You shall know their names

by Eric on October 25, 2013

California just hit up the Koch brothers for a million bucks. The Koch brothers haven’t admitted hiding behind shell outfits while throwing scads of dollars at initiatives meant to break unions and block tax increases in the Golden State, but the fine is part of a settlement in a case launched to find out if they did so hide and throw.

The California group opposed to public goods wanted big money, so they went to the Kochs on the ground that “nobody in California would want to do this[.]” They appear to have viewed the Kochs as a right-wing money milch cow: “dealing with the Koch network … availability of funds never crossed our mind.”

I love with an unseemly passion the – hastily? purposely? sleepily? – inept redaction that allows the Sacramento Bee to make informed guesses about the other donors to the cause of destroying the state parks and public schools as well as killing labor. These guesses include the family that owns the Gap and “Ventura County businessman Gene Haas, who.… served 16 months in a halfway house in 2008 and 2009 after pleading to conspiracy to commit tax evasion.”

The tax increase that passed is the one that led to the state’s celebrated balanced budget. The million dollar fine might help balance the budget a little, too. Maybe we should hope for some more feckless and shady out of state donations, followed by more fines – then perhaps we could restore California’s public services, including her great universities, to the people who live here instead of eroding them to please ideologues from elsewhere.



Kenny Easwaran 10.25.13 at 5:24 pm

A million dollars is the best they could get out of them? That’ll be enough to get the state half of an office (not an office building) in any of the cities, or a couple employees. And it’s pocket change to the Kochs.


Minivet 10.25.13 at 5:49 pm

Is this serious or a parody? This is just like fines on banks – fines become a cost of doing business and are minimal compared to the profits generated, or alternatively compared to the social harm caused by the underlying activities.


Eric 10.25.13 at 6:03 pm


Metatone 10.25.13 at 9:59 pm

While I agree that the scale of the fines doesn’t look large enough to deter the bad behaviour (and surely that’s the point of them?) I think we have to celebrate that the crime was investigated and a fine applied. It’s a good step forward from a few years ago.


Tim Wilkinson 10.26.13 at 2:32 am

So this was settlement of a civil suit, rather than a plea bargain in response to criminal proceedings?


Tim Wilkinson 10.26.13 at 2:54 am

To answer my own question – yes, so it would seem.

-Oh really? Do tell me more…

-Well, Ch 11 of the relevant Act allows for either civil or criminal proceedings – the criminal penalties are higher, but a criminal charge can’t (as things stand…) be settled by making a payment without admission.

The Kochs look to have paid a lot more than they could have been found liable for at trial. I suppose CA thought they may as well get as much out of them as possible, hence no criminal prosecution. Other explanations would be that they decided it wasn’t serious enough to merit prosecution; that they didn’t fancy trying for the criminal standard of proof; that they thought the Kochs would go to an expensive trial if misdemeanour convictions were at stake.


Mitchell Freedman 10.26.13 at 8:07 pm

I second Tim’s insights.

This was a great result, considering we are treading in that area where the US Supreme Court has told us Dollarocracy (TM to John Nichols and Robert McChesney) rules.


Dr. Hilarius 10.28.13 at 4:16 pm

Civil cases also have the advantage of broader discovery rules. Fear about what might be uncovered in depositions and requests for production can be a powerful motivation to settle a case.

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