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BuzzFeed Politics now sponsored by a Koch brother

May 9, 2013

Visitors to BuzzFeed Politics were greeted by a curious sponsorship badge at the top of its page Thursday. As ThinkProgress Editor-in-Chief Judd Legum pointed out, it appeared BuzzFeed pols had been sponsored by Charles Koch of Koch Industries, the second largest privately held company in the U.S. by revenue and notorious right-wing political power players.

Following that sponsorship badge brings you to a special BuzzFeed advertiser page for the Charles Koch Institute …

Screen Shot 2013 05 09 at 10.05.23 AM BuzzFeed Politics now sponsored by a Koch brother

… which is partnering with the news aggregation site to sponsor a BuzzFeed Brews summit on immigration:

Speakers at the summit include BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith as well as speakers from conservative think tanks the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, which was founded by Koch along with the CEO of Koch industries.

As for why BuzzFeed would want to partner with Koch, the answer is simple enough: Money. As for why Koch would want to access BuzzFeed’s young and—one guesses—mostly politically progressive audience, that’s a longer story—but it’s also about following the money. Stick with me here:

Immediately after Romney lost the November election, Republicans decided that in order to have any chance in the next election they needed to befriend Latino voters. They needed to become, as Romney’s head of Latino outreach Carlos Gutierrez would call it, “the party of immigration.” Shortly after the November election, Charlie Spies, head of Restore Our Future, the biggest Romney SuperPAC for 2012, threw his lot in with Gutierrez and set his sights on 2016 with a new SuperPAC called Republicans for Immigration Reform.

It was a cynical move that acknowledged how deeply the Republican Party had offended Latinos by talking about immigration mostly in terms of securing our borders with giant fences — Romney’s citing “voluntary deportation” during presidential debates didn’t help things, either. To get back in the game for the next election, Republicans would have to make friends with Latinos—and they’d do it by changing their tune on immigration reform—extending an olive branch to voters who otherwise had no choice but to side with Democrats.

So what would the billionaire Koch brothers’s interest be in supporting immigration? Again, it’s about the money.

The Kochs need Republican candidates—ones they can influence—to win in future elections so that they succeed in getting policies passed that benefit their economic interests. Which is why the Kochs got Citizens United passed—which allows unchecked corporate influence in politics—and ALEC, an initiative that allows lobbyists to help legislators draft bills. But the intersection of immigration and economic interests can be seen in the controversy kicked up by Mark Zuckerberg’s political spending. His group, Fwd.us, is spending on behalf of candidates who advocate oil drilling and the Keystone Pipeline if they’re also willing to compromise on a more progressive approach to immigration reform.

The Kochs strategy here might be similar: Use immigration reform to appeal to a more populous base with switch hitters who will toe that party line while pushing a more right-wing agenda on other interests.

A Koch interest in Canadian oil sands called Flint Hills Resources Canada LP would benefit tremendously from passage of the proposed Keystone Pipeline XL. To the point that, in 2011, Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee “sent a letter urging the committee to request documents from Koch Industries relating to the company’s interest in Canadian tar sands and the extent to which it will benefit if the Keystone XL pipeline is constructed.”

As the second largest privately held company in the U.S. exerting influence over regulation, decisions like Keystone can help the Kochs make a mint. Attempting to exert that influence comes in forms big and small, from a Supreme Court decision on Citizens Untied to an apparent attempt to ingratiate its ideas with the audience of one of the Web’s young more progressive websites of record.


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