ABC Hits 'Billionaire Boosters' of Tea Party, Uses Liberal Film to Slam Conservatives

ABC's Brian Ross on Friday investigated the alleged misdeeds of "billionaire boosters" to the Tea Party and even used a liberal documentary to attack the conservative group. Appearing on "Good Morning America," Ross touted a Bloomberg report hitting the "secret sins" of Koch Industries and whether the corporation traded with Iran.

An ABC graphic linked, "Billionaire Boosters of the Tea Party: Donors' Company Under Fire." Ross used a clip of businessman David Koch and simply added, "...A documentary filmmaker was rolling [sic], as David Koch appeared before Tea Party leaders and spoke of American values." There was no information that "(Astro)Turf Wars" is a liberal documentary trashing the Tea Party, in addition to David and Charles Koch. See video below. MP3 audio here.

The film's trailer offers an attack very similar to the ABC correspondent's take. The documentary was screened at the progressive Center for American Progress.

The CAP site touted:

But are these grassroots actions in fact examples of 'astroturfing'?—The practice of manufacturing citizens groups for the purpose of delivering corporate messages. Curious to find out, Australian filmmaker Taki Oldham went undercover to investigate. What he found was astroturfing on a scale greater than he could have imagined, threatening not only the heath of American democracy, but that of its citizens and the planet as a whole.

ABC only offered a text graphic with the film's title, but nothing about its left-wing ideology.

Ross described a new report by Bloomberg Markets claiming that a Koch subsidiary allegedly traded with Iran and that another one in France paid bribes.

But, it wasn't until the very end of the segment that Ross allowed, "But the fact...[that these events] took place with this company is not likely to sit that well with Koch's conservative friends in Congress and in the Tea Party."

Other international companies, such as General Electric (which owns NBC), have faced similar allegations. As the Washington Post explained in 2008:

GE has long had a corporate presence in Iran, which U.S. officials say is providing weapons and training for Shiite militias in the Iraq conflict. Under growing criticism from the public and its own shareholders, GE announced in 2005 that it would accept no new business in Iran and would wind down existing contracts, which mostly involved sales of oil, gas and energy and health-care equipment.

However, ABC hasn't seen fit to offer an ABC investigation into that company.

Finally, ABC didn't make much of an effort to get the Koch side of the story. (The network did hide outside David Koch's apartment for an ambush.)

In the Washington Post, Koch lawyer Mark Holden responded to the charges.

A transcript of the October 7 segment, which aired at 7:13am EDT, follows:


ABC GRAPHIC: Billionaire Boosters of the Tea Party: Donors' Company Under Fire

ROBIN ROBERTS: We're going to turn now to an investigation of the secretive billionaire brothers who are a huge financial force in the conservative movement here in the U.S. Contributing over $100 million by some estimates. Now, their company attracting some unwanted attention for questionable activity. ABC's Brian Ross has definitely been looking into this. Good morning, Brian.

BRIAN ROSS: Well, good morning, Robin. The billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, the men said to be behind the scenes at the Tea Party, are masters at trying to keep secrets both their political and business dealings. But, now the covers have at least been partially pulled back on their privately held oil company, Koch Industries, what reporters for Bloomberg Markets call its secret sins. Other than a night out on New York's cultural scene, the Kochs rarely appear or speak in public. But on this occasion [Graphic: Courtesy: (Astro)Turf Wars], a documentary filmmaker was rolling, as David Koch appeared before Tea Party leaders and spoke of American values.

DAVID KOCH: The American dream of free enterprise, capitalism, is alive and well.

ROSS: But, now questions are being raised about the American values of the source of the Koch's wealth, Koch industries, a $100 billion a year oil and energy company, based in Wichita, Kansas. This week's edition of Bloomberg Markets reveals one Koch Industry subsidiary was trading with Iran and that another in France was paying bribes to get business in six different countries. In a previously undisclosed document, Koch industries even admits the payment are "violations of criminal law."

DAVID EVANS (Bloomberg Markets Reporter): It's a document right there in the court record, out of the lips of Koch industries.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Koch, ABC News. How do you respond to the allegations?

ROSS: David Koch declined to speak with ABC News when we caught up with him outside his Park Avenue apartment in New York City. The company says it fired those responsible for the bribes when it learned of them in 2008. But as a private company, it was able to keep all of that secret until this week's article.

PROF. JOHN COFFEE (Columbia Law School): There were enough of these payments that I think any prosecutor would want to look further.

ROSS: As for the trading with Iran, it involved key components for a huge state-owned petrol chemical plant from Koch subsidiaries in Germany and Italy, despite a U.S. ban on trade with Iran since 1995. One order was placed the day after President Bush told Congress Iran continued to be a threat to the U.S.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Pursues weapons of mass destruction and supports terror.

ROSS: Koch industries says the trade with Iran was legal because it was done through a foreign subsidiary and that no Americans were involved.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You're still dealing with a state that is considered by the State Department to be a sponsor of terrorism.

ROSS: Koch industries says it voluntarily stopped trading with Iran in 2006. But the new revelations that it went on, even through a subsidiary and that other modern international companies also traded with Iran- But the fact is that it took place with this company is not likely to sit that well with Koch's conservative friends in Congress and in the Tea Party, Robin.

ROBERTS: Thank you for your investigation there, Brian. Thank you. Have a good weekend.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org