The truce between Cato and the Kochs: In a struggle between rival bands of thugs and loons, you know thugs and loons are going to win
In re. Chas Koch vs. Cato: Chas wins! Chas wins! Chas wins!
"I have every confidence that John [Allison]'s leadership will enable Cato to reach new levels of effectiveness. The alarming increase in the size and scope of government is undermining freedom, opportunity and prosperity for all. Effective action is required to limit government to its proper role."
-- Charles Koch, about the settlement that includes dumping
Cato Institute President Ed Crane, who was pissing Chas off
Cato Institute President Ed Crane, who was pissing Chas off
We'll all been understandably preoccupied with other developments this past week, related to the winding up of the Supreme Court term, which always means the release of its most dramatic decisions. Slipped in was the resolution of the great confrontation between the forces of ignorance and confusion over the future of the right-wing "think" tank the Cato Institute. (I don't mean that one side represented ignorance and the other confusion. I meant that it was a death struggle between rival visions of ignorance and confusion -- between, as I put it in my March post on the subject ("OMG! LOL! Charles Koch tries to regain control of the 'think' tank he left behind"), rival bands of right-wing "thugs and loons."
Koch brothers, Cato Institute announce terms of settlement
By Allen McDuffee | 03:00 PM ET, 06/25/2012
The Cato Institute and billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have reached an agreement that will end their legal dispute for control of the libertarian think tank, according to a joint announcement released Monday.
At its core, the agreement dissolves the controversial stockholder arrangement in exchange for Cato President Ed Crane stepping down from his position.
The two sides have been embroiled in a public battle since March 1 when the Kochs filed a lawsuit against Cato, its CEO, and several of its directors over the distribution of controlling shares of the think tank.
A subsequent lawsuit was filed in April in response to additions Cato made to its board.
In addition, the agreement dictates that Cato will be governed by a self-perpertuating board comprised of 12 long-term members, including David Koch. Charles Koch and Ed Crane, along with Katherine Washburn, will no longer be members of the board. Their replacements will be appointed later and additional details of the arrangement are yet to be worked out.
Crane, who will retire within six months, will be replaced by former BB&T CEO John Allison.
"I have every confidence that John's leadership will enable Cato to reach new levels of effectiveness," said Charles Koch in a statement. "The alarming increase in the size and scope of government is undermining freedom, opportunity and prosperity for all. Effective action is required to limit government to its proper role."
"As this resolution shows, we never sought a hostile takeover of Cato -- only a resolution to help further Cato's mission,” said Wes Edwards, deputy general counsel, Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC.
It remains unclear why this arrangement could not have been reached sooner. According to documents obtained by The Washington Post, Crane had offered to step down in exchange for the dissolution of the shareholder agreement well before the first lawsuit was filed in March -- a deal the Kochs declined to accept.
"This is the end of an era at Cato," said Cato Chairman Bob Levy.
Nonetheless, the compromise is something that both sides say will allow the other to carry on with their work.
"For a majority of Cato's directors, the agreement confirms Cato's independence and ensures that Cato is not viewed as controlled by the Kochs," according to the release. "For Charles Koch and David Koch, the agreement helps ensure that Cato will be a principled organization that is effective in advancing a free society."
Details of settlement reports last week could not be cofirmed until Cato spoke with its staff Monday afternoon.
My take on the death struggle over the Cato Institute was: "Let's just nuke up some popcorn, sit back and relax, and enjoy the thugs and loons duking it out."
Unlike far more knowledgeable commentators who got hung up on all kinds of minutiae regarding either the legal struggle (which concerned the inheritability of Cato shares that by covenant were supposed to be required to be offered for sale back to the other shareholders) or the ins and outs of the power struggle between the people Chas Koch left behind when he turned his back on Cato (without, however, leaving its board, which also included his obedient brother David) and poured his dough into a more compliant think tank, the Mercatus Center, scandalously created as part of a public university, Virginia's George Mason
It all struck me as pathetically simple. Although the self-important libertarians at Cato, huddled under the standard of president Ed Crane, who had clearly lost Chas's confidence, style themselves as fearless independent thinkers, they seem to me just as backward and dimwitted as the tame loons at Mercatus. Chas's objection, I'm assuming, was that they weren't his backwards dimwits, and I'm assuming he doesn't like people, even earnest right-wingers, who aren't spouting his messages. And the legal wrangle over the inheritability issue gave him an opening.
I read people who have reasoned it out to the belief that the anti-Cato position was a slam dunk in court. But it would have required a court, or a series of courts, in the case of possible appeals, to say that spousal inheritance rights are totally irrelevant. Such a ruling would certainly be possible, but a slam dunk -- not a chance. I'm not a lawyer, but I know enough about the workings of our courts to feel pretty strongly that it was no such thing.
But again, Chas didn't need certainty. All he needed was that possibility that the decision could go his way, which it certainly could have. That gave him all the leverage he needed to achieve the things that really mattered to him: getting that damned Ed Crane (his onetime ally, of course) the hell out of Cato, and installing a regime that seems to pose little danger of committing the cardinal sin of pissing Chas off. For once, I think a Koch minion was speaking the truth when counsel-mouthpiece Wes Edwards mouthed, "As this resolution shows, we never sought a hostile takeover of Cato -- only a resolution to help further Cato's mission.”
As long as it's understood that the centerpiece of Cato's mission is not to piss Chas off. Oh, the Cato crowd can cluck that under the settlement they won't be "viewed as controlled by the Kochs." Yeah, right. Hey, if that helps them get through the day. Closer to the mark, I think, is Cato Chairman Bob Levy's observation: "This is the end of an era at Cato." I suppose this could be read to refer to the departure of Ed Crane, who's run Cato since, well, forever, but even if you read the statement in that limited sense, Chas still wins.
With regard to the question raised by Allen McDuffee: "why this arrangement could not have been reached sooner," when it's reported that "Crane had offered to step down in exchange for the dissolution of the shareholder agreement well before the first lawsuit was filed in March -- a deal the Kochs declined to accept": Isn't it again obvious? Details, Allen. I'm pretty sure you'll find out eventually that between then and now some details were worked out, above and beyond Chas getting Ed's head on a silver platter, that will make it easier for Chas to coexist with the new incarnation of Cato.
Chas isn't one of those billionaires who doesn't see the connection between his money and getting his way. I'm comfortable closing with the conclusion of the original portion (i.e., before the "afterthought" I added later with more on the feud between Chas and Ed Koch of my March post):
I imagine that a man like Chas, when he thinks about his wealth, focuses not so much on the money he has as on the money he doesn't have, for no good reason he can think of. Same deal with propaganda outlets. Doesn't he have enough? Perhaps not, for a man who likes to be in control, and doesn't seem to have the word "enough" in his vocabulary.