Charles and David Koch are modern-day robber barons. They’re multi-billionaires. Forbes estimates their April 2014 net worth at $40.3 billion each. Charles is Koch Industries (KI) chairman and CEO. David is executive vice president. They’re $6 billion richer this year than last. They make money the old fashioned way. Behind every fortune lies a great crime, said Balzac. Maybe he was thinking of Charles and David.
KI is America’s second largest private company. Agribusiness giant Cargill holds top spot. Its estimated 2013 revenues were $136.7 billion. KI’s are an estimated $115 billion. Both companies way outdistance number three ranked Dell. Its estimated 2013 revenues were $56.94 billion. Heads of these and other industrial giants won’t go begging. Koch brothers want lots more billions than already.
Getting them any way possible alone matters. They go all-out for all they can. Charles was quoted earlier saying:
“Most power is power to coerce somebody. We don’t have the power to coerce anybody.”
Their deep pockets do their coercing for them. They want unfettered market freedom. They each own 42% of KI. They prefer remaining private. Charles once said KI will publicly offer shares “literally over (his) dead body.”
KI operates in dozens of countries worldwide. It’s in 45 US states. It employs tens of thousands of workers. Its businesses include manufacturing, energy, oil refining and distribution, chemicals, fiber, intermediates and polymers, minerals, fertilizers, pulp and paper, chemical technology equipment, ranching, finance, commodities trading, plus other ventures and investments.
Both brothers buy influence.
- They finance radical right interests to get it.
- They bankroll neocon political action groups, think tanks, and ideologically over-the-top politicians.
- They advance extremist limited government notions.
- They favor business friendly anti-populist policies.
- They abhor regulations. They want freedom to swindle, cheat and grab all they can.
- They want state enterprises sold at fire sale prices.
- They want first dibs to buy them.
- They want minimal corporate taxes. Ideally they none at all.
- They want their personal tax obligation shrunk to as little as possible.
- They want ordinary people forced to pay more so they can pay less.
- They want social justice eliminated entirely. They want trade unionism weakened. Ideally they want it gone.
- They oppose universal healthcare, financial fairness, public education, and environmental sanity. They love job-killing trade deals.
- They’ll benefit hugely from Keystone XL’s pipeline’s completion. According to a report released last October, it represents a potential $100 billion windfall.
KI and both brothers separately own two million acres of Alberta, Canada land. It’s where Keystone XL’s proposed route begins. KI subsidiaries benefit from pipeline construction. Tar sands oil development is on Koch Exploration Canada land. Koch Supply and Trading benefits from oil derivatives activities. KI donated millions lobbying for Keystone XL’s construction. Supportive think tanks and congressional members are beneficiaries.
Charles and David’s influence is pernicious and then some. They want unfettered freedom replacing civil society restraints. They want information about their activities suppressed. They want unchallenged control. They want nothing interfering with generating maximum revenues.
They donate millions annually to right wing causes. On March 27, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) headlined “Inside the Koch brothers’ campus crusade.” It spans America. It philosophizes about the “moral imperatives of free markets and individual liberty.” It’s proselytizing goes way beyond Capitol Hill. It focuses on winning hearts and minds of college students. It manipulates their minds destructively. It does so at 163 colleges and universities. They’re in 41 states and the District of Columbia. Many are left of center. Some have liberal faculty members.
Koch Brothers want students turned against them. They want their vision taught in classrooms. They claim otherwise. So do recipient schools. Funds aren’t donated strings-free. Agenda politics comes with them.
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) advocates entrepreneurship freedom. It abhors regulatory restraint. It wants minimal taxes. It wants “encroachment of government in the economic lives of citizens” halted. It wants nothing restricting what business wants to do. It fronts for Koch Industries. In 2004, David Koch and KI board member Richard Fink were co-founders. AFP targets progressive initiatives. Millions are spent doing it. Funding surges in election years.
AFP’s agenda is corporatist, soulless, anti-labor, anti-eco-sanity, and anti-fairness. It’s against consumer protections. It abhors populism. It wants corporate crooks kept free from prosecution. It’s pro-business, pro-war, pro-privilege, pro-super-wealth, anti-dissent, anti-democracy, anti-civil and human rights, and anti-government of, by and for everyone equitably and fairly.
Charles Lewis serves as American University School of Community Investigative Reporting Workshop’s executive director. Earlier he founded CPI.
“The Kochs are on a whole different level,” he said earlier. 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.”
Their lobbying expenses rank among America’s highest. They go all-out to have their interests served. Ideally they want their message alone getting out. They pressure employees to support candidates they endorse. They warn them about dire consequences otherwise. Their jobs are on the line. They’ll pay for disobedience.
What Charles and David say goes. They represent dual noxious influences. They’re more dangerous than corrupt politicians in positions of power. They wield their own irresponsibly. Super-wealth lets them do what they want. They take full advantage. For every dollar spent, they expect huge returns. They take no prisoners. They’re all take and no give.
They oppose labeling carcinogens found in their products. They want them freely used. They’re mindless about potential harm to millions. Profits alone matter. People are expendable. Their welfare is unimportant. Business priorities count most of all.
Tony Carrk is Center for American Progress Health Care War Room director. In April 2011, he headlined “The Koch Brothers: What You Need to Know About the Financiers of the Radical Right,” saying:
“Any attempt to understand the modern conservative movement will eventually lead to billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.”
“Using their vast wealth and connections, the Koch brothers are key players in bankrolling right-wing political action groups, think tanks, and individual politicians, using this array of political power to advance their ideological agenda of limited government and less regulation.”
“Chances are they are part of any recent right-wing attack you have seen lately.”
Charles and David use their vast wealth, business empire, and “political network to pursue their right-wing agenda at nearly every level of government. ”
“Whether they are contributing millions in campaign contributions, spending millions on lobbying, or investing millions in right-wing think tank and advocacy groups, the Koch brothers’ influence is pervasive.”
Their extreme right wing agenda benefits them at the expense of popular interests. They want them eliminated altogether. They want unfettered freedom to invest, speculate, trade and accumulate maximum wealth unrestrained. They want nothing interfering in their right to do so.
Anti-government fervor was a Koch brothers opportunity. They helped organize and fund Tea Party protesters. They turned their private agenda into a mass movement. They took full advantage shaping and controlling an anti-big government uprising. They turned it into serving their personal interests. They got millions of ordinary people to support what harms their own welfare. They got supportive right-wing media help. Talk show hosts, commentators, and other media figures joined the movement. The New York Times earlier called it “a diffuse American grassroots group that taps into anti-government sentiment.”
It’s well-organized. It’s controlled top down. It’s a combination of loosely affiliated organizations. They’re ideologically anti-big government, anti-spending, anti-immigration, and anti-compromise. They’re organized, funded and controlled by right-wing corporate lobbying groups. They’re manipulated to support business interests.
Companies like KI benefit enormously. It denies involvement disingenuously. Its communications director said earlier:
“Koch companies value free speech and believe it is good to have more Americans engaged in key policy issues.”
“(N)o funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the tea parties.”
Their activities declined significantly since 2010. According to Professor Theda Skocpol, chapters dropped from about 1,000 to 600. It’s still a “very good survival rate,” she said. Most groups shifted from national to local issues. Doing so affected their visibility. Chapters place more emphasis on getting preferred candidates elected than pubic events.
Involvement in 2012 Republican presidential primaries was minimal. Perhaps lack of enthusiasm for unimpressive candidates was responsible.
After Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate, The New York Times called Tea Party lawmakers “indisputably at the core of the modern Republican Party.”
Koch brothers influence is very much involved. They bankroll Tea Party candidates. They do so with company and personal contributions. They’re a pernicious influence on US politics. What benefits them harms most others. They’re not going away. Their financial clout hugely influences US policies. Americans get the best democracy money can buy.
A Final Comment
Wall Street Journal editors gave Charles Koch feature op-ed space. On April 2, he headlined “I’m Fighting to Restore a Free Society.” What he has in mind isn’t fit to live in. He lied claiming his vision would “create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans.”
He means super-rich ones like himself at the expense of all others. He claims to oppose big government. He wants federal, state and local politicians as well as bureaucrats benefitting him. He wants government resources helping his interests. He wants social America destroyed. He ludicrously claimed he’s not “trying to rig the system.” Millions spent lobbying buy influence. They’re not used for good will. They’re investments. Effective ones reap huge returns. They go right to KI’s bottom line. They fill Charles and David’s pockets. They come out of ours.
His notion of “liberty” is more for him and less for us. Everyone should embrace his “vision,” he urges. America already is unfit to live in. Imagine one run his way. Orwell put it this way:
“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.” Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.