Aspen Times Weekly: Hit & Run with John Colson |

Aspen Times Weekly: Hit & Run with John Colson

with John Colson

OK, color me stuck.

I can’t seem to get the Koch brothers out of my head, or off my mind, or whatever it is that they do to me.

For those who may not know, the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who together run Koch Industries, have been spending millions of dollars every election cycle in an effort to … well, they have a long agenda, which apparently includes annihilating every and any positive legacy that President Barack Obama has managed to build up over his troubled two terms in office.

And chief among those accomplishments is the Affordable Care Act, the universal health coverage law that, while it doesn’t go far enough to ensure we all have access to decent medical care, has proven to be a pretty good deal for those who have signed up.

But the Koch brothers don’t care about that, since they probably have their own doctors and hospitals on retainer for every time they get a headache or their gout acts up.

Their company, by the bye, is listed as the second largest privately held company in the U.S. That means it’s a pretty damned big concern, by any measure, with a lot of money behind it.

And, as mentioned previously in this space, the brothers Koch have been using that money to influence the mid-term elections, the ones we will be voting in next November. Their opening shot has been a $20 million “advertising blitz” (as it was characterized in a New York Times editorial). The size of the blitz, according to the NYT, has grown to $30 million since mid-January, with the likelihood of much more to come as the months roll along.

Their outlook undoubtedly has brightened since last week, when the Republican-leaning U.S. Supreme Court struck down limits on the total amount of money that donors can give to candidates. The 5-4 decision means there is now no cap on the amount of money an individual can give, in total, during a single election cycle, though it left intact the $5,200 limit on individual donations to any single candidate in an election season.

Prior to the decision last week, the limit on any individual donor in any given election cycle was a little more than $123,000.

In a NYT page-one news story on April 6, reporters Jeremy Peters and Carl Hulse laid out the Democrats’ response to this blitz, or at least one aspect of the response, which is to draw public attention to the Koch-funded campaign by pointing out what nasty guys the brothers are.

The Dems are targeting a variety of actions by Koch Industries and its subsidiaries, starting with layoffs at companies that include “a chemical plant in North Carolina, an oil refinery in Alaska, a lumber operation in Arkansas” and others.

In Alaska, for example, the Dems have trotted out some working-class types to criticize the brothers for their rapine business practices, which were described as “coming into our town to buy our refinery [and] just running it into the ground.”

In North Carolina, the criticism of the Koch brothers’ shenanigans had to do with the layoff of 100 workers from a chemical plant along the Cape Fear River (I’ve always loved that name) just before the Christmas holidays last year.

The article also reported the concerns of U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from North Carolina, who has been the target of millions in negative campaign advertising from Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch brothers’ political action organization.

“They’re spending millions of dollars to try to buy a United States Senate seat,” Hagan declared.

Predictably, a mouthpiece for Americans for Prosperity has denigrated the Democrats’ efforts by trying to make it seem pitiful and a waste of money.

“Their only plausible counter strategy is to try to cast as villains two individual Americans who 95 percent of Americans have never heard of?” asked Tim Phillips, president of AFP. “I think it’s such a stretch!”

Well, Mr. Phillips, we think it’s an even a worse stretch to think that elections should be open to the corrupting influence of money to the degree that they are. So there.

As for 95 percent of the country having never heard of the Koch brothers and their political activities, I’d say that’s as good an example of wishful thinking as I’ve ever encountered.

Granted, the brothers don’t step out into the limelight much, but people know they’re there.

Take the little town of Paonia, for example, where a lone citizen stepped out in front of a tank owned by another Koch brother — Bill. The tank was taking part in the town’s annual Cherry Days parade, and a former town council member was protesting, Tiananmen Square-style, brother Bill’s attempts to eliminate public access to public lands near Koch’s Bear Creek Ranch on Kebler Pass.

The upshot of all this is this: We know who you are, you brothers Koch, and we’re not going to go gently into the dark night of your political machinations (apology to Dylan Thomas).

Aspen Times Weekly

This week in Aspen history

“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.

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