Charles Koch, half of the Republican mega-donor duo Koch brothers, said that contrary to an earlier report, he and his brother had not settled on donating directly to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.
Koch said Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Sens. Ted Cruz (TX), Rand Paul (KY) and Marco Rubio (FL) could all get his support. All three senators have announced their candidacy for president. Bush and Walker haven’t jumped into the field yet but are expected to roll out their respective campaigns soon. Koch told USA Today all five Republicans have “a good chance of getting elected.”
His comments follow a report in The New York Times which said that said the brothers signaled to donors that they would be donating directly to Walker in the primary. Koch’s new comments suggest that while Walker has had the support of the Koch brothers in the past, he’s not assured it in the primary. Donors to the Koch network have also signaled interest in Rubio.
“What we’ve told them all is that right now, we’re not supporting anyone,” Koch added. “We’re telling them that if they want our support, one way to get it is articulating a good message to help Americans get a better understanding and a better appreciation of how certain policies…will benefit them and will benefit all America.”
The Kochs have said they plan on spending a staggering $900 million in the 2016 election cycle. Support from the donors either directly or through Koch-funded groups like Americans for Prosperity would be a boon either in the primary or general election.
Democrats have fretted that there’s no comparable funder on the left that can match the funding heft of the Koch brothers.
The actual amount announced Monday at the Rancho Mirage Ritz Carlton is $889 million, and that is what the Koch brothers’ political network (17 Koch-funded organizations) plans to spend buying the 2016 elections for corporate America and the 1 percent.
It is, as CNN informs us, “[M]ore money than any private network has ever spent on an election cycle.” It is also as much as either the Republicans or Democrats spend: Compare this to the $675 million spent by the Republican Party in 2012. And the Kochs can spend the money however they want, unlike the RNC.
How much money is that? With a budget of $20 per person you could feed nearly 50 million people better meals than most of them have ever had for one day.
The massive financial goal was revealed to donors during an annual winter meeting here hosted by Freedom Partners, the tax-exempt business lobby that serves as the hub of the Koch-backed political operation, according to an attendee. The amount is more than double the $407 million that 17 allied groups in the network raised during the 2012 campaign.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) were all on hand at the Koch’s retreat for seminars and strategy sessions, greedily rubbing their fingers in anticipation. Not coincidentally, Newsmax tells us that,
Most of the 450 who attended the weekend event weren’t interested in another Mitt Romney run. They leaned more toward Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
What we can take from Charles Koch’s welcome speechSaturday, is that the Big Lie is alive and well in the Koch family: “Americans have taken an important step in slowing down the march toward collectivism,” he said. Of course, collectivism is not a threat and the Kochs are huge corporate welfare queens, more than happy to take our tax dollars from the federal government they excoriate.
Like his bought men, Walker, Rubio, Paul, and Cruz, Charles Koch is simply inventing threats out of whole cloth, and reassured guests and employees both,
But as many of you know, we don’t rest on our laurels. We are already back at work and hard at it! In fact, the work never really ends. Because the struggle for freedom never ends.
He claimed that,
Much of our efforts to date have been largely defensive to slow down a government that continues to swell and become more intrusive – causing our culture to deteriorate. Making this vision a reality will require more than a financial commitment. It requires making it a central part of their lives.
So the Kochs are presenting themselves as defenders of American culture now. This, from a man so far removed from American culture he cannot begin to imagine an average American’s life. Yet he claims to be defending our culture. This is the point of Koch’s speech at which the Greek gods would begin casting lightning bolts, for hubris was always mankind’s greatest sin.
Just keep in mind, that freedom he is talking about is serfdom for you and me.
The impact of this amount of money cannot be ignored. As Ben Ray of American Bridge put it, “If they are spending more than the RNC, I know exactly who the (Republican) presidential candidates will listen to.”
And even Grover Norquist told The Washington Post that, “It’s not like a Chicago political boss where Charles would say, ‘We’re all for this guy.’ But if he said, ‘I really like this guy’ and did an op-ed, it would matter.”
Which means Mother Jones is not engaging in mere hyperbole when they say, “It’s official: The Kochs and their rich friends are the new third party.”
Democrats, who have neither a plethora of corporations nor a bevy of 1 percenters to fund their campaigns, will have to work a lot harder to find that kind of cash. Of course, Democrat money will reflect the views of actual Americans rather than the insatiable appetites of the 1 percent.
According to the Post, “The $889 million goal reflects the budget goals of all the allied groups that the network funds. Those resources will go into field operations, new technology and policy work, among other projects.”
The one thing a billion dollars can’t buy are a viable platform or likeable candidates. It remains to be seen whether it is enough to convince blacks, Latinos, women and others that the Republican Party actually cares about them.
But make no mistake: this represents a full-scale assault on American democracy. Ted Cruz was quoted as saying Sunday night that, “There are a bunch of Democrats who have taken as their talking points that the Koch brothers are the nexus of all evil in the world.” He said that thinking is “grotesque and offensive.”
While you have to respect Cruz’s loyalty to his owners, he is wrong. What is grotesque and offensive is what he and his fellow employees of Koch Industries have been up to at the Rancho Mirage Ritz Carlton: plotting the murder of American democracy.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) isn’t letting the Koch secret meeting go by unnoticed. In a statement, Sanders connected the dots between Citizens United and the Koch brothers primary that several potential Republican candidates are taking part in this weekend.
Sen. Sanders said, “Americans used to think Iowa and New Hampshire held the first caucus and primary in the nation every four years. Not anymore. Now the ‘Koch brothers primary’ goes first to determine who wins the blessing and financial backing of the billionaire class. This is truly sad and shows us how far Citizens United has gone to undermine American democracy.”
Campaign finance is a very complicated issue, but what isn’t complicated is the direct connection between the conservative billionaires campaign contributions and the way the Republicans run Congress. The outsized influence of billionaires on the left and right is bad for our electoral process, but there is a direct relationship between the Koch money and Republican policies. The Koch brothers have bought the Republican Party.
The impact of their purchase is that it won’t be Republican voters who decide which candidate will represent them in 2016. The Koch brothers and a handful of billionaires will pick their nominee in secret conferences and meetings. Once the Kochs have a nominee, the choice for voters will be between the Koch agenda disguised as the Republican Party and the Democratic candidate.
America is quickly moving towards a system of governance where voters choose between a candidate funded by oligarchs and the Democrats. This is a sad state of affairs for the country’s representative democracy, and the biggest reason Citizens United must be overturned.
It seemed like a generous gift to a university that needed it. Then came the demands for ideological purity—and hand-picked staff.
In 2007, when the Charles Koch Foundation considered giving millions of dollars to Florida State University’s economics department, the offer came with strings attached.
First, the curriculum it funded must align with the libertarian, deregulatory economic philosophy of Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and Republican political bankroller.
Second, the Charles Koch Foundation would at least partially control which faculty members Florida State University hired.
And third, Bruce Benson, a prominent libertarian economic theorist and Florida State University economics department chairman, must stay on another three years as department chairman—even though he told his wife he’d step down in 2009 after a single three-year term.
The Charles Koch Foundation expressed a willingness to give Florida State an extra $105,000 to keep Benson—a self-described “libertarian anarchist” who asserts that every government function he’s studied “can be, has been, or is being produced better by the private sector”—in place.
“As we all know, there are no free lunches. Everything comes with costs,” Benson at the time wrote to economics department colleagues in an internal memorandum. “They want to expose students to what they believe are vital concepts about the benefits of the market and the dangers of government failure, and they want to support and mentor students who share their views. Therefore, they are trying to convince us to hire faculty who will provide that exposure and mentoring.”
Benson concluded, “If we are not willing to hire such faculty, they are not willing to fund us.”
While the documents are seven years old—and don’t reflect the Charles Koch Foundation’s current relationship with Florida State University, university officials contend—they offer rare insight into how Koch’s philanthropic operation prods academics to preach a free-market gospel in exchange for cash.
In 2012 alone, private foundations controlled by Charles Koch and his brother, David Koch, combined to spread more than $12.7 million among 163 colleges and universities, with grants sometimes coming with strings attached, the Center for Public Integrity reported in March.
Florida State University ranked a distant second behind George Mason University of Virginia as a recipient of Charles Koch Foundation money. In a tax document filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the foundation described its Florida State University funding for 2012 as “general support.”
Some schools’ professors and students were aghast at the funding, arguing that such financial support wasn’t widely known on their campuses and could threaten schools’ academic freedoms and independence. Others argued that colleges and universities—long bastions of liberal academics—would be well served by more libertarian courses of study.
Separately, Charles Koch is the financial force behind a “curriculum hub” for high school teachers and college professors that criticizes government and promotes free-market economic principles. He’s also funded programs for public school students.
At Florida State University, Benson noted in a November 2007 memorandum that the Charles Koch Foundation would not just “give us money to hire anyone we want and fund any graduate student that we choose. There are constraints.”
Benson later added in the memo: “Koch cannot tell a university who to hire, but they are going to try to make sure, through contractual terms and monitoring, that people hired are [to] be consistent with ‘donor Intent.’”
A separate email from November 2007 indicates that Benson asked Charles Koch Foundation officials to review his correspondence with Florida State associates about potential Koch funding.
Trice Jacobson, a Charles Koch Foundation representative, did not respond to questions, although Benson and Florida State University spokesman Dennis Schnittker each confirmed that the emails and documents are authentic.
But Benson noted that the documents were meant for internal use and reflect the “early stages of discussion” well ahead of a 2008 funding agreement signed by the university and the foundation.
That agreement, initiated in 2009, has earned Florida State $1 million through April, according to the university. Until it was revised in 2013, an advisory board would consult with the Charles Koch Foundation to select faculty members funded by the foundation’s money.
Benson also said that while he continued serving as Florida State’s economics department chairman until 2012, Charles Koch Foundation money wasn’t a factor.
While the foundation initially discussed providing money to help fund Benson’s salary, “that idea was taken off the table very early in negotiations,” he said. “I continued as chair because I felt I could still make a valuable contribution to the department.”
The 2008 agreement between the school and the foundation nevertheless faced harsh criticism from some professors and students who argued it indeed gave the foundation too much power over university hiring decisions.
The school and foundation revised their agreement in 2013 “for clarity” and to emphasize the “fact that faculty hires would be consistent with departmental bylaws and university guidelines,” Schnittker said. “Our work with CKF [Charles Koch Foundation] has always upheld university standards.”
Those guidelines, spelled out in a Florida State University statement about the foundation from May, say the money will not compromise “academic integrity” or infringe on the “academic freedom of our faculty.”
Ralph Wilson, a mathematics doctoral student and member of FSU Progress Coalition, doesn’t buy it.
Florida State University “willfully and knowingly violated the integrity of FSU by accepting funding meant only to further Koch’s free-market agenda,” said Wilson, whose student group works to “combat the corporatization of higher education.”
The Charles Koch Foundation, meanwhile, “is using our universities solely to further their own agenda and plunder the very foundations of academic freedom,” Wilson said.
At the end of 2012, the foundation reported having almost $265.7 million in assets, according to its most recent tax return filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
In his 2007 memo to colleagues, Benson acknowledged the school’s relationship with the foundation would invite blowback.
“I guess I am trying to say that this is not an effort to transform the whole department or our curriculum,” Benson wrote. “It is an effort to add to the department in order to offer some students some options that they may not feel they have now, and to create (or more accurately, expand) a cluster of faculty with overlapping interests.”
Benson also predicted entering into an agreement with the foundation carried some risk.
“There clearly is a danger in this, of course. For instance, we might be tempted to lower our standards in order to hire people they like,” Benson wrote, in advocating that the university not do so. “We cannot expect them to be willing to give us free reign to hire anyone we might want, however, so the question becomes, can we find faculty who meet our own standards but who are also acceptable to the funding sources?”
The Koch brothers are best known not for their educational efforts but for controlling a constellation of conservative, politically active nonprofit corporations.
For example, in this election cycle alone, six nonprofits connected to the Kochs have combined to air about 44,000 television ads in U.S. Senate races through late August, with the ads typically promoting Republicans or criticizing Democrats.
How The Koch Brothers Have Rigged The System In Wisconsin And North Carolina To Benefit Them
The Koch brothers are hard at work to limit government as much as possible, resulting in a system that benefits their businesses no matter the potential harm to everyone else — a strategy we have dubbed “Kochonomics.” The Koch network’s immense efforts to buy national elections have been widely documented. Here at CAP Action, we have also exposedthe Kochs’ growing plans to shrink local governments by undermining public education, opposing mass transit, and blocking small tax increases to benefit public safety, schoolchildren, and seniors.
Our latest investigation of the Kochs uncovers their influence in two self-described model states, Wisconsin and North Carolina. In both states, the Koch network has funded state leaders who have put in place policies that benefit the wealthy few, including the Koch brothers, regardless of the effect on anyone else. We walk through how Kochonomics has worked in Wisconsin and North Carolina below, and be sure to check out the full report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund as well.
Koch Foot Soldier: Gov. Scott Walker Koch Business Interests in the State: Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in America owned by the Koch brothers, has six wholly owned subsidiaries with at least 17 locations in Wisconsin. The Price of Influence: Gov. Scott Walker has been one of the top recipients of Koch donations in state politics, receiving $43,000 from the Koch network during his 2010 gubernatorial race. On top of that, Koch-backed advocacy group Americans For Prosperity has strongly supported Walker, spending at least $12.5 million to promote Walker’s conservative policies and electoral campaigns. Policies Passed Which Benefit The Koch Brothers: The Koch network aggressively pushed for tax cuts that heavily favor millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations, which Gov. Walker pushed through and became law. One of the resulting benefits to the Kochs is that they could see their income tax rate on the manufacturing activities of Koch Industries subsidiaries in Wisconsin drop from 7.65 percent to as low as 0.15 percent. How These Policies Could Hurt the Middle Class: Under Gov. Walker’s leadership and policies over the last four years, Wisconsin’s working and low-income families have had to pay $170 million more in additional taxes.
State: North Carolina
Koch Foot Soldier: North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis Koch Business Interests in the State: Koch Industries has two wholly owned subsidiaries in the state of North Carolina with at least eight locations. The Price of Influence: North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis received $11,000 in donations from Koch Industries from 2010 to 2012, making him second-highest recipient of Koch Industries campaign contributions in the Tar Heel state. In his run for U.S. Senate, Tillis has benefited from almost $12 million in spending from the Koch network. Policies Passed Which Benefit The Koch Brothers: Americans for Prosperity advocated for—and state lawmakers passed—tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent by an average of more than $10,000 annually. Moreover, state lawmakers eliminated local business taxes, further reducing the taxes of Koch subsidiaries in North Carolina. How These Policies Could Hurt the Middle Class: The tax policies pushed by the Koch network and passed by lawmakers would force working families earning between $52,000 and $84,000 per year to pay an average of $74 more in taxes.
BOTTOM LINE: While the Koch brothers may claim that their radical ideology helps everyone, the impact of the policies they promoted in Wisconsin and North Carolina are clear. These policies, which were made into law with the help of powerful elected officials collecting Koch contributions, benefit the wealthy—including the Koch’s business interests in the two states—but in most cases hurt working families.
A secretive data and technology company linked to conservative oil billionaires Charles and David Koch has reached an agreement to share its information with the “voter file and data management company” that holds an exclusive agreement with the Republican National Committee. This will allow the Republican Party full access to voter data collected by the Koch’s Freedom Partners entities and clients — and entrenches the Kochs’ network even deeper into the GOP.
Because political parties are not allowed to accept corporate contributions, it would be illegal for the Kochs to simply give their massive databases to the Republican National Committee directly. But the Republican National Committee has outsourced its database management to a company called GOP Data Trust. And that company joined forces Thursday with i360 (aka Themis), a firm reportedlybacked by the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners and serving as repository for the data amassed by the Kochs’ political empire.
In a press release, the two companies claimed that the “historic data sharing partnership” will “allow Republican and Conservative campaign resources to be spent more efficiently than ever before.” They noted that “voter contact information gathered by clients of either The Data Trust or i360″ will be now used by both to “improve the data shared with all clients,” meaning “conservative groups and campaigns will have more information about voters at their disposal for their own activities than ever before.”
Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, told ThinkProgress that as long as the Republican National Committee pays fair-market value to its data vendor, it does not matter who that vendor coordinates with. “Campaign finance laws only regulate the committees themselves, not other freestanding entities,” he explained.
Ryan noted that this sort of coordination is not necessarily exclusive to GOP entities — and that it can be a real challenge in determining what is a “fair” value for voter data. He pointed out that the super PAC ‘Ready for Hillary’ is collecting a great deal of information on pro-Clinton donors. That information “would be immensely valuable to Hillary Clinton, if she decides to run for president,” he explained, but probably “less valuable to another candidate.” And, in the end, it would up to the Federal Election Commission to determine whether the RNC or a theoretical Hillary Clinton campaign is paying a fair amount for that information.
But in a time when the lines between the Republican Party and the Kochs were already blurred, this deal is another indication that the anti-government billionaire activists are leading the party.
Three top Republican Senate candidates heaped praise on the political network built by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch during a secretive conference held by the brothers this past summer, according to audio of the event.
Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst and Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton directly credited donors present at the June 16 retreat in Dana Point, California, for propelling them forward. Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner told attendees that his race would likely be decided by the presence of “third party” money — an obvious pitch for generosity from the well-heeled crowd.
The presence of Gardner and Cotton was previously reported by The Nationmagazine, though it is unclear if Cotton ever confirmed his appearance. Ernst’s attendance had not previously been reported.
For all three, the association with the Koch brothers’ network is likely to provide kindling for their opponents, who have already argued that the Republicans are steered by deep-pocketed conservatives.
Audio of the event, held at the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort, was obtained by The Undercurrent and shared exclusively with The Huffington Post. In it, the three Republican candidates, appearing on a panel titled “The Senate: A Window of Policy Opportunity for Principled Leaders,” speak for several minutes each about the state of their respective races. Because the discussion took place in mid-June, some of the comments are dated. In addition, some of the audio was redacted to preserve the anonymity of the individual who provided it — “a source who was present at the event,” per an official with The Undercurrent — and to remove sections with too much cross-talk. A separate source, who helped organize the retreat, confirmed each candidate’s participation.
During their speeches, both Cotton and Ernst noted that this was actually the second Koch brothers’ retreat they had attended. Last year, the two had gone to the New Mexico event as politicians of less stature. The Koch network has since helped usher them to the doorsteps of the United States Senate.
“I was not known at that time,” Ernst said. “A little-known state senator from a very rural part of Iowa, known through my National Guard service and some circles in Iowa. But the exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you, that really started my trajectory.”
“We are going to paint some very clear differences in this general election,” she said earlier in her talk. “And this is the thing that we are going to take back — that it started right here with all of your folks, this wonderful network.”
Cotton went further, crediting Koch-funded groups for helping change the political landscape of Arkansas.
“Americans for Prosperity in Arkansas has played a critical role in turning our state from a one-party Democratic state [inaudible] building the kind of constant engagement to get people in the state involved in their communities,” he said.
Such discussion is franker than that offered during the daily grind of the campaign trail — for obvious reason. The talk was private. At one point, Cotton flatly claims that former Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his seat because he “endorsed immigration principles.” At a separate panel on congressional races, the audio of which was also sent to The Huffington Post, officials with two Koch-funded organizations — Americans for Prosperity’s president, Tim Phillips, and Freedom Partners’ president, Marc Short — also spoke more candidly about Senate races than they would have on a public panel.
“Michigan is a state that’s basically an uphill climb honestly,” said Short, mentioning the battle to replace Sen. Carl Levin (D).
“Minnesota, everyone’s favorite comedian, Al Franken. He, against all expectations, actually has kept his head down and not made stupid comments, and has been in decent shape in a relatively blue state,” said Phillips, referring to another Democratic senator, who is up for re-election this year.
More than a dozen Fox News personalities have made appearances at events for groups funded by the Koch brothers, even as many of them were also defending the controversial billionaires on the network’s airwaves, according to a new study from Media Matters.
Charles and David Koch, founders of Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF), have called on at least 15 Fox News hosts and contributors to publicly promote upcoming AFP and AFPF events, Media Matters said. These hosts include Tucker Carlson, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, Guy Benson, Dana Perino and Andrew Napolitano.
A recent Politico report showed that AFP “intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives.” Since 2012, a growing number of hosts have become the faces of these Koch-funded events in an effort to increase the attendance.
Moreover, many of these hosts have also loudly backed the Koch brothers on Fox News shows, Media Matters noted. Just weeks before Tucker Carlson was set to be the lead speaker at an AFPF in May, for instance, he criticized opponents of the Koch brothers during an edition of “Special Report.” Hosts of “Fox & Friends” and “The Five” have also come to the brothers’ aid and used their shows to promote AFP and AFPF material.
Networks have often frowned upon hosts when they’ve veered from normal opinionating into more explicit party politics. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Keith Olbermann were both briefly suspended in 2010 for making donations to political candidates. Ed Schultz was also pulled from speaking at a Florida Democratic fundraiser when it seemed he might too be crossing a line. Fox News itself has clamped down on hosts, ordering Sean Hannity to return to New York in 2010 after the network found out he was set to lead a Tea Party fundraiser.
The mega-billionaire brothers, David and Charles Koch, stand apart in the world of Republicans.
In 2012, their network of hardcore libertarian political donors spent $400 million on negative campaign ads intended to destroy government safety nets and defeat Democrats. They want to repeal Obamacare, dismantle labor unions, repeal any environmental law protecting clean water and air, roll back voting rights, privatize Social Security, stop a minimum wage increase and more. They don’t care about destroying the checks and balances in American democracy to get their way.
In an updated documentary by Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films, Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition, we learn many things the Kochs don’t want you to know, from the origin of their radical agenda to other issues they’ve championed that haven’t made the national news, such as resegregating public schools.
Here are 11 things the Kochs don’t want you to know about them.
1. The family’s $100 billion fortune comes mostly from a massive network of oil and gas pipelines, and investments in other polluting industries like paper and plastics. The brothers inherited the seed money for their holdings from their father Fred Koch, who made his first fortune building oil pipelines for the Russian dictator Joseph Stalin in the 1930s. Back in the states, Fred Koch supported racial segregation and white supremacist groups like the John Birch Society.
2. Koch Industries is the second largest privately held company in America, worth upwards of $80 billion. It is one of the country’s top 15 polluters, responsible for more than 300 oil spills. It has paid over $100 million in fines and been found guilty by a federal jury of stealing oil from Native American lands.
3. The Kochs have invested multi-millions in more than 85 right-wing organizations over the years to push an anti-government, libertarian agenda. Many local Tea Party chapters were fronts for Americans for Prosperity, one of their groups. Another big recipient, ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, drafts bills and talking points that Republican officials cite again and again. In the 2012 presidential election cycle, the Koch’s right-wing donor network spent $400 million on electioneering.
4. The brothers work to create legal decisions to empower their efforts. They brought two U.S. Supreme Court Justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, to give speeches at their invitation-only gatherings for libertarian industrialists. That was before the Court issued itsCitizens Unitedruling, gutting federal laws that restricted the kinds of outside campaigns they bankroll. They funded groups that filed thousands of pages of legal briefs to attack those election laws. After the Court threw out federal campaign restrictions in 2010—a ruling they help to write—the Kochs began to spend unprecedented sums to sway elections.
5. Americans for Prosperity led a successful takeover of the school board in Wake County, North Carolina in 2009, which then ended student busing to resegregate high schools. They resurrected the coded rhetoric of the old South, using terms like “forced busing” and “neighborhood schools.” After hundreds of students were sent to other schools, the uproar was so great the AFP slate was voted out two years later, but not before the kids experienced racism and prejudice.
6. As donors to higher education, the Kochs have designed grant agreements with more than 150 colleges and universities where they restrict academic freedom by exerting control over who gets hired. The programs they fund present only their views in class, curricula and in their research. They promote pro-business, libertarian inquiry, which does not allow the facts and results to lead to their own conclusions. Faculties at many universities have protested these donations and threats to academic freedom.
7. AFP was one of the lead groups in Wisconsin, encouraging Republican Gov. Scott Walker to revoke collective bargaining agreements with public employees—except for police and firefighters, who tend to support the GOP and law-and-order politicians. Through national legal advocacy groups like ALEC, they have introduced scores of reactionary anti-union bills in dozens of states.
8. Other Koch-funded efforts include the Republican national effort to unduly police the voting process to discourage young people, minorities and senior from casting ballots. The reactionary voting rights bills they have introduced in dozens of states impose stricter voter ID requirements, which do not prevent people from registering to vote but will keep them from getting a ballot if they cannot present specific paperwork. AFP and other Koch-funded groups, such as True The Vote, have recruited and trained mostly white poll watchers to challenge the credentials of mostly non-white voters, creating a climate of fear and intimidation around voting.
9. The Koch brothers make $13 million a day from their investments, but they want to eliminate minimum wage laws and oppose any increases. People earning the federal minimum wage earn about $60 a day. A minimum wage worker would have to work almost 700 years to earn what the Kochs make in a day. (Koch-funded politicians have proposed 67 bills in 25 states to reduce the minimum wage.)
10. The Koch brothers want to destroy the most popular government program of all, Social Security, by funding right-wing think tanks that spread misinformation about Social Security’s long-term financial health, claiming it will not survive. They want people to invest their retirement savings on Wall Street, which is riskier and would earn billions in fees for investment firms. They want to raise the retirement age for Social Security to 70, which would especially penalize blue-collar workers who do manual labor, as their bodies wear out more quickly than white-collar workers.
11. The Koch brothers’ massive investments and holdings are literally killing the planet, because their primary business is transporting gas and oil. That includes the Canadian oil tar sands, which is the dirtiest source of fossil fuel on earth. If these sands are developed for the U.S. or Chinese markets, it would be the biggest carbon bomb in decades, hastening the progress of global climate change.
Charles and David Koch are the unofficial standard-bearers of a new generation of billionaires, willing to spend immense sums to influence politics. Best known for bankrolling the tea party movement, the fiercely private Koch family has achieved a quasi-mythical status in political circles. Yet they remain an enigma to most Americans.
Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty aims to change that. Written by Mother Jones senior editor Daniel Schulman, the biography, set to be released Tuesday, draws on hundreds of interviews with Koch family and friends, as well as thousands of pages of legal documents. The Huffington Post received a copy of the book on Friday.
Schulman examines the roots of Charles and David Koch’s libertarian worldview through the lens of their family, including the formative relationship that all four Koch brothers had with their father, the cold, ambitious Fred Koch. Schulman also traces the bitter and litigious history of Charles and David Koch’s relationships with their lesser-known brothers: Frederick, the eldest, and Bill, David’s twin brother.
At the center of the saga is patriarch Fred Koch, a staunch anti-communist who drilled his political ideology into his sons from a young age. In 1938, then sympathetic to the fascist regimes ruling Germany, Italy and Japan, Fred wrote that he hoped one day the United States would resemble these nations, which had “overcome” the vices of “idleness, feeding at the public trough, [and] dependence on government.”
Elsewhere, Fred warned of a future “vicious race war” in which communists would pit black Americans against white. “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America,” he wrote.
In private, Fred Koch “ruled the house with an iron fist” and faith in social Darwinism. Schulman recounts how the former boxer encouraged his sons to fight each other, sometimes with horrifying results. “During one bout, Bill bashed his twin over the head with a polo mallet,” Schulman writes. And “David still bears a scar from the time Bill pierced him in the back with a ceremonial sword.” Those early lessons left a deep imprint on the brothers.
Frederick, the oldest, was an outsider in the rough-and-tumble boys club of the Koch house. “Freddie was a sophisticate, a man of the world, in addition to the fact that he was gay, [which] wasn’t easily accepted in those days,” said a family friend.
Instead, it was Charles, the middle child, who became the vehicle for his father’s ambitions. According to a friend, the father worried that he had been “too kind to Freddie, and that’s why he turned out to be so effeminate. When Charles came along, the old man wasn’t going to make that mistake. So he was really, really tough on Charles.”
The result was a serious, extremely disciplined man, who along with his younger brother David, would transform their father’s medium-sized oil refining business, Koch Industries, into one of the largest privately held corporations in the world. But their success came at a high price.
Schulman describes how Charles, unable to convince brother Frederick to sell his stake in Koch Industries, allegedly resorted to “a homosexual blackmail attempt to force Frederick to sell his shares.” And when the youngest twin, Bill, launched a bid to wrest control of Koch Industries from his older brothers, Charles’ legal team responded by releasing a dossier of opposition research on Bill, filled with sordid details of his personal life.
In 2000, Bill’s then-wife Angela, the mother of two of his children, called the police to accuse Bill of punching her in the stomach and threatening “to beat his whole family to death with his belt.” Bill was charged with domestic assault and threatening to commit murder. Angela later recanted parts of her account, shortly before receiving a divorce settlement worth $16 million.
Nonetheless, Bill spent decades waging vicious legal battles against Charles and David, which cost the family tens of millions of dollars. Much of the book revolves around Bill’s failed attempts to gain control of Koch Industries.
As Schulman recounts, Bill hired private investigators to bug his brothers’ offices and pick through the garbage cans at their homes. He planted false memos aimed at rooting out spies in his own company, Oxbow, who he suspected were secretly working for his brothers.
While Bill’s anger may have been rooted in childhood rivalries, according to Schulman, it was exacerbated by Charles’ ultra-libertarian business philosophy, which Bill considered bad for business. Schulman describes how Charles, and by extension Koch Industries, regularly ignored environmental regulations on principle, believing them to be a hallmark of “Big Brother” government.
After losing a string of huge regulatory battles in the 1990s and paying heavy fines, Charles softened his stance somewhat. Still, the company remains a libertarian venture to this day. Schulman writes that Charles believes the role of government should be “only to keep a check on those who might attempt to interfere with the laws of supply and demand.”
Charles still lives in their hometown of Wichita, Kansas, with his wife, Liz, and generally avoids drawing attention to himself or his family.
By comparison, his brothers can seem like dilettantes, despite Schulman’s exceptionally fair treatment.
As a bachelor, David was known for hosting hundreds of people at champagne-soaked, all-night parties at his homes in Aspen, Colorado, and Southampton, New York. He once boasted that at least a third of his guests were “beautiful, wild, single women.” A guest told Schulman, “A lot of the crowd were these L.A. chicks who had just bought a new pair of tits and wanted to make sure that they did not go unnoticed — those parties got pretty wild.”
In 1996, Bill went to court to evict his former girlfriend from the Boston apartment he had set her up in. Included in the court records were faxes the couple exchanged, some of them sexually explicit. One of the notes was signed “Hot Love From Your X-Rated Protestant Princess.” In another, the woman described herself as “a wet orchid,” writing, “every inch of my body misses you.” Bill succeeded in having her evicted.
For his part, Frederick lives an intensely private life and apparently has little contact with his three brothers. He maintains a collection of historic houses around the world, as well as smaller homes in which he actually lives. The historic houses, which Frederick fills with priceless art, essentially serve as his own private museums.