Last month the state of Kansas–with an overwhelmingly conservative Republican legislature and rightwing social warrior having recently become governor–passed regulations that would effectively close the three facilities in the state that performed abortions, including a clinic run by Planned Parenthood. A federal judge issued an injunction blocking implementation of the new regulations, which the state will challenge. Such challenges are almost always handled by the state’s attorney general. But that’s not what Kansas is doing:
The state of Kansas has hired an outside law firm to defend the state against a lawsuit file by Planned Parenthood. The law firm, Foulston Siefkin, of Wichita, also represents David and Charles Koch, conservative billionaire brothers who have donated significant funds to the Republican Party.
The Democratic leader in the Kansas senate blasted the Brownback administration for hiring outside counsel, at extra cost to the taxpayers. It’s a classic move out of the Bush administration to shift public moneys to for-profit providers of services that have traditionally and often more effectively been provided by the public sector.
But it’s important to focus on the cast of characters in this story. PAC’s and individuals associated with Koch industries gave more to Sam Brownback than to any other politician, and as a federal candidate Koch-connected donors were Brownback’s biggest contributors. Brownback entered politics as a holy warrior, so there was never any question that the Koch brothers were backing someone for whom cultural and social matters were at least as important as the anti-regulatory, pro-corporate class warfare most associated with the Kochs and the political operations they’ve funded, including Americans For Prosperity, which essentially created the tea party “movement.”
It’s often claimed that the Kochs, as libertarians, don’t have a conservative social and cultural agenda. It’s true they don’t talk about abortion much, but it’s hard to accept the claim commonly made that what caffeinated the tea party was only conservative economic populism, and not also the social and cultural radicalism that increasingly lead younger, browner, more educated and more suburban voters to turn against the GOP. But look what happens when culture warrior Sam Brownback needs skilled, trusted attorneys to defend his state’s cultural revanchism: he goes to the law firm that represents the godfathers of the tea party movement, the Koch brothers.
This should put to rest any question whether the Koch brothers are benign figures in the American culture wars. If they saw social issues as a sideshow that detracted from their political goals and interests, it’s hard to imagine that their law firm–Koch is probably their biggest client, and they’re based in Wichita, site of the murder of Dr George Tiller–would take on such a controversial case. Foulston Siefkin representing Kansas in its attempt to ban abortions in the entire state does not mean the Koch brothers want abortion regulated out of existence in Kansas. But the fact that the Koch’s are allowing their law firm to help pursue that policy means that at best the Koch’s don’t object if politicians who benefit from their patronage pursue the rightwing social and cultural agenda that supposedly isn’t at the heart of the tea-party driven Republican party. It’s also a grimly ironic demonstration that the Koch’s don’t mind if their attorneys defend what have been alleged are excessive government regulation, provided that what’s being regulated are abortions.