placed Charles and David Koch, innocent “private citizens,” at the top of an “enemies list” of people to be defamed, harassed and destroyed in the pursuit of he president’s re-election. He also compares the Kochs to the victims of McCarthyism in a passage that would have greatly amused the Kochs’ late father, a founder and mainstay of the John Birch Society.

How could this happen, Olson wonders, to these productive citizens, employers of many thousands, and generous philanthropists? Here’s the thing:

Their biggest offense, apparently, is that they also contribute generously to nonprofit organizations that promote personal liberty and free enterprise, and some of those organizations oppose policies advocated by the president.

I bow in admiration to the craftsmanship with which Olsen turns the Kochs’ vast, unprecedented empire of political agitprop, special-interest lobbying, and campaign skullduggery into a wonkish set of policy preferences.

This is a blog, not an encyclopedia, so I do not have remotely the space for a documented analysis of the scope, reach, power, and sheer viciousness of the Koch’s many political projects, but would refer you as a starting point to the 2010 New Yorker profile by Jane Meyer, and this illustrative quote:

Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said, “The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”

On issues ranging from climate change to health reform to tax policy to corporate regulation, in venues far and wide from Congress to state legislatures to Tea Party rallies to every foot of nearly every campaign trail, the Kochs have become an omnipresent force in right-wing politics, and a big factor in the polarization of the country. With the collapse of campaign finance rules, their ability to wield influence with little or no accountability is becoming almost unlimited. Even if you agree with them on every conceivable issue, the idea that they are cowering victims of the big-bad-bullies in the White House has to make you just burst out in derisive laughter. If I, God forbid, were a Koch Brother I’d fire Olson instantly for making me look so weak and feckless.

But that’s how they roll at the opinion pages of the WSJ. It’s just shameless.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.