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Hitting the Oligarchs in Their Wallets

By Kevin Osborne · March 2nd, 2011 · Porkopolis
It’s time to change your shopping habits to help save democracy.

That’s the message of the loosely organized, shadowy group of computer hacktavists known as “Anonymous,” the group responsible for coordinating online protests to promote freedom of speech and free, unrestricted access to the Internet.

In this nation, Anonymous probably is best known for launching cyber-attacks late last year on the computer infrastructure of companies like Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and Amazon, all of which had blocked online users from making donations to the legal defense fund of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. But it’s also been involved with other causes like knocking the Egyptian government’s Web site offline to support protestors calling for Hosni Mubarak’s resignation.

Now the group is aiming its latest efforts at Koch Industries, which is owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The firm is an energy conglomerate that is the second-largest privately owned company in the United States.

The Kochs are among the primary financial backers of the Tea Party movement and Americans for Prosperity, both of which pose as grassroots organizations while advocating for corporate interests that benefit the brothers and harm the working class. Also, they’re leading the push to abolish collective bargaining rights for public-sector labor unions in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

As Anonymous searches for ways to harm the Kochs via its hacking activities, the group is urging citizens to boycott paper products made by one of Koch’s subsidiaries, Georgia-Pacific

The products include Angel Soft, Quilted Northern and Soft ‘n Gentle toilet paper; Sparkle and Brawny paper towels; Mardi Gras napkins; and the Dixie and Vanity Fair line of table products including paper cups and paper plates.

“Anonymous hears the voice of the downtrodden American people, whose rights and liberties are being systematically removed one by one, even when their own government refuses to listen or worse — is complicit in these attacks,” the group posted on its Web site (www.AnonNews.org).

We are actively seeking vulnerabilities, but in the meantime we are calling for all supporters of true Democracy, and Freedom of The People, to boycott all Koch Industries’ paper products,” the post continues. “We welcome unions across the globe to join us in this boycott to show that you will not allow big business to dictate your freedom.”

Given the scope of their influence, the Kochs truly are oligarchs.

For those unfamiliar with the term, an oligarchy is a power structure in a society characterized by a small group of people wielding immense control over the masses.

In ancient times, the privileged few were determined by bloodline and the supposed “divine right of kings.” These days, they’re determined by extreme wealth and social connections.

Among their many shady activities, the Kochs have hosted private meetings for top Republican donors over the years that seek to influence the GOP’s agenda, which also have been attended by lawmakers and judges.

A debate over judicial ethics has erupted after recent revelations that U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia have attended the sessions, shortly before they ruled with the majority in the landmark 5-4 vote in the Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission case. It overturned a lower court’s ruling and removed longstanding restraints on corporations, allowing them to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns — an action that’s greatly benefitted the Kochs.

Yep, that sure sounds like an oligarchy to us. But wait, it gets even more disturbing.

Anonymous and other activists have drawn attention to a little-known provision in Gov. Scott Walker’s bill in Wisconsin to abolish collective bargaining. It would allow the state — without any review or bidding process — to sell or contract operations of state utilities to corporations like Koch Industries.

“Koch Industries, and oligarchs like them, have most recently started to manipulate the political agenda in Wisconsin,” Anonymous stated on its Internet screed.

“Gov. Walker’s union-busting budget plan contains a clause that went nearly unnoticed. This clause would allow the sale of publicly owned utility plants in Wisconsin to private parties (specifically, Koch Industries) at any price, no matter how low, without a public bidding process. The Koch’s have helped to fuel the unrest in Wisconsin and the drive behind the bill to eliminate the collective bargaining power of unions in a bid to gain a monopoly over the state’s power supplies.”

It might sound crazy but, sure enough, right there in Section 44.16.896 of Wisconsin Senate Bill No. 11 is the provision — 115 words in a single, long paragraph.

Given that hardcore Libertarians like David Koch have long praised the virtues of the free market and competition, this little stinker sure seems odd.

As columnist Rick Ungar wrote for Forbes magazine, “Put another way, the state can pick who they want and make whatever deal they want without anyone else having a chance to bid on the deal. You have to admit — that is pretty unusual. States typically have a strict responsibility to maximize any such sale or lease to fulfill government’s obligation to get the best deal possible for the people of the state.”

A Koch spokesman has said the company has no plans to buy any of the state-owned power plants in Wisconsin. Time will tell if he’s lying.

So, who are the Kochs, anyhow?

Based in Kansas, Koch Industries was founded in 1940 by Fred Koch, an engineer who fathered the two brothers. The elder Koch developed an improved method for converting heavy oil into gasoline, which helped create a vast fortune. Over time, the company expanded into other sectors including chemicals, plastics, fertilizers and finance, and now has annual revenues of about $100 billion.

Charles Koch, 75, co-created and funds the Cato Institute, and has given more than $100 million over the years to various conservative think-tanks like the Heritage Foundation.

David Koch, 70, was the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate in 1980, during which he advocated getting rid of Social Security, the minimum wage, corporate taxes and most federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Oh, and David doesn’t believe global warming is caused by human activity but, even if it is, thinks it might be a good thing. Seriously.

Far more than any idea espoused by President Obama or Nancy Pelosi, the Koch brothers’ positions sound dangerously radical and out of touch with the American mainstream.

Despite the kooky views, politicians and judges still pay fealty to the Kochs because they have what is most valued by our culture: Cold, hard cash, and lots of it.


PORKOPOLIS TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (EXT.147) or pork@citybeat.com


 
 
 
 

 

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