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Robert Greenwald

Robert Greenwald is a producer, director, political activist, and Brave New Films founder and president.

August 20th, 2011 11:17 AM

Are the Koch brothers afraid of the facts?

Charles and David Koch responded to our video, "Why do the Koch brothers want to end public education?" Friday night. They didn't like our video it seems.

Our film was about the big-money and high-stakes school board election in Wake County, North Carolina. We were able to connect the dots and demonstrate how Koch brothers' wealth benefited the forces of Jim Crow and candidates who employed "forced busing" and "neighborhood schools" rhetoric made infamous by George Wallace. That was the video's thesis and it's backed up by the facts, the historical record, and the many public statements on the subject by the Koch brothers' groups.

Like their Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs are changing the subject rather than trying to rebut our video point-for-point. And now Americans for Prosperity has told journalists that there's pending litigation against us. These reporters were also told there could be litigation against them too if they continue writing about us.

What are the Kochs so defensive about? Our video doesn't say they broke any laws. The press reports about the Koch brothers' influence in Wake County doesn't report that either, although this photo is worth 1,000 words.

2011-08-20-C:\Documents and Settings\Chris Johnson\Desktop\Max Stanley\john tedesco_reseg.jpg-johntedesco_reseg.jpg

School board member John Tedesco poses with an Americans for Prosperity sign. (Photo via John Tedesco Facebook page.)

What is accurately and comprehensively reported in our video, and elsewhere, is how the Kochs' wealth laid the groundwork for a school board majority that favored policies which would spark 21st century segregation.

Now the Kochs are retreating from what they've done through their national foundations, local groups, think tanks and more. They put in a lot of time and millions of dollars into this machine. What are they ashamed of? Are they now going to recant their association with Jim Crow?

The Koch brothers tacitly acknowledge this point in their post at KochFacts.com, although they don't apologize for it. In their blog post, they hold up a Newsweek article with a favorable headline, "Weak Tea Party Connection to Wake County, N.C., School Board." The article is full GOP activists' quotes until you get to this, which debunks the article's headline.

The Koch-funded Tea Party group, Americans for Prosperity "did only voter education and volunteer work on the school-board campaign," said Newsweek, closing the story with a quote from a Koch spokesperson acknowledging the new school board majority will lead to "de facto segregation."

The Americans for Prosperity spokesman was quoted in Newsweek saying, "Some areas are whiter and some areas are a little more colored [in Wake County]. That's the society we live in."

Indeed, some of Newsweek's readers were left scratching their heads and wondering why the magazine was protecting the Tea Party from Wake County schools especially in light of Americans for Prosperity's victory lap after the election. The KochFacts.com post also parades a right-wing blogger as an authority from the Washington Post, when in fact the Washington Post got the story right.

The Newsweek article is proof positive that the Koch brothers' money did play a role in the school board race and understood the consequences of a Jim Crow school board. Sue Sturgis is a local investigative journalist we interviewed in our film, and she too knows the extent to which the Koch billions, through Americans for Prosperity, influenced the school board.

There's even more evidence that connects the dots. The Koch brothers' so-called response is further discredited by UNC-Chapel Hill Prof. Walter Farrell. Farrell says the Kochs get their way "directly and indirectly through their numerous 527s [campaign spending machines] and in collaboration with their conservative multi-millionaire and billionaire colleagues (including local millionaires Art Pope and Robert Luddy)" who are directors of Americans for Prosperity and the John Locke Foundation, respectively.

There's a lot going on deeper in the weeds with Pope and Luddy, information the Kochs know about first hand, but chose to ignore. They could've read about it here and here, or asked them about Wake County during one of the Koch mega-donor summit and conference. Luddy and Pope have been invited to the events, which bring political heavyweights together with ultra-wealthy conservative donors.

They know their group, Americans for Prosperity, played a role in the elections. After all, how could we use its own blog posts to produce a video debunking its smears?

It appears the Kochs are among the most defensive billionaires, preferring the comfy confines of their callous and intellectually dishonest world view.

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