Taking on the Kochs | Arkansas Blog

Taking on the Kochs


Republicans scorn new Democratic efforts to let the world know who the Koch billionaires are. They say the Kochs aren't running, and the ads targeting them won't bring votes to Democratic candidates. The New York Times has a piece on the Democratic ads today: "To Hit Back at Kochs, Democrats Revive Tactic that Hurt Romney." 

By drawing public attention to layoffs by subsidiaries of Koch Industries across the country — a chemical plant in North Carolina, an oil refinery in Alaska, a lumber operation in Arkansas — Democrats are seeking to make villains of the reclusive billionaires, whose political organizations have spent more than $30 million on ads so far to help Republicans win control of the Senate.

The approach should seem familiar. President Obama and his allies ran against Mitt Romney in 2012 by painting a dark picture of Bain Capital, the firm Mr. Romney founded, as a company that cut jobs and prized the bottom line over the well-being of its employees.

The Times article mentions the Kochs' layoffs of hundreds at the Georgia Pacific mills they operate in Arkansas, as well as the Cape Fear chemical factor layoffs in North Carolina and their decision to quit operating a refinery in Fairbanks, Alaska, where the governor is suing the Kochs' Flint Hills Resources because of pollution. (The Kochs say it was polluted before they got there.)

If I ran the world, the ads would be about how the Kochs' billions are buying elections nationwide (including Arkansas, where many a Republican legislator smooches the boots of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity), and indeed, some do.  

I am halfway into Doris Kearns' Goodwin's "The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism," and am astonished at the parallels in the turn of 20th century America to today (one of Goodwin's reasons for writing the book). It's the story of how unregulated industry and trusts created a disparity between the rich and poor that we're seeing now, when the Kochs of that day — John D. Rockefeller et. al — owned the political system. Long-form and complex journalism had an audience then, however, and muckraking journalists like Ida Tarbell and her compatriots at McClure's revelations on corruption provoked a public response to rein in the abuses. Today we rely on 60-second TV spots to inform. The book is also about a great Republican president who stood up against the industry-run Republican Party machine to do the right thing for the country. None of those around anymore.

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