Palm Springs, California –At the front gates of the Rancho Las Palmas resort, a few hundred liberals rallied Sunday against “corporate greed” and polluters. They chanted for the arrest of billionaires Charles and David Koch, and their ire was also directed at the other free market-oriented businessmen invited here by the Koch brothers to discuss free markets and electoral strategies.
Billionaires poisoning our politics was the central theme of the protests. But nothing is quite as it seems in modern politics: The protest’s organizer, the nonprofit Common Cause, is funded by billionaire George Soros.
Common Cause has received $2 million from Soros’s Open Society Institute in the past eight years, according to grant data provided by Capital Research Center. Two panelists at Common Cause’s rival conference nearby — President Obama’s former green jobs czar, Van Jones, and blogger Lee Fang — work at the Center for American Progress, which was started and funded by Soros but, as a 501(c)4 nonprofit “think tank,” legally conceals the names of its donors.
In other words, money from billionaire George Soros and anonymous, well-heeled liberals was funding a protest against rich people’s influence on politics.
When Politico reporter Ken Vogel pointed out that Soros hosts similar “secret” confabs, CAP’s Fang responded on Twitter: “don’t you think there’s a very serious difference between donors who help the poor vs. donors who fund people to kill government, taxes on rich?”
In less than 140 characters, Fang had epitomized the myopic liberal view of money in politics: Conservative money is bad, and linked to greed, while liberal money is self-evidently philanthropic.
Prior to the rally, the liberal group plans to host an opposition panel discussion called, “Uncloaking the Kochs: The Billionaires’ Caucus and its Threat to our Democracy.” The featured speakers include Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary and now chairman of Common Case’s National Governing Board; Van Jones, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress and former “Green Jobs Czar”; Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California-Irvine; Lee Fang, an journalist at the Center for American Progress; and DeAnn McEwen, co-President of the California Nurses Association.
“Our goal here for the panel Sunday is to talk about the Billionaires Caucus agenda, its human impact and what can be done to restore the voices of ordinary Americans to the our political process,” explained Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause.“Our government is supposed to be of, by and for the people, but it has been hijacked by self-interested billionaires. We must take it back. “
Despite the hyperbole, the Koch conference doesn’t sound so different from many off-the-record political conferences, including those held by the professional left. Shortly after the 2010 elections, for example, liberal groups converged on Washington D.C.’s Oriental Mandarin hotel, The meeting, hosted by Democracy Alliance featured liberal leaders such as Van Jones, hedge fund manager Donald Sussman, and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. Michael Vachon, a George Soros representative, Peter Lewis, CEO of Progressive Insurance; and Fred Baron, the former president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America also attended.
Yet to listen to the activist left describe it, this weekend’s meeting is a threat to the existence of life on this planet. “They are actively standing in the way of our nation transitioning to a 21st Century economy focused on clean energy and job growth creation,”warned Van Jones. “Nationally, their influence is more profound….They are the Number One funders of climate change deniers.”
On Sunday, the protest group swelled to 1,000 and blocked the street for nearly an hour. In a pre-arranged arrest, authorities cuffed and removed 25 protesters. Apparently, the leftists don’t consider the Jewish Funds for Justice’s missive on improper use of Nazi references to apply to them:
(Photo by Dan Comstock)
Also celebrated was the historical figure Guy Fawkes, whom the left routinely associates with anti-government violence.
(Photo by Dan Comstock)
According to an eye-witness who contacted me by e-mail, protesters shouted “traitors,” held signs that said “Koch Kills” and chanted “No justice, no peace” outside the hotel.
A Koch representative whom I contacted had this comment on the day’s events: “This is the kind of ‘civil debate’ the left wants to have after Tucson?” One additional note: Inside the same conference center as the conservatives was a conference of judges from the Ninth Circuit. The recent death of a federal judge in Arizona did not give the mob pause about the propriety of their actions.
According to Common Cause, Koch benefited from the ruling and supported groups that filed amicus briefs on behalf of Citizens United during the case. Fair enough. But that doesn’t explain why Common Cause invited labor unions to the rally, which have profited from the Supreme Court’s ruling as well.
Not to mention the ACLU, which also filed an amicus brief in support of Citizens United, arguing that it was a free-speech issue. Will Common Cause bus in protesters to scream eliminationist rhetoric outside the ACLU’s offices next?
Probably not — getting arrested while protesting the ACLU just doesn’t have the same charm to it as getting arrested while protesting an “evil” corporate titan. Though a bit more consistency would at least help make Common Cause look a tad less clownish.
Grasping irony, however, is clearly not the group’s strong point. This was apparent from the list of speakers at the “progressive” political conference that was held in conjunction with the anti-Koch demonstration. When protesters grew tired of yelling about the political influence of corporate fat cats, they could take a break and listen to panel discussions featuring liberal billionaire financier Donald Sussman, Progressive Insurance CEO Peter Louis, the former president of the Association of American Trial Lawyers Fred Baron, and an array of representatives from George Soros–funded organizations.
Faced with an avalanche of bad publicity after years of funding conservative causes in relative anonymity, the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, Charles and David, are fighting back.They’ve hired a team of PR pros with experience working for top Republicans including Sarah Palin and Arnold Schwarzenegger to quietly engage reporters to try to shape their Koch coverage, and commissioned sophisticated polling to monitor any collateral damage to the image of their company, Koch Industries.
It’s A Koch Fight!
Tim Carney at The Washington Examiner:
Caroline May at The Daily Caller:
Kenneth Vogel in Politico:
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