Barack Obama’s twitter account sent out a message late tonight urging his supporters to put pressure on Charles and David Koch–the wealthy libertarian businessmen–to disclose the list of contributors to Americans for Prosperity, their main vehicle for political activism.
Americans for Prosperity is like many political groups on the left and the right; able to accept private and anonymous donations. They aren’t doing anything illegal, but for political reasons the Obama’s team, and now Obama himself, are pressuring them to do something they aren’t obligated to do.
It has some conservatives absolutely furious.
Jim Geraghty of the conservative National Review expressed his own outrage on Twitter:
It’s the latest flare-up between Team Obama and the Koch’s in an escalating public relations war.
Philip Ellender, president of government & public affairs for Koch industries, has been going back and forth with Obama’s campaign manager in open letters over the past week.
Last week, Ellender released a letter responding to Koch criticism from the Obama campaign. It read in part:
“It is an abuse of the President’s position and does a disservice to our nation for the President and his campaign to criticise private citizens simply for the act of engaging in their constitutional right of free speech. The implication in that sort of attack is obvious: dare to criticise the President’s policies and you will be singled out and personally maligned by the President and his campaign in an effort to chill free speech and squelch dissent.”
Messina fired back:
There is no campaign in the country that believes more in the active participation of Americans in the electoral process than this one. When you attempt to drown out their voices through unlimited, secret contributions to pursue a special-interest agenda that conflicts with what’s best for our nation, you must expect some scrutiny of your actions.
But tonight’s tweet, sent out to over 12 million “followers” really changes the complexion of things. There aren’t exactly rules for this sort of politics, but it does seem odd to have the nation’s chief executive exerting this kind of pressure on law-abiding (if very wealthy) citizens who disagree with him.
It should be noted that the Koch brothers are generally libertarian in their outlook, they are pro-gay marriage for instance. They also give lots of money to the arts and other non-political causes. But they have become a lightning rod and make for good copy in fundraising material for liberals and Democrats – much the same way George Soros’ name scares the money out of conservative wallets.
[Full disclosure: the Koch brothers have donated money to two groups that have paid me in the past. The first is America’s Future Foundation, for whom I wrote one paid article. I also did unpaid speaking at some of their events. Second, the Philips Foundation which awarded me a journalism fellowship in 2009 – though, to avoid conflicts of interest, I have never investigated whether the Kochs donated during the years I was paid.]
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.