Nearly 1,000 People Protest Republican Meeting in Rancho Mirage
|Reported by: KPSP Local 2 News Services|
Contributor: KPSP Local 2 News
Created: 1/30 2:00 pm
Last Update: 1/31 2:13 pm
As wealthy, conservative business people met Sunday inside a Coachella Valley resort, members of a liberal political action and open access group rallied to complain that corporations were being given unfettered control of the nation.
Common Cause rented a hotel ballroom for about 350 activists to discuss the conservative political agenda being furthered by Charles Koch and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who own an oil conglomerate that is the largest privately-held corporation in the U.S. The brothers and their company, Koch Industries, are hosting an invitation-only strategy session in the Valley this weekend.
About 1,000 protesters then clustered on Bob Hope Drive's sidewalks near the Rancho Las Palmas resort, where the conservatives were meeting.
[Related: Check out more photos from the protest]
Signs read "Medicare for All,'' "Troops Home Now'' and "Tea Party Founded and Funded By The Kochs.'' Police wearing riot helmets and visors formed a cordon at the resort's gates, and the protestors responded by moving away, to the other side of Bob Hope Drive.
The protest was mostly peaceful, however, 25 people were taken into custody for trespassing.
"The arrested subjects were transported to a command post in close proximity to the protest site where two subjects with pre-existing medical conditions were released with a citation at the scene," said Lieutenant Jorge Pinon of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. "The remaining twenty-three subjects were transported to the Indio Jail where they were booked and released with a citation."
Nancy Pfotenhauer, a spokesperson for Kochk sent KPSP Local 2 News this statement:
"We are happy to be back in Palm Desert, which has been such a gracious host community for these conferences for the last eight years. This meeting brings together some of America's greatest philanthropists and job creators and who share a common belief that the current level of government spending in our nation is simply unsustainable. In 2011, we will see yet another increase in the federal deficit and by 2021 debt held by the public will double. The discussion over the next couple of days will focus on solutions to this and other pressing issues in our nation and on strategies to promote policies that will help grow our economy, foster free enterprise and create American jobs.
We support the right of all Americans assemble in a peaceful and respectful way and to express their own point of view, and we hope that any protesters will respect this community and not inconvenience local residents."The Koch brothers have funded the effort behind Citizens United, the challenge to federal campaign laws that prompted a 5-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that corporations or other groups can secretly spend as much money on political efforts as they desire.
The New York Times reported last month that two Supreme Court members who helped decide the 5-4 decision have attended the Koch's secret political strategy sessions in the Coachella Valley in years past.
Common Cause has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate if there was a conflict of interest that should have prompted justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to recuse themselves from the Citizens United case.
Justice Thomas last weekend amended his financial disclosure forms to, for the first time, include his wife's multi-year earnings from conservative groups linked to the Kochs, the Los Angeles Times has reported.
"Citizens United was one of the worst losses for democracy in American history,'' said Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the UC Irvine law school and author of the most-widely-used textbook on Constitutional Law in the U.S. "Corporations can take funds right of their treasuries in unlimited amounts for candidates elected, or candidates defeated."
"Koch Industries spent $2.5 million in the last election cycle, and $2 million more was spent by individual with ties with Koch Industries,'' Chemerinski said.
"The effect of Koch Industries distorting our political system will be enormous, and don't think it's the last thing that the five conservatives are going to do on the Supreme Court to empower corporations.''
In a brochure description, Koch Industries said its meetings were to "develop strategies to counter the most-severe threats facing our free society and outline a vision of how we can foster a renewal of American free enterprise and prosperity.''
The New York Times reported that the threats mentioned by the Koch brochure include countering "climate change alarmism and the move to socialized health care'' as well as "the regulatory assault on energy.''
At Sunday's rally, DeAnn McEwen, a Long Beach nurse and co-president of the California Nurses Association said, "I want to zero in on Medicare and Social Security, as these are programs that the Koch Brothers want to destroy.
"A key threat in the secret political history of the Kochs has been their opposition to the Social Security and Medicare programs. We speak out because our patients rely on these programs,'' she said.
"The Koch Brothers' agenda is most definitely a death panel agenda,'' she said.
Out on Bob Hope Drive, protester Lauralee Davis said she drove in from Yucaipa. "I want the Kochs to be stopped from buying politicians, tea parties and think tanks.''
Sunday's protest wrapped up at around 4 p.m., about five hours after it had begun.
2 Justices Spoke at Dinners Hosted by Donor Koch
|Reported by: KPSP Local 2 News Services|
Created: 1/21 3:12 pm
Last Update: 1/21 3:42 pm
Two Supreme Court justices have clarified their past relationship with Koch Industries, the energy company that has been criticized by liberal groups for secretive and excessive sway on public policymakers and events.
Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas acknowledged Thursday that they each spoke at a private dinner in recent years that was hosted by Charles Koch, a Kansas oil man who is one of Koch Industries' two principal owners, and his wife.
Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg says both justices' travel and accommodations were paid by the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization.
Scalia spoke on international law at a January 2007 dinner in the Palm Springs, Calif., area, while Thomas discussed his memoir when he spoke the following year at the same location.