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Billionaires Protest Billionaires

5:00 PM, Jan 31, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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In Palm Springs, California, this past weekend, one set of rich folks was the target of another set of rich folks. It is, uniquely, an American story. Here’s how it played out: The Koch brothers, Charles and David, held a closed-door meeting with their political allies at a local hotel. Outside, Common Cause, with plenty of support from the Center for American Progress and several others, held a protest, saying that the Koch meeting shouldn’t have been private and that the billionaire brothers were up to no good.

Billionaires Protest Billionaires

Now, the Kochs are billionaires, and they’re involved in financing numerous political groups. Common Cause themselves are financed by at least one notorious billionaire – George Soros – and are involved in numerous political activities, but they seem to think there’s a problem that the Kochs are involved in politics, too.

The main difference between the two sets of rich folks? The Kochs are conservative – well, libertarians anyway – while Common Cause is liberal.

But back to Palm Springs. The conservatives were inside, presumably chatting and planning their political activities. Not much else is known about that. But outside, on full display, was the Common Cause-sponsored protest. According to a source at the scene, the protest was put together in conjunction with local labor groups, and at least 10 bus loads of protesters were hauled in to make a scene.

As Ken Vogel of Politico, who was at the scene, reports:

Outside, though, hundreds of protesters accused David and Charles Koch and their assembled donors of being poster children for that very problem by funneling huge – and mostly undisclosed – donations into front groups pushing a political agenda intended to boost their profits at the expense of average Americans.

As participants in the invitation-only conference watched from behind a heavily guarded gate, protestors  pressed towards sheriff’s deputies guarding the entrance, waving signs reading “Koch Kills” and “Uncloak the Kochs,” and chanting “David and Charles Koch: Your corporate greed is making us broke.”

So one group is inside, peacefully (and legally!) assembling, while the other group is outside accusing its foes of murder (and apparently Nazism, too!).

The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney was also on hand – he delivered a speech to the Koch group – and neatly summed up the distinction separating the two groups:

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.

As Carney mentions, the Center for American Progress, a think tank in Washington, does not disclose its own donors. Yet such rank hypocrisy is hardly an obstacle to protesting another group’s supposedly shady actions.

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