Politico’s Kenneth Vogel, too, shoe-leathered it out to the weekend conference, filing a detailed pre-game report (which left little question as to why readers might want to know about this), and a from-the-scene account. Wrote Vogel:
Through their oil and chemical company Koch Industries, the Koch brothers have been holding the conferences twice a year since 2003, with the winter meetings typically in the Palm Springs area, and the summer meetings in Colorado. But this was the first year the meeting attracted the attention of protesters - or really anyone at all, beyond the attendees.
The meetings bring together roughly 200 conservative business titans and dignitaries hand-picked by the Koch brothers to discuss the conservative movement and allocate millions of dollars in contributions to Koch-linked non-profit groups. Those who attend are warned not to mention the meetings publicly, and every previous meeting went off without a word in the press…
Various media outlets ran items previewing the Koch conference. Yet the conference itself attracted relatively little national media, with some television news sources explaining that the organizers’ barring the press made it difficult to cover, and also citing the saturation coverage of the unrest in Egypt, as diminishing the bandwidth for stories on a secretive conservative donor conference.
Understandable. Reporters can (and, one hopes, will) cover this story (the larger, bi-partisan money-secrecy-influence story, of which the Koch “network” is one piece) without standing outside a closed-to-media gathering of some of the big players. As for Politico’s Vogel, he lingered at the conference, poking around, and filed another piece yesterday which begins:
Faced with an avalanche of bad publicity after years of funding conservative causes in relative anonymity, the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, Charles and David, are fighting back.
They’ve hired a team of PR pros with experience working for top Republicans including Sarah Palin and Arnold Schwarzenegger to quietly engage reporters to try to shape their Koch coverage, and commissioned sophisticated polling to monitor any collateral damage to the image of their company, Koch Industries.
At the same time, through their high-priced lawyers, private security detail and influential allies in conservative politics and media, the Kochs have played hard ball with critics and suspected foes.
It’s a fascinating read. At the end Vogel describes how Koch conference security guards threw him out of the resort (just like at that secretive Democratic donor conference back in November!) and “threatened ‘a citizen’s arrest’ and a ‘night in the Riverside County jail’ if [Vogel] continued asking questions and taking photographs.”
(Is that “quietly engag[ing] reporters to try to shape their Koch coverage” or “play[ing] hard ball with critics and suspected foes?”)