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Koch family distances from Tea Parties; says dogmatism isn't working ("Kochtopus")

May 10 saw the appearance of the article "The Left’s Billion Dollar Tea Party Lie", an attempt by the billionaire Koch family to back away from the tea parties. The "Kochtopus" - those people and organizations funded by or linked to the Koch family - has been the main driving force behind organizing and promoting the tea parties. Without the help of FreedomWorks (a successor to a Koch-funded organization), Americans for Prosperity, Reason Magazine, and the rest, the tea partiers would still be standing on street corners in small groups waving signs at passing cars.

The only question is why exactly the Kochtopus would try to back away from supporting the tea partiers: are they trying to help the partiers from being tarred with the same brush as them, or (much more likely) do they now realize that they helped create a nearly-brainless, failed monster who's degrading debate and acting childish at public meetings?

In the article, Tim Mak of David Frum's site conducted a fawning interview with "Dr. Richard Fink, who has the unique position of being both a Vice-President for Koch Industries and the President of the Charles G. Koch Foundation" (frumforum.com/the-lefts-billion-dollar-tea-party-lie)

"We’ve been labeled tea party founders or funders – in fact, masterminds – but that’s not consistent with the facts... To my knowledge, we have not been approached for support by any of the newer ‘tea party’ or other grassroots groups that have sprung up around the country in the past year or so... I don’t consider Americans for Prosperity a Tea Party institution... [The group] has been active for nearly thirty years. While they participate in events with tea party groups, our support of them has included no funds specifically for tea party-related efforts."

Obviously, the last doesn't matter: any Koch funding of AFP's other activities can be used to free up money to be spent on the tea parties. And, AFP and the other members of the Kochtopus aren't about to engage in activities that might future funding to dry up. Then:

To press the point, Dr. Fink even had some mild criticism of the tea party movement. "Some of their worries are… more thoughtful, some of them are less thoughtful," he told FrumForum.

That's definitely one way to put it. However, by "thoughtful", he probably means "socially acceptable". No doubt the Kochtopus isn't worried about the teapartiers' fringe or even lunatic fiscal conservative/libertarian positions since other members of their group such as the Cato Institute or Reason Magazine have ideas along the same lines. What he might be thinking of are claims that Obama is a communist, or a secret Muslim, or concerns about his birthplace and eligibility. It might not be the first since redbaiting is a Koch classic technique going back to claims about Eisenhower. The last should be a valid topic of discussion but the establishment has worked very hard to smear anyone who even expresses doubts about the official story. Or, perhaps he's referring to some of the tea partiers supporting the new Arizona immigration law and the possibility that they might go beyond that despite the best efforts of their leaders.

Not only that, but Fink seems to realize that the fringe libertarian ideas the groups they fund come up with aren't helping:

"I think one of our big failings is that those of us coming from universities and think tanks are usually much better at theory than practice… Proposing solutions that aren’t realistic or implementable or haven’t been thought through fully can cause those proposals to do more harm than good... [but, then:] A dogmatic approach is very unproductive. But I’ve also seen, over the last thirty years, a lot of people taking compromise positions and incremental steps that actually take us down slippery slopes and end up creating results antithetical to what they were trying to achieve. We need a principled approach. We should not violate our principles. But we also have to be practical in our application..."

Thu, 06/17/2010 - 14:01 · Importance: 4