By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
Philip Ellender, a representative of the libertarian Koch brothers, has issued a statement saying that, “Contrary to unfounded speculation by Politico and others, neither Charles Koch nor David Koch, nor any Koch company has provided funding to or has any involvement with the Center for American Freedom.”
The categorical statement seems to put to rest the innuendo from Politico, which has set the left-wing blogs on fire, that the billionaire Koch brothers are behind a new conservative start-up organization designed as a response to the liberal/left Soros-funded Center for American Progress (CAP).
The new conservative group is supposed to be launching an on-line publication called the Washington Free Beacon.
Politico’s Ben Smith insinuates that Orion Strategies, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm run by Randy Scheunemann, a former foreign policy adviser to Senator John McCain, was somehow involved in the creation of the Center for American Freedom. He writes that the chairman of the new group, Michael Goldfarb, was a vice president of Orion, “where his clients include Charles and David Koch.” Goldfarb had been Deputy Communications Director of the McCain 2008 presidential campaign.
But here’s where it gets interesting, at least for conservatives. It turns out that Scheunemann, not mentioned in the Politico article, has himself represented the Open Society Policy Center, founded and funded by George Soros, on Capitol Hill. Scheunemann has personally registered as a lobbyist for the Soros group.
In fact, the lobbying disclosure documents on file with the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives and reviewed this week by Accuracy in Media show that, as late as last year, Scheunemann was still a registered lobbyist for Soros interests on Capitol Hill.
The Open Society Policy Center is one of dozens of Soros-funded progressive groups and was once run by the controversial Morton Halperin, a former official in various Democratic Administrations whose appointment to a senior post in the Defense Department in the Clinton Administration was opposed by Scheunemann’s old boss, Senator McCain.
The Arizona Senator had said, “Dr. Halperin has consistently affiliated with individuals whose views are inimical to the security interests of this nation. Dr. Halperin was closely involved with [CIA defector] Philip Agee, whose extensive publication of the identities of American covert intelligence agents in foreign countries is attributed by some as the indirect cause of the assassination of Richard Welch in Athens. Dr. Halperin flew 4,000 miles to London for Agee’s deportation hearings from Great Britain after certain British intelligence agents who had been ‘outed’ by Agee were murdered in Russia.” Halperin was a character witness for Agee.
Under fire, Halperin withdrew his nomination and later went to work for Soros, who didn’t mind his association with identified enemies of the United States. He currently sits on the board of the Open Society Policy Center and serves as the group’s senior adviser.
Justin Elliott of Salon.com wrote about the Scheunemann-Soros connection on November 12, 2010, “Top Palin aide is on Soros’ payroll,” noting that Scheunemann was also advising Sarah Palin, who had been McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Scheunemann’s mission on Capitol Hill was assisting Soros in his campaign of economic sanctions and other measures designed to destabilize the government of Burma. Also known as Myanmar, Burma is now ruled by a “reformist” military-backed government and the country is rich in natural resources as well as poppy fields that produce heroin.
From the Soros viewpoint, the situation has now turned around, as the country was recently visited by the billionaire personally. “As a result of his visit Soros agreed to establish an official presence in Burma to help the country in making the transition from a closed to a more open society,” declared the Open Society Foundations.
Hence, the story is not Koch, but Soros. The involvement of Orion Strategies, which represented Soros, is something that should concern conservatives. How can a conservative group with a Soros connection be expected to subject Soros and his groups to necessary scrutiny?
An “open society” in Soros terminology is one, at least in the U.S., which includes acceptance of abortion rights, gay rights, drug legalization, voting rights for felons, euthanasia, environmentalism, and rights for illegal immigrants and prostitutes. These movements, together with organized labor, make up the progressive left in America today.
Politico’s Ben Smith knows about the Scheunemann-Soros connection, having written about it over a year ago. Smith, however, has mistakenly interpreted Soros’s activities around the world, especially in former communist states, as evidence of his anti-communism, rather than political meddling and attempts to secure favorable business deals. There is no reason to believe his activities in Burma are any different.
The key point, of course, is that the Koch brothers appear to have no connection to the new conservative organization. Smith’s other point was that conservatives are trying to imitate the success of CAP with the new venture.
This was grist for the crowd at CAP. Judd Legum, founder of the ThinkProgress.org affiliate of CAP, sent an email to supporters declaring that the Koch Brothers have “bankrolled the Tea Party” and other conservative groups and causes and that the “newest item on their shopping list” was the ThinkProgress clone. He falsely claimed, “The new organization, called the ‘Center for American Freedom,’ is being run by a lobbyist hired by Koch to advance their political agenda.” This was one step beyond the erroneous reporting of Politico.
Legum, Vice President for Communications and New Media at American Progress, a CAP affiliate, was previously the research director for the Hillary Clinton for President campaign.
On the matter of allegedly bankrolling the Tea Party, a central charge of Legum and CAP, this appears to be false as well. The Kochs say, “Neither Charles nor David Koch fund the Tea Parties. They are involved with and support an organization, which in turn has involvement with some Tea Party members…Partisan activists deliberately confuse Koch’s involvement with the Tea Parties in order to diminish and mischaracterize important and authentic citizen efforts as well as company support of education and human services programs.”
That organization is Americans for Prosperity, a group opposed to Obama’s agenda which does support Tea Party activists.
One version of the Politico article by Ben Smith said that Goldfarb “declined to say whether they [the Kochs] were among the donors to the Center for American Freedom.” Perhaps this is because Goldfarb didn’t want to talk about the names of any of his donors. But the insinuation from Politico was that Goldfarb was covering up. That was later changed or “updated” by Politico to say, “A spokesman for Koch Industries said the company had no connection, financial or otherwise, to the new Center for American Freedom.”
In fact, the statement was that “Charles Koch nor David Koch, nor any Koch company has provided funding to or has any involvement with the Center for American Freedom.” This statement ruled out any personal involvement by the Kochs as well.
So there is no evidence of a Koch connection, period. If there is, Politico should produce it.
By then, however, it was too late for the facts to take precedence. The liberal Economic Policy Journal trumpeted the “news” about a “Koch-Neocon Axis,” with “neocon” being a term that is supposed to disparage pro-Israel conservatives.
Despite lacking any hard evidence of a Koch connection, Smith went on: “But the group’s birth is the latest chapter of an ongoing battle the Kochs and other wealthy conservatives have been engaged in for a generation.” The use of the “but” phrase was meant to suggest that, despite the denial, the Center for American Freedom is somehow connected to Koch anyway. This is sloppy journalism to the point of deliberate distortion.
Facts didn’t get in the way of CAP, either. “While they can rely on the Kochs’ billions,” Legum said, “we rely on the support of your donations.” He neglected to mention that Soros is providing some of those donations. CAP received over $5 million from Soros in the 2005-2009 period.
Another interesting fact is the close relationship between CAP and the Obama White House.
Indeed, William A. Jacobson, author of the Legal Insurrection blog, points out, “A former senior Obama campaign staffer now runs CAP, and a current senior CAP strategist is set to take over Obama campaign messaging from inside the White House.” He added, “The merger of the White House and Think Progress is just about complete. Think Progress is in control, or is the Obama campaign, or is there no difference anymore?”
He is referring to Jennifer Palmieri, the President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Senior Vice President for Communications for CAP, who joined the White House as deputy communications director. Neera Tanden, the Chief Operating Officer of CAP, has become CAP president, after serving as the director of domestic policy for the Obama-Biden presidential campaign.
On the matter of funding, Jane Mayer wrote a New Yorker piece on “The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama” and accused the Kochs of spending more than $100 million on various conservative causes.
Even if true, this is peanuts compared to Soros and his Open Society Foundations, reported to be on track to give away about $860 million in 2011 alone, according to a December 7, 2011, article in The New York Times. Overall, Soros has acknowledged funneling about $8 billion to progressive and far-left causes here and abroad, all in the name of “human rights” and so forth.
Nothing from the Koch Brothers compares to Soros and his massive funding of various left-wing, socialist, Marxist and anti-American groups. Yet Politico’s Smith called the Kochs “dominant funders of a range of conservative causes and politicians,” giving them far more influence than they deserve or want. They are not even in the same ballpark as Soros.
It is significant that a big beneficiary of Soros largesse, in addition to CAP, is the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which currently represents WikiLeaks and is hoping to forestall a Justice Department indictment of founder Julian Assange on charges of espionage stemming from his alleged conspiracy with accused Army traitor Bradley Manning to steal and release classified U.S. counter-terrorism and intelligence information.
In on-line chats with Manning, his friend, Adrian Lamo, the ex-hacker who reported him to the authorities, said, “Too bad Philip Agee died. You and he would have fun conversations.” Agee, who died in Havana in 2008, was exposed in his FBI file as a conscious Cuban and Soviet KGB intelligence agent.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s foot-dragging on a WikiLeaks/Assange indictment is where real investigative journalists, on the left and right, should look. Let’s hope the new Center for American Freedom takes up the case.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at [email protected].