Love David Koch, He's a Liberal

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 31 2012 2:47 PM

Love David Koch, He's a Liberal

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Ken Vogel's fearless crusade to get a quote from David Koch paid off yesterday, when Americans for Prosperity held a tribute to the billionaire (and to Art Pope). There was an opening to hassle Koch with questions. Vogel took it.

“I think it’s essential to be able to achieve spending reductions and maybe it’s going to require some tax increases,” he said. “We got to come close to balancing the budget; otherwise, we’re in a terrible deep problem.”
As for whether military spending cuts should be on the table, Koch said, “I think to balance the budget, probably every federal department has to take cuts in my opinion. We have to spread it around.”
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Money is speech, and Koch speaks awfully loud about the kind of government he wants. With one exception, neither AFP nor any Koch foundation has come out shooting during any of the recent fights over taxes. The exception was the 2011 fight to end ethanol subsidies. Sen. Tom Coburn wanted to scrap the subsides, which save money for an industry that benefits David and Charles Koch. Grover Norquist challenged Coburn, characterizing any attempt to end subsidies as an effective tax hike. Koch Industries sided with Coburn.

That fight stood out because Koch Industries rarely takes these stands. This is a reason why the hardcore, Ron Paul, Mises Institute edge of the libertarian movement has remained on the outs with the new libertarian megadonors. It's also a reason why they're effective. If Koch is saying he's open to "some tax increases," he's still working with Americans for Tax Reform in a grand coalition to elect more Republicans.

But what'll happen if the Republicans win? At that point, does the Koch network -- Americans for Prosperity, especially -- become a beachhead for nagging deficit hawks? This never happened during the Bush years. The only indication that it could happen comes with these new Vogel-obtained quotes. This is worth paying attention to.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.