Looking down Southampton’s Main Street with a squint, you could mistake it for a twee small-town American main street; a Rockwellian idyll with Star-Spangled Banners hanging from small clapboard shops. Let your eyes focus, though, and you’ll notice the cars lining the street — the Lamborghini, next to the vintage Mercedes, next to the Jaguar; or notice that the local boutiques are Michael Kors and Helmet Lang stores; the real estate shop is a Corcoran office, touting waterfront compounds for $25 million in the window. This, of course, is Main Street for the One Percent.
On Sunday, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney swept through the Hamptons to attend three fundraisers at the private homes of the rich and richer still. At a fundraising event held at the Southhampton summer house of oil billionaire and money-in-politics poster boy, David Koch, suggested donations were $75,000 a couple — nothing outrageous for political giving, Hamptons-style (relied upon in recent years by Democrats and Republicans alike). But this Sunday, something not seen in local memory also took a day trip to the Hamptons: a protest, about 200 strong, which ventured to Koch’s beachfront backyard.
“This is an anti-corporate protest, this isn’t about Republicans or Democrats — I call them ‘Democraps’” said Nick Maurer, a Bronx-based Occupy supporter who joined two busloads of protesters who traveled to Southhampton from New York City, courtesy of the United Federation of Teachers. “We need to be a presence in places like this, while they’re hobnobbing and drinking Martinis,” said Maurer, helping prop up a large banner with the words written in blood red, “Koch Kills” (a play on the pronunciation of the billionaire’s name — like ‘coke’).
The protesters, who hailed from around Long Island and New York and a variety of progressive political belief sets, were a mixture of Occupy supporters, liberal Democrats, one or two Alex Jones-styled conspiracy theorists, and MoveOn members. MoveOn, who have long been controversial allies to Occupy, voted to endorse Barack Obama’s campaign last month. The pro-Democrat propaganda was kept to a minimum on Sunday, however, in deference to fellow protesters, such as the young man with a scrawled sign reading, “No One for President, 2012″. The liberal group did provide a small airplane which dragged the banner “Romney has a Koch Problem” across the bright blue sky as the protest approached the heavily guarded Koch compound.
State troopers, local police officers and a large secret service detail barricaded the protest base nearly three-quarters of a mile down the street from Koch’s house. A break-off march carrying banners, noise-makers and an accompanying saxophonist charged onto the beachfront with a gaggle of reporters in tow, while bemused beach-goers looked on and pulled out their camera phones. The march reached the edge of where Koch’s property touches the public beach, to be met by more secret service agents and police officers lining the dunes.
There was mixed reaction from others on the pristine Cooper’s Beach to the rag-tag marchers. Southampton residents, who live in the small town year-round and generally do not share the wealth of the Hamptons summertime swarms, were generally supportive. “I think it’s cool — it’s interesting. We’ve never seen a protest here,” said 15-year-old Sabrina Carroll. “I agree with it,” said 19-year-old college student and local resident, Tommy Bush.
A handful of self-identifying One Percenters, themselves owning summer homes in the Hamptons, joined the protest. “I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to change the way elections are being run,” said Chris Harris, wearing the ubiquitous polo shirt of the Hamptons summer resident, joined by a group of friends also protesting the undue influence of money in politics. Some of their wealthy, Hamptons summering counterparts were less sympathetic. “Send ‘em back,” said one extremely tanned gentleman, standing on the beach in expensive swim-trunks and a large gold Rolex.
And indeed, there was no risk of the unconfrontational protest crowd attempting to set up camp or occupy the beach, where Calvin Klein’s summer mansion sits a few (large) doors down from Koch’s. Sunburned bodies piled back into buses and cars and headed back to our relative squalor away from Southampton’s manicured beachfront homes. For a few hours, however, organizers were pleased to rupture the seclusion normally enjoyed by those who summer in the Hamptons.
“David Koch has $25 billion and is usually able to completely isolate himself from the world, while influencing some of the most repugnant policies around without repercussions,” said Danile Asher, 35, a lead organizer with the Long Island Progressive Coalition, which helped organize Sunday’s action. “Today we showed that regular people can and will bring protests to David Koch’s backyard.”
Natasha Lennard covers the Occupy movement for Salon.
Here are the attendees of this weekend's fundraiser at David Koch's estate, courtesy of the MoneyOut/VotersIn affinity group of Occupy Wall Street:
- William Koch, Runs Oxbow Carbon, worth $4 billion. Donated $2 million to Romney’s Super PAC. What He Wants: To pollute for free; Koch’s fortune is tied to some of the nation’s dirtiest industries.
- Harold Simmons (a Swift Boater and corporate raider), worth $9.8 billion. Traffics in Toxic Chemicals. Donated $800,000 to Romney; total giving: $16.7 million. What He Wants: To store radioactive waste in Texas.
- Bob Perry, owner of Perry Homes, worth $600 million. Donated $4 million to Romney’s Super PAC. What He Wants: Tort reform to limit jury awards on homebuilders who do shoddy work.
- Jim Davis, Chairman, New Balance Shoes, worth $1.8 billion. Donated $1 million to Romney’s Super PAC. What He Wants: A lucrative defense contract.
- Richard and Bill Marriott, heirs to Marriott hotel fortune, worth $3.3 Billion. Donated $2 million to Restore Our Future. What He Wants: A legal pool of foreign born workers to work in their hotels at slave labor rates. Romney served twice on the Marriott board.
- Edward Conard, ex-managing director of Bain Capital, worth $250 million. Donated $1 million to Restore Our Future. What He Wants: To screw taxpayers like Romney does by paying half the tax rates of others.
- Frank VanderSloot, CEO of Melaleuca. Worth $1 billion. Donated $1 million to Romney’s Super PAC. What He Wants: Fewer consumer protections.
- Steven Lund, Vice Chairman of Nu Skin Enterprises, worth $31.9 million. Donated $2 million to Restore Our Future. What He Wants: To freely perpetuate false advertising and marketing scams.
- Julian Robertson Jr., hedge fund titan, worth $2.5 billion. Donated $1.25 million to Restore Our Future. What He Wants: Lower taxes for the rich.
- John Paulson, hedge fund titan, worth $12.5 billion. Donated $1 million to Romney’s Super PAC. What He Wants: No restrictions on Wall Street gambling.
- Paul Singer, hedge fund titan, worth $1 billion. Donated $1 million to Romney’s Super PAC. What He Wants: He needs Fed backing in his lawsuit to collect $2 billion from Argentina.
- Robert Mercer, CEO, Renaissance Technologies, made $125 million in 2011 alone. Donated $ 1 million to Romney’s Super PAC. What He Wants: To squelch a proposed tax on stock options.
- Kenneth Griffin, CEO, Citadel LLC, worth $3 billion. Donated $1 million to Restore our Future. What He Wants: To end the proposed Volcker Rule to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
- L. Francis Rooney III, CEO, Rooney Holdings, worth $40 million. Donated $1 million to Restore our Future. What He Wants: More building contract patronage.
- Stephen Webster, CEO, Avista Capital, worth $4 billion. Donated $1 million to Romney’s Super PAC. What He Wants: To drill baby, drill: he was the first owner one of the companies bought by Transocean, which caused the worst environmental disaster in the nation’s history.
- Donald Trump. No description necessary.