"The Kronies": slick libertarian propaganda linked to Koch, and who doesn't reveal that


"The Kronies" is a series of slick, live action videos that promote a libertarian message. The effort comes complete with not only its own site, but a fake site for the "company" behind the figures, a "Chimera Global Holdings Inc.".

What you aren't likely to hear from those promoting the effort is the link to the Koch family. The person behind the effort is John Papola of Emergent Order in Austin. According to a tweet from the Moving Picture Institute:

@theMPI Creative Council member @JohnPapola has a fantastic new project: THE KRONIES

It won't come as a big surprise that the MPI is linked to the Kochs: its co-founder Frayda Levin sites on the board of a top Koch group, Americans for Prosperity. She also co-founded AFP's New Jersey branch.

ADDED 6:30pm:

As promised, here's a list of those who didn't endeavor to find out who was behind the effort before promoting it. There was no attribution given on either of the sites, but a little detective work revealed who was involved [1].

But, first, a couple of questions that people might have:

Q. Why do you dislike the Kochs? Are you an Enemy of Liberty (as FreedomWorks might say)?

A. There are many reasons to oppose the Kochs, but one of the main reasons is their support for loose borders. This site opposes massive and illegal immigration and amnesty, and the Kochs are on the other side. They fund loose borders groups like Reason Magazine, and one of the Kochs even joined with George Soros to fund the pro-loose borders American Civil Liberties Union. See those links and the libertarians posts.

Q. Why is it important that someone would post the Kronies videos with revealing their source? Don't the videos stand on their own?

A. This post isn't making an argument against the videos (although one could certainly be made). This is a post about propaganda from shadowy sources, which is promoted with little or no cavils by people who have some pretense to be journalists (of one kind or another). If you're a consumer of the product of those listed below, then what else aren't they looking into? What else are they promoting in the same manner? Is that what you would consider some form of journalism, or just propaganda?

Now the list:

* The biggest offender has to be Noah Rothman of Mediaite. He offers "Amazing Populist Campaign Blasts Big Gov’t and Big Business via ’80s-Style Action Figures" ( peekURL.com/z7SLsCK ). This excerpt doesn't do it justice:

This may be the greatest populist political messaging campaign of all time... This is an extraordinarily compelling libertarian political message in an extremely clever package. Even if you disagree with the message, it’s hard not to acknowledge that this is brilliant vehicle.

There's a lot more: he embeds six Kronies videos, introducing each like a salesman. At time of writing, the post ends with the last sentence above, there's no note attached discussing who's behind it or even that Rothman spent any time trying to find out. And, of course, there's nothing populist about libertarian economic policies which are designed to make the very wealthy even wealthier. Write @NoahCRothman with your thoughts.

* Next up: AllahPundit of HotAir. He writes ( peekURL.com/zu7VfdP ):

...Anyone know who’s behind this? It’s very clever and unusually elaborate. Not only is there a “Kronies” website replete with individual videos for each character, when you click the “Chimera Global Holdings Inc.” link at the bottom of the page there, it takes you to a second, entirely different but equally clever and elaborate webpage goofing on cronyism. Someone put a lot of money and thought into this; the animation and music are of far higher quality than they need to be to make this joke. (Plus, action figures!) When I google for info, though, nothing turns up except people like me posting the clips and giggling over them. A domain lookup reveals nothing either... I assume, in light of the “Parts & Labor” character, that it’s not a lefty outfit that’s behind it.

It should have been glaringly obvious that a well-heeled libertarian outfit was involved. When you see a slick product pushing libertarian ideas, there's generally only one question: "Koch or Peterson?" At least he tried to look into who was behind it, but wouldn't it have been actual reporting if he'd spent more time on that? Like Rothman, there's no update posted. Write @AllahPundit with your thoughts.

* Next: Sean Medlock of Daily Caller (aka "Jim Treacher"). He writes in part ( peekURL.com/zWfxMsf ):

Somebody put a lot of time, effort, and money into this piece of sociopolitical satire. Is it too early to blame the Koch Brothers? Just kidding, it’s never too early to blame the Koch Brothers.

Which is better: him playing that for laughs, or if he'd actually done the work to find out who was behind it and the Koch involvement, and then reveal that from that start? Unlike the others, he has appended an update naming Emergent Order, but not revealing the Koch link. Write @JTLOL with your thoughts.

* Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute - a college professor at University of Michigan - offers "Video: Get konnected with the kronies action figures" ( peekURL.com/z3JqjxW ). This and a link to the site is the entirety of the post:

The Kronies are in action…Mandating, Tarrify-ing, Inflating, and Boondoggling their way to profits powered by their special konnection to the G-Force. Watch Big-G and his team stomp out competition!

There's no follow-up appended, and a comment I left pointing out who was behind the video has not been approved (1/26/14 UPDATE: it's since been approved). Write @Mark_J_Perry.

* Sean Davis of The Federalist puts about as much effort into it as Hot Air, saying ( peekURL.com/z78ruqj ):

Forget about GI Joe, He-Man, and the Transformers. This right here is the greatest cartoon and action figure series ever created. At long last, somebody has finally cartoonized K Street cronyism... ...While the site and the concept surrounding it are obviously a PR exercise (and a creative one at that), it’s unclear who is behind the effort...

There's no follow-up appended. Write @seanmdav.

* Caleb Brown of the CATO Institute (also linked to the Kochs) offers "Meet the Kronies!" ( peekURL.com/z2c6Hc2 ). His is like a smaller version of Rothman's post. There's no follow-up appended. In his very limited defense (of a sort), he uses the Kronies videos to pivot to promoting CATO's own videos. Write @cobrown.

* Megan Roberts of Students For Liberty (another group linked to the Kochs [2]) offers "Get Konnected with the Kronies Action Figures" ( peekURL.com/zvB5kev ). It preceded and is very oddly similar to Rothman's post: linking the Kronies videos and introducing each one. Perhaps that was how the press release or email was originally sent out by whoever promoted the videos. As with almost all the rest, there's no follow-up appended. Write @sfliberty.

1/25/14 UPDATE: Second verse, just like the first:

* Barney Keller of the Club for Growth wins the award for shortest post: just a video, the title "The Kronies", and no other content ( peekURL.com/zjYJwnf ). Write @barneykeller and @Club4Growth with your thoughts.

* Becket Adams of Glenn Beck's The Blaze offers "Viral Video Blasts Big Government and Crony Capitalism in a Very Hilarious Way" ( peekURL.com/zP5Kda7 ). He says "Oddly enough, no one seems to be claiming responsibility for the campaign" but, instead of bothering to do reporting and finding out, simply refers to the futile efforts of HotAir and The Federalist to find out. Write @BecketAdams.

* Robert Wenzel of the "Economic Policy Journal" offers "The Kronies Action Figures" ( peekURL.com/zfFtTgw ). His post consists of one of their videos, a "h/t", and one other word: "Awesome!" Write @WenzelEconomics.

* A contributor's post at GayPatriot is along the same lines as the last ( peekURL.com/zyhgCVR ). Write @VtheK and @GayPatriot.

* At the "Independent Journal Review", "Soopermexican" has a similar short post ( peekURL.com/z87jqYU ). Write @ijreviewbubba and @SooperMexican.

* The Skagit County (Washington) Republican Party has a post ( peekURL.com/zT5ueVL ) consisting of "For kids of all ages -- Action figures that are well connected. If you're in favor of bloated big government and corrupt big business, Kronies are for you" and a request for any comments. That quote sounds like an ad, and whether they wrote it or it was supplied for them isn't known. They also don't appear to be on Twitter.

Also: AEI still hasn't approved my comment; more on that later. (1/26/14 UPDATE: it's since been approved).

6/17/14 UPDATE: The Koch link to the Kronies has become a lot clearer. They've released a new video and on their site's Privacy Policy they provide a way to contact them. The name given is David Pasch (@DavidPasch) of Generation Opportunity (@GenOpp), and that same group is listed on the Kronies' Terms of Use page.

So, what's Generation Opportunity? This ( peekURL.com/zSK5ktv ):

As a 501(c)(4) organization, Generation Opportunity is not required to disclose its donors.[3] However, according to OpenSecrets, "[i]n the three years for which tax information is available, Generation Opportunity has raised almost 86 percent of its funds from just two Koch-linked nonprofits."[2]

According to its 2012 990 filing, Freedom Partners gave $5,040,000 to "TRGN LLC (GENERATION OPPORTUNITY."[4] The Freedom Partners investment was part of a larger $250 million dollar campaign by Freedom Partners to "shape policy and political debate nationwide," according to Politico.[5]

In its 2012 filing, the Koch-linked TC4 Trust also gave $2,130,000 to TRGN LLC.[6]

Generation Opportunity has been referred to by the New York Times as "a Koch-financed group focusing on young voters," and by Mother Jones as "a Koch-backed group targeting young voters."[7][8]

Self-described as a, "nonprofit, nonpartisan organization," Generation Opportunity espouses a right-leaning agenda and shares the aims of other notable organizations funded by the Koch Brothers.[9]

[1] I love a good mystery, so when I read the Hot Air post I looked in the source code for any sort of clue. Then, I looked at their RSS feed and from there looked at their first post. At the bottom of that there's an author block with only an avatar, no name. However, I was able to do a reverse image search and found the @JohnPapola Twitter page. A search for his name revealed the tweet at the start of this post. That wasn't exactly a difficult process.

[2] "$48,500 received from Koch foundations 2009-2011" ( peekURL.com/zws53TL )