Monday, January 31, 2011

The Color of Money

There's an instructive piece today by Micheal Isikoff of NBC that highlights how the media frames a story to fit a pre-conceived narrative. It begins with the title: Conservative High-rollers Gather to Plot Strategy. "High-rollers" in this case being fundraisers for conservative causes. Why don't you just call them "plutocrats" to ensure we get the picture?

Then there's the choice of words:

The Koch-sponsored conference at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa is the latest sign that the conservative spending blitz that helped propel GOP victories in last year’s election is likely to be continued at an even greater level next year when control of the presidency, as well as Congress, is at stake.

Blitz, as in blitzkrieg or German for lightning war. What happened to the new tone?

Much of the funds pledged this weekend by donors, however, may never be disclosed publicly because they will be directed to politically oriented non-profit organizations, like the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, that — thanks to last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case — are now much freer to run political attack ads without publicly reporting their contributors.

You could also say that the Supreme Court ruling means that groups like Americans for Prosperity are now much freer to exercise their freedom of speech, but that doesn't sound as malevolent as "political attack ads."

One of the principal Koch-backed groups, for example, Americans for Prosperity, ran millions of dollars in attack ads against Democrats in the last election and now is promoting an aggressive political agenda in Congress that includes repealing the health care overhaul law and the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill as well as restricting the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions.

Again with the attack ads. You also have to love how efforts to reverse Democrats efforts to control health care or resist the Obama Administrations attempts to dictate energy policy by bureaucratic fiat are described as "aggressive."

There are also several paragraphs in the piece about the desire of the Koch family for privacy under the heading "Utmost of secrecy":

Whether primarily about policy or politics, the gathering — in keeping with the Kochs’ past practice — was conducted behind closed doors amid the tightest of security: The Kochs, who declined requests by NBC for an interview, rented the entire five-star hotel where the meeting was held and refused entry to any outsiders, including members of the news media.

How DARE they?

Security guards stood at the hotel's entrance and checked off names, allowing only invited guests to proceed. Sheriff deputies and police stood outside the hotel while others with binoculars stood on its roof on guard for intruders.

The secrecy was telegraphed in material distributed to invited donors last fall describing the Kochs’ last conference, held last summer in Aspen, Colo. A letter from Charles Koch, the CEO of Koch Industries, and an accompanying brochure, was later obtained by Think Progress, a liberal website connected with the Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress. The letter from Charles Koch asked donors to attend this weekend’s conference to help “combat what is now the greatest assault on American freedom and prosperity in our lifetime.” An accompanying brochure emphasized that the company’s events are conducted under the strictest of rules. “Please be mindful of the security and confidentiality of your meeting notes and materials, and do not post updates of information about the meeting on blogs, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, or in traditional media articles,” the brochure stated.

When it comes to matters such as abortion or national security, liberals show no lack of imagination in inventing new rights to privacy. When conservatives want to conduct PRIVATE meetings and keep the outcome of those meetings to themselves, it's presented as de facto evidence of nefarious intent.

The real reason that such meetings, fundraising, and political action by conservatives raise skeptical eyebrows in the media and outrage from liberal activist groups is these pesky people are daring to challenge the liberal agenda.

For this weekend’s conference, as many as 1,000 protestors chanting anti-Koch slogans assembled outside the resort and about 25 were arrested. Earlier, a green blimp — commissioned by Greenpeace, the environmental group, with a sign saying “Koch Brothers- Dirty Money” — flew overhead. The group was protesting the Kochs’ role in funding groups that seek to debunk global warming.

Eek! Conservatives exercising their freedom of speech! Somebody make them stop! Liberals don't have a problem with money in politics as long as that money is being directed to the "right" people to support the "right" causes.

Timothy P. Carney has more on the delicious irony of The Kochs vs. Soros: Free markets vs. state coercion:

Palm Springs, California -At the front gates of the Rancho Las Palmas resort, a few hundred liberals rallied Sunday against "corporate greed" and polluters. They chanted for the arrest of billionaires Charles and David Koch, and their ire was also directed at the other free market-oriented businessmen invited here by the Koch brothers to discuss free markets and electoral strategies.

Billionaires poisoning our politics was the central theme of the protests. But nothing is quite as it seems in modern politics: The protest's organizer, the nonprofit Common Cause, is funded by billionaire George Soros.

Common Cause has received $2 million from Soros's Open Society Institute in the past eight years, according to grant data provided by Capital Research Center. Two panelists at Common Cause's rival conference nearby -- President Obama's former green jobs czar, Van Jones, and blogger Lee Fang -- work at the Center for American Progress, which was started and funded by Soros but, as a 501(c)4 nonprofit "think tank," legally conceals the names of its donors.

In other words, money from billionaire George Soros and anonymous, well-heeled liberals was funding a protest against rich people's influence on politics.

When Politico reporter Ken Vogel pointed out that Soros hosts similar "secret" confabs, CAP's Fang responded on Twitter: "don't you think there's a very serious difference between donors who help the poor vs. donors who fund people to kill government, taxes on rich?"

In less than 140 characters, Fang had epitomized the myopic liberal view of money in politics: Conservative money is bad, and linked to greed, while liberal money is self-evidently philanthropic.