The Kochs' politics (and money)

Last Saturday The New York Times ran a piece about the history of the Wichita, Kan., family that bankrolls many ventures in conservative politics: Quixotic ’80 Campaign Gave Birth to Kochs’ Powerful Network.

The political history of the Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- is also the history of money in politics, which culminated in the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling. That ruling lifted restrictions on contributions to independent political groups and turned on the water hydrant of special interest money into political campaigns from the presidential level to a North Carolina school board.

The Times story points out the Kochs entry into politics coincided with the first turn of the campaign money spigot: a Supreme Court decision in in 1976, Buckley v. Valeo, that opened loopholes in a campaign finance law that had placed tight controls on what candidates, parties, and private individuals could spend on campaigns.

Now today Huffington Post is reporting that a 2012 documentary "Koch Brothers Exposed" has been updated and will be re-released this week. According to the Huff Post:

The billionaire Koch brothers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars because they don't want the government messing with Americans' lives or businesses. But a film coming out this week aims to show that … the Kochs' activism, generally advanced under the cloak of libertarianism, harms real people even as it boosts the bottom line of Koch Industries.

For example: Supporting candidates who favor the he Keystone XL pipeline even as Koch Industries is a major oil industry player, or supporting campaigns to defang the Environmental Protection Agency as Koch-owned enterprises battle EPA regulations and face massive fines for polluting.

The Times article reports that the only time a Koch ran for elected office was David Koch’s 1980 bid for the vice presidency with the Libertarian Party (for which he donated $2.1 million or more than half the campaign budget). After that, they focused on a different avenue:

The most effective response was not political action, Mr. [Charles] Koch argued, but investment in pro-capitalist research and educational programs.

“The development of a well-financed cadre of sound proponents of the free enterprise philosophy is the most critical need facing us today.”

And they have done that with a vengeance. The Huff Post piece reports, “The Kochs' Americans for Prosperity alone is expected to spend at least $125 million in the 2014 campaigns.” The Time piece says:

They have also worked to fulfill Charles Koch’s vision for a “well financed cadre” of free market proponents, funding think tanks and pro-free market research, endowing professorships, and providing money for internships and scholarships. Between 2007 and 2012, according to one analysis, Koch family foundations contributed $30.5 million to 221 colleges and universities.

That puts the Koch brothers $1 million gift to the Catholic University of America for a new business schools into a new light doesn’t it? For more on the CUA gift, see:


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