Over at the Washington Jewish Week, the redoubtable Adam Kredo has some justifiable fun with an NJDC demand that Republicans return money from the Koch brothers, now that their past Iran sanctions dodging has been revealed by Bloomberg News.
Kredo notes a) the Kochs have given to Democrats and b) GE also dodged sanctions, and gave big to candidate Obama in 2008.
The defense by NJDC President David Harris is weak: Yes, the brothers’ involvement in conservative politics is, well, elephantine as opposed to the, well, peanuts they give Dems. But that isn’t the point: The NJDC’s release names only Republicans. Whoever drafted the release needed to weigh whether naming Democrats as well as Republicans was a bullet he or she was prepared to bite. If yes, go for it; if no, refrain from clicking on "submit." This is an easy cake-and-eat-it-too call.
UPDATE: In fairness, and to Harris’ credit, he tells Kredo that he is now demanding of Democrats that they return Koch’s money.
All that said:
–GE is not in bed with Democrats the way the Kochs are with Republicans and the Tea Party. GE’s chairman at the time of the donations, Jack Welch, is a self-identified Republican who also cultivates Democrats. The Kochs are actively seeking to unseat Obama and are major funders of the Tea Party movement. And Republicans have made sanctions enforcement a central plank of their criticisms of Obama.
There’s plenty more ‘splainin’ for Republicans to do about their Koch ties than Democrats about their GE ties (although there’s plenty for both.)
–The emerging pro-Koch defense is pathetic. Here it is, outlined by Powerline:
If you actually read the article, you find that Bloomberg contradicts its own lurid claim by acknowledging that in fact, Koch was careful to make sure that its subsidiary’s conduct was fully lawful:
Internal company records show that Koch Industries used its foreign subsidiary to sidestep a U.S. trade ban barring American companies from selling materials to Iran. Koch-Glitsch offices in Germany and Italy continued selling to Iran until as recently as 2007, the records show.
The trade ban doesn’t apply to foreign subsidiaries.
Koch Industries took elaborate steps to ensure that its U.S.-based employees weren’t involved in the sales to Iran, internal documents show.
Yes, that is what Koch and other companies have to do to comply with the law.
First, yes, the point of the article is that Koch Industries went to great lengths to legally skirt the spirit of the law. This is why Congress has since closed the loopholes. This does not free Koch from ethical accountability.
Bloomberg’s "lurid claim," contra Powerline’s insinuation, is not that Koch committed crimes; it was that it "thwarted" and "sidestepped" the ban on dealings with Iran. Are these verbs value-infused? Maybe, but the value they convey — that using overseas subsidiaries skirted the spirit of the law — was affirmed by Congress in 2010, when it voted to close the loopholes. Majorities of Republicans in both houses backed the tightened loopholes.
And about the law, there’s this creepy little discovery by Bloomberg reporters:
Elena Rigon, now Koch-Glitsch compliance manager for Europe, based in Italy, in December 2000 addressed a memo outlining compliance guidelines to company managers in her region.
In another e-mail, Rigon said all offices had to go through a checklist for each estimate quoted for materials headed to Iran.
“Your staff shall send this form to me since I have to send it to the lawyers in the USA as part of the compliance program,” Rigon wrote in the e-mail. “If somebody happens to find out that any U.S. persons are involved in this project or U.S. material is delivered to Iran you CANNOT quote.”
That CANNOT sticks out like a sore thumb and begs for more comment from the Kochs.
If all that were at stake here were exposing bad actions, you’d think that the conservative/Republican tack would be to demand greater accountability from Koch — and from other companies that have ties to Dems and that employed the same sanctions-busting techniques. Defending Koch doesn’t seem the wise route.
But maybe Iran accountability is not all that’s at stake.