The Hightower Report

The Kochs Take One on the Chin; and Muzzling Michigan Professors

Kochs Take One on the Chin

It's always good to see a corporate bully get popped right in the snout by those it's bullying – and what bully is more deserving of a comeuppance than Koch Industries?

This $100 billion-a-year conglomerate routinely runs roughshod over everything from the environment to workers' rights. Likewise, the two Koch brothers who run it are right-wing extremists who feel entitled to throw their multibillion-dollar fortunes at America's historic democratic structures, hoping to knock them down and erect their own corporate plutocracy over our democracy.

But along came a little David to rock Goliath. Last December, a merry band of tricksters called Youth for Climate Truth spoofed Koch Industries with a fake press release that appeared to be from the conglomerate itself. In essence, the release declared that the Kochs had seen the error of their ways in opposing efforts to regulate global warming emissions and were becoming environmentalists.

It was a harmless joke, but bullies don't like anyone laughing at them – so the grumpy billionaires unleashed their pack of snarling lawyers on the spoofing youngsters. They demanded the activists' names and hurled an intimidating lawsuit at them, claiming everything from financial harm to trademark infringement. The message was clear: Mess with us, and we'll bury you in legal costs.

That's when Public Citizen stepped in. This longtime champion of the rights of the little guy has a group of top-notch lawyers, and they went head-to-head with the Kochites in federal court. They requested that Judge Dale Kimball quash the subpoenas, protect the spoofers' identities, and dismiss the Kochs' lawsuit. On May 9, the judge said yes to all three requests.

The Kochs are still bullies, but it sure feels good to see them knocked down a peg.

Muzzling Michigan Professors

Suddenly – from out of the blue – three professors at three different Michigan universities simultaneously received identical freedom-of-information demands for any and all of their emails that used certain words.

The three are professors of labor studies, and the words in question were: "Scott Walker," the union-busting governor of Wisconsin; "Madison," the capital city at the center of mass protests against Walker's assault on workers' rights; and "Rachel Maddow," the TV talk show host who has covered the public rebellion against Walker.

However, this odd demand for emails did not really come from out of the blue, but from out of far right field, specifically from a ferociously anti-union corporate front group called the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Peek behind the Mackinac curtain, and you'll find piles of right-wing money from the Koch brothers, the DeVos family (founders and scions of Amway), the Prince family (which includes the founder of Blackwater), and the Waltons of Wal-Mart.

Now, guess who had also been major funders of Walker's gubernatorial run last year? Yes, the Kochs, DeVoses, Princes, and Waltons. Also, this year the same plutocrats dispatched their network of front groups to help the governor push his attack on Wisconsin's public employees. So it's really no surprise to learn that the billionaires' Mackinac unit would now launch a chilling witch hunt on state university professors. Apparently, the Mackinacers were hoping to cherry-pick some tidbits from the emails to "prove" that professors of labor were using their public positions to – gasp! – advocate for labor, or even to promote a pro-labor political movement.

As is usual with these supposedly nonpartisan, right-wing fronts, Mackinac officials are denying any political motives in what obviously is a crude, McCarthy-ite attempt to intimidate and muzzle people whose opinions they don't like.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Koch Industries, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Public Citizen, Youth for Climate Truth, Scott Walker

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