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Growth-Busting the Kochs in Rancho Mirage

Dave Gardner filming at KochBusters rally

We just finished this brief highlights video of the KochBusters Uncloak the Kochs event in Rancho Mirage. Last weekend billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch held their semiannual “Billionaires Caucus” at a posh resort near Palm Springs, California. These invitation-only meetings have in the past been kept quiet, but details surfaced last Fall when the latest invitation leaked out and was shared by New Yorker magazine and ThinkProgress.

With this information, Common Cause led a coalition of groups who gathered across the street from the secretive Kochs enclave. Groups included California Courage Campaign, California Nurses Association, Greenpeace, CodePink and the Ruckus Society.

The casual observer might be tempted to characterize this as a case of liberal vs. conservative or libertarian politics. The Kochs have poured millions of dollars into conservative political campaigns. GrowthBusters is non-partisan; we decided to film the events because we see the Kochs and their insidious network of “think tanks” and front groups as growth pushers, pumping out propaganda and manipulating the political system to maintain the status quo or even turn back the clock on true progress.

The elite who gathered at the Rancho Las Palmas resort last weekend were plotting strategy to grow their wealth at the expense of the environment and the middle and lower class. The Kochs are among the very richest in the world, they preside over a company bigger than Microsoft, and were named one of the top ten polluters in the U.S. A big part of their empire is oil, and they have poured millions of dollars into climate denial propaganda efforts. They founded or fund growth pushing organizations including the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Reason Foundation, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment, and even Club for Growth.

Some of these sound like apple pie, but the names are designed to conceal the sinister goal of concentrating and maximizing wealth – at the expense of social, environmental and economic justice. Funding such a network historically has kept the Koch name out of the headlines, so it’s less obvious their propaganda and lobbying efforts are designed to line the billionaires’ pockets. “It’s astounding that so few people have ever heard of a family this rich and powerful and aggressive when it comes to policy and politics,” says Jeff Krehely, deputy director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

I wasn’t allowed into the resort where the billionaires were plotting. At no small expense the Kochs took over the property, evicting resort guests who weren’t on the caucus guest list, including a film crew for Brave New Films, but also innocent vacationers. I was informed the airspace over the resort had been declared a restricted no-fly zone. Two dozen police in riot gear blocked the resort entrance. But I did capture some informative panel presentations, including Common Cause president Bob Edgar and fellow Van Jones and researcher Lee Fang of the Center for American Progress. 25 were arrested for (peacefully) trespassing during the rally that followed.

I thought I’d share a few highlights from the weekend in this video, but be assured in my film, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth, you’ll see more as I explore the efforts of growth profiteers to keep us hooked.

You can see more video from the events at this recap page on the Common Cause website. There is also a movement afoot to boycott Koch Industries products.

Dave Gardner
Filmmaker

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