by Conor Friedersdorf
In The New Yorker, Jane Mayer has a long investigative piece about the Koch brothers, who fund various libertarian causes to the tune of millions. I'm an admirer of Ms. Mayer due to her indispensable reporting about the war on terrorism. Several months back, I dug into a dispute she had with Marc Thiessen, the former Bush speechwriter turned torture apologist, and defended the integrity of her work, having found it to be both intellectually honest and accurate. Her reputation is deserved, as is the reputation of the New Yorker, one of America's best magazines.
The piece on the Koch brothers is worth a look, and includes a lot of information about her subjects, who are certainly very influential and legitimate targets of scrutiny. If I'd just spent several years investigating Dick Cheney, I might also be predisposed to approach a new story on influential right-of-center power brokers with dark conspiracies on the brain. But as best I can tell, the Koch brothers are legitimately upset by some aspects of the piece, and anyone who reads it should also look at the rebuttals from libertarians who are persuasively pushing back against some of its conclusions.
One false note, pointed out to me by a libertarian with no ties to Koch money, is that the article invokes the term "Kochtopus" in service of showing how far-reaching is the power of these political donors, but doesn't explain -- presumably because Ms. Mayer didn't know -- that the term was actually coined by paleo-libertarians, who insist that the Koch brothers are nefarious influences on the movement because the DC organizations they fund are too liberal. (For example, Reason ran stories about Ron Paul's ties to a racist newsletter during his presidential bid, to the consternation of many in the libertarian movement.)