Group protests Koch brothers’ local conference | VailDaily.com
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Group protests Koch brothers’ local conference

NWS Koch Protest DT 6-26-11
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AVON, Colorado – It was 95 degrees in downtown Denver Sunday. Avon topped out in the low 80s. It was beautiful day for a protest.

A small group of people, mostly from the Front Range, came to Avon Sunday to protest the presence in the valley of the Koch brothers and a private conference they hold twice a year.

The brothers own Koch Industries, a Kansas-based energy company that had $100 billion in revenues in 2009. The brothers contribute millions to conservative politicians and causes. That kind of spending has made the brothers the superstar nemeses of left-leaning groups, which means any Koch-related event is sure to draw at least some sort of protest.

The brothers’ January conference in Palm Springs, Calif., drew about 1,500 people. Sunday’s event in Avon – put together on just a few days’ notice – drew between 40 and 50 people.

Gathered around a shady picnic structure in the northeast corner of the park, the protesters were pretty hard to spot. They surely would have attracted more public – and media – attention by waving signs and singing songs on the 16th Street Mall in Denver.

Kjersten Forseth, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, acknowleged the group would have had more exposure in the big city.

“But we wanted to get a close to the event as we could,” Forseth said. “If (the Kochs) brought it here, we need to be here as well.”

Derek Cressman, the western states regional director for Common Cause, said holding the conference in the Vail Valley “highlights the lengths they’re going to to hide themselves.”

Cressman gave a lengthy speech to the group, talking, among other things about the influence of money in American politics. More than one speaker repeated the claim that the Kochs’ January conference resulted in a conservative plan to spend more than $80 million in the 2012 election.

On the other hand, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a public-employees union, spent more than $80 million funding candidates – almost all of them Democrats – in the 2010 congressional elections.

Cressman acknowelged both groups were spending money in an effort to influence national politics. But, he said, there’s a difference between the groups.

“With the unions, member vote, and elect committees to determine spending,” Cressman said.

After the speeches, the small group posed for photos, recited several chants and sung a few songs.

Larry Ramsey of Dallas watched the group and wondered what it is they were doing. Told what the group was doing in Avon, Ramsey said he was bothered by an American flag with a dollar sign instead of stars, but added “it’s their right to be here and I’ll protect that right.

“I like what they’re doing,” Ramsey said. “I don’t agree with it, but I like it.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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