I've thought before that if I had a few billion dollars to give away, one of the things I'd do would be to bend the political world to my will, much like Charles and David Koch do. Not only would you get the satisfaction of helping to produce positive change, you could, if you were clever enough, destroy politicians who irritate you. A Republican state legislature somewhere tries to force women to endure some novel kind of slut shaming? Hey, Mr. State Rep who spent $82,000 on his last campaign, how're you going to feel when I drop a million dollars of attack ads on you? Bwah hah hah.
If you're going to do that with your few billion dollars, it's part of the deal that the other side is going to attack you. The more effective you are, the more visible you'll become, and the more nasty things will be said about you by people you don't like anyway. And you can't really let that get you too upset. I'm sure George Soros doesn't lose sleep every time Bill O'Reilly claims he's at the head of a sinister conspiracy. It may not be enjoyable to be criticized that way, but it's the price you pay for playing at that level.
But Molly Ball at The Atlantic tells us that the Kochs, the oil magnates who fund all manner of libertarian and Republican causes, get very upset when Democrats claim they're trying to manipulate the political process for their own profit:
This is only the latest back-and-forth between the Kochs and their antagonists -- they recently got into it, along similar lines, with Obama campaign manager Jim Messina after he put them to similar symbolic use as stock villains in a fundraising missive, with a response that charged Messina with wanting to stifle honest ideological debate. The real issue appears to be the Kochs' unwillingness to accept their lot in life -- the place they've been assigned in the liberal demonology. Rather than ruthless industrialists pursuing profit above all, they want to be seen as honest brokers -- sincere, philosophically motivated political actors who want nothing more than to make the world a better place.
Well, yeah. Of course that's how they think of themselves. No man considers himself a cartoon villain. As far as the Koch brothers are concerned, their profits are the result of their virtuous business acumen, free markets unencumbered by government meddling are a moral good, and the money they give away to advance free markets (i.e. a lack of things like environmental regulations) does indeed make the world a better place. The fact that the policies they favor would also help their business' profitability actually proves how worthy those policies are, since private profits are also a moral good. If they didn't think those things, they wouldn't be libertarian Republicans. They'd be Democrats. But they aren't.
That they see themselves as creating a better world isn't surprising at all, nor is the fact that they'd like everyone to see them that way. What would be surprising, however, is if they think such a thing is even remotely possible.
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