The government shutdown and looming threat of default have pitted House conservatives against the Republican Party's traditional allies in the business community. Populist Tea Partiers driven by ideology care little for the pleas for sanity from banking lobbyists and the Chamber of Commerce; indeed, they wear their disregard for Big Business as a badge of honor.
Where does that leave the Koch brothers? The billionaire industrialists have funded a sprawling empire of libertarian-conservative activism; they've been dubbed the bankrollers of the Tea Party. Liberals frequently accuse them of seeking deregulatory policies to further their company's financial interests. But what happens when the Tea Party's ideological warfare threatens to plunge the U.S. economy into chaos?
The answer: The Kochs appear to be distancing themselves from the movement they've helped to create. In a letter released Wednesday, Koch Industries' chief lobbyist, Philip Ellender, says the company does not favor the House's push to defund Obamacare as a condition of keeping the government open. Koch Industries would prefer to see Congress focus on fiscal issues: "We believe that Congress should, at a minimum, keep to sequester-level spending guidelines, and develop a plan for more significant and widespread spending reductions in the future," Ellender writes.
Ellender's letter came in response to Democrats' attempts to pin the shutdown on the Kochs. Speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid said: "Very rich people in America who don’t believe in government have used Obamacare as a conduit to shut down the government .... This has been led by, according to the news article, a former attorney general of the United States, Ed Meese, and the Koch brothers, who have been raising and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get us where we are right now," Reid said.