MEDIA WATCH: Beware the union busting and teacher bashing New Yorker magazine 'analysis' and 'investigative reporting'... Koch Industries issues major defense of its owners, policies, and praxis in response to a New Yorker hatchet job

Anyone who believes that American's billionaire class of 21st Century capitalists is not sensitive to public opinion should check out the Website of Koch Industries, the privately owned corporate entity (it's many privately held companies, not just a single one) owned primarily by Charles and David Koch (pronounced "Coke"). While it may still be true that Koch Industries devotes most of its time to the production of many of the most common commodities Americans see (and use) every day (from Angel Soft bathroom tissue and Dixie paper products to numerous wood products), the Koch public relations department is devoting a lot of time to refuting charges that the Koches are behind many of the most vicious right wing attacks on unions, public workers, and public policies that benefit the majority of the people.

New Yorker investigative reporter Jane Mayer (inset) has been criticized not only by Koch Industries and libertarians for her August 30, 2010 article about the Koch brothers. Questions continue about both Mayer's reporting on the Koch brothers New Yorker story and about biases in many other New Yorker stories, including the magazine's coverage of corporate school reform and Barack Obama's "Race to the Top."David Koch became prominent during the second week of February 2011, at the height of the protests in Madison Wisconsin against the attempt to strip public worker unions of collective bargaining rights when a blogger from the Buffalo Beast impersonated him in a conversation with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The macho give-and-take went on for more than ten minutes, and revealed a great deal about Walker's work, if not about how the Koch brothers operate.

But the Koch brothers came under fire much earlier. The Koch brothers and their works became a liberal target because of an article in The New Yorker that was highly critical of the Koches, presenting them as a right wing center for opposition to Barack Obama's "progressive" policies. The New Yorker article appeared on August 30, 2010, written by Jane Meyer, was called "Covert Operations, The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama."

For readers who cannot access the New Yorker article through the hotlink above, the URL is:

As a result of the New Yorker article, the Koch brothers and their corporation have become as big a target for some liberals as Fox News and other properties of Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, or the friends and supporters of former President George W. Bush. One result is that the Koch brothers have been responding in their own names (and under their own bylines, as Charles Koch did in a recent Op Ed published in The Wall Street Journal) as well as through their corporate public relations operations.

(The URL for the Koch Op Ed, for those who can't access it through the hotlink above, is:

But even though the free market and libertarian theories and praxis of the Koch brothers and their operations may disagree with many of those who protested recently in Madison, Wisconsin (and most readers of Substance and, does that mean that the vilification of David Koch and Koch Industries by New Yorker is any more fair and balance that, say, an "O'Reilly" rant against unions on Fox News? A closer look at how The New Yorker has promoted the continuation of corporate versions of "school reform" — and the worst aspects of Barack Obama's "Race to the Top", including the required teacher bashing and attacks on unions — puts The New Yorker in a different light. Could it be that "investigative reporting," New Yorker style, is actually thinly disguised propaganda for one version of "liberal" Democratic Party politics?

Media entrepreneur Steven Brill (above) took his "investigative reporting" to cover the so-called "Rubber Room" story for The New Yorker in August 2009, one year before another New Yorker "investigative reporter" bashed the Koch brothers with a similar hatchet job. Brill's support for Barack Obama's version of corporate school reform came out in the Robber Room story, which left out most key fact (including the importance of due process for accused teachers) and began the frenzy to fire "bad teachers" that has since become a hallmark of the latest iteration of corporate school reform.But the The New Yorker has also become famous in recent years for its teacher bashing and anti-union propaganda pieces. The most famous of these was the August 2009 hatchet job on teacher rights covering the so-called "rubber rooms." [Full disclosure, this reporter was sentenced to a Chicago version of the "rubber room" — a term market tested by the infamous Paul Vallas — while being persecuted by Paul Vallas for publishing in Substance some of the dumbest "standardized" tests in Chicago history, the CASE tests]. Brill's Rubber Room article was unabashed (and wildly inaccurate) propaganda for the version of "school reform" being pushed by then New York Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and equally important support for Arne Duncan and Barack Obama's early "Race to the Top" stuff.

For those who can't get to the Rubber Room hotlink above, the URL to the Brill New Yorker story is: Brill's Rubber Room article, which appeared in The New Yorker less than nine months after Obama's inauguration, and while "Race to the Top" was still taking form, might also be viewed as corporate America's opening salvo in the attack on teacher unions through the "bad teacher" propaganda angle that has now become infamous. But let's remind ourselves that The New Yorker, through Steven Brill, was setting up the teacher unions for the "bad teacher" narrative long before Bill Gates or "Waiting for Superman" became synonymous with privatization propaganda and bashing public school teachers. If The New Yorker picks certain targets for its supposed investigations, it also reserves puff pieces for others. One of those celebrated in The New Yorker has been, over the years, Barack Obama. More recently (in February 2010, about a year ago), the New Yorker puffery has been given to Arne Duncan and the policies of the Obama administration's U.S. Department of Education, "Race to the Top." The February 2010 piece was given the precious title "Class Warrior — Arne Duncan's bid to shake up the schools" (by Carlos Rotella, New Yorker, February 1, 2010) and, like the Brill attack on the United Federation of Teachers and the Mayer attack on Koch Industries, the New Yorker reporter ignored every major published criticism of Arne Duncan's version of reality, either locally from Chicago or nationally from any number of scholars and analysts.

Interestingly, the "Good Guys versus Bad Guys" version of reality in the Arne Duncan hagiography resembles the same viewpoint as the Brill piece and, coming from another direction, the recent attack on the Koch brothers than seems to have gotten into the clip files of every "progressive." Consider the quote from the summary of the New Yorker Duncan profile currently available on line.

"President Obama has allotted Duncan more than seventy billion dollars in federal economic-stimulus funds to hand out to the states — more money 'by a factor of a lot,' as Duncan puts it, than any Secretary of Education has had before him. The stimulus money and the close relationship Duncan, who was the C.E.O. of the Chicago Public Schools before coming to Washington with Obama, has to the President give him extraordinary leverage. Duncan has the potential to be a uniquely influential Secretary of Education. Any state that wants its full share of stimulus money needs to give the Department of Education what are known as the 'four assurances': progress in raising standards; in recruiting and retaining effective teachers; in tracking students’ and teachers’ performance; and in turning around failing schools..."

In typical New Yorker fashion, if the policy, even Race to the Top, is an Obama administration policy, it is "good" almost by definition. No critical examination of Duncan's controversial years as CEO of Chicago's public schools is given, and the racist closing of dozens of Chicago public schools (and the ludicrous failure of what the Obama administration is touting as "turnaround") is ignored by The New Yorker.

For those who want to begin checking out the Arne Duncan version of New Yorker reality, the URL is:

If the biased New Yorker attacks on the teacher unions included both the Steven Brill "Rubber Room" article (in August 2009) and the Rotella propaganda piece on Arne Duncan and "Race to the Top" (February 2010), why should a reader give credibility to the August 2010 attack on the Koch brothers and Koch industries, just because the target of New Yorker propaganda at that point was a notorious right wing ideologue with lots of money? As ruling class propaganda, the Arne Duncan New Yorker piece almost equalled the Arne Duncan hagiography that comes regularly as front page news from New York Times reporter Sam Dillon (who began propaganda for the Obama administration's education policies in December 2009, in a front page story that appeared a month before Duncan was sworn in).

But back to the Koch brothers and Koch industries.

At the least, anything The New Yorker published establishing some kind of enemies list for the Obama administration requires a second look, even if the first tendency of "progressives" would be to cheer on what The New Yorker has published about Koch. As the politics of the USA becomes more subtle, anyone who has moved to the left since the heady days of audacious hope might want to take a second look at New Yorker reporting as propaganda for a particular corporate viewpoint — even if that reporting is directed against an easy target, like the Koch Brothers and Koch Industries. In the case of The New Yorker, the old liberal imperialist maxim "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" might require a critical look before a newly reborn left and socialist trade union movement takes firmer form.

Here is what Koch Industries said on its website:

Koch Statement on Wisconsin

Efforts by state governments to balance their budgets – especially in Midwestern states such as Wisconsin – are generating considerable media attention. That coverage escalated when a liberal blogger – who fraudulently said he was David Koch – called Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and then broadcast a recording of their conversation. There is considerable misinformation in media reports, but here are some essential facts:

Koch companies, including Georgia-Pacific, Flint Hills Resources, C. Reiss Coal Company, and Koch Pipeline Company, employ about 3,000 people in Wisconsin and support a total of 11,000 Wisconsin jobs.

Koch companies were not and are not involved in lobbying for Governor Walker’s budget repair bill – which includes weakening bargaining rights for public-sector unions – currently at issue in Wisconsin. Any suggestion that Koch Industries or a Koch company has some financial interest in the outcome of that legislation is false. We have taken no position on that state’s debate over public sector unions and do not intend to do so.

Koch Industries’ Political Action Committee, KOCHPAC, contributed $43,000 to Gov. Scott Walker’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign – less than one-half of one percent of the $9.195 million raised by the Walker campaign.

Koch has always and will continue to support market-based policies that advance economic freedom, and we support candidates who do the same. This was the basis for Koch’s support of Gov. Walker's candidacy.

Rumors that Koch supported Gov. Walker in order to purchase state power plants without competing bids are patently false. Koch has absolutely no interest in purchasing those plants.

We do believe that sound fiscal policy is a worthy goal for legislators to pursue. A balanced budget will benefit our company and its employees no more and no less than the rest of the state's private-sector workers and employers.

Regarding unions in general: Koch companies support voluntary associations, and where they so choose, we recognize employees' rights to be represented and bargain collectively.

Union employees represent a large part of our production employees. Nationwide, Koch company sites operate under more than 120 collective bargaining agreements.

Where unions exist, we respect their status, work with them in good faith, and honor the terms of our collective bargaining agreements. This has been true for more than 50 years.

We think the best workplace relationships are fostered when the employer works directly with its employees. It is a mischaracterization of our principles to say this means we want to dismantle all unions.

Koch Statement on California Meeting

Recent news stories have focused on a conference being held Jan. 30 - Feb. 1, 2011 in California, organized by Koch Industries, Inc. These conferences have been held since 2003 and hundreds of people have attended. They were described in this 2006 Wall Street Journal article and more recently in Politico. The meetings are an opportunity for attendees and presenters to discuss ways of preserving and advancing economic freedom in the United States and to share ideas about the free-market principles that have made our country great.

This conference brings together some of America’s greatest philanthropists and most successful business leaders whose companies have created millions of real jobs. Attendees will discuss solutions to our most pressing issues and strategies to promote policies that will help grow our economy, foster free enterprise and create American jobs. We respect all Americans’ rights to free speech and to peaceably assemble, and we hope that any protesters will respect the community and not cause an inconvenience for residents. Koch Responds to The New Yorker

The attached letter was sent to The New Yorker in response to its August 30 article about Koch. Koch is awaiting the magazine's response. Koch Responds on Tax Issues

Response to Recent Media Attacks

Koch Facts

Koch Industries, Inc. and its affiliates are founded upon – and committed to – their Guiding Principles that include integrity, humility, compliance and respect. Despite this principled approach, Koch Industries has recently received negative media coverage attention from many who are motivated to do us harm. Much of this criticism has targeted the company’s principal owners – Charles and David Koch. For more than 40 years, these brothers have been open and steadfast proponents of individual and economic freedom. Through their personal involvement and private foundations, they have lawfully supported activities and causes consistent with their beliefs. Koch’s Market-Based Management® business philosophy is based on economic freedom, which history and sound theory have shown to be essential for achieving peace, prosperity and societal progress. Citizens everywhere enjoy cleaner environments, longer lives and higher literacy in economically free societies. That is why the Kochs have openly and consistently supported the principles of economic freedom and market-based policies. Koch companies have hundreds of U.S. facilities in 40 states that employ more than 50,000 Americans. Another 20,000 employees work internationally, giving us a presence in 60 countries. These employees are among the world’s best at manufacturing things that people value and use every day, including products that purify water, dispose of hazardous chemicals, improve clothing, build and heat homes, protect the environment, help grow food, fuel cars and planes, and enhance vehicle safety. Rather than acknowledging the value we create, our critics tend to overemphasize long-settled issues that do not accurately reflect our current operations. Publicly available data confirm that Koch companies are currently among the very best at managing environmental and safety risks, as evidenced by 180 awards during the past two years. From wetlands restoration at our refineries to award-winning habitat preservation projects at our ranches, Koch companies have led and participated in many efforts that have enhanced the environment in their communities and within their fence lines. For accurate information on many of the issues from recent media and Internet discussion items, please review the information below:

Koch responds on tax issues

The truth about Koch and outsourcing

The New Yorker’s Koch story is not credible journalism

David Koch’s National Cancer Advisory Board involvement poses no conflict of interest

Koch and Americans for Prosperity/Citizens for a Sound Economy

Koch’s position on climate change/Greenpeace distortions

Koch companies support the California Jobs Initiative Campaign

Koch's commitment to compliance and long-settled environmental issues

Misrepresentations about Koch family and Koch Industries' history

Fred Koch's opposition to communism

Koch companies serve their communities as responsible corporate citizens

Koch and health care


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