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Progressives Should Look in the Mirror Before Criticizing the Koch Brothers

By: Pierre-Guy Veer - @le_moutongris - Apr 24, 2014, 11:32 am

EspañolWith election season just around the corner, progressives seem to be looking for scapegoats. The main target they’ve locked on these days is the Koch brothers. From having a vast network of “dark money” to preventing the country from having better transit and funding “deniers” of climate change, the Kochs are painted as the new Antichrist who seek to ruin the United States.

However true or false this depiction may be, such a portrait is another classic tale of the splinter and the log.

When it comes to campaign donations, those made by Democrat-supported unions far exceed those of the brothers. From 1989 to 2014, labor groups like the SEIU, UAW, and AFL-CIO accounted for 55 percent of all campaign contributions. The Democratic PAC Act Blue, has been the single most prolific campaign funder of the past 25 years at US$100 million — even though it came to be only 10 years ago.

Koch Industries has had its fair share of campaign contributions. $18 million since 1989, to be specific, most of which went to Republican causes. That makes the company the 59th largest donor, far behind the six largest unions that gave 15 times that amount. Even when one includes all of the indirect donations the Kochs have made through nonprofits like Americans for Prosperity, their weight is essentially equal to unions — having spent $407 million until the 2012 elections versus unions’ $400 million. Seemingly unsatisfied with being proved wrong, some progressives have toned down these numbers by claiming that one Koch has more influence than 2000 union members.

Regardless, it’s a faulty comparison to liken the political donations of a private company and two private individuals to that of unions consisting of thousands of workers. To start with, most unions have compulsory membership, meaning if an employee wants to work, he or she has to pay collective bargaining dues. Unless workers live in a right-to-work state where they can opt-out of paying dues completely, they barely have a say on how their dues are used — including which politicians they support.

This undemocratic practice is painfully obvious in the Canadian province of Quebec, where close to 40 percent of the labor force is unionized. Not only are unions vehemently opposed to disclosing their financial statements, they have openly given money to student rioters to oust the unfriendly Liberal government and support the Parti Quebecois’ secessionist cause.

Returning to the United States, progressives will conveniently forget that their side also has its share of dark money lobbying for their cause. A great deal of Democratic campaign money can be traced to George Soros, their most cherished treasurer. Through his Open Society Institute, the billionaire has given several million to block George W. Bush’s judicial nominations, campaign against Republican congressional campaigns, and oppose Social Security reforms.

Soros also has ties with prominent media outlets like ABC, NBC, and the New York Times. If the Kochs had the same connections, many media elites would have doubtlessly complained about conflicts of interest. But when dark money is on their side, they present a very skewed view of the world.

In short, progressives should look in the mirror before attacking the Koch brothers. They too have an agenda they want to push, just like the oilmen. The beauty about the US system is that political contributions allow both sides to exercise their free speech and try to convince the electorate.

Pierre-Guy Veer Pierre-Guy Veer

Pierre-Guy Veer is a freelancing journalist originally from Quebec City, Canada. He writes both in French and in English. Follow @le_moutongris.