Koch Industries

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Charles Koch
David Koch
Mind your own
Icon business.png
"You're fired!"
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.
—Charles Koch[1]

Koch Industries (pronounced "coke," not "cock!", "Coach", or, as the one-time New York City mayor who was once mistaken for being one of themWikipedia pronounced it, Kotch.[note 1]) is a Kansas-based privately-held corporation led by brothers Charles Koch (1935–) and David Koch (1940–2019),[note 2] heirs to the Fred Koch (1900–1967) 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.[2] As for the Koch brothers’ vaunted philanthropy, most of it seems to be aimed at indoctrination rather than anything particularly helpful.[3][4]

If you're wondering where all that "dark money"[5] goes, don't sweat it; all you need is an invite to one of their top-secret billionaire retreats.[6]

They're creepy and they're kooky[edit]

One associate recalls strolling down East 80th Street with Frederick[note 3] 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.")[7]

The Kochs love fascism because it solidifies their position on top of the pile and gives moral cover in doing so,[8] which is why Damien Frederick literally had fascist nannies who monitored his bowel movements[9] — it keeps the massive entitlement complex going.

Fred Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society. Charles was also a Bircher.[10]:218 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.

Something something socially liberal[edit]

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.[11] You gotta love how the Koch Klan always points to "criminal justice reform" and licensing[12] as if these are their pet issues, and not a distraction to draw attention away from what they really lobby for:

They are Birchers, their agenda is plain as day, yet they put out these puff pieces to obfuscate what their goals are.

B-b-but Soros...[edit]

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[edit]

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.[29] 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."[29] 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.

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.[30] Despite attempting to dice up Obama's aid package like an onion while keeping it mired in the Senate, the bill eventually passed.[31]

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.[32] Pro-business, indeed.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder devoted his terms to "Americans For Prosperity": a Koch-authored, union-killing right-to-work law (even though he promised he wouldn’t),[33] 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.[34] 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.[35]

The Koch bros. donor network PAC spent almost a billion dollars over the 2016 election cycle to buy and influence the outcome at all levels of government.[36]

It's like a Jane Austen novel[edit]

The Kochs didn't get behind Donald Trump and even rejected some of his entreaties. 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][37][38] 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.


The Kochtopus is known to include the following organizations and (un)think tanks. The apparatus has grown so tumorous that it resembles a political party in unto itself.[39]


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.[43] 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.[44]


See the main article on this topic: Hypocrisy

The Koch brothers are staunch advocates of libertarianism and meritocracy, quintessential examples of "born on third base and think they hit a triple".

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.[45]

Following the full-scale 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Koch Industries, unlike most US companies in Russia, declined to pull out after broad-scale and unprecedented economic sanctions were imposed on Russia. Dan Caldwell, Koch's vice president for foreign policy, initially suggested that the US would remain neutral in the conflict, comparing the invasion to US neutrality when Revolutionary France declared war on Great Britain in 1793.[46] After the sanctions were imposed, Koch Industries claimed to be complying with them but stated that they opposed broad-based sanctions, nonetheless. Koch Industries' primary business in Russia is the manufacture of industrial glass, employing 600 people at two plants run by their Guardian Industries subsidiary.[47][48] Industrial glass does have military uses.[49] Koch Industries has been called hypocritical by Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money about the political influence of the Kochs,[50] for proclaiming 'liberty' while supporting Putin's tyranny.[51]

Nazi sympathies[edit]

Fred did business with both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany starting prior to World War II because money trumps ideology in that family. Fred Bircher membership is particularly amusing when one considers that he made a considerable amount of money setting up the Soviet Union's petroleum refining industry between 1929 and 1932..[52]:28-29,31 Granted, he distanced himself from the deal after Joseph Stalin purged many of the engineers Koch's company had trained. Fred's Winkler-Koch Company completed an oil refinery in Germany in 1935 that was key to the Nazi war machine since it was one of the few in Germany that could produce high-octane fuel.[52]:30 In 1938 when Hitler's war aims were clear and imminent, Fred wrote to a friend:[52]:20

Although nobody agrees with me, I am of the opinion that the only sound countries in the world are Germany, Italy, and Japan, simply because they are all working and working hard.

Fred was so enamored of the Nazi way of life that he hired a Nazi German governess to care for his first children, Frederick and Charles. The governess forced them to either defecate on command at the same time every morning or be force-fed castor oil as a laxative. The governess also tormented the children with readings of Der StruwwelpeterWikipedia and other gruesome children's books from Germany.[52]:32

External links[edit]


  1. Though one of their ancestors probably pronounced it with a Spanish "j" sound at the end.
  2. Following David Koch's death, his wealth was inherited by Julia Koch and their children.
  3. Frederick (1933–2020) is another son of Fred.


  1. Tim Dickinson, "Inside the Koch Brothers' Toxic Empire, Rolling Stone
  2. Charlies Koch, "I'm Fighting Against Special Interests" (not The Onion)
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. Agustino Fontevecchia, "The Koch Brothers Paradox: Dark Money, SuperPACs, And The Forbes 400", Forbes.
  6. Lauren Windsor, "Inside the Koch Brothers’ Secret Billionaire Summit", The Nation.
  7. The “Other” Koch Brother by Daniel Schulman (May 19, 2014 12:00 am) Vanity Fair.
  8. Coffessore, Nicholas, "Father of Koch Brothers Helped Build Nazi Oil Refinery, Book Says", NYT 11 January 2016. Note: The Bush fortune has similar ties.
  9. McKibben, Bill, "The Koch Brothers’ New Brand", NY Review of Books 10 March 2016.
  10. Birchers: How the John Birch Society Radicalized the American Right by Matthew Dallek (2023) Basic Books. ISBN 1541673565.
  11. Lee Fang, "The Koch Brothers’ Fake Libertarianism: War, Forced Pregnancies, and Homophobia", Vice.
  12. Daniel Fisher, "Charlies Koch on How to Save America", Forbes.
  13. Horsey, David, "Koch brothers and big utilities campaign to unplug solar power", L.A. Times (4.23.14 5:00 am).
  14. Kirsten Korosec, "Koch Industries: Behind the Fight to Gut the EPA", CBS Money Watch.
  15. Julie Doubleday, "How Two Billionaires are Destroying High-Speed Rail in America", Attn.
  16. Rebecca Leber Jul, "Billionaire Koch Brother Says Eliminating The Minimum Wage Will Help The Poor", ThinkProgress.
  17. “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.
  18. Robert Greenwald, "The Koch brothers' campaign to kill social security", The Guardian.
  19. Drum, Kevin, "The Koch-Fueled Plot to Destroy the VA", Mother Jones (3/13/16 10:55 AM).
  20. Josh Isreal, "No, the Koch Brothers Aren't Socially Liberal", ThinkProgress.
  21. Josh Israel, "New Filings Show Koch Brothers Give Millions To Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Groups", ThinkProgress.
  22. Steven Rosenfeld, "Who Is More of a Hypocrite on Gay Rights, Koch Brothers or Famed 'Gay Marriage Attorney' Ted Olson?", AlterNet.
  23. Adele M. Stan, "Anatomy of the War on Women: How the Koch Brothers Are Funding the Anti-Choice Agenda", RH Reality Check.
  24. Carl Gibson, "The Koch Brothers' 3-Step Plan to Conquer the Next Generation", RSN/Truthout.
  25. Matt Taibbi, "Who Can Stop the Koch Brothers From Buying the Tribune Papers? Unions Can, and Should", Rolling Stone.
  26. Andrew Stern, "Koch Brothers a force in anti-union effort", Reuters.
  27. Terell Jermaine Starr, "The Kochs are known for destroying the environment, but their civil rights record isn't so great either", Alternet.
  28. Rachel Tabachnick, "The John Birch Society’s Anti-Civil Rights Campaign of the 1960s, and Its Relevance Today", Political Research Associates.
  29. 29.0 29.1 Covert Operations, The New Yorker
  30. David Koch Now Taking Aim at Hurricane Sandy Victims, The Nation
  31. Hurricane Sandy Bill Passes Without Government Spending Cuts, Washington Post
  32. The Kochs Can't Control the Monster They Created, The Atlantic
  33. Weigel, David, "Rick Snyder Didn't Want to Sign Right-to-Work Legislation Until He Signed It", Slate (12/.11/12 6:14 PM).
  34. Fonger, Ron, "Documents show Flint filed false reports about testing for lead in water", MLive (11/19/15 at 3:57 PM).
  35. Acosta, Roberto, "Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in majority of Genesee County communities", MLive (Updated 11/09/16 at 7:00 PM).
  36. Confessore, Nicholas, "Koch Brothers’ Budget of $889 Million for 2016 Is on Par With Both Parties’ Spending", NYT 26 January 2015.
  37. Vogel, Kenneth P., "Trump kicks biographer off golf course", Politico (12/31/16 08:26 PM EST).
  38. Trump kicks biographer off his golf course by Brooke Seipel (12/31/16 09:25 PM EST) The Hill.
  39. Kochs Brothers Left a Confidential Memo at Their Last Donor Conference, Mother Jones
  40. Koch-backed group fuels opposition to school mask mandates, leaked letter shows: A template letter circulated by Independent Women’s Forum offers a glimpse into a well-resourced campaign against public health regulations by Isaac Stanley-Becker (October 1, 2021) The Washington Post.
  41. How US billionaires are fuelling the hard-right cause in Britain, George Monbiot, The Guardian, 7 Dec 2018
  42. The Libre Initiative: A Koch-Funded Group Being Passed Off As Empowering Hispanics. Media Matters, 4 June 2015.
  43. Dan Barrett, "Not Just Florida State", Inside Higher Ed.
  44. Chris Young, "Koch-funded think tank offers schools course in libertarianism", The Center for Public Integrity.
  45. 7 Ways the Koch Bros. Benefit from Corporate Welfare
  46. He would probably declare neutrality and reject pressure to involve the U.S. in an European war that wasn't in our interest, just like he did in 1793 by Dan Caldwell (5:03 PM · Mar 12, 2022) Twitter (archived from 18 Mar 2022 17:35:10 UTC).
  47. Koch Industries stays in Russia, backs groups opposing U.S. sanctions by Kate Gibson (Updated on: March 17, 2022 / 9:10 AM) CBS News.
  48. Over 400 Companies Have Withdrawn from Russia—But Some Remain (March 25, 2022) Yale School of Management.
  49. Industrial Uses for Glass Components in Military, Protection, and Safety Precision Electronic Glass.
  50. Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer (2017) Anchor. ISBN 0307947904.
  51. 2. Given how small Koch says its Russian operation is, hard not to see this as purely symbolic, sending the message that all Koch’s talk of rights and liberty means nothing. Making money is what they value. by Jane Mayer (2:23 PM · Mar 16, 2022) Twitter (archived from 18 Mar 2022 17:31:49 UTC).
  52. 52.0 52.1 52.2 52.3 Dark Money: the Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer (2016) Doubleday. ISBN 0385535597. The fuel produced at the refinery was used to bomb Britain after the war broke out.