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Tom Finneran: I’ll Have a Koch

Friday, June 13, 2014


America’s politics are increasingly insane. Fellow Americans berate each other with an ad hominem intensity more severe than we would ever dish out to some known Muslim terrorist.

Take the Koch brothers. To listen to certain Democrats these mid-Western brothers are more sinister, more evil, more anti-American than the Iranian mullahs. Or the Taliban. Or Ahmadinejad.

The Koch brothers’ sin? Why they disagree with some of the Democrats in Washington DC! Can you imagine that? Such gall. How dare they disagree? And in an even greater sin, those evil brothers tend to support candidates who oppose the multiple meddlesome encroachments on Americans’ lives for which D.C. has become notorious.

I’ve often wondered about the difference between a multi-millionaire (or billionaire) from some Wall street hedge fund and the Koch brothers. Or some Silicon Valley techie entrepreneur and the Koch brothers…

They all support favored causes and favored candidates. Some of those favorite causes happen to benefit the interests of the big-shot donor. Some of those favored candidates will undoubtedly vote along certain philosophical lines, liberal or conservative, as might be suggested by their big-shot donors. Big deal.  It’s not as if three hundred million Americans don’t have any differences of opinion, some of which are pretty intense.

Like-minded donors from Wall Street support like-minded candidates for office. Like-minded donors from certain industries or regions will support like-minded candidates. We all do it. It’s natural. It’s constitutional. And it’s wise.

As an American citizen I’m under no obligation to give support to any candidate at all. I might find them all repellent. Yet if I learn of a candidate who seems sensible and grounded, a candidate whose principles align with mine, I’m free to help that candidate get elected. As are you. As are the Koch brothers.

These evil brothers have been in the news lately for some actions that are incredibly generous and entirely benign. Within the past week or so they have announced a twenty-five million dollar gift to the United Negro College Fund. You know the UNCF, the organization whose slogan is that “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”. UNCF does some amazing things with students who aspire to succeed against pretty dramatic odds. I suspect that the Koch donation will put some mighty big wings on those students’ dreams. Three cheers.

Regular viewers of NOVA, the renowned PBS program are aware that the program has received magnificent support from David Koch for quite some time. It’s a great program and I suspect that PBS is deeply appreciative of Mr. Koch’s continuing generosity. Three more cheers.

Locally, the David Koch Institute for Cancer Research at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts has been the beneficiary of major grants from Koch family foundations for cutting-edge medical research as well as for an on-site day care center for the children of the young and brilliant scientists who work there. Three more cheers.

But these Koch brothers sure are sinister. They’re very tricky. Their evil knows no bounds. Let’s try them as war criminals! Better yet, let’s do away with a trial and just go straight to the hanging. After all, in addition to their very generous philanthropy they’ve made political donations. Who needs further evidence?

Ironically, here in America in the 21st century, the land of the free and the home of the brave, the Koch brothers are attacked mercilessly for their embrace of free markets. America’s strength of course comes from capitalism, which for whatever its faults and limitations, remains the best economic system in the history of the world. Those troublesome brothers believe in and exercise the First Amendment freedoms of speech and association. They participate in politics as alert and knowledgeable citizens. What’s not to like about them? John Adams would have loved them.

For those Americans with different points of view, feel free to argue the merits of those points. After all, politics and policy arguments are supposed to generate vigorous debate and the brothers are hardly infallible in their judgments. But the juvenile caricatures of the Kochs as some sort of destructive Godzillas won’t work, not on brothers who are smart, well-educated, hard-working, generous, and successful.

I remind myself, that cancer, death’s calling card, affects virtually every family in our fair land. It’s a thoroughly apolitical disease. The Koch-funded cancer research underway will undoubtedly save American lives, perhaps someone in your family, perhaps someone in mine. That’s a good thing where I come from. So three cheers for the brothers, three cheers for their generosity, and three cheers for our future…………I think I’ll have a Koch.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.


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