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Californians to protest against Koch brothers in Rancho Mirage

January 27, 2011 | 11:35 am

8.11.08.8945lat
Environmentalists, labor union members and liberal activists across Southern California are mounting a protest Sunday in Rancho Mirage against billionaire "tea party" funders Charles and David Koch and their semiannual confab of conservative activists.

The brothers, who own oil refineries across the U.S., helped fund last November's Proposition 23, the failed ballot initiative to delay California's landmark global warming law, AB 32. They are major backers of groups that seek to refute scientific evidence of global climate change.

The Kochs' regular gatherings attract several hundred Republican officials and wealthy business executives to raise money for conservative causes. In the past, the Koch-sponsored conferences have attracted such luminaries as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas along with GOP members of Congress.

The counter-meeting, dubbed "Uncloaking the Kochs," will feature former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Oakland green energy activist Van Jones, and constitutional scholar Edwin Chemerinsky at a panel discussion at the Hilton Rancho Mirage, two blocks from where the Koch group is meeting. Protesters will rally afterward on the street.

"The Kochs will be able to see the protesters from their resort," said Derek Cressman, a spokesman for Common Cause, the nonprofit group that is organizing the event. More than 500 people have signed up so far to take buses leaving from Culver City, Los Angeles' Koreatown, the San Fernando Valley, Riverside, Whittier, San Bernardino and the San Diego area, organizers said.

In a conference call Thursday, Reich said the Koch brothers' financing of Citizens United, a group that led the Supreme Court to lift restrictions on corporate funding of political campaigns, has "opened the floodgates" to wealthy contributors, widened the gap between rich and poor and enabled "billionaires entering the political fray big time."

De Ann McEwan, co-president of the California Nurses Assn., said her union and others were joining the protest because of the Koch brothers' opposition to Social Security and Medicare, which they have cloaked behind "Astroturf front groups."

UPDATE: Streaming video of the “Uncloaking the Kochs” panel is available at www.commoncause.org/kochlivestream

RELATED: Billionaire Koch brothers back Prop 23

—Margot Roosevelt

UPDATED photo: Greenpeace flew an airship over Rancho Mirage Friday with a banner reading "Koch Brothers Dirty Money," as businessmen, politicians and conservative activists began to arrive for a semi-annual confab sponsored by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who own Koch Industries, the nation's second largest private company. Credit: Gus Ruelas/Greenpeace

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