Koch meeting draws protests

February 1, 2011

By: Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Inside the walled-off resort where the billionaire Koch brothers convened their annual conference of major conservative donors, Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney on Sunday gave a speech about the corrosive impact of “corporate welfare and bailouts, and the destructive influence of the Big Business lobby in Washington.”

Outside, though, hundreds of protesters accused David and Charles Koch and their assembled donors of being poster children for that very problem by funneling huge – and mostly undisclosed – donations into front groups pushing a political agenda intended to boost their profits at the expense of average Americans.

As participants in the invitation-only conference watched from behind a heavily guarded gate, protestors  pressed towards sheriff’s deputies guarding the entrance, waving signs reading “Koch Kills” and “Uncloak the Kochs,” and chanting “David and Charles Koch: Your corporate greed is making us broke.”

The Riverside County Sheriff’s department pegged the protest at between 800 and 1,000 people (though organizers claimed it was twice that) and said they arrested 25 protestors. They were primarily associated with the liberal activist groups Code Pink and Ruckus Society, which had planned the protests and negotiated the arrests  ahead of time with authorities, while the Federal Aviation Administration restricted air traffic over the resort – a couple days after the environmental activist group Greenpeace flew a blimp over this tony suburb of Palm Springs that was emblazoned with stylized portraits of David and Charles Koch bracketing the words “Koch Brothers; Dirty Money.”

Conservative provocateur and media entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart – who had spoken to last year’s conference but did not attend this weekend’s – rollerbladed through Sunday’s crowd of protesters, gleefully provoking arguments and hecklers.

“This is a protest against capitalism, against libertarianism, against the free market,” Breitbart asserted, calling the Koch conference goers “good and decent people … who create jobs.”

Through their oil and chemical company Koch Industries, the Koch brothers have been holding the conferences twice a year since 2003, with the winter meetings typically in the Palm Springs area, and the summer meetings in Colorado. But this was the first year the meeting attracted the attention of protesters – or really anyone at all, beyond the attendees.

The meetings bring together roughly 200 conservative business titans and dignitaries hand-picked by the Koch brothers to discuss the conservative movement and allocate millions of dollars in contributions to Koch-linked non-profit groups. Those who attend are warned not to mention the meetings publicly, and every previous meeting went off without a word in the press.

To read more, visit: http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=F2ADB96C-A3FC-43B3-B148-AB857120C4E5

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