17 September 2010

What Rich Liberals Don't Seem to Get

Consider this comparison. Recently George Soros, who certainly is very rich and may be considered a liberal, announced a $100 million (US) "gift" to Human Rights Watch, with the funds to be dispersed over five years [1] [2]. In my ideal world the need for effective human rights monitoring would not disappear. My ideal world is not a fantasy land. But such activity would not be financed through charity. Human rights activity should not be a philanthropic enterprise. Rich liberals, though, tend to think philanthropically.

Recently too, The New Yorker published this extended piece on the Koch brothers - David and Charles - who are also extremely rich and certainly right wing extremists. Koch & Koch are, according to the report, "the primary underwriters of hard-line libertarian politics in America."* They generously fund "think tanks" and political candidates and, now, the putatively "grassroots" Tea Party. All, of course, on the premise that those whom they fund toe the Koch party line.** The aim is to define the political and policy agenda (or disrupt the efforts of others to do so), not just clean up messes or remedy some "problem." This is not charity, its politics.
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* "Only the Kochs know precisely how much they have spent on politics. Public tax records show that between 1998 and 2008 the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation spent more than forty-eight million dollars. The Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is controlled by Charles Koch and his wife, along with two company employees and an accountant, spent more than twenty-eight million. The David H. Koch Charitable Foundation spent more than a hundred and twenty million. Meanwhile, since 1998 Koch Industries has spent more than fifty million dollars on lobbying. Separately, the company’s political-action committee, KochPAC, has donated some eight million dollars to political campaigns, more than eighty per cent of it to Republicans. So far in 2010, Koch Industries leads all other energy companies in political contributions, as it has since 2006. In addition, during the past dozen years the Kochs and other family members have personally spent more than two million dollars on political contributions. In the second quarter of 2010, David Koch was the biggest individual contributor to the Republican Governors Association, with a million-dollar donation. Other gifts by the Kochs may be untraceable; federal tax law permits anonymous personal donations to politically active nonprofit groups."
** "David Koch has acknowledged that the family exerts tight ideological control. “If we’re going to give a lot of money, we’ll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent,” he told Doherty. “And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don’t agree with, we withdraw funding.”"

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