God Bless Charles and David Koch — the billionaire brothers financing the “grassroots” Tea Party movement — for their love of America and pure democracy. Not only do they care enough to fund the tea partiers but they even host a bi-annual gathering of fat cats and a couple of Supreme Court Justices “to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it.” And what are those “threats?”
According to a a personalized letter signed by Charles Koch their priorities include battling “climate change alarmism and the move to socialized health care,” as well as “the regulatory assault on energy.” I’m sure the concerns of the Koch brothers have everything to do with their sincere desire to protect America’s free market principles and nothing to do with the fact that they run the largest privately-held oil company in the country (*wink*).
You might say: “Well, the Koch brothers are taxpayers and voters…they deserve to participate in the democratic process, don’t they?” Of course they do. As private citizens, they are free to spend their billions as they see fit and to express their political views. But, some of their guests, particularly Supreme Court justices, don’t have that same political freedom.
It turns out that past guests at these Koch-sponsored events include Supreme Court justices Antonin
Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
“This is certainly worth more reporting,” said Stephen Gillers, a professor of law at New York University. “It is intriguing because the Koch brothers are so politically active and identify with a point of view. I know I would be curious to know exactly what forums the Justices went to. Obviously they could not go to a strategy session about how to elect more Republicans. On the other hand if it was a forum on the meaning of the First Amendment and it didn’t involve strategy or fundraising a Justice could appear… It’s fascinating and it merits more reporting.”
The whole issue gets even murkier when you take into consideration the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, where the court overturned existing campaign finance laws — ruling that corporations could invest and spend unlimited funds on federal elections. The resulting effect this election cycle has been the emergence of outside groups tied to large corporations (with specific interests in how the election turns out) flooding Republican races with millions in donations.
It just so happens that one of these new shadow groups is Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group organized by…wait for it….David Koch! He has spent an estimated $5.5 million in key Congressional battleground states with advertisements that don’t address specific issues or candidates but simply criticize President Obama’s progressive policies, which happen to be pro-environment and mandated national health coverage.
Given the impact that the Citizens United case is having on Republican fund-raising efforts this election cycle, the well-known political point of view of the Koch brothers, and the politically partisan goals of their twice-a-year group therapy sessions, it is certainly worth investigating what Scalia and Thomas were doing at those past Koch events. In addition to Scalia and Thomas other past attendees to Koch events include Gov. Haley Barbour, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, and Representatives Mike Pence, Tom Price and Paul Ryan, just in case anyone still doubts their clear partisan tilt.