NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A team of political activists huddled at a Hardee’s one rainy Saturday, wolfing down a breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Then they descended on Antioch, a quiet Nashville suburb, armed with iPads full of voter data and a fiery script.

The group, the local chapter for Americans for Prosperity, which is financed by the oil billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch to advance conservative causes, fanned out and began strategically knocking on doors. Their targets: voters most likely to oppose a local plan to build light-rail trains, a traffic-easing tunnel and new bus routes.


So read the first two paragraphs of a front-page article in today’s New York Times. Here’s the article’s title:

How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country

The Times reporter, Hiroko Tabuchi, makes it sound as if the Koch brothers had a huge role in defeating the tax measure in Nashville on last month’s ballot that would have increased 4 taxes (including a one-percentage-point increase in the sales tax) to generate $9 billion for mass transit in Nashville.

But nowhere it the Times article are we told how much money the Koch brothers spent. Fortunately, a much earlier article in Nashville’s main newspaper, the Tennessean, did say. Surely Ms. Tabuchi had access to that article. In a vote with relatively high turnout for an off-year election (about 122,000 people voted, with about 78,000 people voting no), the proponents of the tax-subsidy proposal spent about $2.9 million and the opponents spent $1.2 million. So the Koch brothers must have contributed a large fraction of that $1.2 million, right? Say at least 10 percent?

Not quite. Here’s the last paragraph of the news article in the Tennessean:

Separately, a political action committee led by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group funded by the conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch, contributed a modest sum of $10,000 for mail advertising.

I doubt that the Koch brothers are the only contributors to Americans for Prosperity, and so $10,000 is an upper limit on their contribution. And $10,000 is less than 1 percent (actually 0.83 percent) of the overall spending against the tax-increase measure. Wow! Those Kochs sure are powerful.

By the way, Ms. Tabuchi’s lack of numeracy may be excused. After all, her Linked in page tells us, she reports on climate change.

The old New York Times motto was:

All the news that’s fit to print.

Its new motto should be:

All the news that fits, we print.