The Koch brothers have surprised many of us with a newfound penchant for the public spotlight, yet one can't help but wonder whether it's all just a public relations effort to soften the perception of their political machinations. Perhaps in an ongoing effort to appear less...evil?...the Koch brothers have just given us two statements of staggering hypocrisy.
Charles Koch, a poster boy for crony capitalism, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Monday entitled "Corporate Cronyism Harms America." The piece contains the following sentence, among many other doozies: "To end cronyism we must end government's ability to dole out favors and rig the market." Um, a Koch brother is saying government needs to stop rigging the rules of the game for powerful corporations? A billionaire industrialist whose network isspending $400 million in this election and who has used his influence to weaken environmental regulations, Social Security, and voting rights? If you don't already get the absurdity, my film Koch Brothers Exposedhas the goods.
I wrote earlier this week that the Koch Brothers-financed Americans for Prosperity, at work trying to buy a Republican majority in the Arkansas legislature, is bringing Cheers barfly Cliff Clavin to Arkansas on bus tour this week that will pass through South Arkansas to drum up enthusiasm to beat the black man in Washington and elect people friendly to increasing Koch wealth in Arkansas.
Good time for a link to Koch Brothers Exposed, a website aimed at looking at some of the effects of giving the billionaires freedom to profiteer with a minimum of government environmental oversight. The film linked below is about cancer in Crossett, home to a major installation of the Koch-owned Georgia Pacific. G-P dumps wastewater into area waterways.
Maybe somebody should ask Koch shill John Ratzenberger about his patrons' good works when he's in Monticello and El Dorado. Or maybe talk to industrialist Mike Akin, one of the Republicans the Kochs hope to see elected to look after their interests in the Arkansas Senate. If nothing else, tell voters about this film. Tell them about the candidates, like Akin, that the Kochs are backing in Arkansas. Let them decide if this is a good thing.
As everyone has heard by now, the Koch brothers recently opened fire on Zach Galifianakis after the bearded funnyman shared a few choice words about the billionaire brothers while discussing his upcoming film The Campaign. Not surprisingly, the Koch Brothers took exception to the remarks and released a statement saying, "Last we checked, the movie is a comedy. Maybe more to the point is that it's laughable to take political guidance or moral instruction from a guy who makes obscene gestures with a monkey on a bus in Bangkok."
However, we thought it seemed odd that the Koch Brothers attempted to discredit Galifianakis based on the actions of a fictional character that he portrayed in a movie. So we put together this graphic to help the Koch's understand the difference between fiction and reality.
Robert Greenwald goes on Ed Schultz's radio show to discuss how the Koch brothers are using their billions to buy the 2012 election and how the right-wing thinks we should go into Syria and "kill ourselves to greater security."
My guest today is Robert Greenwald, founder and president of Brave New Films and president of Brave New Foundation . Welcome back to OpEdNews, Robert. After a more traditional career in Hollywood, your agenda changed. In recent years, you've taken on the war in Iraq, Rupert Murdoch, Wal-Mart, the 2000 presidential election, our health care system and the attack on our civil liberties. Your latest target is a biggie, too: David and Charles Koch. Why them?
When we began our Koch investigation, the brothers were not widely known. Jane Mayer and Addie Stan had done some excellent reporting but we felt that there was a very important story here about billionaires using money and influence to attempt to buy democracy. The Kochs also lend themselves to what we do, video narratives. What they do, how they do it, and who they do it to were elements of our research and now are the cornerstone of the Koch Brothers Exposed film.
Or, stated another way, ideology and greed have consequences, we set out to show that to people.
Is it a chicken and egg thing, Robert? What came first? The system that allows wealthy individuals to throw their weight around disproportionately or the individuals that would bend that system to benefit themselves and their cronies? Are the Kochs guilty of nothing more than being opportunists on a grand scale?
The system and the individuals work hand in hand. The individuals with money/power and access are consistently using this for greater power/money/wealth.
The Kochs are willing to use hundreds of millions to attempt to buy democracy on a grand scale. The use of their enormous resources are driving our country towards greater and greater economic and power inequity. It is important we use all the tools at our disposable to investigate and expose. And most important to take action...
You say: "The Kochs are willing to use hundreds of millions to attempt to buy democracy on a grand scale." That's a very broad statement, Robert. Can you give our readers some backup to this claim?
So far this year, federally disclosed campaign contributions by the company’s KochPAC — totaling $514,204 as of April — have been more than double ExxonMobil’s. And that doesn’t even encompass the various think tanks and other entities the Kochs have endowed to get their free enterprise, anti-regulatory message out.
If that doesn’t count as big, what does, asked Robert Greenwald, producer and director of the documentary “Koch Brothers Exposed.”
Greenwald said, “$100 billion is small? Where do we draw the line? Do we say that if you’re less than $150 billion, you don’t qualify as Big Oil?”
He said his film doesn’t refer to the Kochs as Big Oil — “We think it’s accurate, but we have not used it” — and that he respects the work of the fact-checkers. But in this case, he said, their complaint “does seem to be a version of nit-picking.”
"Koch Brothers Exposed" director Robert Greenwald and campaign director Jesse Lava speak to WORT-FM in Madison, WI to discuss the vast reach of the Koch brothers influence and how voters can get involved. Get your DVD today at kochbrothersexposed.com!
Is Koch Industries a conglomerate willing to do anything to turn a profit — or simply a company concerned about the nation’s economic future?
It depends on your source of information.
Filmmaker Robert Greenwald has created Koch Brothers Exposed (2012), to be presented on Tuesday in the Drexel Theatre by the Columbus Film Council and the Columbus Free Press.
Greenwald had a lengthy career in mainstream movies, producing or directing feature and TV films and miniseries such as The Burning Bed (1984), Hear No Evil (1993) and A Woman of Independent Means (1995).
In the past decade, his Brave New Films has turned to making advocacy documentaries, including Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism (2004), Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005) and Rethink Afghanistan (2009).
Koch Industries is a privately held corporation based in Wichita, Kan., with interests in fields as diverse as energy, petrochemicals, textiles and pulp and paper. CEO Charles Koch and his brother, David, the executive vice president, are listed by Forbes as the world’s 12th and 13th richest billionaires, with a net worth of $25 billion each.
Jesse Lava Campaign Director for Robert Greenwald's new movie "Koch Brothers Exposed" joins Tanya Free to share the story of the billionaire Koch Brothers and how they bankroll a vast network of organizations that work to undermine the interest of the 99%.
With an unflinching investigative look at the Koch brothers’ money and power, Brave New Films has once again created a film full of rollicking and rigorous facts that informs and challenges corporate media with the truth. The latest in a series of tough and sharp social justice films—check out Rethink Afghanistan, WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price and Sick for Profit—Koch Brothers Exposed should be a wake-up call for people across the political spectrum to take action to halt the selling off of our democracy.
As radio and television host Ed Schultz says of the film, “Every person in this country who cares about democracy should care about this work.”
I was interviewed for the film—seemed a valuable project because it raises perhaps the central question of our time: are we a democracy or are we now a plutocracy? And what kind of country, what kind of society, what kind of economy do we want to live in?
Throughout American history—though there have been major challenges and pitfalls—there has been a degree of balance between government and market. But we are now living in a moment when the extremist right wants to shatter that balance and is using its resources to throw the country back to Gilded Age inequality.
No one is pursuing that course more aggressively than Charles and David Koch.
This film exposes tactics used by the Koch brothers to sway political power in their favor, while illustrating the dangers of unchecked influence concentrated in the hands of the few. This includes their efforts to suppress voter rights, re-segregate public schools, weaken EPA regulation, and privatize Social Security.
The strategy pursued by the Koch Brothers has a potent history. As Bill Moyers describes in his Nation cover story “How Wall Street Occupied America,” the late Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell’s confidential memorandum in 1971 to his friends in the US Chamber of Commerce was “a call to arms for class war waged from the top down.” It was a blueprint for what is now coming to fruition with the phenomenon of the Koch brothers, Citizens United, and a right-wing activist Supreme Court ready to roll back decades of New Deal jurisprudence.
If the Koch brothers didn't exist, the left would have to invent them. They're the plutocrats from central casting – oil-and-gas billionaires ready to buy any congressman, fund any lie, fight any law, bust any union, despoil any landscape, or shirk any (tax) burden to push their free-market religion and pump up their profits.
But no need to invent – Charles and David Koch are the real deal. Over the past 30-some years, they've poured more than 100 million dollars into a sprawling network of foundations, think tanks, front groups, advocacy organizations, lobbyists and GOP lawmakers, all to the glory of their hard-core libertarian agenda. They don't oppose big government so much as government – taxes, environmental protections, safety-net programs, public education: the whole bit. (By all accounts, the Kochs are true believers; they really buy that road-to-serfdom stuff about the the holiness of free markets. Still, you can't help but notice how neatly their philosophy lines up with their business interests.) They like to think of elected politicians as merely "actors playing out a script," and themselves as supplying "the themes and words for the scripts."Imagine Karl Rove’s strategic cunning, crossed with Ron Paul’s screw-the-poor ideology, and hooked up to Warren Buffett's checking account, and you’re halfway there.
For years, the brothers shunned the spotlight. David Koch used to joke that the family business, the Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries – with annual profits estimated at $100 billion, it's the second-biggest private firm in America – was "the largest company you’ve never heard of." But when Barack Obama became president, the Kochs, like a lot of right-wingers, flipped out. They threw their weight behind a stealth campaign to turn back the president’s "socialist" agenda: They were early backers, some say puppet masters, of the Tea Party movement, and when the tea-infused GOP retook the House in the famous midterm "shellacking" of 2010, it was with a big assist from Koch money. (They later blessed the brief, ill-fated presidential run of Tea Party-favorite Herman Cain. That's how crazy – or cynical – these guys are.) Progressive activists and the news media started paying attention – most notably ThinkProgress and Jane Mayer of The New Yorker – and pretty soon the Kochs had become the poster boys of "the 1 percent" and a surefire fundraising tool for the Democratic Party; at the mere mention of the Koch name, liberal wallets fall open.
BuzzFlash at Truthout first got to know Robert Greenwald when he and Earl Katz, who is now chair of Public Interest Pictures, were trying to get a film about the theft of the 2000 presidential election, “Unprecedented,” off the ground. That was over a decade ago.
Mark Karlin: First, congratulations. Another extraordinary film showing the importance of documenting public issues of vital importance. Indeed, how far your use of film for the public good has come. I remember talking with you a decade ago, when your first steps were still uncertain, but now you have built a thriving and vital progressive studio for the Internet age. How have you felt making the transition from a Sunset Boulevard Hollywood director and producer to a creator of advocacy and documentary films and Internet clips?
Robert Greenwald: All change and transitions are challenging and filled with tensions and excitement. The opportunity to work each day on the most profound issues that affect each and every one of us is a constant source of great tension. How to tell the story in the way that will have the most impact; how to structure the film so that it can reach the most people emotionally, and then, intellectually; how to take a complicated issue and make it compelling, as well as activating – these are things that keep me awake at night and have me jumping out of bed at dawn.