Charles and David Koch appear to be pushing their right-wing ideology to the bitter end. And it's time for Americans to stop helping them.
The Koch brothers are major backers of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate front group that drafts "model legislation" for state legislators. The Kochs have given ALEC at least $1 million -- not counting a $500,000 loan -- and their company, Koch Industries, has been a select member of the group's board for nearly two decades. ALEC has recently come under fire for advancing bills modeled on Florida's now-infamous "Stand Your Ground" law, and it has long been criticized for writing legislation that would undermine public schools, immunize corporations that harm people's health, and impose onerous voter ID restrictions on the young, the old, the poor, and minorities.
Corporations including Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Wendy's, Kraft, PepsiCo, Mars, and Intuit have all bailed on ALEC over the last two weeks, knowing that continuing to associate with the group would be toxic. This exodus is a testament to the strength of progressive groups like Color of Change and the Center for Media and Democracy, which have been working to expose what ALEC does. But the Kochs are doubling down. Their government affairs chief Philip Ellender says progressives' complaints about ALEC are intended "not only to intimidate, but to silence supporters of free-market principles." Of course, ALEC is already largely silent in that it keeps its proceedings and model bills a secret -- presumably because the corporations backing them want to have plausible deniability about their involvement.
Either way, the Kochs are staying put. That's their right, but Americans have a right of their own: to boycott Koch products. Every dollar that we spend on goods made by Koch Industries is another dollar the brothers have at their disposal to support right-wing, corporate fronts like ALEC. The time has come for Americans to vote with their pocketbooks and stop supporting the Koch brothers' agenda.
Everyone willing to participate in a boycott should sign this pledge form, which says we'll stop buying what Koch sells until Koch withdraws its membership in ALEC. The more people go public, the more this initiative will snowball. And if enough Americans of conscience avoid the Kochs, it just might put a dent in their bottom line.
What products need to be avoided? Koch Industries makes myriad consumer goods, and there's no space here to name them all. But the best place to start is their household paper products:
- Toilet paper: Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Soft 'n' Gentle
- Towels, napkins, plates, cups: Brawny, Dixie, Sparkle, Mardi Gras, Vanity Fair, Zee
These brands -- made largely by Georgia Pacific, a Koch subsidiary -- are easily recognizable and avoidable. Anyone can bring this short list to the store and find another company to buy from.
Of course, ALEC is just one vehicle by which the Kochs are damaging American democracy; even if Koch Industries withdraws from it, we'll still have a lot of work to do. But we have to start somewhere. Boycotting these products will allow Americans to take one important step toward reclaiming our democracy.
The point is that Americans have great power as consumers -- a power that today is going largely untapped. If corporations engage in egregious behavior and politicians won't stop them, we have to take matters into our own hands. There is no one who better symbolizes corporate greed than the Koch brothers, and those of us who envision a fairer, more ethical world can put our money elsewhere if we wish.