Billionaire brothers, David and Charles Koch recently won the right to keep the public in the dark about their donors, after comparing their own situation to that of civil rights leaders back in the 1950s. In an era where civil rights movements have resurfaced to fight similar issues with social inequality, the comparison proved offensive to some, and genius to others. But it is working.
The Background Story
The Americans for Prosperity Foundation is a charitable non-profit chaired by billionaire David Koch. On account of its status, the government requires some inside knowledge, such as the list of donors contributing to the organization. This is a standard procedure meant to help the IRS fight fraud.
But in December of 2014, the organization requested permission to keep its donor list a secret. It then provided evidence of threats against organization members, and the potential threat against donors that would ensue if the list was made public.
One tweet the case cited stated, “I say we kill the Koch brothers and their entire family line”.
The NAACP vs Alabama Case
This was the same move taken by civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), when Alabama’s Attorney General sued the organization for not filing all their paperwork with the state. The state then ordered the organization to provide its membership list.
Concerned about the safety of its members, the NAACP refused to do so; not even when later fined $100,000 for contempt. The group then successfully convinced the U.S. Supreme Court that withholding the list was done to protect its members. They did this by showing all the threats the members faced and how much worse that would become if their connections to the association were revealed.
But Civil Rights Pioneers?
After successfully using the ruling in this old case to win their own, the Koch brothers didn’t stop there. They have since gone on to build an image as civil rights activists. Charles Koch explained to fellow conservatives at an event “History demonstrates that when the American people get motivated by an issue of justice that they believe is just, extraordinary things can be accomplished… Look at the American revolution, the anti-slavery movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement… All of these struck a moral chord with the American people. They all sought to overcome an injustice. And we, too, are seeking to right injustices that are holding our country back.”
However, many others have also speculated about the Koch brothers’ alleged ventures into civil rights activism. Claims cited against them include their opposition to workers’ unions, sabotaging efforts to raise the minimum wage, and calling for an end to social security.
That said, they are very generous, are successful entrepreneurs and major employers. The public is watching, and waiting as they change their reputations.