The New York Times weighs in today on the fear and loathing among some in Southern California over the possibility that the libertarian Koch brothers might buy the Tribune company's newspapers, gaining control of the Los Angeles Times. Mere talk of the Koch brothers being interested has set off "a firestorm of opposition here. Public employee unions, the leaders of the State Legislature and liberal advocacy groups are moving to block the sale, denouncing it as a threat to public workers and Democratic Party issues," write Adam Nagourney and Christine Haughney.
Ten public employee unions on Thursday sent a letter to the largest shareholder in the Tribune Company, which owns the newspapers, urging it not to sell to the billionaires, David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch. The Kochs have championed legislative efforts to cut public pension benefits and the power of public unions, notably in Wisconsin.
About one-quarter of the assets held by Oaktree Capital Management, the leading shareholder in the Tribune Company, comes from public employee pension fund investments, and labor leaders, looking to exert influence on Oaktree, signaled they would press to withdraw the funds if the sale went 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,” the unions said in a letter to Bruce Karsh, who is president of Oaktree Capital Management and chairman of the Tribune board of directors. It said that the Koch brothers had a history of orchestrating efforts that are “anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-public education and anti-immigrant.”
The effort is at an early stage — no formal bids have been submitted — and the Koch brothers face competition from, among others, a team of Los Angeles business leaders, including Eli Broad, the philanthropist, and Austin Beutner, a business executive and former deputy mayor. Officials behind the campaign said they were moving quickly in hopes of discouraging the Koch brothers from proceeding with their plans, which come after an election campaign in which they spent millions of dollars in largely unsuccessful efforts to elect conservative candidates.
Protesters demonstrated against the Koch brothers on Wednesday outside the offices of the Chicago Tribune.
Photo of Los Angeles Times headquarters: LA Observed