(Rancho Mirage, CA) — A year ago, it's unlikely that 15 people would have shown up for a rally against the Koch brothers, owners of the largest privately owned corporation in the U.S, even in the middle of L.A. or New York. Today, in the desert town of Rancho Mirage, 1,500 showed up, protesting the brothers' plutocratic, climate-change-denying, democracy-thieving ways.
The brothers, Charles and David, stayed inside their posh resort at a meeting to plot the downfall of climate law and takeover of the Supreme Court (oh, they already did that) with their corporate buddies.
But attendees at the meeting, an event the Kochs host a couple of times a year, couldn't help hearing the ruckus outside. I'm sure it reached the big ears of Rep. Eric Cantor, the new House majority leader and a probable attendee.
Of course, we know that Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia attended at least one earlier meeting, and led the charge in the Citizens United decision overturning a ban on direct, anonymous political funding by corporations. (See Common Cause's letter pointing out this conflict to the Justice Department.)
The old chant, "No Justice, No Peace" rang out today in a new way. Especially coming from a guy in a polar bear suit, pleading not to turn the Arctic into a desert like Rancho Mirage.
Twenty-five or so protesters in hazmat suits ("Quarantine the Kochs!) got themselves arrested for walking up to the police line in the driveway of the Rancho Las Palmas resort. But mostly the group was dancing in the street, from toddlers in strollers to elders with walkers. A surprising number of cars honked support as they passed by in this wealthy, conservative town, the retirement home of former President Gerald Ford.
Activists who've been around the block are always skeptical that progressives can make a real popular movement, especially around anything as complex as a Supreme Court decision on political funding. But the Kochs, who poured money into the midterm elections and an attempt to get California's green energy law invalidated, are showing potential as lightning rods.
The Kochs, along with other major corporate powers, are able to pour money anonymously into politics now, thanks to the Supreme Court. The gathering today was their first shot at the 2012 election, in which corporate spending will make the 2010 midterms look like a homemade prom decoration.
The middle class is getting poorer every year in relation to the ultra-rich like the Kochs. And families don't want their children to inherit global warming, fossil energy pollution and a demolished democratic system–things dear to the heart of Charles and David.
Let's hope today's noise sent a little trickle of unease through the energy moguls–who like to do their plotting in private.