Classically Liberal on the Kochs


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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33 Responses

  1. Avatar ktward says:

    And the plot continues to thicken:

    [Ed] Crane released a bristling statement on the suit:

    Charles G. Koch has filed a lawsuit as part of an effort to gain control of the Cato Institute, which he co-founded with me in 1977. While Mr. Koch and entities controlled by him have supported the Cato Institute financially since that time, Mr. Koch and his affiliates have exercised no significant influence over the direction or management of the Cato Institute, or the work done here.Mr. Koch’s actions in Kansas court yesterday represent an effort by him to transform Cato from an independent, nonpartisan research organization into a political entity that might better support his partisan agenda. We view Mr. Koch’s actions as an attempt at a hostile takeover, and intend to fight it vehemently in order to continue as an independent research organization, advocating for Individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.

    And so, the games begin …

    Charles Koch, who very rarely speaks in public, is now firing back at his old friend Ed Crane. According to the A.P., he issued a pointed statement evidently aimed directly at Crane, insinuating that it is he who is threatening the Cato Institute’s libertarian mission, not the Kochs.

    I can’t imagine that anyone will find persuasive Chas’s rather sudden overwrought concern for the integrity of Cato’s mission. What amuses me, though, is the shock that seems to be coursing through the libertarian crowd: Chas Koch has [gasp!] engaged in a purely self-serving activity with complete disregard for its broader impact. I mean, really, this is hardly new.

    Meanwhile, I strongly suspect  that David will keep his hands clean of the dirty bits, but I can’t help but wonder if he isn’t  fist-bumping his bro behind closed Koch doors.Report

  2. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Whatever happened to liberty of contract?Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to James Hanley says:

      This is a little bit inside baseball for me, but it sounds about right.

      I have some libertarian instincts, but would not by any means identify myself as a libertarian.   But I think that it’s a vital strain in our political dialectic, and one that would be fatally tainted if it were to morph into “paleolibertarianism”–it would lose much of the rigor and singularity of focus that makes it compelling in the first place.

      So if the analysis of the blog you cited is correct in its analysis of the intentions of the Kochs, and the politics of the Cato institute, I would also agree with his conclusion:   a Koch-directed Cato Institute would pretty much mortally wound the star of the libertarian solar system.   And that would be a loss for everybody.


      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

        I think that it’s a vital strain in our political dialectic

        Honestly, I first read that as “a viral stain on our political dialectic.”

        And I know people who would think that’s more accurate! 😉Report

      • Avatar ktward in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

        a Koch-directed Cato Institute would pretty much mortally wound the star of the libertarian solar system.   And that would be a loss for everybody.

        I agree. To the extent that I value the contributions of Think Tanks in the course of policy debate, it would indeed be a shame to see Cato go the way of, say, Heartland. It’s one thing to promote idealistic policy that can be legitimately debated, it’s quite another to transparently shill for narrow corporate interests under the pretense of promoting idealistic policy.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to James Hanley says:

      bububububu raaaaaaciiiiiiiissssssmmmmmmReport

  3. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    “We will not spread malicious and false accusations, we just won’t defend these two men…”

    So they may not agree with what you say, but they’ll defend to the death your right to sayOH HELL NAW YOU DON’T BE TAKIN MAH STUFF!   WE HATES IT WE HATES IT FOREVERRRRRRReport

  4. I know way to little to have a meaningful opinion on the merits of this controversy or what this controversy means.  However, I can imagine it might be good for libertarians because an attack by the Kochs, who rightly or wrongly are seen by the public as conservatives (inasmuch as the public sees them at all) might underscore the allegedly libertarian bona fides of Cato.

    (I say “allegedly” because I know too little about Cato and my ignorance feeds a probably too credulous of think tanks in general.  I guess it would help if I actually read something produced by Cato in addition to Jason’s writings on marriage, which I enjoy.)Report

  5. Avatar Matt Huisman says:

    Niskanen’s shares went to his wife but Charles Koch has filed a lawsuit in Kansas, far from Cato’s main offices, to redistribute Niskanen’s shares to all existing stock holders, instead of to his widow, which would effectively mean a hostile takeover of Cato by Koch.

    Uh oh.  These are the arguments of people who expect to lose in court.

    I get the [effectively] hostile part, but I wonder if Charles might have felt the same way during that hissy fit way back when.  Minority ownership (especially when you thought had the votes) is a bitch.  Sounds like Crane can see it coming.Report

  6. Avatar Dand says:

    sorry, wrong link here’s the one i meant to post


    Jonathan, that was an excellent post yesterday regarding the Koch-Cato dispute.  I agree with you entirely.  There is more, however, that might be said about the Kochs’ dishonest narrative concerning what is going on here.

    We seek no ‘takeover,’ and this is not a hostile action

    This is at odds with both the words and deeds of the Koch brothers of late.  Last year, they used their shares to place two of their operatives – Kevin Gentry and Nancy Pfotenhauer – on our board against the wishes of every single board member save for David Koch.  Last Thursday, they used their shares to force another four new board members on us (the most that their shares would allow at any given meeting); Charles Koch, Ted Olson (hired council for Koch Industries), Preston Marshall (the largest shareholder of Koch Industries save for Charles and David), and Andrew Napolitano (a frequent speaker at Koch-sponsored events).  Those four – who had not previously been involved with Cato either financially or organizationally – were likewise opposed by every member of our board save for Gentry, Pfotenhauer, and David Koch.  To make room for these Koch operatives, we were forced to remove four long-time, active board members, two of whom were our biggest donors.  At this moment, the Kochs now control seven of our 16 board seats, two short of outright control.

    Why are they forcing out Cato board members, all strong, principled libertarians who have been heavily involved with Cato – financially and organizationally – for years?  The answer was given in early November of last year when David Koch, Richard Fink (he of many Koch hats), and Kevin Gentry met with Cato board chairman Bob Levy.  They told Bob that they intended to use their board majority to remove Ed Crane from Cato and transform our Institute into an intellectual ammo-shop for American for Prosperity and other allied (presumably, Koch-controlled) organizations.  That statement of intent is certainly consistent with what we’ve been hearing from both Kevin Gentry and Nancy Pfotenauer.  They’ve frequently complained during their short time on our board that Cato wasn’t doing enough to defeat President Obama in November and that we weren’t working closely enough with grass roots activists like those at AFP.

    there”s more at the link