MSNBC host Rachel Maddow is making “unhinged” claims about the relationship between the political network of free-market industrialists Charles and David Koch and the Florida think tank Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), according to the group’s boss. Tarren Bragdon, the FGA’s chief executive officer, told the Erik Wemple Blog, “It’s so bizarre to me how unhinged she is in trying to make this connection.”
Bragdon’s entity is right at the center of some controversial January segments on Maddow’s nightly program. On Jan. 2, she criticized the FGA for supporting a Florida law — recently struck down as unconstitutional — requiring welfare applicants to submit to drug-testing. She repeatedly called FGA a “Koch-affiliated” organization. The Kochs challenged the connection, and a few journalists also questioned the sturdiness of Maddow’s evidence.
On Monday night, Maddow returned to the topic, citing the fact that a Koch summer fellowship program under the auspices of the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) once listed the FGA as a participating organization. She used that link to dismiss an earlier Koch contention that it had “no involvement” with the FGA. Fair enough.
As to the actual impact of the intern program, Bragdon says there’s none. His group has never actually hosted an intern funded by the Koch brothers through IHS. “It’s correct that we are participating [in the program], but we’ve never had an intern,” says Bragdon. “For her to try to assert that the Kochs are leveraging activities at think tanks through interns is bizarre.” Bragdon says that no one from MSNBC has contacted his group about the Koch story. “Not an e-mail, not a phone call, nothing,” he says.
Yesterday, the Kochs told the Erik Wemple Blog that “One participant in a Charles Koch Institute program has worked at FGA.” Bragdon added some meat to that bone, saying that his operations coordinator gets a $2,500 stipend for the time he spends in a Koch institute training program. This employee started with FGA in June 2012*, a year after Florida passed the drug-testing provision. Bragdon says the employee wasn’t involved in defending the law. “He doesn’t do any research or testify or meet with politicians,” says Bragdon. We’ll let Maddow decide whether that counts as more evidence of “affiliation.”
*Bragdon later e-mailed to say that this individual actually started in June 2013, two years after the drug-testing provision passed into law.