Kochs' political influence is significant
The John Birch Society was founded in 1958 by Robert W. Welch. One of the founding members was Fred Koch, the creator of Koch Industries. The society is anti-communist, has been described as ultraconservative and has been ongoing in its opposition to the United Nations. ...
The society enjoyed a brief revival at the time of the first Gulf War when President Bush spoke of the "New World Order." That and the involvement of the U.N. in the war seemed to some members a validation of their claims regarding a "One World Government" conspiracy.
The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1977 by Edward H. Crane. It was initially funded by Charles G. Koch. Although considered extremely conservative in its early years, it resists being labeled as a part of the conservative movement. It maintains that "conservative smacks of an unwillingness to change, of a desire to preserve the status quo."
The institute has been critical of both Republicans and Democrats and criticized both nominees in the last presidential election. It opposed both gulf wars and the interventions in Haiti and Kosovo. Cato scholars opposed the effort to expand executive power under President George W. Bush. They accused Republicans of abandoning limited-government ideals. They also strongly opposed neo-colonialism.
On the other hand, they strongly supported the Bush effort to partially privatize Social Security and they helped develop the immigration proposal advanced by Bush. They have been equally critical of President Obama particularly with the issues of health care, global warming and tax policy.
They join with liberals in advancing notions of civil liberty, liberal immigration policy and equal rights for gays and lesbians. But their libertarian philosophy parts way with liberal thought on taxes, guns and school choice.
n 2004, David Koch established Americans for Prosperity, which espoused the principles one might expect from a former seeker of national office as a Libertarian. It advocates limited government and free markets.
Americans for Prosperity split from its predecessor, Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was also founded by David Koch. The organization now has chapters in 29 states. Americans for Prosperity receives significant financial support from one of the Koch family foundations.
One of its legislative efforts is called the Freedom from Foreign Oil Scorecard, not surprising with an oil company as the main supporter. And considerable effort has been expended to extract "no climate tax" pledges at the federal level. Involvement in the health care debate included a Web site titled "Patients United Now."
The above information is a brief description of several organizations with a common thread: involvement of the Koch family. Its effort has been consistent and longstanding. The Kochs have made no secret of their libertarian views nor of their willingness to provide leadership and money for organizations that promote their viewpoint. They obviously put "their money where their mouth is." And they do have a lot of money.
Americans for Prosperity, Kansas, has, in a relatively short time, become the most prominent influence in the state regarding legislative issues involving taxes and budget. Its leaders have used both "carrots and sticks" to influence legislators and election results. Its use of "no tax" pledges to guide legislative performance has been effective. The number of Kansas legislators it influences is impressive.
With a few exceptions, both the state chapter and Americans for Prosperity itself have couched their arguments respectfully and with a basis in research. The Kansas Policy Institute, also a Koch-supported organization, strives to provide academic weight to the libertarian arguments presented.
Unlike some groups, Americans for Prosperity has not usually resorted to mindless rants to make its point. It is a sophisticated operation.
Libertarianism has never achieved majority status in the U.S. More moderate political elements have always prevailed. But the Kochs continue the effort. Their influence is considerable and broad, particularly in their home state.
The current battle in Kansas to prevent further budget cuts for schools, colleges, nursing homes, highways and prisons will have to be won over the implacable opposition of Americans for Prosperity, Kansas.
Given my involvement with Kansas higher education, I support the raising of revenue to prevent further cuts. I believe the preservation of our basic state institutions in an effective manner requires reasonable taxpayer help. When this recession ends there will be time enough for us to mount our ivory towers and again shout at one another about the role of government and the intent of our founding fathers.
Right now, we have our hands full just staying afloat.
Without stabilizing budgets, the court furloughs, teacher layoffs and shortened school years are just the beginning.
Jack Wempe grew up in the Hutchinson area and is a former educator, state legislator and member of the Kansas Board of Regents now living in Lyons. He is currently serving as a member of the Kansas Technical Education Authority. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org.