What's Really Behind Leftist Attacks on the Kochs?

by Benjamin Domenech on 2:07 pm August 25, 2010

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When I posted about The New Yorker hit-piece on the Koch brothers yesterday, I noted that it was odd to see leftists rush to attack the concept of ideological philanthropy given that 1) as the piece concedes, the Kochs have personally given millions to non-political causes, including $150 million to MIT and cancer research, and 2) that leftist funding is one giant octopus of connections to moneyed leftists like George Soros and Tim Gill.

Of course, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Al Gore all stepped up to criticize the Kochs as if this wasn’t the case. Lee Fang, employed by the Soros-bankrolled Center for American Progress, even tells Olbermann he’s writing a book on the Kochs. No conflict of interest there!

The fact is that the left is desperate for their own Soros of the right. The Scaife money is long gone, and Rupert Murdoch’s donations stay in the million dollar range, not the hundreds of millions. The vast majority of organizations on the right today run on donations from middle class America, not from top-down sources. The left needs someone like caricature of the Kochs they create to exist, just so that they can point to them as an example of the real money behind everything that’s happening. They desperately want to believe that someone, somewhere, used ill-gotten money to create the Tea Party movement out of thin air.

The problem, of course, is that none of this is true. The Kochs are very unique individuals — anti-communist libertarians, not establishment conservatives — who give to very specific projects, and are open and consistent about those projects. Where Soros is said to now run his funding through a shell game of other foundations and organizations (where donation A directly correlates with donation B) to keep his name out of it, recognizing how toxic his association is — witness the comments we got on my prior post from a Center for Public Integrity spokesman, trying to offset the Soros funding with less-hot button names on the left.

There’s another, deeper undercurrent as well — a social factor which longs for the top-hatted Republicans and the upstart Democrats, a formulation that hasn’t existed for more than a decade. As David Paul Kuhn noted a few weeks ago:

Affluent Americans are Barack Obama’s most secure class of support. They have stuck by this president at three to six times the rate of all other income groups since early 2009, based on a RealClearPolitics analysis.

It’s a familiar story that wealthy voters have moved toward Democrats in recent years. But the remarkable steadiness of Obama’s affluent support has continued with little notice. The national media has instead heavily covered Obama’s tepid flings with populism.

You would think Obama’s rich support was running to Republicans. It’s not. Wall Street money has recently come to favor Republicans. But in broad terms, the affluent Obama vote has barely cracked. Obama’s approval rating has plummeted by 24 percentage points among those with a household income that is less than $50k annually. He’s dropped 13 points within the $50k to $100k bloc over the same period. And he’s fallen 17 points within the $100k to $150k bloc.

What about those households with income exceeding $150k? Obama has merely declined 4 points, based upon Gallup polling from February-March 2009 (after Obama’s honeymoon ended) to June-July 2010.

Let’s face it, Democrats: you’re the party of the affluent now, whether you wanted to be or not, and trying to turn the Kochs into lightning rods won’t change that. It’s no fun to be The Man? Tough.

In the interests of full disclosure: I’ve never been paid, trained, or taken funding from the Kochs. The Heartland Institute, my current employer, has never received funding from either of the Koch brothers, and hasn’t received funding from any of the organizations or foundations in the extended Koch family in over a decade.

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