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“”The role of business is to produce products and services in a way that makes people's lives better. It cannot do so if it is injuring people and harming the environment in the process.
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. The Trumps and Mercers are strictly amateur hour compared to what the brothers Koch have been up to. The Mercers only appeared on the scene in the last few years and are trying to establish their name by throwing money around. The Kochs on the other hand have been at work for decades building up the machinery the Republicans have been using to fight and win at every level.
Funds donated from the Koch Industries fortune are funneled through several
money holes foundations, grouped as the Koch Family Foundations. They subscribe to the idea that anyone opposing crony capitalism is a socialist, and that spending money on a bigger megaphone is free speech. As for the Koch brothers’ vaunted philanthropy, most of it seems to be aimed at indoctrination rather than anything particularly helpful.
They're creepy and they're kooky
“”One associate recalls strolling down East 80th Street with Frederick on a sweltering summer afternoon in the mid-1990s. Crossing Fifth Avenue, Frederick noticed a nickel in the middle of the crosswalk; it had been run over so many times that it was embedded in the asphalt. His companion looked on in shock as Frederick took out his keys, stooped down and began trying to pry the coin loose. The multi-millionaire continued to work as the traffic light changed. Traffic bore down and horns blared, but Frederick kept digging, finally dislodging the nickel. "I got it," he said, holding the coin up with a beatific expression on his face. “I just was dumbfounded,” his companion recalled. ("I never pick up coins in the street," Frederick responds, "despite this apocryphal account.")
Fred Koch, a founding member of the John Birch Society (the crazy starts early), was one of many fascist sympathizers who set to work undermining the U.S. government in the forties. In the upheaval of the seventies, his sons converted to libertarianism and created some of the first libertarian think tanks, most notably the Cato Institute. The Kochs were also major funders of the Libertarian Party from 1976 to 1983, but 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 some more reasonable libertarian activists felt that the Kochs were 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.
It’s all a big misunderstanding, you see, this notion people have that the Koch brothers are a pair of big old culture war reactionaries! The evidence for the Kochs' liberal views—particularly on hot button issues like gay marriage, the War on Drugs, and abortion—is huge, consisting of...well, bylines, off-hand remarks made over forty years ago, and a comment at the 2012 Republican convention. Following the money paints a different picture. You gotta love how the Koch Klan always points to "criminal justice reform" and licensing as if these are their pet issues, and not a distraction to draw attention away from what they really lobby for:
- Elimination of renewable energy initiatives
- Elimination of the EPA
- Elimination of mass transit, in particular state-funded railroads
- Elimination of all minimum wage laws
- Elimination of virtually the entire social safety net (in particular SS and Medicare)
- Elimination of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs
- Elimination of marriage equality
- Elimination of abortion
- Elimination of public education
- Elimination of the right to organize unions
- Elimination of most of the Civil Rights Act (legalizing discrimination in the name of business)
They are Birchers, their agenda is plain as day, yet they put out these puff pieces to obfuscate what their goals are.
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. Koch (and Soros) money has also gone to sentencing reform and drug policy reform groups. Both of these tend to be ignored by Koch critics who portray the Koch network as a GOP adjunct, as opposed to what they really are: libertarians. Nonetheless, this hasn't stopped them from dumping large amounts of cash into the political campaigns of many Republicans and conservative Democrats alike who may not share their libertarian views on most things.
Recent comedy tours
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 now fund wingnuts and have been a source of recurring controversy around their backing of global warming denialists and the Tea Party movement. While one major Teabagger 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, Jeane 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.
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.". People or organizations supposedly or actually being bankrolled by Koch Industries are called by the endearing nickname Kochsucker, hinting at the deliberate mis-pronunciation mentioned at the top of this article.
Oh yes, what a fun ride it is to fuck people over
Having failed to unseat Barack Obama in the 2012 election, the Koch political machine has trained its crosshairs on a less sophisticated target: Hurricane Sandy victims. Previously, Koch's group gave away free gasoline during the election in a last-second pro-Romney stunt. Flash forward a few months: David Koch, who lives on the Upper East Side, is trying to prevent his fellow New Yorkers from having running water or heat. Despite attempting to dice up Obama's aid package like an onion while keeping it mired in the Senate, the bill eventually passed.
In 2013, the Koch brothers were instrumental in creating the fiscal cliff crisis — but once they realized it had spawned into the equivalent of cocking a shoulder-fired nuke at the New York Stock Exchange they tried to back off. Pro-business, indeed.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has devoted his term to "Americans For Prosperity": a Koch-authored, union-killing right-to-work law (even though he promised he wouldn’t), slashing corporate taxes, instituting a budget-crippling flat tax, defunding public education, and the appointment of rule-by-decree ”Emergency Managers” (EM) for major cities. Flint was being governed by an Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) when the water crisis hit. Snyder signed it into law despite referendums telling him not to. Don't worry, Flint, the lead in your drinking water can't be above EPA limits if there is no EPA.
It's like a Jane Austen novel
The Kochs didn't get behind Donald Trump, and even rejected some of his entreaties.
Dangerfield Trump responded by having David Koch physically escorted off of his golf course (though there are differing accounts of the incident).[No, not The Onion] They probably assumed that his "thin-skinned buffoon" shtick was an act, rather than the entirety of his personality, and that he would actually behave like a normal billionaire when among billionaires now that he's under presidential-level scrutiny.
- Americans for Prosperity, which in 2012 raised as much money as the Republican National Committee itself (Thank you, Citizens United).
- Cato Institute
- Citizens for a Sound Economy (defunct, split into AFP and FreedomWorks)
- Competitive Enterprise Institute
- FreedomWorks (as previously mentioned, 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
- Tax 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.
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 "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.
- Grants to PBS science series like Nova. Critics consider these "grants" to be the Kochs' way to influence discussion of global climate change.
- Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, which has given more than $14 million in grants to universities. So don't worry about slashed education budgets, people. The Koch Bros will pay for all of the college you need. Just drop out of Underwater Feminist Dancing and get a degree in Objectivist Epistemology at George Mason University. Then maybe you can get a real job... like at a think tank where real men work and produce useful stuff. And are totally not leeches on society like feminazis.
The Koch brothers are staunch advocates of libertarianism and meritocracy, quintessential examples of "born on third base and think they hit a triple".
Their father's Bircher bent is particularly amusing when you consider that he made a considerable amount of money setting up the Soviet Union's petroleum refining industry between 1929 and 1932. Granted, he distanced himself from the deal after Joseph Stalin purged many of the engineers Koch's company had trained.
Koch Industries is also one of the biggest corporate welfare queens in the entire US, if not the entire world. Aside from dealing with socialist countries like Venezuela and profiting from the subsidies in the ethanol market, they also had landowners disowned in order to build a pipeline on their property. Despite their libertarian front, the Koch brothers are pretty much what Ayn Rand had in mind when she talked about looters.
- Why the Evil Koch Bros. Must be Stopped: They Support Drug Legalization, Gay Marriage, Reduced Defense Spending, Reason (Nice little conflict of interest you have there), plus Jon Chait's response.
- Why Exxon makes Koch giggle, DeSmog Blog
- Sourcewatch entry
- Koch Facts (what it says on the tin, for certain definitions of "fact")
- Tim Dickinson, "Inside the Koch Brothers' Toxic Empire, Rolling Stone
- Though one of their ancestors probably pronounced it with a Spanish "j" sound at the end
- Charlies Koch, "I'm Fighting Against Special Interests" (not The Onion)
- Greg Sargent, "The Koch brothers’ grand plan to liberate the poor", Washington Post. Wait...so the new plan is...give away some food and very basic classes that already exist for free, then shove the Koch message down their throat? (Worse still, they're only going to do it in six swing states.)
- Kotch, Alex, "Charles Koch’s disturbing high school economics project teaches ‘sacrificing lives for profits’" Raw Story (17 May 2016 at 01:30 ET). Their doctrines do real damage, including to students. And here's an article from Forbes, of course, defending it.
- Agustino Fontevecchia, "The Koch Brothers Paradox: Dark Money, SuperPACs, And The Forbes 400", Forbes.
- Lauren Windsor, "Inside the Koch Brothers’ Secret Billionaire Summit", The Nation.
- The “Other” Koch Brother by Daniel Schulman (May 19, 2014 12:00 am) Vanity Fair.
- Kaiser, Charles, "Dark Money review: Nazi oil, the Koch brothers and a rightwing revolution", The Guardian (1/17/16 7:00am EST). Note: The Bush fortune has similar ties.
- Lee Fang, "The Koch Brothers’ Fake Libertarianism: War, Forced Pregnancies, and Homophobia", Vice.
- Daniel Fisher, "Charlies Koch on How to Save America", Forbes.
- Horsey, David, "Koch brothers and big utilities campaign to unplug solar power", L.A. Times (4.23.14 5:00 am).
- Kirsten Korosec, "Koch Industries: Behind the Fight to Gut the EPA", CBS Money Watch.
- Julie Doubleday, "How Two Billionaires are Destroying High-Speed Rail in America", Attn.
- Rebecca Leber Jul, "Billionaire Koch Brother Says Eliminating The Minimum Wage Will Help The Poor", ThinkProgress.
- “So the big danger of minimum wage isn’t the fact that some people are being paid more...We’re taking these 500,000 people that would’ve had a job, and putting them unemployed, making dependence part of government programs, and destroying their opportunity for earned success. And so we see this is a very big part of recruitment in Germany in the ’20s.” — Richard Fink, Koch strategist.
- Robert Greenwald, "The Koch brothers' campaign to kill social security", The Guardian.
- Drum, Kevin, "The Koch-Fueled Plot to Destroy the VA", Mother Jones (3/13/16 10:55 AM).
- Josh Isreal, "No, the Koch Brothers Aren't Socially Liberal", ThinkProgress.
- Josh Israel, "New Filings Show Koch Brothers Give Millions To Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Groups", ThinkProgress.
- Steven Rosenfeld, "Who Is More of a Hypocrite on Gay Rights, Koch Brothers or Famed 'Gay Marriage Attorney' Ted Olson?", AlterNet.
- Adele M. Stan, "Anatomy of the War on Women: How the Koch Brothers Are Funding the Anti-Choice Agenda", RH Reality Check.
- Carl Gibson, "The Koch Brothers' 3-Step Plan to Conquer the Next Generation", RSN/Truthout.
- Matt Taibbi, "Who Can Stop the Koch Brothers From Buying the Tribune Papers? Unions Can, and Should", Rolling Stone.
- Andrew Stern, "Koch Brothers a force in anti-union effort", Reuters.
- Terell Jermaine Starr, "The Kochs are known for destroying the environment, but their civil rights record isn't so great either", Alternet.
- Rachel Tabachnick, "The John Birch Society’s Anti-Civil Rights Campaign of the 1960s, and Its Relevance Today", Political Research Associates.
- Covert Operations, The New Yorker
- David Koch Now Taking Aim at Hurricane Sandy Victims, The Nation
- Hurricane Sandy Bill Passes Without Government Spending Cuts, Washington Post
- The Kochs Can't Control the Monster They Created, The Atlantic
- Weigel, David, "Rick Snyder Didn't Want to Sign Right-to-Work Legislation Until He Signed It", Slate (12/.11/12 6:14 PM).
- Fonger, Ron, "Documents show Flint filed false reports about testing for lead in water", MLive (11/19/15 at 3:57 PM).
- Acosta, Roberto, "Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in majority of Genesee County communities", MLive (Updated 11/09/16 at 7:00 PM).
- Vogel, Kenneth P., "Trump kicks biographer off golf course", Politico (12/31/16 08:26 PM EST).
- Trump kicks biographer off his golf course by Brooke Seipel (12/31/16 09:25 PM EST) The Hill.
- Kochs Brothers Left a Confidential Memo at Their Last Donor Conference, Mother Jones
- Dan Barrett, "Not Just Florida State", Inside Higher Ed.
- Chris Young, "Koch-funded think tank offers schools course in libertarianism", The Center for Public Integrity.
- 7 Ways the Koch Bros. Benefit from Corporate Welfare