Koch Industries (pronounced "coke," not "cock!") is a Kansas-based privately held corporation led by brothers Charles and David Koch, heirs to the Fred Koch oil fortune. Funds donated from the Koch Industries fortune are funneled through several foundations, grouped as the Koch Family Foundations.
 Meet the family
Fred Koch was one of the founding members and major funders of the John Birch Society, but his sons converted to libertarianism and set up and funded several major libertarian think tanks in the late 1970s, most notably the Cato Institute. The Koch brothers were also major funders of the Libertarian Party from 1976 to 1983. They withdrew their funding after 1983 to focus on trying to spread libertarian ideas through major party politics and Beltway think tanks like Cato. Their role within the Libertarian Party was initially welcomed -- David Koch was even nominated as the party's 1980 vice-presidential candidate -- but later controversial as they were felt by some more hard-core libertarian activists to be more interested in party machine politics than in libertarian purity, which eventually caused the 1983 split in the party when the Kochs and Cato's Ed Crane left.
 Recent actions and transactions
More recently the Kochs have been putting their money into the campaign coffers of politicians of both major parties, mostly incumbents, but giving far more to Republicans than Democrats. While they continue to fund some libertarian think tanks they also now fund conservative think tanks. They have recently been a source of increasing controversy and claims that they are a major funding source behind global warming denial groups and the Tea Party movement. While one major Tea Party group, FreedomWorks, had its origins in a 2004 split between conservative and libertarian factions in the Koch-founded group Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Kochs do not have any relation now to FreedomWorks and haven't for years. (FreedomWorks was the conservative side of that split, merged with Empower America -- a group founded by neocons like William Bennett, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and Jack Kemp -- and is now led by Dick Armey). David Koch was responsible for founding Americans for Prosperity, a Teabagger astroturf group. Koch denied involvement but video later leaked of him at Teabagger parties.
However, it is also true that the Kochs joined with George Soros to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union to help them fight the Patriot Act after 9/11, and Koch (and Soros) money has also gone to sentencing reform and drug policy reform groups, both of which tend to be ignored by Koch critics who portray the Koch network as more conventionally conservative, as opposed to what they really still are: libertarian. This hasn't stopped them from dumping large amounts of money into the political campaigns of many Republicans and conservative Democrats alike who may not share their libertarian views on most things.
Among both hard-core libertarians and progressives wary of the influence of Koch money though, their network of organizations and funding has earned them a nickname, the Kochtopus, and a watchdog group has called Koch Industries "the Standard Oil of our times."
Having failed to unseat President Obama in the 2012 election, the Koch political machine has trained its crosshairs on a less sophisticated target: Hurricane Sandy victims. Notably, Koch's group gave away free gasoline during the election in a last-second pro-Romney stunt. Now, David Koch, who lives on the Upper East Side, is actively trying to prevent his fellow New Yorkers from having running water or heat. So far the enterprise has been successful, dicing up Obama's aid package like an onion while keeping it mired in the Senate.
The Kochs also give money to charitable organizations, no doubt in an effort to have their names associated with less damaging enterprises. These include:
- A $100 million dollar "donation" in 2008 for the renovation of the New York State Theater at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, home of the New York City Ballet and the New York Opera. This "donation" also bought the naming rights to the theater, now called the David H. Koch Theater. The "donation" was supposed to help the companies housed there. But in May 2011, the opera company announced that they were moving due to financial difficulties.
- "Grants" to PBS science series like Nova. However, many critics consider these "grants" to be the Kochs' way to influence any discussion of global climate change.
The Kochtopus is known to include the following organizations and (un)think tanks:
- Americans for Prosperity
- Cato Institute
- Citizens for a Sound Economy (defunct, split into AFP and FreedomWorks)
- Competitive Enterprise Institute
- FreedomWorks (spun off from Citizens for a Sound Economy, but does not disclose its funders, so its Kochtopus status is technically unknown)
- George Mason University
- Heritage Foundation
- Reason Foundation
- Sam Adams Alliance, which sponsored several wikis such as Ballotpedia, Judgepedia, and Sunshine Review, which claim to be nonpartisan but whose content is heavily slanted toward moral panics over "vote fraud", felons being allowed to vote, and ACORN. (Does not disclose its funders, but several bloggers have identified it as part of the Kochtopus)
- Why the Evil Koch Bros. Must be Stopped: They Support Drug Legalization, Gay Marriage, Reduced Defense Spending, Reason, plus Jon Chait's response.
- Why Exxon makes Koch giggle, DeSmog Blog
- Sourcewatch entry