The latest attacks on the Koch brothers, coming just weeks before the 2012 election, are riddled with hypocrisy and misrepresentations.
Charles and David Koch are not newcomers to the world of political smears. They have been involved in "political and policy issues for many decades," said Mark Holden, Koch Industries senior vice president and general counsel.
The latest jabs target the brothers’ interactions with their employees and, like many other attacks, their political preferences and practices. Holden called them "false and reckless."
Patriot Majority USA, a liberal group with a Political Action Committee (PAC) aligned with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), launched a TV ad blitz against the Koch brothers in August, and last week concluded a bus tour in Topeka, Kans., campaigning against a "Greed Agenda."
The "Stop the Greed Agenda" tour delivered a letter to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback encouraging him "to break political ties with billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch," reported the Topeka Capital-Journal.
The "Stop the Greed Agenda" website heavily features the Koch brothers. A photo of Charles Koch assumes a prominent place on its front page. They are the first choice in a poll that asks, "Which Special Interest Billionaire Is The Biggest Problem In 2012?"
"The attacks are designed to try and intimidate" Charles and David Koch, Holden said, "and silence their exercise of their First Amendment rights of free expression about individual liberty, economic freedom, and the serious economic issues facing our country that have been caused by unbridled government spending."
It is unclear precisely how many people attended the rally in Topeka, although the Capital-Journal reported that the tour consisted of a "two-bus entourage."
Holden said the event "drew only a handful of people."
Both Patriot Majority and its "Greed Agenda" promote the identity of being a "grassroots" movement. The Patriot Majority Super PAC, which was heavily involved in attacking Sen. Harry Reid’s opponents in his 2010 election, said in March 2010 that it would work during the election "at the grassroots level to defeat Tea Party candidates across the United States."
The "About" section of the "Stop the Greed Agenda" website does not list the campaign’s goals, but vaguely outlines how the "Greed Agenda" will hurt six broad constituent groups, including "Firefighters," "Construction Workers," and the "Environment."
Far from being a grassroots worker, however, Patriot Majority USA spokesman Sid Voorakkara is a longtime Democratic political operative. He is a former Democratic candidate in California (his campaign consulting group indicated he is no longer an active candidate), and his campaign website says he "spent over a decade working on political campaigns, including two years at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and two years working for former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt."
Mariah Hatta, a Patriot Majority spokeswoman, is another career political operative. She is the executive director of the Arkansas Democratic Party, and worked on former President Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1992.
The campaign targets the billionaire brothers’ conservative political program, but Voorakkara pointedly refused to tell the Capital-Journal exactly who was funding their tour. "We're kind of out talking about this greed agenda," he said, referring the question to another person.
Voorakkara could not be reached for comment.
Kochfacts.com, Koch Industries’ "repository for media responses and factual information," called Patriot Majority "a George Soros-funded advocacy group."
Patriot Majority USA did not return a request for comment, and both the email and phone number for the aligned Patriot Majority Super PAC are inactive right now.
Koch Industries has also come under attack for sending out a packet of information to its employees with voter information and "a list of candidates in your state that have been supported by Koch companies or by KOCHPAC, our employee political action committee," read the packet cover letter.
The fourth paragraph of the letter emphasized that the packet implied no coercion:
First, and most important, we believe any decision about which candidates to support is—as always—yours and yours alone, based on the factors that are most important to you. Second, we do not support candidates based on their political affiliation. We evaluate them based on who is the most market-based and willing to support economic freedom for the benefit of society as a whole.
MSNBC ran a story attacking Koch Industries for their packet with the headline, "The Koch Brothers use their company to round up votes for Romney."
Before mentioning the packet’s voting information, MSNBC wrote, "The packet includes editorials blasting the Obama administration, written by Charles and David Koch for newspapers like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post."
A statement released by Koch Industries about the packet said, "The information is purely intended to be considered among all the other information employees may be reading or receiving as an informed voter."
Koch Industries also drew a contrast between itself and other organizations:
It is also important to note that many companies, as well as organizations such as labor unions, also provide similar information to their members and fellow employees. Indeed, unions and newspapers go further than this and actually endorse candidates to their members and readers.
Holden emphasized the benign nature of the mailing, saying, "The Oct. 1 communication provided information employees often request from us on these issues. Any suggestion that we are threatening, directing, or encouraging employees to vote a certain way is completely false."
The Koch brothers knew that a concerted political effort would invite attacks. Their political strategist told them in early 2009 that President Barack Obama’s administration embodied the brothers’ worst fears, and said they could begin "the fight of their lives" to fix America, reported the Wichita Eagle.
"And if we do it right," their political strategist told them, "then it is going to get very, very ugly."