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Policy: Law

Surprise! Liberals find Koch brothers angle in Hobby Lobby ruling

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Supreme Court,Campaign Finance,Liberalism,Koch brothers,Law,Hobby Lobby,Blake Seitz

Contentious Supreme Court rulings are almost always followed by zany reactions as winners crow of triumph and losers prophesy darkly about the horrors to come.

Monday's ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby was no exception. And it was only a matter of time before the Kochs were roped in.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Burwell that "closely held" for-profit companies -- most immediately, Hobby Lobby, the chain of craft stores owned by a devout Oklahoma family -- cannot be required to provide contraception coverage to their employees. A good summary of the ruling can be found here.

The decision, split on ideological lines, was bound to be unpopular with liberals. Then, the inevitable question was posed.

Koch Industries is the successful conglomerate owned by brothers Charles and David Koch. The Kochs have drawn the ire of Democrats by donating vast sums of money to libertarian and Republican political causes.


According to the IRS' definition, Koch Industries qualifies as a closely held corporation because it "has more than 50 percent of the value of its outstanding stock owned (directly or indirectly) by five or fewer individuals at any time during the last half of the tax year" and is not a personal services corporation. Forbes reports that brothers Charles and David Koch each own 42 percent of the company.

And just like that, the parade of horribles found its grand marshal.






House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made use of the Koch angle in a press release: "Although the Court restricted their ruling to ?closely-held' companies, this ruling will immediately affect the lives of millions of women across the country," the release read.

"Over 90 percent of America’s businesses are ‘closely-held,’ including such large employers as Koch Industries and [construction and engineering firm] Bechtel [Corp.]."

Notable for his absence was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who did not mention the Kochs in his statement on the Burwell ruling. Reid, an obsessive Koch critic, has called the brothers "un-American" and accused them of leading a "cult" of influence.

While it appears that Koch Industries and other large firms qualify as closely held corporations, there will likely be litigation to determine when Burwell can be invoked.

Liberals who worry that Kochs will somehow benefit from Burwell probably need not worry, though, because neither of the brothers has been sighted recently hanging around the Family Research Council's Washington digs.

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Blake Seitz

Special to the Examiner
The Washington Examiner