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April 24, 2013

Koch Brothers Eye Tribune Purchase To Spread Conservative Message

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Charles and David Koch, owners of Koch Industries, are looking into the purchase of the Tribune Company; a media conglomerate that owns the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. Given the Koch brothers’ extensive funding of right-wing causes the news that they were interested in buying one of America’s most powerful media companies was concerning to many who wondered if the interest was purely business. Now it has been reported that their interest in the media company is mostly political.

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.

The Kochs have typically used their immense wealth to fund think tanks like The Cato Institute and organizing groups like Americans For Prosperity. Getting into the media game by buying Tribune Co. estimated to be worth $623 million would not be a financial hardship for the men who run a company with annual revenues of $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?’ ”

Battleground state and Hispanic newspapers to make sure their voice is being heard. No politics there.

Reporters who work for the Tribune Company fear they will become part of a “conservative mouthpiece.” That the Koch brothers will use the publications they work for to promote their conservative agenda as they themselves outlined in the Aspen speech.

Tribune Company will begin sending out information to prospective buyers, including the Kochs, next month.

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