In the dark annals of conspiracy theories, a few names are instantly recognizable. The Knights Templar. Freemasons. Illuminati. The Koch brothers.

Wait, what?

If recent media hype is to be believed, libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch are the prime architects of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.  From Tea Parties to TSA protests, it seems that there is no political cause that cannot be tainted by the hint of financial or ideological association with the Kochs, however tenuous it may be.  The thinking among liberal pundits seems to be that popular conservative initiatives are rendered illegitimate if one can conjure up an image of the Koch brothers stroking Persian cats and using their evil corporate funds to buy the allegiance of the duped masses.

For example, take a recent article from The Nation written Yasha Levine and Mark Ames (the former has called Tea Partiers “big government whores,” the latter thinks that school shootings like Columbine are forms of political protest), who attempt to discredit the recent movement against “enhanced” airport screening techniques.  Their piece begins by admitting that the issue is “certainly important—and offensive—to Americans,” and then proceeds to smear anyone who has come to prominence in opposing and exposing the TSA.  The authors accomplish this by heavily implying that individuals such as John Tyner III of “don’t touch my junk” fame are nothing more that Koch-funded pawns.  These claims are so unsubstantiated that Ames and Levine have to rely so heavily on innuendo that they border on bald-faced lies.  

Their oft used formula is this: suspect is libertarian/knows libertarians, the Koch brothers are also libertarians, thus the suspect and the entire “grassroots” movement he represents must be controlled by those dark puppet masters.  Someone should tell these guys how a syllogism works.

While Nation Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel penned an apology to Tyner, she tacitly defended the Left’s new axiom that the Kochs compel all critics of liberalism.

Along the same lines, a blog post for The Nation by Leslie Savan reveals that ordinary Americans wouldn't be opposed to food and beverage taxes without the influence of Big Bad Food Inc.  Savan’s main argument is to note conservative positions (consumer freedom is good, the nanny state is bad) and grunt derisively in a style reminiscent of Kristen Wigg’s “Aunt Linda” character from Saturday Night Live.  Toward the end she slips in the required jibe:

“In fact, AAFT might be nicknamed Coke and Koch: while it bills itself as "a coalition of concerned citizens—responsible individuals, financially strapped families, small and large businesses," those businesses include the Tea Party–supporting front groups Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform, both of which are funded by the rightwing Koch brothers.”

This information is supposedly meant to prompt the invalid conclusion that “front groups” like Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform are merely acting on the behest of the Koch family.  After all, it couldn’t possibly be that Americans for Tax Reform was abiding by a mandate it has followed since the 1980’s, namely, opposition to all net tax hikes.  Normal Americans couldn’t have a problem with giving away money to a government that thinks it knows better than they do.  No, this must all be the work of that nefarious duo, Charles and David Koch.

The truth is that the Left operates on a double standard when it comes to political activism of the wealthy.  The Koch brothers are demonized along with like-minded organizations, while George Soros and his ilk get a free pass.  With all the howling about this season’s campaign contributions by American Crossroads and the Chamber of Commerce, massive public-sector union financing remains sacrosanct.  It’s time for the liberal establishment to stop these ad hominem attacks on conservative benefactors and start defending their own positions.  Perhaps they are unable to.