By Simon Johnson
On Thursday evening, the Lehrer Newshour ran my discussion with Paul Solman on American financial history and previous attempts to constrain the power of big banks – covering the main points in chapter 1 of 13 Bankers. On Paul’s part of the Newshour website, we also talk about “astroturf” organizations that pretend to be reformist but are really just stalking horses for corporate interests opposed to reform.
We covered a lot of ground (and much of Manhattan) in 8 minutes, but we missed one potential irony. At the American Museum of Natural History, above the Teddy Roosevelt statue (and not readable, it turns out afterwards, in any of the shots) there was a huge banner celebrating an exhibit made possible in part by David Koch (a trustee and major funder of their dinosaur wing).
Teddy Roosevelt would have loved the irony of appearing under a banner with Mr. Koch’s name.
Among many other activities, Mr. Koch chairs the trustees of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP Foundation). The foundation is related to but seaprate from Americans for Prosperity (AFP) – an organization with a broad political agenda, including support for “tea parties” (more on that here).
The Foundation helps RightOnline – which runs opposite NetRoots every year. It also supports “Patients United Now“, which may or may not be regarded as a genuine grassroots organization. – their website does disclose that this is a “project” for the AFP Foundation.
But there are also alleged instances where crowd appearances have been funded in a nondisclosed manner by AFP and its allies.
AFP’s official list of issues does not include financial sector reform – either for or against – and this is also not in the Foundation’s highlighted research. However, at least according to some researchers, AFP is very much involved in financial sector lobbying – along with payday lenders and other special interests (for more detail, see the online version). Given the high level of disclosure and clear publicity around AFP’s other activities, the alleged clandestine nature of the activities here is interesting.
Rachel Maddow previously established that DCI helps the phony “Stop Too Big To Fail” (STBTF) group – a point confirmed to me by the main STBTF organizer himself (more on DCI Group). Whether or not there is a link here to AFP and related structures remains to be seen.
These are issues and personalities that Teddy Roosevelt would have relished confronting. Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear if any modern politicians feel similarly inclined.