Last week, Alternet posted yet another bogus smear on the libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch. It has since been reposted by Salon.com. The article summarizes the “findings” of a report titled, “The Koch Brothers’ Record on Civil Rights and Race,” which was produced by an outfit called “The Bridge Project.” This front group is really an arm of a super PAC called American Bridge 21st Century, which was founded by Democratic party activist David Brock and in 2012 was described as “the hub of the left” by Roll Call.
The article and the report it parrots make some bizarre claims. For instance, one of the “disturbing facts” is that the Kochs support organizations that oppose government unions fleecing taxpayers, thereby “hurt[ing] African American mobility.” Not only is the claim that unionization benefits minorities extremely dubious, opposition to government union favoritism is hardly the exclusive domain of libertarians and conservatives. Progressive hero President Franklin D. Roosevelt strongly opposed government employee collective bargaining. What’s more, police unions have long advocated for policies, such as the law enforcement bill of rights, that are used to protect bad cops who disproportionately victimize low-income minorities.
But the report gets even more ridiculous. Another supposed example of the Kochs being opposed to civil rights and black American wellbeing comes from the 1980 Libertarian Party presidential campaign, when David Koch was the party’s vice presidential nominee. The campaign criticized urban renewal projects for disproportionately harming black tenants and property owners, something the Progressive political operatives at “The Bridge Project” somehow find troubling.
The urban renewal projects stemming from the Housing Act of 1949 (and the subsequent Housing Act of 1954), which continued until 1974, are now commonly viewed as having codified and perpetuated racial segregation in housing. Affordable housing in low-income black and immigrant neighborhoods was frequently declared blighted, seized through eminent domain, and bulldozed to make way for politically preferred buildings or highways. Leaders of the civil rights movement and urban-defender Jane Jacobs were among the harshest critics of federal housing and urban renewal policies in the 1950s and ‘60s. Slum clearance under Title I of the Housing Act was dubbed “Negro clearance” in a 1952 issue of the NAACP’s magazine The Crisis.
By the time 1980 rolled around, David Koch and his running mate Ed Clark were merely highlighting what had already been widely acknowledged—the federal government's urban renewal policies disproportionately harmed low-income minorities. The revisionist attempt by “The Bridge Project” to spin David Koch’s stated opposition to disastrous urban renewal policies into contempt for civil rights appears to be a tacit endorsement of those very policies.