Immigration Reform 2013: BuzzFeed and the Koch Brothers Are Now Doing Business


The Koch Brothers didn't get to purchase the L.A. Times, but they're not done influencing national policy debates just yet. The Charles Koch Institute is co-sponsoring a dialogue on immigration reform with BuzzFeed called BuzzFeed Brews Special Edition: Immigration Summit taking place on May 14th in Washington, D.C.

Charles Koch is the reviled founder of the CATO Institute and his namesake institute is an educational offshoot of the Charles Koch Foundation. The Koch Brothers have been known to influence political debate and most recently tried to buy the L.A. Times.

BuzzFeed Politics has had a growing presence in the media landscape, with editor-in-chief Ben Smith even featuring in that House of Cards spoof for the White House Correspondents' Dinner. They were denied a table at the dinner because they were not considered a legitimate news outlet.

A less cynical person would count the combination of these two voices as proof that immigration is a national, not political cause. BuzzFeed Politics' editor-in-chief Ben Smith is set to interview a diverse panel including a Democrat politician, a Republican politician, and two members of conservative organizations: one from a liberal Hispanic/Latino organization, and one from a libertarian think tank. 

This mixed bag of news- and policy-makers sitting down to discuss and promote immigration reform could further highlight the need for the country to propose comprehensive and bipartisan solutions. However it remains obvious that there are also two major motivating factors behind this collaboration - Koch's money and BuzzFeed's young audience.

BuzzFeed cannot make its money on cat .gifs and lists of photobombs alone, and is sure to have received a generous contribution in setting up and promoting this event for the Koch Institute. Adding to that, BuzzFeed has received considerable flak from media and news organizations about its commitment to national debate, and events like their Brew series are their attempt to put on the grown-up pants once in a while.

BuzzFeed's Ashley McCollum tells Slate that, "We were looking to expand our BuzzFeed Brews series and wanted to do something like this summit for a while. The Koch Institute came to us and were thinking on the same wavelength about doing an event which felt serendipitous. Immigration was the right topic at the right time and we're just happy it all came together."

The Koch Institute and by proxy the Koch Brothers are doubling down on immigration reform especially after the crushing defeat of their candidate Mitt Romney, primarily from Hispanic voters. Death and Taxes's Alexander Moore explains

"The Kochs strategy here might be similar [to Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.US]: Use immigration reform to appeal to a more populous base with switch hitters who will toe that party line while pushing a more right-wing agenda on other interests."

This partnership will then allow both BuzzFeed and the Koch Brothers to take a more authoritative position in their respective arenas to help shape national debate around immigration reform.

Money in journalism is as bad as money in policymaking, but can BuzzFeed be considered journalism? For that matter, can the Koch Brothers' incessant pursuit of their interests be called policy?

Discuss with me below or on Twitter @shwetika.