"Our members are proud to be part of [Freedom Partners]," the group's president, Marc Short, told Politico.
No, they're not.
In the same conversation where he spoke about the "proud" Freedom Partners "members," Short refused to reveal their identities. And he refused to say how much money the various billionaires and millionaires are chipping in to buy a piece of the American dream -- except to note that the top donor gave around $25 million, so it's not all Koch money. Which begs a question: Who else is buying?
And another question: How do groups like this get away with so much secrecy?
Trade associations that utilize this section of the Tax Code must reveal the recipients of their "grants." But they do not generally have to reveal the sources of those grants because the lists of donors they file with the IRS are not considered public documents.
Which brings us back to Edward Ryan.
The populist judge closed his great rant of 1873 by saying: "The question will arise and arise in your day, though perhaps not fully in mine: Which shall rule, wealth or man? Which shall lead, money or intellect? Who shall fill public stations, educated and patriotic freemen or the feudal serfs of corporate capital?"
There's not much question that wealth rules the day. While banks and Wall Street insiders get bailouts, great American cities are driven into bankruptcy.
There's not much question that money trumps intellect. What else could explain the focus of official Washington on billionaire-backed schemes that would "fix the debt" by lowering tax rates for billionaires while at the same time imposing "chained-CPI" cuts on retirees with fixed incomes?
There are still a few educated and patriotic freemen, like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (who warns that the Koch brothers are shaping a "plutocracy" that is "of the rich, by the rich and for the rich"), and there are educated and patriotic freewomen, like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
But Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan provide daily confirmation that the feudal serfs of corporate capital have occupied public stations. And that occupation is not merely a Republican project; in Washington and across the country there are Democrats who preach privatizations, austerity cuts and policies that will only result in a redistribution of the wealth upward.
So we have answered most of Edward Ryan's questions.
But they only point to new questions:
Who is paying to create a "money power" politics where wealth rules, money trumps intellect and feudal serfs of corporate capital occupy public stations?
Why are they allowed to operate in secret?