The dark money behind right-wing "woke capitalism" rhetoric

An anti-communist front-group for business PR staffed with Koch apparatchiks is running a major messaging campaign.

CNBC reports that a group called Consumers’ Research (CR) is launching an ad campaign to “protect consumers from woke companies.” Some relevant background that they didn’t cover:

  • Though it began as a consumer advocacy organization, CR’s focus quickly shifted towards anti-communist politics under the leadership of its founder F.J. Schlink, who was “completely paranoid about communism.” Ultimately, Schlink would conspire with the business community to attack CR’s co-founder Arthur Kallet as a communist as well.1

  • Since then, CR has remained closely aligned with the business community; for instance, it has repeatedly published tobacco industry propaganda written by industry-funded “experts”, all the while taking funding from the industry itself.2

  • Today CR is headed by Will Hild, whose resume reads like a who’s who of right-wing dark money interests. His last job was with the Federalist Society’s Regulatory Transparency Project, an anti-regulation organization. He’s also worked at the Culture of Freedom Initiative — a program funded by Koch money and staffed with former Koch executives.

  • Another high-ranking CR staffer, Beau Brunson, formerly served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for disgraced and longtime Koch-backed Congressman David Schweikert.

  • CR also counts among its staff Tom Miller — previously a scholar at the Koch-funded-and-founded libertarian Cato Institute and the Koch-funded Mercatus Center. Miller is best known for his love of payday loans, contributing to articles like “How Reigning In Payday Loans Could Backfire” and “Interest rate caps harm consumers.”

CNBC notes that this “dark money group says it will not disclose who is financing the campaign” against “woke capitalism”, but it’s not difficult to see what’s going on here. No one involved has any interest whatsoever in challenging capitalism; on the contrary, every actor involved is an aggressive partisan of capitalism, and even the attacks on particular corporations should be understood through the lens of industry competition.

What we have instead is a historically anti-communist organization that has long functioned as a front-group for business, staffed by the usual pool of interchangeable libertarian / Koch-connected apparatchiks. The “woke capitalism” messaging resembles nothing so much as the dark-money funded “crony capitalism” messaging of the early Obama era, functioning to channel popular hostility towards capitalism back into the standard agenda of bourgeois Republican politics.