Koch brothers spooked by forthcoming story

Anonymous sources try to discredit Bloomberg article on Koch Industries before it's even published

Topics: Koch Brothers,

Koch brothers spooked by forthcoming storyThe Koch brothers

Here’s a rule of thumb about public relations: When P.R. pros begin furiously spinning a story before it has even come out, there’s a pretty good chance the story is going to be damaging to the reputation of said P.R. pros’ bosses.

And that’s exactly what we’re seeing right now, as an anonymous person or persons in the orbit of the billionaire conservative donors Charles and David Koch try to discredit a forthcoming story in Bloomberg Markets magazine.

Based on the prebuttal items appearing this week in the Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller, and U.S. News and World Report, the Bloomberg story focuses on alleged malfeasance and/or fraud and/or bad behavior by the conglomerate Koch Industries.

One of those episodes apparently involves bribery by a Koch subsidiary in France, according to the piece by Washington Examiner editorial page editor Mark Tapscott. He reports that “Bloomberg reporters have been trolling among former Koch employees overseas in search of disaffected voices willing to talk,” but Tapscott suspects the story may be animated by bias against the Tea Party. And he notes that, “Koch USA officials say they were as surprised and angered as anybody else when they were first apprised of the bribery allegations, and moved as quickly as possible to get to the bottom of the situation and fix it.”

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All three of the prebuttal stories cite an unnamed source who was interviewed for the Bloomberg story; it’s not clear if that same source spoke with all three publications. The Examiner describes the source as a former government official.

Another one of the issues addressed in the Bloomberg article will be the Kochs’ past business dealings with Iran, according to the Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis, who also argues that this is not “terribly newsworthy” and the Kochs are being singled out for their politics.

Meanwhile, Paul Bedard of U.S. News reports:

One of those interviewed by Bloomberg for the upcoming article said the firm received four pages of single-spaced questions, all dealing with old trade and environmental problems and issues the company says it has fixed. None were about the firm’s politics or the Koch brother’s support for conservative causes, though the firm believes that is the focus.

Clearly, the Kochs are nervous about what Bloomberg has coming. And as it turns out, they’ve used the prebuttal strategy before.

In April 2010 I got an unsolicited email from Koch Industries’ spokeswoman offering to “reiterate some important facts.” She said that Koch Industries and the Koch brothers had never funded the Tea Party, in case I was wondering. That, of course, was not true. And a few months later, Jane Mayer’s now famous expose on the Kochs and the Tea Party was published in the New Yorker.

Bloomberg Markets spokesman Drew Kerr told me he can’t comment on forthcoming stories, adding, “you should always check out Bloomberg Markets’ website and magazine because one never knows what may appear.”

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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