Koch Protests Backfire

by Benjamin Domenech on 7:41 am February 9, 2011

By now you’ve all seen the footage of the protesters at the Common Cause event picketing the Koch brothers’ conference. It was a grab-bag of lefties and anti-free market groups, all bent on demonizing the Kochs, and organized by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and others.

At the morning panel event featuring UCI Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, activist Jim Hightower, Center for American Progress journalist and “Koch Brothers expert” Lee Fang, California Nurses Association co-president DeAnn McEwan, and President Obama’s former green jobs czar Van Jones, we were forewarned of the impending demise of both the environment and democracy at the hands of corporate lobbyists and their government shills.

Of course, as you’ve probably seen, these protesters engaged in some of the most violent rhetoric I’ve ever seen in the post-Bush years. The types of people who protest the other side even investing money in political efforts tend to be those completely blind to the investments of those on their own side of the aisle (Tim Gill, George Soros and other members of the “billionaire caucus” on the left have, in my view, even more impact than the Kochs, who are less focused on activism as a rule), and that tends to be the more extreme elements of the left. Talk of lynching Clarence Thomas and other threats of violence made the entire effort backfire, generating calls for sponsoring groups to denounce the comments.

[Note: Much of this anger probably stems from an incredibly flawed piece in The New Yorker last year by reporter Jane Mayer in a 12-page spread, which engaged in some serious mythmaking about the brothers and their funding role. I doubt many of these people had heard of the Kochs prior to that, since their role is more philanthropic than political.]

Needless to say, the public relations blowback is clear. I’m now told that there was an additional blowback effect inside the meeting and for development efforts since the events. According to those in the position to know, the response generated by the powerful video footage of these protesters and their violent rhetoric has resulted in a massive windfall of more donations pouring in, to an unprecedented degree — millions more than previous record fundraising periods.

Congratulations, Mr. Reich — you and your crazed friends just helped fund the right to an even greater level than before. Or was that not your goal?

Same disclosure I ran before: I’ve never been paid, trained, or taken funding from the Kochs. The Heartland Institute, my current employer, has never received funding from 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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