Saturday, October 15, 2011

Billionaire Koch Brothers Aim to Change the Media

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By John Lake

There has been discussion at Blogcritics regarding corporations with venues and agenda, and with the financial strength to assure the support of various politicians; those politicians who generally feel no guilt in shaping their legislation to conform to the will of corporate America. We have mentioned the Heritage Corporation, the National Rifle Association; we have mentioned Rush Limbaugh, widely known for his ultra-conservative rants. Glenn Beck and many at Fox News have received attention. Now we have an opportunity to look into the clandestine meeting of a seminar, held at a Vail Colorado resort last June, attended by about 300 wealthy guests, hosted by the billionaire brothers, Charles and David Koch. (Photo of C. Koch)

The Koch brothers own the chemical and energy conglomerate Koch Industries in Wichita, and about twice a year they have covert seminars primarily to raise money, and to disseminate strategy. The Koch conglomerate is of increasing and ponderous influence on American politics, spending millions on the Tea Party, and various right-wing groups. The Koch brothers use their wealth and money from donations to influence elections, and to sway public opinion on a wide variety of issues such as labor policy, health care, government spending, oil drilling and exploration, systems for extruding natural gas (sometimes using environmentally unfriendly processes) and other endeavors.

Thanks to tape recordings made at the time, despite efforts at the seminar to prevent such taping, we can now learn something about the clandestine Koch seminar of last June. The meeting opened and closed with petitions for donations. At the onset, the names of about three dozen donors of one million dollars or more each were read. The speaker mistakenly turned the phrase, "more than one billion..." then caught his mistake, got quite a good laugh, corrected, "Well, I was thinking of Obama and his billion-dollar campaign," and the speaking continued. Donors have nothing to fear, the Koch brothers promise to protect anonymity. Because of loopholes in federal campaign laws, these donations do not exist in the public record.

According to sources, recent attendees at Koch seminars include Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) ("Tea Party Kingmaker"), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The same sources name state governors in attendance at the Vail seminar: Florida's Rick Scott, Virginia's Robert McDonnell, and White House hopeful Rick Perry of Texas. Perry’s attendance was not acknowledged until the tail number of his plane was tracked by The Austin American-Statesman; then the attendance was listed as "a meeting with a private gathering of business leaders."

One of two foremost issues at the Vail summit was the need to win the White House in the coming election. Charles Koch said, “We've had a lot of tough battles. We've lost a lot over the years and we've won some recently. Set the stage for, as I've said, the ‘mother of all battles’ coming up a year from November, and I've pledged to all of you who've stepped forward and are partnering with us that we are absolutely going to do our utmost to invest this money wisely and get the best possible payoff for you in the future of our country.” The other issue was the matter of the media. Charles Koch, in introducing guest speaker former New Jersey Superior Court judge and libertarian Fox News host Andrew P. Napolitano, began, "We've talked about our competitive disadvantage, how we're overwhelmed in a number of areas," Koch said. "One of those areas, of course, is the media, and we're overwhelmed. The media is 90-plus percent against us. But we have a few bright stars, and Judge [Napolitano] here is one of them.” Following the controversial and outspoken Judge Napolitano’s speech, Charles Koch re-mounted the stage and began to wind up the affair, again petitioning for donations. “Because it isn't just your money we need. We need your energy. We have to multiply ourselves. Just as to change the media we just can't have the judge. We need to clone him thousands and thousands-fold. And so…God bless you and God bless America!”

The Koch brothers have every right to speak. They are generous philanthropists who donate millions to charity, and make the charitable donations a private and personal matter. Their political views are extreme but not impossibly so. The concern is with the new thrust on changing the media.

We have witnessed profound changes to our congress, and therefore to our nation, in recent times. Many new era politicians seem to favor corporate power at the expense of individuals. With the allowance of the Supreme Court to unlimited influence on legislators and judges, America now seems in danger of being dominated not by and for the people, but by corporate hierarchy. This is a troubling trend, but if the corporate influence were to extend to and pervade the popular news media, it could be catastrophic. We are fortunate now to have a dedicated and wise media (the possible exception being radio sites) which for the most part report in an unbiased and objective manner. We can allow ourselves to form opinions based on their reporting. We feel we have an accurate interpretation of events, foreign and domestic. If the media says the students in Egypt are seeking freedom and democracy, we allow ourselves to believe that is true. If the media tells us this or that about a political candidate we are fortunate that we can accept their word as truth.

It isn’t hard to imagine a world, an America, wherein the wealthy corporate leaders are able to buy the outlets and broadcasters that we rely on day to day. in such an imagined scenaro, If the media were critical of the president, we would see it that way. If they together agreed that money going to disaster response were money wasted, we would agree. If our newscasters should uniformly state that Social Security is outdated and needed to be eliminated, in a short time the public would fall into compliance. It is a frightening picture. If the situation changes there will be no warning, and possibly no turning back.

Long overdue and becoming more urgent daily is legislation to eliminate the threat of a biased, subjective, and subjugated media. If it were illegal, or disallowed by regulation for any news, or news and opinion outlet, particularly those representing themselves as being impartial; radio, television, newspaper, or magazine, to be owned by or to accept financial support from special interest groups, including political groups, the threat to society would be eliminated. Alternatively, such support or ownership might be made enforcedly transparent and open to public scrutiny. This need for candor seems obvious and necessary. At the least, outlets promoting groups for recompense should be required to reveal that participation.

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