Testimony Against the Koch Brothers’ Bid to Buy the Tribune newspapers

Testimony Against the Koch Brothers' Bid to Buy the Tribune newspapers


On the morning of June 25th, 2013, Common Cause Illinois staff and supporters attended a Chicago City Council Human Relations Committee Meeting that considered a resolution by Alderman Joe Moore (49th Ward) urging The Tribune Company to sell their newspapers to local investors in the cities in which they are located.

Brian Gladstein, Common Cause Illinois Director of Programs and Strategy, gave the following testimony in support of /Alderman Moore’s resolution to the committee.


Good Morning. Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony to you today about the importance of locally owned media that preserves the integrity of accurate, non-partisan, and investigative reporting.

My name is Brian Gladstein from Common Cause Illinois. We are a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that works for the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard. We have 400,000 members nationally and 3,000 active members right here in Illinois.

The exuberant amount of money that is being spent on our elections with the intention to affect public policy is at an historic high. Case in point, over 2 billion dollars was spent during the Presidential race last year between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Now, some of the biggest political contributors and owners of the second largest privately owned company in the United States are trying to buy the Chicago Tribune to advance their own personal and corporate ideology. Koch Industries wants to purchase the Tribune’s nine daily newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel, and The Hartford Courant.

The eyes of the nation are upon us. Last month we collected a petition with 500,000 signatures opposing the purchase of the Tribune papers to the Koch Brothers. Meanwhile, in just the last two weeks, over 500 Chicagoans have pledged their support for the resolution that is before you today.

Common Cause is concerned what a move like this will do to the important role that journalism has in our great city. The Chicago Tribune has been a major force in Chicago journalism since its’ founding in 1847 and currently is the eighth largest newspaper in the United States by circulation. The Chicago Tribune has a long history of local ownership and management, which has produced decades of high-quality news coverage, resulting in 25 Pulitzer Prizes. The Chicago Tribune plays a vital role informing the public through unbiased accounts of the news of the day and aggressive investigative journalism.

Local ownership helps to ensure that the newspaper will continue to exhibit a keen understanding of the political, business and cultural aspects of our City and remain accountable to its residents.

But if we allow one purchaser such as the Koch Brothers to purchase all nine of the Tribune Company’s newspapers it could create an informational monopoly where profits outweigh journalistic integrity and open the door to ideological bias.

The Koch Brothers bid to buy the Tribune papers contradicts much of what the Chicago Tribune has provide to our great city. Here is a list provided by SEIU of the 10 reasons of why we think that the city must not only pass this resolution but do whatever it possibly can do stop the Koch’s from buying the Tribune Papers.

  • Attacking immigrants. Through their funding of ALEC, the Kochs were responsible for anti-immigrant state legislation such as Arizona’s SB 1070.
  • Denying global warming. The Kochs have spent more than $67 million to deny thescience behind global climate change since 1997.
  • Attacking workers. By supporting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and groups like Americans for Prosperity and ALEC, the Kochs were a driving force behind efforts to take away workers’ rights to collectively bargain.
  • Violating voting rights. The Kochs funded efforts to pass state voter ID laws that limit voting rights, particularly for low-income people of color.
  • Destroying Social Security. The Kochs have been trying since 1980 to privatize Social Security and put millions of seniors at risk.
  • De-funding education. The Kochs have attacked public education from manydifferent directions, including school board elections and state legislation.
  • Protecting Wall Street. The Koch brothers campaigned against Wall Street reformlegislation, working against efforts to give the government more oversight against speculation in the oil industry.
  • Intimidating voters. Koch Industries sent a letter to 45,000 employees before the November 2012 elections, warning that if they didn’t vote for Mitt Romney there would be “consequences”.
  • Promoting “Stand Your Ground” gun laws. Through their financial support of ALEC, the Kochs have promoted drastic gun laws that allow almost anyone to shoot someone if they feel threatened in any way.
  • Attacking the minimum wage. The Kochs have long advocated abolishing the minimum wage.
  • Common Cause urges the Chicago City Council to pass this resolution. In addition, we ask that you do whatever is within your power to ensure that the Chicago Tribune and the other Tribune owned papers continue to produce accurate, non-partisan, and investigative reporting. Let us stop the control that big money has on our politics. Let us stop the control that money has on our local media and take a stand for every Chicagoan and every American.

    Thank you for your time.

    Brian Gladstein, Common Cause Illinois