Tea Party Enabling Billionaire David H. Koch Moonlights as WGBH Board Member

David Koch

Last week's revealing phone call between a Buffalo Beast prankster and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker clarified the extent to which billionaire rainmaker David H. Koch manipulates public officials.

But Koch doesn't just play puppeteer with politicians. He also has his hooks into public radio and television: although it has not been widely reported, Koch is a trustee at the Boston-based WGBH, PBS's largest producer of web and television content.

WGBH is in the midst of its own labor problems. The Boston Globe reported earlier today that negotiations between WGBH management and nearly 300 union writers, producers, and editors are deteriorating quickly. Yet there's been no mention in the media that Koch -- a vicious adversary of employee unions -- sits on the station's board. (The Phoenix mentioned it years ago, but only because Koch's brother Bill was spending millions to “protect” Nantucket Sound from wind farms.)

Public records show that Koch, along with his brother Charles, gave more than $17 million over 10 years to groups that organize against workers. They also provided seed money for the private sector front group Americans For Prosperity (AFP), which is currently backing the union-busting Walker in Wisconsin and comparable efforts elsewhere.

A WGBH spokesperson tells the Phoenix that "the Trustees have no involvement in the day to day running of WGBH," and that Koch "has responsibly fulfilled his role, supporting the educational activities of public media and WGBH." Management has also denied allegations of union-busting. But with an avowed enemy of unions on its board, it's hard for some to take that seriously. At last month's Conservative Political Action Conference, an AFP staffer even pledged to help “take the unions out at the knees, so they don't have the resources to fight these battles.”

At WGBH, these developments are unfolding as the future of public broadcasting rests in the hands of the United States Senate. The House of Representatives already voted to axe funding for public stations like WGBH, while anti-NPR and PBS sentiment can be heard wherever Tea Partiers and AFP henchmen are waging counter-protests against union workers.

“This whole thing is outrageous,” says Russ Davis, the Massachusetts chapter president of Jobs with Justice, which represents more than 100,000 workers nationally. “It just doesn't make sense why someone who on one hand is trying to destroy public broadcasting should also be sitting on the board of this station.”

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