FigTree Header 10.14



Review all 2022 Benefit videos

To advertise in print or online
Click here
Share this article
Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Editorial Reflections

Following money leads to political self-interests of billionaires

When journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were unraveling the Wategate scandal under President Richard Nixon in 1972, the source they called Deep Throat advised:  “Follow the money.”

It’s advice we might follow today, too.

Throughout history we have had periodic “red scares” and other crusades that whip up fervor and fear.  Today, we have the dispersed “movement,” known as the Tea Party, gaining media attention as it stirs fear of “the other,” immigrants, “socialists,” the poor, government and the President.

Several authors and journalists have been asking who is financing it. 

Historian Kim Phillips-Fein’s 2009 book, Invisible Hands, is titled for corporate millionaires and billionaires who anonymously finance manufactured grasssroots movements.  She writes that the billionaires’ targets remain the same: unions, taxes, regulations and government programs for the poor, sick, elderly or unemployed.  For example, the DuPont brothers financed the Liberty League in 1934 to attack President Franklin Roosevelt. 

The Aug. 30 New Yorker magazine published “Covert Operations:  The Billionaire Brothers Who are Waging a War against Obama” by Jane Mayer.  The article is detailed, documented and available online.

Among today’s heaviest spenders, Jane said, are David and Charles Koch, brothers who bankroll the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Citizens for the Environment, Citizens for a Sound Economy—now FreedomWorks—the Economic Education Trust and charitable foundations that support research related to their financial and political interests.  Americans for Prosperity, Jane reports, “has worked closely with the Tea Party since its inception.”

According to Fortune magazine, Koch Industries is the second largest private U.S. corporation—next to Cargill—with an estimated annual income of $100 billion. Besides oil refineries and pipelines, it owns Dixie Cups, Georgia-Pacific, Lycra, Brawny, Stainmaster and other products.  The Koch’s fortune is $35 billion.  Since 2006, they have been top among petroleum companies in political contributions. 

While on the board of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute, David was active as Koch Industries lobbied to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from declaring formaldehyde a carcinogen.

When he ran for Vice President in 1980 on the Libertarian ticket, he supported a platform to abolish the FBI, CIA, federal regulatory agencies, Social Security, minimum-wage laws, gun control, and personal and corporate income taxes, and to reduce government to the role of protecting of individual rights. 

Is a movement heavily funded by establishment billionaires really “grassroots”? 

If we follow the money trail, what’s our responsibility as people of faith and consumers?  What is the responsibility of the media who cover politics and accept ads from those financing movements and campaigns?

Who are the other big players and what are their agendas and values?

By Nancy Minard - Editorial Team

Copyright © October 2010 - The Fig Tree