Libertarian History/Philosophy

Koch Brothers Deny Tea Party Paternity

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The billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have been recently fingered, through their support of Americans for Prosperity, as the corporate paymasters ginning up a phony "grass roots" Tea Party movement.

Frum Forum gets a rare interview with president of their charitable Charles G. Koch Foundation, Richard Fink, who denies paternity and gives his version of what Koch ideological funding is all about.

"We've been labeled tea party founders or funders – in fact, masterminds – but that's not consistent with the facts," said Fink. "To my knowledge, we have not been approached for support by any of the newer 'tea party' or other grassroots groups that have sprung up around the country in the past year or so."

One organization that Fink help create and Koch has helped fund, Americans for Prosperity, regularly interfaces with tea party groups….Fink denied that Koch had anything to do with Americans for Prosperity's tea party activities. "I don't consider them a Tea Party institution," Fink added. "[The group] has been active for nearly thirty years. While they participate in events with tea party groups, our support of them has included no funds specifically for tea party-related efforts."

To press the point, Dr. Fink even had some mild criticism of the tea party movement. "Some of their worries are… more thoughtful, some of them are less thoughtful," he told FrumForum.

While Koch has at times funded organizations that are activist, their focus remains overwhelmingly ideological, Fink argued:

Historically, we've spent the majority of our efforts funding research… we funded tens of thousands of students through their colleges, dozens of professors, we've been very heavy on the development of ideas and a deeper understanding of what makes societies prosper.

….Fink adds that while they "help them get started, give them seed money," they "then let [funded organizations] meet the market test of survival."

Fink also admits that after decades and many millions supporting limited government ideas, scholarship, and causes, things haven't worked out as well as they might have hoped.

But Koch's efforts have hit a roadblock, even in the eyes of one of Koch's highest-ranking executives. "If you look at where we've gone from the year 2000 to now, with the expansion of government spending and a debt burden that threatens to bankrupt the country, it doesn't look very good at all… It looks like the infrastructure that was built and nurtured has not carried the day," said Fink…..

Fink says, "in terms of [the tangible] results [of our funding], it's really not all that clear to me… [we] need to get more into the practical, day to day issues of governing to be successful."

David Koch is on the board of trustees of the Reason Foundation, which owns Reason magazine and Reason Online.

More from Fink and the Koch brothers on their ideas and actions vis a vis libertarian ideas and activism in my gigantic book Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. Previous Kochblogging from me.