Hating Hateful Billionaires, from the White House's Pal


Byron York sees the hands of the White House behind a recent assault at the Think Progress site, called "The Billionaires Behind the Hate," on billionaire financier of political (and cultural)  causes (and member of the board of trustees of the Reason Foundation, which publishes Reason magazine) David Koch (and his brother Charles).

They are blamed for causing all the supposedly "hateful" opposition to certain administration policies, such as health care reform and "clean energy," and being the puppetmasters behind the Tea Party movement (now more popular than the GOP!).

"Think Progress" is the site of ex-Clinton man, and recent Obama transition team man, John Podesta's think tank, the Center for American Progress. York sees Podesta as still part of the general Obama orbit and doubtless doing what the administration wishes. Also, York writes:

Aside from its remarkable language—is it "hate" to believe the stimulus, cap-and-trade and the current health care proposals are bad policy?—the Podesta group's attack on the Kochs is striking because the Center for American Progress is itself the product of politically-active billionaires.  It would never have come into existence without the backing of California-based Herbert and Marion Sandler, who founded Golden West Financial Corporation and made billions engaging in some of the most irresponsible subprime lending of the first years of this decade.  (After the financial collapse, their reputation sank so low that they were brutally parodied in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch last year.)

In 2003, Herbert Sandler approached Podesta, then a law professor at Georgetown, with a proposal to found what would become the new think tank. It turned out Podesta had already been thinking about a similar idea, and the two men talked at length, and talked further when Podesta flew to San Francisco for more detailed discussions.  The Sandlers, who are also close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, ended up talking Podesta into taking the job.

There is another billionaire, George Soros, who is also close to the Center. In 2003, in the middle of spending nearly $30 million of his own money in a quest to unseat President George W. Bush, Soros pledged to give the Center $1 million a year for three years.  It was less than the Sandlers gave, but it was key support for an institution then getting off the ground.

The history of the Koch brothers' support of libertarian causes is told in my wonderful Christmas gift of a book, Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.