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Story pick: Kochtopus

By Brigid Schulte

Amid lots of news about the Tea Party movement and the upcoming mid-term elections, readers would do well to read Jane Mayer's recent piece in The New Yorker about oil conglomerate billionaires David and Charles Koch.

In a fascinating, troubling and deeply reported piece - though none of the principals would talk to her - Mayer shows how the Koch brothers, life-long libertarians, have taken the manipulation of politics with money to a whole new level.

"Indeed," she writes, "the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus."

That wealthy people have used their money to buy influence is hardly new in Washington and is true of both the right and the left. Nor is it startling that the Koches have created a well-funded underground infrastructure of think tanks and organizations that pump out position papers in support of their ideology and their businesses.

But again, the Koches are operating in an entirely different league. Witness the fact that the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History makes no mention of climate change - which the Koches have spent millions to discredit.

. At the main entrance, viewers are confronted with a giant graph charting the Earth’s temperature over the past ten million years, which notes that it is far cooler now than it was ten thousand years ago. Overhead, the text reads, “HUMANS EVOLVED IN RESPONSE TO A CHANGING WORLD.” The message, as amplified by the exhibit’s Web site, is that “key human adaptations evolved in response to environmental instability.” Only at the end of the exhibit, under the headline “OUR SURVIVAL CHALLENGE,” is it noted that levels of carbon dioxide are higher now than they have ever been, and that they are projected to increase dramatically in the next century. No cause is given for this development; no mention is made of any possible role played by fossil fuels. The exhibit makes it seem part of a natural continuum. The accompanying text says, “During the period in which humans evolved, Earth’s temperature and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere fluctuated together.” An interactive game in the exhibit suggests that humans will continue to adapt to climate change in the future. People may build “underground cities,” developing “short, compact bodies” or “curved spines,” so that “moving around in tight spaces will be no problem.”

Such ideas uncannily echo the Koch message.

Money buying not just influence, de-regulation and social movements, but offering one particular version of human history at one of the nation's most-visited and -trusted museums.


By Brigid Schulte  | September 9, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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Comments

So how much is Soros paying for left wing attacks on the Koch brothers? How many articles will the Story lab highlight regarding the role of Soros funded "volunteers" in the 2006 and 2008 elections? None, if Marc Fisher has anything to say about it.

Posted by: WoodbridgeVa1 | September 9, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

This doesn't quite ring true. Does Jane Does Mayer really expect us to believe that someone could convince the Smithsonian to change scientific and historical reports for $10 million? All they would need to do is call a few environmental groups who would replace the $10m in a matter of days.

This smells like a political hatchet job to me. As Mayer points out, the Koches oppose some of the Administration's efforts, but so do millions of other Americans. Notice that almost all her sources are directly connected to the Center for American Progress? A quick google search shows that the Koch brothers have contributed hundreds of millions to the arts, science and education. Their political contributions are peanuts compared to SEIU, Soros, etc. This all sounds like an election year attempt to intimidate opposition.

Posted by: chrisjohnson800 | September 9, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Soros is small peanuts compared to the Koch's. Soros is worth $14 billion while the Koch's are at least $30 billion and have a network of right-wing, anarchists activists to tear apart all government regulation. The Tea Party and Repubs received millions from the Koch's all to "refudiate", as Palin would say, everything that Obama and the Democrats have on their platform. They (Koch's) run some of the 10 most polluting corporations in the US and hope to elect right-wingers to take power away from the EPA and other regulatory agencies. Charles Koch wants to do away with most of the Federal government in general. Read The New Yorker article...very eye opening about the extreme right wing support and parroted viewpoints to support Koch Industries.

Posted by: clairevb | September 14, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

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