Koch Industries: We Don’t Fund Tea Parties (Except For The Tea Parties We Fund)

Koch Industries, a major backer of myriad right-wing causes, issued an unsolicited statement last night in advance of Tax Day claiming it has never provided funding “specifically to support the tea parties.” But when TPMmuckraker followed up, a spokeswoman acknowledged that Koch funds one of the most prominent national groups that organizes … tea parties.

“Because you have covered tea parties in the past and we imagine you will cover tomorrow’s Tax Day Tea Party in DC, we want to reiterate some important facts,” wrote Melissa Cohlmia, the company’s director of communication, in the email Wednesday evening.“Koch companies value free speech and believe it is good to have more Americans engaged in key policy issues. That said, Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch and David Koch have no ties to and have never given money to FreedomWorks. In addition, no funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the tea parties. Thanks for your consideration.”

Now, it’s well known that Kansas-based Koch, one of the largest private companies in the world, with a hand in everything from chemical production to commodity trading, and associated foundations plow millions into right-wing causes including climate change denial and pro-corporate economics research.

Another of Koch’s beneficiaries is Americans for Prosperity, which was founded in part by the company’s Executive Vice President, David Koch. He is currently the chairman of the board of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

AFP, based in Washington, has been a key organizer of many tea party events, including Tax Day Tea Party rallies in at least nine states today. (Indeed, we last encountered AFP when a man holding an “I Am AFP!” sign at an Ohio tea party protest berated a pro-health reform rallier who is disabled by Parkinson’s.)

AFP’s North Carolina branch has a Web site called www.nctaxdayteaparty.com that encourages supporters to “contact Americans for Prosperity-NC with questions about throwing a Tea Party in your town! We are here to help you have a great success!”

In an interview this morning, Cohlmia confirmed Koch’s role backing AFP. Asking how that squares with the statement that Koch not provide funding “specifically to support the tea parties,” Cohlmia said “the statement stands.”

She said the unsolicited statement was prompted because, “we’ve had a number of people who have indicated Koch is funding and orchestrating tea parties.”

A spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity directed inquiries back to Koch Industries.

(This post has been updated since it was published. Thanks to TPM Reader AL for the tip on the North Carolina AFP branch.)

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