Charles Koch’s Cynical Rebranding Shouldn’t Fool Anybody
A majority of Americans support raising taxes on the rich in some form, according to a February poll conducted by SurveyMonkey for The New York Times. Just weeks before, a similar poll by TheHill/HarrisX, asking specifically about Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for an annual 2% tax on people with assets over $50 million, found that 74% of respondents agreed with the idea.
Supporters of wealth taxes generally, and Warren’s specifically, include Trump voters. “I think that raising taxes on the rich should have happened a long time ago,” Virginia Connolly, who voted for Trump and runs a home-cleaning business in Florida, told the Times. “The rich, what are they going to do with all that money?”
As The Washington Post reports Monday, if you’re Charles Koch, billionaire head of Koch Industries, you might use it to rename and reorganize your right-wing empire—funded by you and around 700 of your closest wealthy friends, who pay at least $100,000 annually—into an organization called Stand Together, formerly known as The Seminar Network, emphasizing philanthropy toward such causes as poverty, addiction, recidivism, gang violence and homelessness.
Brian Hooks, former chair of The Seminar Network, will lead Stand Together. In an interview with the Post, he denied that the name change and reorganization is a marketing or rebranding exercise, calling it instead a “natural evolution” of Koch’s work. “For too many years, we’ve let people define us. Going forward, we’re going to define ourselves,” he told the Post.
Charles, along with his brother David (who retired from politics in 2018), helped use the immense profits from their family business to finance a vast network of political, educational, philanthropic and policy organizations. As The Associated Press wrote in January, they were “GOP kingmakers best known for their pro-business agenda, libertarian leanings and support for the tea party movement.” Now, all political and policy activities will be folded into Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, which will continue to lobby for Charles’s political goals.
“We live in a period of unprecedented progress — economic, social, technological — but not everyone has shared in that progress,” Charles Koch wrote in a letter to supporters shared with the Post, sounding almost progressive. “While many people have gotten ahead, too many people are falling behind. Our charge is clear: we must stand together to help every person rise.”
Even prior to the rebranding, Koch and Koch donors have worked to promote what are generally considered progressive causes. They are working with liberal pundit Van Jones on criminal justice reform. They’re also supporting undocumented immigrant teens who came to the United States as children, the legalization of marijuana and an end to the war in Afghanistan. Stand Together also is staying out of the 2020 presidential race, though not out of politics altogether. Hooks told the Post that the organization is committed to working with unexpected partners, emphasizing a desire to be pragmatic: “What we’re committed to doing is offering people a different way to stay engaged in policy and in politics but to do it in a way that unites people to actually get things done.”
Hooks says he wants to work across political affiliations, telling the Post, “In a sense, all of us have had to make a choice, right? What do we care more about? Do we care more about helping people to actually break barriers or some of these old attachments? I think more and more people are making the right choice on that.”
Read more about the reorganization and renaming at the Post.WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO…
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