The Koch Brothers have been outed. They used to be able to hide in the shadows, but diligent journalists have brought their reprobate machinations to light. They spent millions in the 2012 elections. They didn’t get the results they wanted — President Obama replaced by Mitt Romney — so they have spent even more on the 2014 midterms. The influx of Koch money may have made the difference in many a tight contest. Politico reports that the Kochs have spent an estimated $290 million to see their candidates win. That’s just the money we know about. With the new PAC they formed, Freedom Partners Action Fund, and the loose dark money laws, they could have spent much more which we will never know about.
The Koch brothers are the poster boys for the corporatocracy. They have managed to get their fingers into every branch of government and our everyday lives. It’s almost impossible to find some aspect of America that they don’t have influence over. Last year, they tried to purchase eight major American newspapers owned by the Tribune company including the Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Sun-Times and the Orlando Sentinel, as well as 23 television stations across the country. If they had managed to do that, they would have controlled a good portion of the media. Thankfully, the Koch brothers wound up backing out of their attempts to buy the Tribune company’s chain of newspapers, claiming the papers wouldn’t be economically viable.
It’s important for liberals and progressives to know about the Koch Brothers. Here are 10 of the most important points:
10. Their father, Fred Koch, sold oil in Nazi Germany when he was barred from doing so in the U.S. He was invited to do this by Erich Koch, a relative and a highly placed Nazi official. After the Nazis were defeated, Erich helped Fred expand his business into the Soviet Union. It ended badly, though, as Erich was arrested and tried for war crimes and Fred returned to America where he was once again allowed to do business. He did a lot more than that – he was a founding member of the John Birch Society in New York in the 1950s, with Robert W. Welch Jr. and others. His sons took a page from Daddy’s book when they founded the Tea Party. (Source)
9. Koch Industries is one of the biggest privately run businesses in the country and their family’s wealth is second only to Bill Gates’ fortune. Koch Industries has operations in 45 states and is involved in oil, gas and refining, chemicals, minerals, fertilizers, forestry, consumer products and ranching. Government regulation is their primary concern and they have fought it in every quarter: health care, Wall Street, collective bargaining rights and efforts to fight climate change are a few of their favorite targets.
8. They are the controlling founders of Americans For Prosperity, which they use as a front for their operations. They gave $196 million over the past 15 years to right-wing advocacy groups and spent nearly $40 million (mostly through AFP) in the 2012 election cycle, 95 percent of which went to Republican candidates. Early in 2012, the brothers pledged to spend $60 million to defeat President Obama, mostly through “dark money” groups. They must be pretty miffed about how that went. But they got their way in the midterms.
7. On a state level, the Kochs have spent millions on governors, state representatives and initiatives. They helped bankroll Republicans such as Scott Walker, Rick Scott and John Kasich. In return, these Republican governors and legislatures proposed and, in most cases, passed such things as the ban on collective bargaining. The Kochs poured $10 million into defending Wisconsin’s union-busting bill and, when Scott Walker was recalled, they helped him out with even more funds. Now, despite his utter failure as a governor that works for the people in his state, they’ve managed to get him re-elected. (Source)
6. The Kochs have been funding special “judicial junkets” for years. These are all-expenses-paid trips for judges so that they can be “educated” about corporate-friendly legal issues. The Kochs know that they need to have friends in the judicial branch so they have been spending to influence judicial elections. Three regular attendees are Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas and Justice Alito. That should tell you all you need to know about recent Supreme Court decisions.
5. The Koch brothers are major funders of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an advocacy group that influences policy at the state level. The group is behind legislation that is corporate-friendly, dictating policy as much as they are able. Environmental protections, regulations, worker safety, unions and even education have come under attack by ALEC. Many of the recent bills that have passed Republican-led states have been written by the group, including voter ID and “stand your ground” bills.
4. Koch Industries is one of the country’s biggest polluters. This explains why they have spent over $67 million since 1997 funding climate change deniers and their “studies.” They funded the echo chamber that was “Climate-gate” and continue to fund initiatives to kill green energy alternatives. Climate change? What climate change? As long as they are making money by extending our reliance on oil and preventing green energy from growing, they don’t give a damn about the planet. Oh yeah, they are also the biggest donors to various committees and individuals in Congress who have oversight of the Keystone XL pipeline.
3. In the past 14 years, the Kochs have received nearly $100 million in government contracts. Most of that came from the Department of Defense. Most of the money went to three companies: Koch Industries, Koch Membranes and Georgia-Pacific (which they acquired in 2005). I guess it really pays to have most of Congress in your pocket, eh?
2. One of the things that Koch Industries manufactures is formaldehyde, a carcinogenic substance. They make over 2 billion pounds of the stuff every year. How do they manage to do that? David Koch has been lobbying the EPA to prevent formaldehyde from being classified as a carcinogen. Here’s the kicker… David Koch is not only on the National Cancer Advisory Board, he is a cancer survivor. That’s a pretty obnoxious case of “I got mine so screw you,” don’t you think? (Source)
1. You have to be vigilant to avoid enriching the Kochs with your consumer dollars. They own so many companies that it is hard to keep track. Toilet paper is particularly hard to avoid (rather apropos, really). If you buy Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Coronet or Soft ‘n Gentle you’re wiping with Koch products – though that could be seen as a statement. If you use paper products like Brawny, Zee, Sparkle, Mardi Gras, Dixie or Vanity Fair, you might want to switch. Anything made by Georgia-Pacific (and that’s a lot of stuff), Invista (textiles and plastic bottles); any kind of petroleum products (see what I mean?), fertilizer (under scads of labels), equipment (including John Zink Company) and even cattle can all be traced back to the Kochs. They even sell in Europe. It’s almost impossible to avoid giving them some of your money, but it’s worth a try.
The Kochs must be feeling very smug today, having spent enough money to choke a whale in getting their candidates elected. Sure, they missed a few but they have captured the most important ring: the U.S. Senate. We can be sure that the next two years will be spent on their concerns. And not just in the Senate, but in state legislatures. This means that we have to be diligent, loud and unwavering in voicing our refusal to allow the Kochs and their corporate buddies to own our country.