Cato to Koch: We’re already providing “intellectual ammunition” that Americans for Prosperity can use

Last addition to the Koch-on-Cato violence story, until there’s newer news.

From a good background article by Dave Weigel, a very reasonable reporter with great sources, comes this exchange between David Koch and Bob Levy, chairman of the Cato board of directors.

(Remember, the Koch Bros are in the process of stacking the Cato board to assert complete and direct control. Bob Levy and Cato co-founder/president Edward Crane are in the anti-Koch resistance.)

Weigel (my emphases and some editorial comments):

In early November, David Koch met with Bob Levy, chairman of Cato’s board of directors, at Dulles International Airport. They were joined by Richard Fink, Koch’s chief adviser, and Kevin Gentry, a vice president of Charles Koch’s charitable foundation who’d been put on Cato’s board of directors. (Former Americans for Prosperity President Nancy Pfotenhauer had joined the board after the same meeting.)

“They [David Koch, Fink, Gentry, Pfotenhauer] said that a principle goal was to defeat Barack Obama,” remembered Levy. “The way David [Koch] put it was, ‘We would like you to provide intellectual ammunition that we can then use at Americans for Prosperity and our allied organizations.’ AFP and others would apply Cato’s work to advance their electoral goals.”

Levy asked them: “What gives you the impression that [Cato isn’t] providing intellectual ammunition?” He says now: “I never got a satisfactory answer. The only answer that makes sense was that Cato needed to be more responsive to their needs. We would take closer marching orders. That’s totally contrary to what we perceive the function of Cato be.”

Gentry and Pfotenhauer were the Koch “operatives” the Koch Bros placed on the Cato board at the end of last year — contemporaneous with the meeting described above. (The term “operatives” was used by both Levy and Cato fellow Jerry Taylor, as we noted here.)

What you should notice — In essence, when asked to be the intellectual water carrier (or “ammo-shop“) for a Koch-funded political campaign, Cato board chair Bob Levy did not say, “Sorry, we’re intellectually neutral; we don’t do politics. We go where the libertarian sunshine leads us.”

What the Cato chairman actually said was (again):

“What gives you the impression that [Cato isn’t already] providing intellectual ammunition [for your political campaign]?”

Is there any other way to read that story, except as a client prince saying they’re already on board?

If so, can we stop pretending that Cato is always and everywhere intellectually honest? We can quote them as calling themselves the libertarian “gold standard” all we want. That just passes on their branding.

When Levy met Koch at the airport, it was, “Please, boss, don’t take away our “freedom.” We’re already doing what you want.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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