Koch Brothers: A Local Start with National Consequences


The Koch family fortune’s beginning have roots in the local metro east area of Illinois with branches radiating in many directions. The patriarch of the clan, Fred C. Koch, started as an engineer in the oil and gas industry. In 1940, Fred Koch partnered with fellow MIT alumni to found Wood River Oil and Refining Company. After the elder Koch’s death in 1967 the company was renamed Koch Industries in his honor. The company is currently run by 2 of Fred Koch’s sons, Charles (CEO) and David (executive VP) Koch. These two brothers bought out the remaining heirs of the estate in the 1980’s in a deal worth over a billion dollars.

A major part of Koch Industries from the beginning has been oil and gas pipelines, with the Wood River, Hartford area of Illinois being a major terminus connecting the Wood River refineries with facilities from Indiana, New Orleans, Minnesota and North Texas. This network of pipelines has a long history of problems, with over 300 over. The worst inland spill in American history took place in Vienna MO, in 1983 spilling over 800,000 gallons of oil. The company was criticized for failing to report the spill to authorities until well after the event. The spill was bad enough that beer tasters at Anheuser Busch in Saint Louis reported an “oily smell” to the product they were testing. The Koch Industries website would have us believe that “When challenges arise, Koch companies’ approach is to move quickly to correct the situation (clean up a spill, rectify a reporting issue, etc.) and take responsibility with the appropriate regulatory authorities.” The reality has been that when a spill occurs, the company attempts to escape blame, delays cleanup, and opposes efforts of regulators and officials overseeing the cleanup.

Currently, Koch Industries is pushing for the addition of the “Keystone XL” pipeline to be constructed from Alberta to tie into the current pipelines. This would allow tar sand oil from Alberta to be piped to refineries in Minnesota, and the refinery in Wood River IL. The pipeline developer is lobbying for the same type of environmental waivers for the tarsand pipeline that were granted to BP prior to the Gulf spill, prompting some to label this a “BP on the Praries”.

Greenpeace responds to Koch brothers.

Charles and David Koch are the brothers who have become familiar to most Americans as the deep pockets behind the Tea Party. Funding of conservative causes also includes groups such as “Americans for Prosperity” and “Freedomworks”. Totals spent are difficult to track given the wide variety of companies owned or controlled by the Kochs (Georgia-Pacific, Invista, Koch Minerals, etc.) but has been estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Some of the causes that the Kochs, or their proxies, have fought against include healthcare reform, spending millions to deny access to healthcare through their political efforts. At the same time, Koch Industries applied for Health Care subsidies made possible by a program vigorously opposed by groups funded by the Koch brothers. They have fought worker’s rights, most dramatically through their support to Governor Walker’s (WI) efforts. PACs funded by the Koch brothers spent $1 million in TV ads attacking Walker’s campaign opponent and contributed $48,000 directly to his campaign.

The Koch brothers argue against government funded assistance at every turn, except when it directly benefits their business. Matador Cattle Company, a Koch brother’s subsidiary, grazes cattle on government owned land, at no cost. Georgia-Pacific (another Koch owned company) logs national forests with the financial assistance of the federal government. The forest service cuts roads and is paid only a modest fee when vast areas of America’s forests are laid bare.

David Koch ran for Vice-President under the Libertarian ticket in 1980. The platform included the end of Social Security, public schools and a long list of government agencies (FBI, ATF, EPA, etc.) and especially those regulations seen as hindering business. The family has a long history of attempting to influence the political scene. Fred Koch (the company founder) helped found the John Birch Society; his sons have founded The Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation and many others. These groups are pushing America in a direction that benefits the Koch brothers greatly, but not the average American.

This article also appears at http://www.occasionalplanet.org/ who it was originally written for.

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Published in: on May 6, 2011 at 1:06 am  Comments (4)  

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  1. […] Koch Brothers: A Local Start with National Consequences (mikesmusicdreams.wordpress.com) […]

  2. […] Koch Brothers: A Local Start with National Consequences (mikesmusicdreams.wordpress.com) […]

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