A recent editorial in Investor’s Business Daily claims there is a “Great War on Koch Industries.” The editorial notes that “The private Wichita, Kan.-based conglomerate, which operates ranches, drills oil, runs pulp and paper mills, and creates specialized textiles for athletes, among other activities, is owned by two brothers, David and Charles, who openly fund free-market causes.”
Actually, the brothers are far from open about their support of free market causes, as Jane Mayer expertly and minutely details in a recent New Yorker piece. In fact Mayer’s expose, and an ensuing New York Times Op-Ed by Frank Rich, ‘outed’ Manhattan resident David Koch in particular, a man who is usually seen in the social pages and lauded for his $100 million dollar gifts to New York cultural institutions. One or two less dinner invitations these days for poor David.
Oh, and then there's Joseph Stalin. He's well known, but that fact that the Koch family fortune was created by Stalin's rubles isn't. Charles and David's father, Fred Koch, built at least 15 oil refineries and taught Bolshevik engineers his method of converting oil to gasoline, all for that Democratic, free-market champion Joseph Stalin. However the Russian profit-gusher dried up when Stalin ordered the brutal murder of some of Koch’s managers.
Fred Koch also was an original member of the John Birch Society, and disparager of the civil rights movement, who once said welfare “was a secret plot to attract rural blacks to cities, where they would foment “a vicious race war.”
Charles and David Koch, as Mayer points out, are perhaps the biggest funders of right-wing think tanks and Astroturf groups in the United States. She quotes one long-time observer of the Washington scene, Charles Lewis, who founded the non-partisan watchdog group the Center for Public Integrity:
“The Koch's are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”
That behavior is detailed in a recent Greenpeace report, cited by Mayer in The New Yorker article.
A subsequent New York Observer story, '7 Ways the Koch Bros. Benefit from Corporate Welfare,' illustrates how the brothers are actually not so anti-government. In fact, they really like government intervention as long as it is bent to serve their business interests. And their business interests are doing just fine: according to the most recent Forbes 400 list, David Koch just passed Michael Bloomberg to become New York's richest man and the sixth richest American over all, worth $21.5 billion.
Joe Stalin would be proud.