Even before the Koch Bros have put in an official bid to buy the Tribune newspapers, people around the country are up in arms over the prospect of them owning eight important regional news outlets.
About half the staff at the Los Angeles Times have pledged to quit their jobs if the paper is taken over by the Koch Bros, and many are moving to block the sale. There are protest rallies planned for LA and Chicago at Tribune headquarters.
10 public employee unions have formally requested the Tribune not sell to them. One of the many issues the Kochs champion is reducing the efficacy of unions.
They sent a letter to Oaktree Capital Management, the largest shareholder of Tribune. Union pension funds own about 25% of Oaktree’s assets, which they are threatening to withdraw if a sale goes through.
"The sale of the Tribune Company’s newspaper assets would provide the Koch brothers a powerful and influential platform by which to promote, at both the local, state and federal level, that enactment of their anti-public pension fund policies," say the unions in the letter. "The Koch brothers have a history of orchestrating efforts that are "anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-public education and anti-immigrant."
Bill Rosendahl, on LA’s city council introduced a motion to pull the city’s pension funds from the investment firms that own the Los Angeles Times if they sell it to buyers who do not support "professional and objective journalism."
There are also ads running in the LA Times, urging people to drop their subscriptions if the Koch’s take over. Over 1,000 people have pledged to cancel their subscriptions and 250,000 have signed petitions opposing the sale.
Here’s the Ad:
"The LAT has a long and storied past of publishers taking it in various directions. The Kochs are much more likely to end journalism as we know it. They are likely to stop coverage of climate change or skew it. They will almost certainly change the way the LAT covers state politics, especially ballot measures," Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign (who is running the ads), told the NY Times.
The fear is well-founded. The Tribune will be hard pressed not to accept the highest offer, and one that would buy all the papers they want to sell. Other potential bidders are interested in buying just the LA Times, not the other papers.
"For those people whose retirement savings are invested in public pension funds, selling the Tribune Company’s newspapers to the Koch brothers so they could in turn use it to advance specific policies adverse to the retirement security of working people would be akin to agreeing to selling your car to a buyer who you know wants to buy the car so they can run you over," says the letter.
A major Republican fundraiser told Mother Jones: ""If I had the resources and wanted to impact the policy debate, I’d buy a newspaper or a magazine … I’d buy the New York Times or the LA Times. Buy a major newspaper and put my people in on the editorial page and use that to frame issues the way I wanted to. And then I could claim that the news folks were separate from the editorial page but I think they know where the owner’s heart is at."
This week, the Koch’s formed yet another dark money group. This one, Association for American Innovation, will be an umbrella groups that receives dark money and doles it out to its other dark money nonprofits.
Read our background on this story, No Limit to Koch Bros Tentacles: Entering Media.
Here’s the letter unions sent to Oaktree: