Both the Democratic left and the Republican right have their financial backers. Recently, the Koch brothers, billionaires who own Koch Industries, have come under fire for their support of libertarian and conservative causes. The New Yorker accused them of “waging a war against Obama.” And recently the advocacy group Common Cause organized a protest of several hundred people at a meeting the Koch brothers held to discuss free markets and their electoral strategy.
I’m no fan of money in politics and not a huge supporter of the Koch brothers either, but there’s no reason to believe they don’t believe the positions of the groups they support. After all, they’re no arch conservatives or Dick Cheny acolytes, they’re libertarians who opposed the Iraq war and support gay marriage and stem cell research. But still the protesters yell “corporate greed” and “arrest the billionaires.”
How ironic, because as Timothy Carney points out, Common Cause is funded by billionaire George Soros.
Now I know conservatives such as Glenn Beck have targeted George Soros at every chance they get, but the cognitive dissonance doesn’t seem to be there on the right, at least not as much. Liberals don’t seem to understand that accusing billionaires of supporting Republicans while billionaires are supporting the groups at which you come to accuse billionaires of supporting Republicans, sort of, just kind of, destroys your argument. Well, at least some of them seem to have realized this glaring contradiction noting—with no evidence whatsoever—that “Our Donations Are Different.”
But as Timothy Carney illustrates, this is not necessarily the case:
“…many of the industrialists… could profit more through regulations and subsidies than they could through the free market. Some oil executives, for example, have supported California’s strict refinery regulations because they kept out competitors. Natural gas companies like Enron have backed cap and trade because it hurt oil and coal. As for bankers — the Wall Street bailouts made it clear that big government is their mother’s milk.
“…until Soros discloses all the investments and short positions of all his funds and all his personal wealth, it’s not possible to conclude whether his advocacy is motivated by public interest or personal gain. Is he short coal? Has he invested in GE’s Greenhouse Gas Services, which, dealing in greenhouse gas credits, depends on a cap-and-trade law in order to be profitable?”
Corporate cronyism is, in fact, easier with a big government. George Soros very well believes that more government will help the poor. But Carney counters that “The Kochs argue, with plenty of evidence, that economic freedom and the prosperity it yields are the best things a government can offer to the poor.” One difference though, “Only one side is trying to compel others to conform to its preferences.”
Regardless of what they believe and what will benefit whom, it would be nice if liberals at least admitted that their wealthy supporters may benefit from the groups they support or that wealthy libertarians or conservatives actually believe what they support is best for everyone. Or maybe a little bit of both.