Love them or hate them, the Koch brothers are not credibly accused of doing anything illegal or wrong. They are successful libertarian industrialists who use their wealth to advance their point of view in American politics, via ordinary and legal means. They could be compared to George Soros, the left-wing billionaire who funds political operations on the left, but with one important distinction: Soros is a convicted felon. The Koch brothers are not.
On Wednesday, the majority leader in the United States Senate, Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, launched an unfair smear on the Koch brothers. During remarks Reid delivered in the Senate, he called the Koch brothers “un-American.”
Reid began with comments against the brothers that could be more properly applied to President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, saying “[S]omeone might suggest I’m picking on the Koch brothers. Now, I do not always agree with the fact checkers, who are sometimes wrong, but it’s striking that PoliticalFact reviewed 11 ads placed by the Koch brothers’ organization, and not a single one was rated “true” or even “mostly true.” Nine were rated “false” or worse. So I return to my original question; Whether their constitutional rights — are the Koch brothers right to degrade our democratic process with lies? Are they right to use tactics that are, by legal definitions, deceptive and dishonest? Are voters choosing a candidate due any less respect and honesty than consumers buying carpet?”
President Obama knowingly lied to the American people when he claimed, repeatedly and across several years, that “If you like your healthcare, you can keep your healthcare” under Obamacare. He lied in order to advance Obamacare, and he lied to gain re-election. Obamacare has knocked about 6 million Americans off the healthcare that they wanted to keep. The fact-checkers Reid cites against the Koch brothers served up four Pinocchios and called Obama’s lie regarding Obamacare “the lie of the year” for 2013 (after they gave it a pass in previous years).
Reid continued: “Mr. President, this is the truth. This is the truth. What is going on with these two brothers who made billions of dollars last year, in an attempt to buy our democracy is dishonest, deceptive, false and unfair. Just because you have huge amounts of money, you should not be able to run these false, misleading ads by the hundreds of millions of dollars. They hide behind all kinds of entities, Mr. President. It’s not just their front organization, Americans for Prosperity, they give money to all kinds of organizations, lots of money. You see, when you make billions of dollars a year, you can be just as immoral and dishonest as your money will allow you to be. It’s too bad that they’re trying to buy America. And it’s time the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty. The Koch brothers are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine.”
As un-American as, say, the Castro brothers? Or al Qaeda? What’s the upper limit on this attack?
Coming from just about anyone else, Reid’s screed could be dismissed as so much political noise. But Sen. Reid controls the Senate, and was in control of it when Obamacare was passed. He is accountable for the same lies that earned the president four Pinocchios. He is also responsible for defending Americans’ right of free speech, especially unpopular speech and speech that opposes government policy. Reid took an oath to defend the right of free speech guaranteed in the Constitution.
The Koch brothers responded strongly through a spokesman, calling Reid’s attack “particularly troubling because he appears to reference a television advertisement produced by Americans for Prosperity in which a Michigan woman suffering from leukemia shared her experiences under Obamacare.
“While Charles Koch and David Koch were not responsible for the advertisement in question, we believe it is disgraceful that Senator Reid and his fellow Democrats are attacking a cancer victim as part of their campaign against Charles Koch and David Koch.”
Reid’s attack strongly suggests that if it were in his power, he would severely limit the speech of Americans with whom he disagrees. It’s hard to imagine anything more un-American than that.