Friday, February 4, 2011

Keeping heat on kingmakers

More than 1,000 demonstrators who turned out in Rancho Mirage, Calif., to protest the annual closed-door gathering of wealthy conservatives to discuss political strategies aren't about to faze the billionaire hosts, brothers Charles and David Koch.

What the protesters have done, however, is attract national news coverage and educate a larger audience about the stealth machinations of the Kochs to influence congressmen and senators to enact or repeal laws to benefit the Kochs.

How the Kochs use their billions to manipulate politicians—with millions in campaign donations, front groups covering their tracks and closed-door strategy meetings with other multimillionaire conservatives—is now more commonly known.

They've bankrolled the tea party and some of its large gatherings.

One tactic has rightly raised ethical, moral and legal questions: Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas attended Koch secret gatherings as speakers, then ruled favorably on the Citizens United case that now allows corporations such as Koch Industries to give generously to political campaigns.

How much did the Kochs influence Scalia and Thomas by inviting them as guests? What were the conversations behind closed doors? Any promises requested and granted?

The same questions might be asked of one of this year's "public" guests, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Were the Kochs not now known for using their millions on politicians to influence legislation that affects all Americans, suspicions might be unjustified.

The meetings have all the elements of yesterday's smoke-filled backrooms where deals were made, and the public be damned.

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