Conservative Funders Furious Over New Yorker Hit Piece

Conservative businessman David Koch told Elaine Lafferty of The Daily Beast that a recent hit piece in The New Yorker has him steaming. “It's hateful. It's ludicrous. And it's plain wrong.”

The object of his ire is a 9,963 word story in The New Yorker magazine, published last week which accuses David, his brother Charles, and Koch Industries of…well, just about everything: Secretly funding the Tea Party movement, secretly manipulating the Smithsonian, along with, not-so-secretly polluting the planet, stealing oil from Native American land, denying the existence of climate change, and promoting carcinogens — all in the self-interest of making further billions.

The title of Jane Mayer's story is "Covert Operations." That upsets Koch:

“If what I and my brother believe in, and advocate for, is secret, it's the worst covert operation in history,” Koch says, in reference to the New Yorker headline, adding that a lengthy letter to the magazine, rebutting nearly every allegation in the story is in the works...

The origins of “the Billionaire who Secretly Funds the Tea Party” narrative seems to be his connection to Americans for Prosperity, an organization he founded six years ago, whose message is indeed aligned with the Tea Party movement’s message of less tax and more-efficient government. But, he says, no one from the Tea Party movement has ever approached him for money, and when I ask him straight up if he’s funding the Tea Party, all he says is, “Oh, please.”

But despite being demonized by liberal magazines and the Obama White House, David Koch isn't uniformly conservative in his political donations:

While they have been politically active for more than 30 years, largely funding Republicans, they have never been identified with conservatives on hot-button issues such as gay marriage or abortion. He and his wife Julia have contributed $74,900 to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's Democratic campaign for governor, according to Ira Stoll at www.FutureofCapitalism.com. Politico.com reported that KochPac has contributed $196,000 to Democrats in the 2010 election cycle alone, including $30,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Lafferty noted that none these accusations -- "covertly supporting the Tea Party movement, polluting the planet, stealing oil and being a climate-change denier" -- bother him as much as the suggestion that his position as a member of the National Cancer Advisory Board, an arm of the National Cancer Institute, presents a “conflict of interest” because Koch Industries has lobbied against the classification of formaldehyde as a carcinogen. Koch has struggled with prostate cancer for 20 years.

A statement the Koch brothers put out included these paragraphs:

We provided the New Yorker with a tremendous amount of information in hopes it would enable the publication to produce a balanced and accurate portrayal of our company. Unfortunately, that information was largely omitted or ignored, resulting in inaccuracies and misstatements. A catalog of all these errors would take up more space than the article itself. For a more accurate review of the issues, please go to www.kochfacts.com...

Unfortunately, some of those who disagree with a market-based point of view continue to try to demonize the Kochs' 40 years of unwavering, well-known, lawful and principled commitment to economic freedom and market-based policy solutions. The Kochs have steadfastly supported the benefits of economic freedom, the importance of the rule of law, private property rights, the proper and limited role of government in society and warned against the perils of excessive government spending. We see escalating efforts to discount and mischaracterize important and authentic citizen efforts, as well as dismiss and degrade our support of education and human services programs.

The New Yorker article, and those pieces that have echoed it, rely heavily on innuendo and unsubstantiated assertions. Unnamed sources and those with a strong philosophical opposition to the Kochs - many of whom have no current or first-hand knowledge of Koch Industries, Charles Koch or David Koch - go unchallenged. Supporters of the Kochs are largely ignored (as evidenced by the fact that the reporter chose not to include the vast majority of supportive comments made by a number of people who know the Kochs and were interviewed for this article). On the other hand, those who support the reporter's preconceptions are given a free pass.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis