While a small group of protesters rallied in downtown San Diego to protest the Koch confab in Carlsbad, Charles and David Koch, who tied as the fourth richest Americans on the 2012 Forbes list, were holding their secret reception and biannual fundraiser in Carlsbad. The Koch event, billed as “Path to Freedom 2012” completely took over the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort where rooms start at $1,250 a night. Security was tight, but not so tight that a reporter from Buzzfeed wasn’t prevented from sneaking in by trekking across the golf course. The only major breach of security at a Koch confab was in 2011, when advance notice of a Koch confab at the enclave of Rancho Mirage in the California desert led to raucous demonstrations outside the event.
The intensely private conservative brothers, heirs to a Midwestern refining fortune, have been seeking an increasingly broad influence on public policy, and contributions attendees a their conferences have in the past financed everything from the anti-union campaigns of Americans for Prosperity to the 60-Plus Association’s attacks on President Barack Obama’s health care plan. This year, the group — many of them low-profile, old-line industrialist families like the Kochs — is expected to spend nearly $400 million on a range of causes, the core one defeating Obama’s reelection campaign.
The Kochs have also been working quietly behind the scenes to increase their political clout by creating a vast database containing the details of potential Republican voters. The project was set up by the Kochs two years ago with $2.5 million in seed money, and was developed by a hand-picked team of the brothers’ advisers. The purpose of this weekend’s gathering was to unveil the project, code-named Themis, after the Greek goddess who imposes divine order on human affairs.