The Koch family is much in the news, having made itself the sharp point of uber-conservative politics, funding Tea Party events, efforts and candidates as well as more traditional conservatives. Their particular brand of conservatism comes from the dynasty’s founder Fred C Koch. Koch got his money after inventing a new method of extracting gasoline from oil. Since then the family’s business has expanded from oil and gas to coal and other dirty sources of energy. Obviously, the family and company benefit from restraining the governments efforts to clean up the environment and find alternative sources of energy.
Fred Koch got his political leanings from doing business with Communist Russia while Josef Stalin was in power. Koch was only in Russia because of lawsuits that made his new method of turning oil into gasoline unprofitable anywhere else, He did not like how Stalin ran things and this led to a lifelong hatred of everything communist.
Fred Koch’s anti-communism became a distinctive part of his character. The elder Koch became so extreme that he wrote admiringly of Mussolini and the fascists of Italy purge of communists and became a founding member of the John Birch Society.
The “Koch brothers” generally referred to are David and Charles Koch who are self described libertarians. As a unit, they are the third richest Americans, with each brother’s net worth near $21.5 billion and Koch Industries earning $100 billion. Koch Industries is still privately held with the brothers stating that it would be taken public “over my dead body.”
David Koch ran for Vice-President against Ronald Reagan on the libertarian ticket. Planks included abolition of Social Security, public schools, the FBI and even the CIA. Since then the Koch brothers have concentrated on being the powers behind the scenes using their vast wealth to found conservative think tanks such as the Cato Institute and funneling contributions to candidates thru 501c3s and PACs. Due to this lack of transparency, it is not always clear who and what they support.
The Koch brothers’ support of the Tea Party movement has become well known however. They have thrown millions of dollars to Freedom Works, Americans for Prosperity and Citizens for a Sound Economy. When foundations that we know are controlled by the Koch brothers, PACs and 502c3s and personal donations we see that they have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative causes and candidates.
A recent “retreat” organized and paid for by the Koch brothers attracted such notables as Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas and Antonia Scalia. This conflict of interest was only one complaint to come out of these infamous retreats. Reporters are literally run out of town and threatened with arrest for reporting on events by Koch Industry security forces. “Secretive Republican donors” are encouraged to attend so they can support their favorite neo-con causes and candidates without revealing themselves.
More recently, the Koch brothers have largely funded efforts to kill public unions in Wisconsin. They contributed heavily to Governor Walker’s campaign efforts and have long propagandized towards this goal through the Cato Institute, Freedom Works and other Koch brothers funded organizations.
The career of this uber-wealthy family in American politics makes a perfect case for overturning the Citizen’s United SCOTUS decision. If the Koch brothers had their way there would be no limit on what the wealthy could spend on political campaigns and efforts. They are firmly in favor of America having the best government that money can buy.