Here’s another urban legend being propagated all over the Internet and picked up by mainstream media outlets: claims that Koch Industries, a Wichita, Kan.-based conglomerate, is secretly behind the healthcare protests.
The company tells Newsmax it has nothing to do with the protests. And while it does fund one group associated with the protests, it has donated a relatively small amount thus far in 2009 and has provided funding for a long time -- well before healthcare became a headline news story.
The allegations stem from an association Koch Industries, its Executive Vice President David Koch, and the Koch family foundation has with the organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP). AFP has been encouraging its 700,000 members to attend the town hall meetings.
Koch Industries is the second-largest privately held company in the U.S., with interests in a range of industries including petroleum refining, minerals, fertilizers, forest and consumer products and chemical technology.
David Koch has long-held libertarian political views, and even ran for vice-president in 1980 on the Libertarian Party ticket. He has supported groups like AFP that educate the public on the importance of the free-enterprise system.
Still, liberal blogs have meshed Koch Industries into a broad conspiracy of groups opposing the president’s healthcare reform plans.
For example, one article about Koch Industries' links to AFP appeared on the liberal Web site Think Progress, which asserted that AFP is "funded by the Koch Industries empire" and implied that AFP is a "Koch Industries-funded front group."
The McClatchy newspapers, Parade magazine, and USA Today suggested that Koch Industries was behind the protests by noting that AFP was launched by David Koch.
Syndicated columnist Cynthia Tucker went so far as to write that "the Koch Foundation undoubtedly believes that slowing Obama down on healthcare reform will help defeat his energy bill, which . . . would affect Koch's business."
But in an e-mail to Newsmax, Koch Industries' Director of Communication Melissa Cohlmia laid out these key facts:
- Koch is not helping coordinate the town hall opposition to current healthcare legislation.
- The Koch foundations do not contribute money to AFP, although they do support the AFP Foundation, which focuses on citizen education about economic policy. Koch Industries has supported both organizations.
- Neither Koch Industries nor the Koch foundations have, to date, contributed funds dedicated to AFP and the AFP Foundation's efforts on the healthcare issue.
- Less than 5 percent of the funding AFP or the AFP Foundation has received in 2009 has been contributed by David Koch, Koch Industries, or Koch foundations.
"That said," Cohlmia observed, "healthcare has been an issue of keen interest to David Koch for decades. As a prostate cancer survivor, a member of the boards of several hospitals, medical institutes and research centers, and a donor of hundreds of millions of dollars to medical causes, David Koch brings an informed and passionate point of view to this issue.
"He has a longstanding commitment to affordable, accessible, high-quality healthcare but does not believe that the solution to better healthcare lies in more government intervention."
“David Koch," she also wrote, "admires AFP and AFP Foundation's 700,000 citizen members and 50,000 donors for exercising their constitutional rights and working hard to champion the principles of entrepreneurship and fiscal and regulatory restraint.
"Both AFP and AFP Foundation support ideals we believe are critical to our nation's future and the well-being of our society: limited government as set forth in the Constitution, fiscal responsibility, removing unnecessary barriers to entrepreneurship, and restoring fairness to our judicial system.
"Not every issue focused on by AFP or AFP Foundation receives support from David Koch, Koch Industries or a Koch foundation, but their overall mission of promoting sound economic thinking is one in which we firmly believe."
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