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Ari Rabin-Havt Headshot

The Koch Brothers Behaving Like Children

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For heirs whose fortunes are rooted in their father's work building refineries for Stalin during his first five-year plan, David and Charles Koch just might be the world's most delicate billionaires.

The Kochs are owners of America's second largest privately held company. But their corporate communications department is not focusing its energy on promoting Koch Industries or its products. Instead it is using its website KochFacts.com to defend the wealthy brothers who seemingly are unable to bear any criticism of their philanthropy.

In recent weeks, KochFacts.com and its affiliated Twitter account have lashed out at dozens of critics. Reading the website without context, one would believe the Koch brothers were humble philanthropists from Wichita simply under attack by a biased media for their political beliefs. If one can't disabuse themselves of the notion that this web campaign is being run by a company whose annual revenue tops $100 billion (yes billion with a B) and has been among the largest funders of the conservative movement, it reads as the self-parodying petulant rantings of spoiled adolescent trust fund recipients demanding they not be held accountable for their indiscretions by shrieking "do you know who our father is."

Between their Twitter account and website, the Kochs complain of dozens of journalists and progressives who maligned them. Even when they have a legitimate point to make, their defenses often involve splitting hairs so fine, they become logically incoherent

Just read the tortured litany of words attempting to separate the Koch's from the Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity. AFP, according to KochFacts is simply "among the hundreds of organizations that have received support from Koch companies and/or the Koch foundations."

Yes, the Kochs were the founders of AFP's parent organization, and David Koch remains chair of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. But the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (a 501(c)(3) organization) is separate from the tea party-linked Americans for Prosperity (a 501(c)(4) group). KochFacts then preforms the anatomically unenviable task of sticking its fingers in its eyes while covering its ears to hide the connections between the two groups -- both organizations are run by the same person: Tim Phillips.

The top of the KochFacts website at the moment features an email chain between Marian Porges, a producer at NBC News and Melissa Cohlmia, Director, Corporate Communication at Koch Companies Public Sector.

Cohlmia's main gripe, on behalf of her employers, was that "on March 23, while guest hosting the Martin Bashir program, Karen Finney accused Koch of a connection with the tragic circumstances surrounding the Trayvon Martin matter."

According to Cohlmia's first email, Finney stated on air:

Who was the Typhoid Mary for this horrible outbreak," Finney asked. She then stated, "It's the usual suspects the Koch brothers... the same people who stymied gun regulation at every point who funded and ghost write these laws.

The ellipsis obfuscates Finney's point, which is clear when presented with the full transcript, that the American Legislative Exchange Council, aided financially and strategically by a cabal of right wing groups, had advocated for "stand your ground" legislation:

How do we go from one state to 30? Who was the Typhoid Mary for this horrible outbreak? Try not to be surprised. It's the usual suspects: the Koch brothers, the NRA, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and Clinton vets, remember the Scaife family? Oh, yeah. These are the same people who stymied gun regulation at every point, who funded and ghost write these laws and others that have become a core of the conservative agenda that's being implemented across our country. It's the same group that also wrote the voter I.D. laws which now threaten to disenfranchise some 5 million American voters, many of them African American.

Cohlmia claimed that "Koch has had no involvement in this legislation. We have had no discussions with anyone at ALEC, the legislative policy group at issue, about the matter either. In fact, the only lobbying on firearms issues we have ever undertaken in Florida was in opposition to the National Rifle Association's support for a bill that mandated employers must allow employees to bring firearms onto company property."

But she never disclosed that the Kochs have been generous donors to the conservative organization through several of their foundations.

The Kochs' flack has also complained about similar statements made on MSNBC by Van Jones and the Center for Media and Democracy's Lisa Graves.

The lack of self-awareness that led the Kochs' flack failure to acknowledge their numerous contributions to ALEC or honestly account for their role in Tea Party movement is based on a hubris that is at the heart of the Koch organization's ethos.

Ultimately, what the Kochs despise most is sunlight. It explains why their massive corporation remains a privately-held entity, and it explains the paranoia driving attacks on their critics.

As billionaires, the Kochs are used to getting their way. For decades they have purchased not only companies, but organizations and legislation. However, in the age of the Internet, they cannot erase the past or buy truth, hence, like spoiled children, they lash out.