Koch Brothers Turning Focus to Newspapers

WxDano(5b-2a-6/7)April 22, 2013

Conservative Koch Brothers Turning Focus to Newspapers

By AMY CHOZICK
Published: April 20, 2013 Three years ago, Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and supporters of libertarian causes, held a seminar of like-minded, wealthy political donors at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, Colo. They laid out a three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes.

The first two pieces of the strategy �" educating grass-roots activists and influencing politics �" were not surprising, given the money they have given to policy institutes and political action groups. But the third one was: media.

Other than financing a few fringe libertarian publications, the Kochs have mostly avoided media investments. Now, Koch Industries, the sprawling private company of which Charles G. Koch serves as chairman and chief executive, is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.

By early May, the Tribune Company is expected to send financial data to serious suitors in what will be among the largest sales of newspapers by circulation in the country. Koch Industries is among those interested, said several people with direct knowledge of the sale who spoke on the condition they not be named. Tribune emerged from bankruptcy on Dec. 31 and has hired JPMorgan Chase and Evercore Partners to sell its print properties.

The papers, valued at roughly $623 million, would be a financially diminutive deal for Koch Industries, the energy and manufacturing conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $115 billion.

Politically, however, the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest paper in the country, and The Tribune is No. 9, and others are in several battleground states, including two of the largest newspapers in Florida, The Orlando Sentinel and The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. A deal could include Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, which speaks to the pivotal Hispanic demographic.

One person who attended the Aspen seminar who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the strategy as follows: “It was never ‘How do we destroy the other side?’ ”

“It was ‘How do we make sure our voice is being heard?’ ”

Guests at the Aspen seminar included Philip F. Anschutz, the Republican oil mogul who owns the companies that publish The Washington Examiner, The Oklahoman and The Weekly Standard, and the hedge fund executive Paul E. Singer, who sits on the board of the political magazine Commentary. Attendees were asked not to discuss details about the seminar with the press.

A person who has attended other Koch Industries seminars, which have taken place since 2003, says Charles and David Koch have never said they want to take over newspapers or other large media outlets, but they often say “they see the conservative voice as not being well represented.” The Kochs plan to host another conference at the end of the month, in Palm Springs, Calif.

At this early stage, the thinking inside the Tribune Company, the people close to the deal said, is that Koch Industries could prove the most appealing buyer. Others interested, including a group of wealthy Los Angeles residents led by the billionaire Eli Broad and Ronald W. Burkle, both prominent Democratic donors, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, would prefer to buy only The Los Angeles Times.

The Tribune Company has signaled it prefers to sell all eight papers and their back-office operations as a bundle. (Tribune, a $7 billion media company that also owns 23 television stations, could also decide to keep the papers if they do not attract a high enough offer.)

Koch Industries is one of the largest sponsors of libertarian causes �" including the financing of policy groups like the Cato Institute in Washington and the formation of Americans for Prosperity, the political action group that helped galvanize Tea Party organizations and their causes. The company has said it has no direct link to the Tea Party.

More corporate control of the media. Great.

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nancy_in_venice_ca Sunset 24 z10

The L.A. Times is caught between a Murdoch and a Koch place, although both Murdoch and Broad, Burkle, et al only want the local rag. Hope this doesn't tip the scales in favor of the Kochs.

It is hard to imagine that the paper could be even thinner - both in actual heft and reporting - than it is now. Lately the NYT has had better coverage of our local news than the home-town paper.

At least they've dropped the idea of persuading David Geffen to buy the paper.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 5:23PM
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sjerin

Adds 'legitamacy' for the masses who might be beginning to wonder why they are doing worse instead of better, (as had been promised,) after tax cuts and other helpful Republican/Libertarian attempts to lessen government interferance.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 7:53PM
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nancy_in_venice_ca Sunset 24 z10

Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.

Unless the L.A. Times has some prestige in other parts of the country (which I doubt) I don't know how the Brothers Koch will be served by this particular media outlet. It's not as if the greater Los Angeles area is particularly fertile ground for their message (nor Baltimore or Chicago). Perhaps the media in the other cities will give them better access to an audience more likely to accept their views.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 9:28PM
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elvis

"“It was never ‘How do we destroy the other side?’ ”

“It was ‘How do we make sure our voice is being heard?’ ”

Great attitude; very constructive, IMO.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 10:00PM
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sjerin

Euphemism, m'dear.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 10:05PM
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WxDano(5b-2a-6/7)

Nancy, they'll have a bigger megaphone that gets linked to furiously.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 11:38PM
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nancy_in_venice_ca Sunset 24 z10

they'll have a bigger megaphone that gets linked to furiously.

Like the Moonies' Washington Times?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 12:59AM
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WxDano(5b-2a-6/7)

Here's Why the Koch Brothers Would Buy the LA Times and Chicago Tribune

By Andy Kroll Mon Apr. 22, 2013 8:39 AM PDT Not long after the November elections, I met with Charles Spies, a big-time Republican fundraiser who'd run the , to hear his take on why Romney lost. We sat across from each other at a long wooden table in a tenth-floor conference room overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue. (Before his firm moved in, Spies says the conference room used to be Al Gore's office.) We talked about super-PACs and the hundreds of millions they spent, the clout (or not) of wealthy donors and how they could get the most bang for their buck in a political campaign. Then, unprompted, Spies told me, "If I had the resources and wanted to impact the policy debate, I'd buy a newspaper or a magazine."

"Even in today's media climate?" I asked.

"Oh, absolutely." He explained: Not to make money. They're not profitable. But imagine if I was, you know, a mogul that had 30, 40 million dollars to spend and cared about policy issues and elections. I'd buy the New York Times or the LA Times. Buy a major newspaper and put my people in on the editorial page and use that to frame issues the way I wanted to. And then I could claim that the news folks were separate from the editorial page but I think they know where the owner's heart is at.

Spies is not a friend of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire libertarians. He does not move in their political circles. But in our conversation, he laid out what may be the best reason why the Kochs and their company are reportedly considering a move to become America's newest newspaper barons.

As the New York Times reported on Sunday, Koch Industries, the massive conglomerate run by Charles Koch, is mulling a bid to buy eight prominent newspapers owned by the Tribune Company, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, and Orlando Sentinel. Those newspapers are valued at $623 million, which is a pittance compared to Koch Industries' annual revenues of $115 billion. If the Kochs wanted to do what Spies described, the megaphone that those newspapers would provide them is nothing to scoff at. The LA Times is the nation's fourth-largest paper, the Tribune the ninth-largest, and tens of millions of people combined visit the newspapers' websites each month.

A bigger platform with which to spread their free-market ideas seems to be what the Kochs want. The Times quotes one attendee of the Kochs' exclusive donor seminars as saying of the brothers, "They see the conservative voice as not being well represented."...

Corporate mouthpiece.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 10:56PM
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adoptedbyhounds

The Oregon ACLU always said the cure for speech you don't like is more speech. I think more views, voices, speech and choices in the media are long overdue. Bring them on.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 9:30AM
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momj47(7A)

Guess I'll be cancelling my subscription to the Baltimore Sun

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 1:55PM
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david52_gw

In my admittedly limited experience, people who still subscribe to newspapers, particularly large city papers, tend to be more politically liberal - for all kinds of reasons.

Secondly, look at how Chicago, Baltimore, and LA voted - pretty much Obama blowouts. Even Orlando in Fl went for Obama 59% - 40%.

So, if the Koch Bro's buy this up, and start slathering the opinion pages with their standard 'deregulate everything and cut my taxes' BS, either people will continue to subscribe and just skip the editorial page and go straight to the sports and comics, or just save their money and cancel their subscriptions.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 3:04PM
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dicot

I scouted the LA Times printing presses when I was protesting their use of newsprint (derived from pulping old growth forests). We decided to blockade the incoming shipments rather than shut the presses, but I have no problem with being arrested again over this.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 3:20PM
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nancy_in_venice_ca Sunset 24 z10

if the Koch Bro's buy this up, and start slathering the opinion pages with their standard 'deregulate everything and cut my taxes' BS

When I pointed this out above, Dano commented: they'll have a bigger megaphone that gets linked to furiously.

Those outside the circulation areas may be impressed that the LA Times or Chicago Tribune or Baltimore Sun or Orlando Sentinel says such and such... but there will also be those quick to point out who owns those newspapers. These papers will end up the Koch equivalent of the Moonies' Washington Times.

If the Brothers Koch are willing to part with that much money, their advisers obviously see some advantage that we are both missing. Naivete and impressionability among voters across the U.S.? Or is the key access to the Spanish-language newspaper Hoy? La Opinion has a larger circulation in greater Los Angeles, but Hoy is published in both L.A. and Chicago.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 3:49PM
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adoptedbyhounds

Maybe they're not going to focus on opinions.

Maybe they will go digging for more facts and information than readers are getting today, and readers will like that. Maybe they will have reporters investigate state and local matters ordinary folks cannot investigate, but suspect should be looked into. Maybe they will hire reporters to tell readers what their politicians are doing, regardless of their party affiliation. Who wouldn't like that?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 5:14PM
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nancy_in_venice_ca Sunset 24 z10

Maybe they will go digging for more facts and information than readers are getting today

Did you even bother to read the article and the quotes?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 5:40PM
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momj47(7A)

The "facts" for the Koch brothers are definitely not the facts the rest of us see. They are so far to the right they are at risk of falling off the edge of the flat earth they believe in.

The Koch brothers created and fund the Tea Party, and I suspect that the Koch brothers find some of the Tea Party ideas a bit to "liberal" now, as the party struggles to come to terms with the 2012 election loss.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 7:52PM
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jmc01

Did anyone ever think to look at the sellers? Yawn. Non-event.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 9:34PM
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chisue

I wouldn't notice much difference from the present Chicago Tribune editorials...but overall *content* could become a bigger problem.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 11:14AM
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momj47(7A)

I think we do have to worry.

Koch Known for Peddling Politics Through Every Aspect of Business, Philanthropy One way the Kochs have influenced policy is through large grants to universities and students to pursue research relating to the Koch's view of how society should operate.

Koch Distorts Science for Profit Some of Koch Industries' core businesses -- fertilizer, chemical plants, coal shipping, fracking, heavy crude oil refining, cement, and petroleum coke -- contribute millions of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and are the reason that Koch is the fifth biggest air polluter in the country. How will Tribune Company newspapers continue their award-winning environmental journalism?

Will the Tribune Reporters Continue to Investigate Koch Influence?: Tribune Company reporters have led in the way in uncovering Koch Industries' influence in politics and policy.

Koch Finances Hate:Koch's premiere grassroots organizing group, Americans for Prosperity, has funded rallies where health reform has been compared to the Holocaust. The group routinely invites speakers who are known for spreading hatred and conspiracy theories...

Looks like the brothers are trying to buy media to shut it up.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 11:59AM
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adoptedbyhounds

Maybe they will go digging for more facts and information than readers are getting today

"Did you even bother to read the article and the quotes?"

Why yes, Nancy, I did!

But I considered other factors than the ones you mentioned. And although I was thinking along a different line than you were, I addressed you with courtesy.

You said "I don't know how the Brothers Koch will be served by this particular media outlet. It's not as if the greater Los Angeles area is particularly fertile ground for their message (nor Baltimore or Chicago)"

That statement confirms that you know as well as I do that news outlets can be subverted to "serve" political interests. A change in ownership could certainly bring changes, good or bad, depending upon ones perspective. We both accept that newspapers can influence thinking, Now we can discuss how it works.

You spoke of certain locations as not being "fertile ground" for "their message." I was not disagreeing with you. If people buy a newspaper because they like what they read on the editorial page, more power to them. They're getting what they want.

I was suggesting appeal to readers could come in other forms and pages than you mentioned. Vibrant reporting, frequency of reporting, even placement of reports on particular pages may influence what catches readers' attention.

If the new owners are able to put out a newspaper that catches peoples interest because it is filled with facts and information readers find relevant to their lives, I'm all for it.

"The "facts" for the Koch brothers are definitely not the facts the rest of us see."

Facts remain facts, whether anyone sees them or not.That's why I like competition. Reporters and newspapers become accountable for getting facts wrong, omitting them, or misreporting them. When somebody else is watching, and has the power to point out reporter or outlet errors or biases, it's all good!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 12:44PM
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chisue

A neighboring community has finally passed a high school referendum that has failed for years. This go-round Koch Bros. helped finance two-page display newspaper ads opposing passage. Good lord, are they everywhere? Is it "Koch Brothers" or "Big Brother"?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 6:51PM
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momj47(7A)

Facts remain facts,

There are very few immutable facts or truths, at least not the kind that the Koch brothers promulgate. They will skew information to fit their "facts".

They do seem to be everywhere. They are more than happy to spend their billions to further their far right wing causes.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 6:58PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Sounds like a major Koch up.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 8:04PM
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adoptedbyhounds

"There are very few immutable facts or truths, at least not the kind that the Koch brothers promulgate. They will skew information to fit their "facts"."

Facts, nevertheless, remain facts. Bill Clinton DID sleep with that woman, and nobody hacked Anthony Weiner's twitter account. Be grateful for reporters who told you the truth when your politicians told you lies.

"They are more than happy to spend their billions to further their far right wing causes. "

Oh the outrage! How dare they act like that lefty George Soros?

By the way, if you're one of those complainers about the rich getting richer, check out the latest on Obamaphones.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wealthy guy profits from Obamaphones!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2013 at 2:29PM
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chisue

Is The New Yorker in danger of being co-opted? LOL

I was really *amazed* that the Kochs would stick their gilded oar into this HS referendum in a North Shore Chicago suburb.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2013 at 3:32PM
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