Mitt Romney and the Koch brothers: On the beach

“I JUST saw a kid driving a Lamborghini,” said Rashad Mitchell, of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, in a tone of disgust mixed with a possible hint of envy as he drove through the quiet hamlet of Southampton. Lamborghinis, Jaguars, Mercedes and Rolls-Royces were parked along the quaint Main Street. Corcoran’s, a pricey estate agent, advertises multimillion dollar homes in the area; one on Ox Pasture Road, which does not even have a sea view, is for sale for $49m.

The village, about 90 miles (145km) from midtown Manhattan, is a summer resort for America’s richest. They include David Koch, a conservative billionaire who, along with his brother Charles, is rumoured to have pledged millions to remove Barack Obama from the White House.

On July 8th Mr Koch hosted a fund-raiser for Mitt Romney. Guests, who forked out $50,000 (or a discount $75,000 for a couple) to attend the dinner, were greeted by about 200 protesters, mostly bused in from New York City. The protesters proclaimed their disgust at the Kochs’ attempt to buy the election, and yelled at the donors who drove up Meadow Lane in their Range Rovers and Porsches. Some held posters comparing the $50,000 ticket price with their yearly salary or their student debt.

Some of the protesters marched about a mile along the beach to the Koch house. As they marched, a plane, organised by MoveOn.org, a left-leaning group, flew overhead with a trailing banner that said “Mitt Romney has a Koch Problem” (Koch is pronounced like “coke”, by the way). Locals seemed relatively relaxed about the march. One well-preserved 83-year-old who lives in Southampton declared that she was “on their side”.

Mr Koch was the main focus of wrath, not Mr Romney. Indeed, a few protesters said they also hated Mr Obama. Koch Industries released a statement about the protest, calling the outrage “selective and hollow”, and said there was a “double standard at work”. It is true that Mr Obama is no stranger to fancy fund-raisers. George Clooney and Sarah Jessica Parker have both hosted events for him. He also gets his share of donations from Wall Street. But he trails his Republican challenger in money raised last month. Mr Obama raised $71m to Mr Romney’s $106m.

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