The Koch Brothers Are Working With BuzzFeed Now

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 9 2013 5:42 PM

The Terrifying Koch Brothers Sponsor a Boozy Pro-Immigration Reform Panel

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Protesters from Occupy DC block a street during a demonstration against the billionaire conservative Koch brothers and Americans for Prosperity, on November 4, 2011 in Washington, DC.

Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

My inbox occasionally swells with angry letters or petitions calling for the Kochs to be prohibited, somehow, from buying the LA Times or the Tribune company writ large. Just this morning I got a message from the California-based Courage Campaign informing me that "The Koch brothers want to buy the biggest paper in California and the fourth largest in the nation so they can set the debate, not cover it." (As if they're the first rich people to hunger for editorial control of newspapers.)

A few hours later I got this invitation:

Screen shot 2013-05-09 at 5.04.42 PM

W-w-what? Well, as a veteran of the Koch-funded Reason magazine, I can report that the libertarian brothers have always put their money behind immigration reform. Maybe that complicates their newfound (well, 3-year-old) role as all-purpose rich guy demons; they're sponsoring a night of debates intended to nudge along immigration reform. The announcement comes with a Kochworld quote:

"The Charles Koch Institute believes that advancing progress in our communities and the world around us begins by exchanging knowledge and ideas," said Richard Fink, Director of the Charles Koch Institute. "The importance and timeliness of the immigration debate make the need for such thoughtful dialogue imperative. Sponsoring a productive dialogue on this issue is a natural extension of our commitment to advance a free and prosperous society."

It's a major step forward from their 2011 vintage PR campaign: Irritated press releases accusing reporters of lying about them.*

UPDATE: From BuzzFeed's Ashley McCollum:

We were looking to expand our BuzzFeed Brews series and wanted to do something like this summit for a while. The Koch Institute came to us and were thinking on the same wavelength about doing an event which felt serendipitous. Immigration was the right topic at the right time and we're just happy it all came together.

*I edited the end of this item after the fact, to include that Kochworld quote.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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