Rebranding the ‘Kochtopus’? It’s All About Winning the Long War for the Radical Right

by on June 10, 2019 · 4 comments

in Politics, Under the Perfect Sun

The Koch brothers

By Jim Miller

Back in January of 2016, Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, reported on the Koch brothers’ efforts to partner with liberals on criminal justice reform in the New Yorker  in which she noted that:

A new, data-filled study by the Harvard scholars Theda Skocpol and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez reports that the Kochs have established centralized command of a “nationally-federated, full-service, ideologically focused” machine that “operates on the scale of a national U.S. political party.”

The Koch network, they conclude, acts like a “force field,” pulling Republican candidates and office-holders further to the right. Last week, the Times reported that funds from the Koch network are fueling both ongoing rebellions against government control of Western land and the legal challenge to labor unions that is before the Supreme Court.

So why then would this radical right-wing network want to get involved with criminal justice reform?  As Mayer reports, the Kochs are in it to win the long political war, and they were concerned that their image was an obstacle, “In fact, leaked audiotapes from one of the Kochs’ private planning sessions with allied donors suggest that the public knew who they were, and didn’t approve. After this private assessment was made, the billionaire brothers embarked on a makeover.”

The advice they seem to have seized upon is that, as one consultant told the network, “if conservatives wanted to stop being stereotyped as representing just the one per cent, they had to be seen as champions of the other ninety-nine per cent.” Free-market ideology needed to be packaged as “apolitical and altruistic reform” meant to enhance the quality of life of the masses while “big government” needed to by tied to “tyranny.”

Thus, the criminal justice reform would lead with the prospect of ending draconian sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, while, as one former Justice Department official cited in the New Yorker piece argues, serving as “a Trojan horse for their efforts to weaken environmental, health, and safety regulations.”

Of course Mayer’s article echoes the work of Nancy MacLean in Democracy in Chains: the Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, where she underlines the fact that the Koch brothers and their fellow travelers on the right have long known that their libertarian agenda is unpopular with the public and needs to be sold in a fundamentally dishonest fashion.

Flash forward to recent weeks and the news in the Washington Post that “the Koch network is reorganizing under a new name and with new priorities.” Henceforth the Kochtopus will now call itself “Stand Together” and identify itself not as a corporate cabal, but as a “philanthropic community” under the positively lovely slogan “Greater Your Good.”

While the Kochs did not endorse Trump in the last election and differ from him on trade and immigration, it is also true that the Trump Administration’s wrecking crew approach to taxes on the rich and any form of government regulation comes straight out of their playbook.  So the Kochs are having their cake and eating it too.

Now, perhaps sensing that, in the long run, the days of Trump-style, snarling strong man populism are numbered (and dependent on a declining demographic), they are betting on a kinder face for their libertarian utopia.  Thus, they will be talking about “empowering” people, “helping neighbors,” and providing “excellent education,” but the merciless hard right outcomes will remain the same.  As Splinter  amusingly put it:

Translation: Empower everyone to work for $3 an hour. Help neighbors beat poverty and addiction, but not too much. Ensure excellent profit margins for every for-profit charter conglomerate. Build a stronger economy that works for us. Bridge divides and build a big moat filled with alligators surrounding my house so the poors can’t get to me when they realize they’ve had enough.

Most importantly, the Kochs will continue to fund climate denial and fight against all efforts to save the future of the planet .

In sum, to quote The Who, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.







{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

sealintheSelkirks June 10, 2019 at 11:04 am

Yup. These two have been shoveling enormous amounts of money under the spotlight for decades to the worst politicians/think tanks/activist ‘false flag’ Right Wing groups in this country for decades like the Heartland Institute, the Heritage Foundation, AIPAC, many many others. These two literally paid for the foundation of the so-called ‘Tea Party’ lock/stock & barrel.

Two men with personal fortunes of $47,000,000,000 each, the last number amount that I read, can afford to do a LOT of damage in a very short span of time. And they have.

So why, in the face of all the facts and science, do people still ‘believe’ their crap? Here, from the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute, is a pretty cute interactive cartoon of WHY people refuse to accept new information. Take this test and see how you do!

Warning: there are a few cuss words used in these cartoons. So what? Take the test!

The Koch Brothers will continue to increase their fortunes because…pretty much nobody can stop them. They own politicians, judges, cops, media, and entire industries employing many many people who don’t want to see their paychecks disappear. And they own some of the best lawyers in the country to go after anybody that wants to fight them. And if none of that works I’m pretty dang sure they have ‘other’ means to…a-HEM…disrupt the lives of people who are trying to work against them. People like them always have.

Now what do we do asks I?



Bean K January 3, 2021 at 6:24 pm

What has to be done: it has to be planned different plans in witch we work to create a circular economy where the money enter and goes in a circular way, without going out to the outside circle.


Geoff Page June 10, 2019 at 11:25 am

Everyone should read Jane Mayer’s book that Jim mentions here, it is eye-popping. Don’t read alone in the dark night, it is scary too.


rick callejon June 10, 2019 at 1:43 pm

Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” shines a bright light on billionaires who game the system.


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