David Koch

Profile image by Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

David H. Koch

Credentials

Background

David H. Koch, along with his brother Charles Koch, was a co-owner of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in America according to Forbes, with a revenue of $100 billion as of December 2017. Forbes estimated David Koch’s net worth at $50.7 billion. Washington Post reported in 2018 that David was stepping down from Koch Industries and Americans for Prosperity due to health issues. David Koch passed away on August 23, 2019.4#2 Koch Industries,” Forbes. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/cOk7p 5David Koch,” Fobes, December 27, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/HVWbu 6David Koch is leaving Koch Industries, stepping down from Americans for Prosperity,” The Washington Post, June 5, 2018. Archived June 5, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/7wlnm 7Melanie Grayce West and John McCormick. “Billionaire David Koch, Who Used His Wealth to Reshape U.S. Politics, Dies at 79,” The Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2019. Archived August 23, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/j9sUH

David Koch served as executive vice president and board member of Koch Industries Inc., a company spanning a range of industries including petroleum, mining, fertilizers, financial trading, forest and consumer products. He was also chairman and chief executive officer of Koch Chemical Technology Group, LLC, a wholly-owned Koch subsidiary company. Before joining Koch Industries in 1970, David Koch worked for Amicon Corporation as a research and process design engineer.8“David H. Koch” (PDF), Koch Industries Inc. February, 2009.

In addition to running Koch Industries, the Koch brothers created a large number of right-wing groups and have funneled millions of dollars into an extensive political network. That network, which includes a wide range of groups fighting against regulations on carbon emissions and denying the existence or seriousness of man-made climate change, was first dubbed “the Kochtopus” by the some Libertarians in the late 1970s.9The Making of the Kochtopus,” Mother Jones, November 3, 2014. Archived December 27, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/s0buk

Through his David H. Koch Foundation, he funded a “Who’s Who of the libertarian movement” including organizations like the Heartland Institute, Reason Foundation, Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Institute for Justice, the Libertarian Party, the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, and many others.10David Koch – Libertarian,” Advocates for Self Government, archived February 26, 2007. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/4CWKJ

Greenpeace has described Koch Industries as a “kingpin of climate science denial” and noted the organization has outpaced ExxonMobil when it comes to donations to organizations engaged in a public relations effort to attack climate science. In an August 2010 issue of The New Yorker, Jane Mayer outlined how the Koch network operates to combat environmental regulation and, at the time, had consistently pushed against a wide range of Obama-administration regulations.11Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine (PDF), Greenpeace, March 2010. 12Jane Meyer. “Covert Operations,” The New Yorker, August 30, 2010. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/DWBMP

Charles Lewis, the founder of the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Public Integrity, told Meyer:13Jane Meyer. “Covert Operations,” The New Yorker, August 30, 2010. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/DWBMP

“The Kochs are on a whole different level. 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.”14Jane Meyer. “Covert Operations,” The New Yorker, August 30, 2010. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/DWBMP

The Kochs actively supported the Libertarian Party in the 1970s and early 1980s. David ran as the vice-presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 1980, and advocated for the abolishment of Social Security, public schools, welfare, the CIA, IRS, and FBI, asThe New York Times reported in 1984. Charles supported his brother’s vice presidential bid in 1980, and also heavily supports libertarian groups like the Cato Institute.15Nicholas Confessore. “Quixotic ’80 Campaign Gave Birth to Kochs’ Powerful Network,” The New York Times, May 17, 2014. Archived February 19, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/EUIIj 16Charlotte Curtis. “MAN WITHOUT A CANDIDATE,” The New York Times, October 16, 1984. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/rueHq 17“25 years at the Cato Institute” (PDF), Cato Institute. PDF created April 5, 2007. 18Phil Kerby. “The Libertarians: Freedom to a Fault,” Los Angeles Times, September 13, 1979.

Climate Change Disinformation

A study by Yale University researcher Dr. Justin Farrell, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), examined over 20 years of data and found that ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers were key actors in funding think tanks distributing climate change disinformation.19Justin Farrell. “Corporate funding and ideological polarization about climate change,” PNAS Vol. 113. No. 1 (January 5, 2016). View full PDF here. 20Brendan DeMelle. “Research Confirms ExxonMobil, Koch-funded Climate Denial Echo Chamber Polluted Mainstream Media,” DeSmog, November 23, 2015.

“The contrarian efforts have been so effective for the fact that they have made it difficult for ordinary Americans to even know who to trust,” Dr. Farrell told the Washington Post which was first to cover the news of the study’s release. “This counter-movement produced messages aimed, at the very least, at creating ideological polarization through politicized tactics, and at the very most, at overtly refuting current scientific consensus with scientific findings of their own,” Dr. Farrell said.21Joby Warrick. “Why are so many Americans skeptical about climate change? A study offers a surprising answer.” The Washington Post, November 23, 2015. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/j8wOC

From PNAS’s press briefing note about the article by Dr. Farrell:22Joby Warrick. “Why are so many Americans skeptical about climate change? A study offers a surprising answer.” The Washington Post, November 23, 2015. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/j8wOC

Corporate funding likely influences the nature and content of polarizing texts pertaining to climate change, according to a study. Political polarization has become a hallmark of climate change policy discussion, with multiple groups in various sectors contributing to public discourse regarding climate and energy. To quantify the influence of corporate funding in climate change discourse, Justin Farrell analyzed more than 39 million words of text produced by 164 organizations active in the climate change counter-movement between 1993 and 2013. The author examined the ideological content of the produced texts, as well as the funding behind the organizations that produced the texts.

Organizations with corporate funding were more likely to have produced polarizing texts, the author found, with ExxonMobil and the Koch family foundation acting as influential funders (emphasis added). Further, according to the author, corporate funding may have influenced the ideological content of produced texts. The results suggest quantitative evidence of the influence of funding in the climate change debate that had previously been hypothesized, and suggests an analytical model for integrating texts with the social networks that created them, according to the author.23Joby Warrick. “Why are so many Americans skeptical about climate change? A study offers a surprising answer.” The Washington Post, November 23, 2015. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/j8wOC

Another study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change (see full text here), written by Farrell, a professor of sociology at Yale’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, also examined the influence of the Koch network on climate change communication.24Mike Gaworecki. “New Study Exposes True Extent, Influence Of Climate Denial Echo Chamber For First Time,” DeSmog, Decembe 1, 2015. 25Justin Farrell. “Network structure and influence of the climate change counter-movement,” Nature Climate Change 6, 370–374 (2016). Full text on DropBox.

“The individuals in this bipartite network include interlocking board members, as well as many more informal and overlapping social, political, economic and scientific ties,” Farrell wrote in the report. “The organizations include a complex network of think tanks, foundations, public relations firms, trade associations, and ad hoc groups.”26Justin Farrell. “Network structure and influence of the climate change counter-movement,” Nature Climate Change 6, 370–374 (2016). Full text on DropBox.

He described the Koch brothers family foundations as “reliable indicators of a much larger effort of corporate lobbying in the climate change counter-movement.”27Justin Farrell. “Network structure and influence of the climate change counter-movement,” Nature Climate Change 6, 370–374 (2016). Full text on DropBox.

He found organizations taking funds from “elite” corporate funders of climate denial like Exxon and the Koch Brothers — groups like the CATO Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Heartland Institute — “have greater influence over flows of resources, communication, and the production of contrarian information” than other denial groups.28Justin Farrell. “Network structure and influence of the climate change counter-movement,” Nature Climate Change 6, 370–374 (2016). Full text on DropBox.

Stance on Climate Change

July 25, 2010

In an interview with New York magazine, David Koch suggested climate change would be positive:29The Billionaire’s Party,” New York, July 25, 2010. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/sHzng

“The Earth will be able to support enormously more people because a far greater land area will be available to produce food [due to climate change],” he said.

Key Quotes

December 2012

In an interview with Forbes, following Mitt Romney’s loss in the most recent election cycle, David Koch said:30Forbes: Inside the Koch Empire, Including an Exclusive Interview with Charles and David Koch,” Forbes, December 5, 2012. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/II5wd

“We raised a lot of money and mobilized an awful lot of people, and we lost, plain and simple. We’re going to study what worked, what didn’t work and improve our efforts in the future. We’re not going to roll over and play dead.”

October 14, 2012

In an issue of The Wichita Eagle, David Koch was quoted:31In His own Words: David Koch, executive vice president and a board member of Koch Industries,” The Wichita Eagle, October 14, 2012. Retrieved from issuu.com.

“We have some very large refineries, and we have some great projects that we’d like to invest in to meet the demands of our customers, that is, the aviation fuel customers, the heating oil customers, and motor gasoline customers, and these refineries that we have… Well, the EPA has been sitting on several hundred requests from refineries and chemical plants to upgrade and expand their facilities. And the EPA has only, since Obama’s been president, granted one permit. And that permit is being litigated by environmental groups blocking it, so refineries are essentially paralyzed, they can’t expand and improve their operations.

“My god, we’re a fossil-fuel-based society. And I think we’re going to have, if this continues, a big shortage of fuel to operate our economy.”

Novembe 4, 1980

David Koch, while running for the position of Vice President on the Libertarian Party Ticket, made a statement for voter pamphlets in response to the EPA’s efforts on pollution control. View the original statement at KochDocs.321980 Libertarian Party David Koch Candidate Statement for Voter Pamphlets, re ‘Pollution Control’ and the EPA,” KochDocs. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“The EPA, like all regulatory agencies, is inefficient and bureaucratic. A better answer is a legal system that once again recognizes property rights and forbids harmful pollution of anyone’s air or water. That will be the best protection for our rights and our environment,” Koch wrote in the statement.

2007

In an interview with Brian Doherty, as quoted at the Mises Institute, David Koch said:33A Fairy Tale of the Austrian Movement,” MisesInstitute, September 25, 2007. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/PeGdD

“If we’re going to give a lot of money, we’ll make darn sure they spend it in a way that goes along with our intent. And if they make a wrong turn and start doing things we don’t agree with we withdraw funding. We do exert that kind of control.”

Key Deeds

November 2018

Documents uncovered by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and reported at Salon revealed how the Koch brothers worked with the data firm i360 developed persuasion models to target voters with tailored messages on certain issues. In 2016, i360 developed models while working with Sen. Rob Portman’s 2016 re-election campaign in Ohio.34Koch brothers are watching you: And new documents reveal just how much they know,” Salon, November 5, 2018. Archived November 9, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/5SFZj

After polling, i360 found a “key local issue facing Ohio was the opioid epidemic” and subsequently created a a “heroin model” and a “heroin treatment model” that were effective at increasing voter support for Portman.35Koch brothers are watching you: And new documents reveal just how much they know,” Salon, November 5, 2018. Archived November 9, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/5SFZj

“This manipulation of the opioid crisis for political gain has a perverse irony given the Kochs’ long-running work to provide corporate interests, including health care and pharmaceutical interests, with undue political power and influence over public policy decision,” Salon reported.36Koch brothers are watching you: And new documents reveal just how much they know,” Salon, November 5, 2018. Archived November 9, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/5SFZj

Heroin was only one example of models that i360 developed to craft tailored messaging for Portman’s campaign. Other issue-based models included gun control immigration, energy, pro-life, and marriage.37Koch brothers are watching you: And new documents reveal just how much they know,” Salon, November 5, 2018. Archived November 9, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/5SFZj

June 2018

The Washington Post reported David Koch was stepping down from Koch Industries and Americans for Prosperity due to health issues. Charles Koch announced in a letter to Koch Industries employees that David’s health was declining:38David Koch is leaving Koch Industries, stepping down from Americans for Prosperity,” The Washington Post, June 5, 2018. Archived June 5, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/7wlnm

“Unfortunately, these issues have not been resolved and his health has continued to deteriorate,” Charles Koch wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “As a result, he is unable to be involved in business and other organizational activities. […] David has always been a fighter and is dealing with this challenge in the same way.”39David Koch is leaving Koch Industries, stepping down from Americans for Prosperity,” The Washington Post, June 5, 2018. Archived June 5, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/7wlnm

Mark Holden, general counsel of Koch Industries and co-chair of the Koch’s political network, said David’s departure would not stall growth.40David Koch is leaving Koch Industries, stepping down from Americans for Prosperity,” The Washington Post, June 5, 2018. Archived June 5, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/7wlnm

“We greatly appreciate his vital role on the board and all that he has done to help us build a strong foundation for our future success,” Holden wrote in an email.41David Koch is leaving Koch Industries, stepping down from Americans for Prosperity,” The Washington Post, June 5, 2018. Archived June 5, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/7wlnm

October 2017

Writing at the New Yorker, Jane Mayer highlighted the connections between the Koch brothers and Vice President Mike Pence. While Charles Koch had once said that a choice between a Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton presidency was one between “cancer or heart attack,” the Kochs were “very excited about the Vice-Presidential pick,” according to White House head of legislative affairs Marc Short.42Jane Mayer. “The Danger of President Pence,” The New Yorker, October 23, 2017. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/0mJYh

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse worried that, if Pence were ever to replace Trump as president, it would lead to undue influence by the Kochs:43Jane Mayer. “The Danger of President Pence,” The New Yorker, October 23, 2017. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/0mJYh

“If Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers—period. He’s been their tool for years,” Whitehouse said.44Jane Mayer. “The Danger of President Pence,” The New Yorker, October 23, 2017. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/0mJYh

Steve Bannon was also concerned at the idea of Pence as President. “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own,” Bannon told Meyer.45Jane Mayer. “The Danger of President Pence,” The New Yorker, October 23, 2017. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/0mJYh

Meyer highlighted Pence’s relationship with a range of Koch-funded think tanks including Americans for Prosperity, describing it as a key to his rise.46Jane Mayer. “The Danger of President Pence,” The New Yorker, October 23, 2017. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/0mJYh

In 2009, Pence signed and promoted the “No Climate Tax” pledge devised by the Americans for Prosperity, which promised to avoid all spending on the curbing of carbon emissions. Pence also made speeches denouncing the cap-and-trade bill. The Checks and Balances Project found that, after Pence signed and promoted the AfP “No Climate Tax” pledge, financial support to him from the Kochs increased dramatically.47Jane Mayer. “The Danger of President Pence,” The New Yorker, October 23, 2017. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/0mJYh

After signing the pledge, Pence “was the Kochs’ guy, and they’ve been showering him with money ever since,” Scott Peterson, the executive director of the Checks & Balances Project, told Meyer.48Jane Mayer. “The Danger of President Pence,” The New Yorker, October 23, 2017. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/0mJYh

At a 2014 Americans for Prosperity summit in Dallas, Pence said he was “grateful to have enjoyed” David Koch’s support.49Jane Mayer. “The Danger of President Pence,” The New Yorker, October 23, 2017. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/0mJYh

April 2017

As reported by Hiroko Tabuchi at The New York Times, the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity publicly backed a measure that would cancel a $6,000 tax credit for electric vehicles in Colorado.50Hiroko Tabuchi. “Behind the Quiet State-by-State Fight Over Electric Vehicles,” The New York Times, March 11, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/cvnsu

April 2017

DeSmog reported that the 60 Plus Association, a group funded by the Kochs, had lobbied for the Dakota Access pipeline, a project in which a Koch subsidiary stood to profit. Koch subsidiary Flint Hills Resources had proposed its own pipeline, Dakota Express, in January 2014.51Steve Horn. “How the Koch Machine Quietly Pushed for the Dakota Access Pipeline and Stands to Profit,” DeSmog, April 8, 2017.

60 Plus increased its lobbying efforts in September 2016, just as a protest movement against the pipeline grew near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. 52Steve Horn. “How the Koch Machine Quietly Pushed for the Dakota Access Pipeline and Stands to Profit,” DeSmog, April 8, 2017.

During that month, it sent chairman Jim Martin to lobby for Dakota Access and to write an article supporting the pipeline for the business and politics publication Morning Consult. 53Lobbying Report,” Secretary of the Senate Office of Public Records, 2016.

January 5, 2017

On January 5, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act of 2017. As reported by DeSmog, the act had been pushed for years by Koch-funded groups, and also had origins in Canada’s SCRUB (Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome) Act.54Steve Horn. “GOP Congress, Trump Already Pushing Koch Industries’ Bill to Hobble Regulatory Agencies,” DeSmog, January 5, 2017. 55Steve Horn,. “Pass a Regulation, Repeal Another: House Approves Provision Tied to Koch Industries,” DeSmog, January 6, 2017.

December 19, 2016

Despite past disagreements, numerous news sources reported the Trump Administration was quickly being populated by allies of the Kochs. Politico described it as “Trump’s Koch administration,” while Talking Points Memo noted that “Behind Make America Great, the Koch agenda has returned with a vengeance.” Some have described Trump as an unwitting “puppet” of the Koch brothers.56Kenneth P. Vogel and Eliana Johnson. “Trump’s Koch administration,” Politico, November 28, 2016. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/BKGoc 57Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Theda Skocpol, and Caroline Tervo. “Behind ‘Make America Great,’ the Koch Agenda Returns with a Vengeance,” Talking Points Memo, November 21, 2016. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/F3OeB

DeSmog outlined some of the connections between the Trump Administration and the Koch brothers in a LittleSis network map, embedded below. Scroll and zoom on the map to explore all the connections, or click “Next” to zoom in on some of the featured relationships.58Ben Jervey. “The Trump Administration Is Filling Up With Koch Allies,” DeSmog, December 19, 2016.

November 3, 2016

The Koch Brothers were the subject of a documentary at Real News Network titled “The Doubt Machine: The Koch Brothers’ War on Climate Science,” which examined how Koch-funded entities threatened climate scientists such as Michael Mann and journalists like Jane Mayer.59The Doubt Machine: Documentary Explores Koch Brothers’ War on Climate Science,” DeSmog, November 3, 2016. 60The Doubt Machine: Inside The Koch Brothers’ War on Climate Science,” The Real News.com. Accessed December 28, 2017.

August 2016

The pro-fossil-fuel organization Fueling U.S. Forward (FUSF) was launched using Koch dollars in the summer of 2016, working as a 501(c)(6) nonprofit business association, a designation that allows its involvement in both lobbying and political activities.61Sharon Kelly. “New Koch-Funded Group ‘Fueling US Forward’ Aims to Promote the ‘Positives’ of Fossil Fuels,” Desmog, August 14, 2016.

The group was headed by industry lobbyist and executive Charles T. Drevna, who confirmed to DeSmog that he was working with Koch Industries board member James Mahoney.62Sharon Kelly. “New Koch-Funded Group ‘Fueling US Forward’ Aims to Promote the ‘Positives’ of Fossil Fuels,” Desmog, August 14, 2016.

Peter Stone first revealed the Koch’s then-unnamed campaign plan in February 2016 at HuffPost. He reported the group hoped “to spend about $10 million dollars per year to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles, according to refining industry sources familiar with the plan.”63Peter Stone. “The Kochs Are Plotting A Multimillion-Dollar Assault On Electric Vehicles,” The Huffington Post, February 19, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/jXPA4

As part of its campaign to combat electric vehicle subsidies, FUSF produced videos claiming that electric vehicle (EV) tax credits are a “massive wealth transfer from poor to rich.” See the FUSF video “The Hidden Cost of Electric Cars” archived below:64“Hidden Costs of Electric Cars,” YouTube video uploaded by user “Fueling U.S. Forward” on July 11, 2017 (no longer available online). Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

DeSmog debunked the video, noting that cited figures were from an outdated paper produced when only three plug-in electric models were widely available to American drivers.65Ben Jervey. “Koch Front Group, Fueling US Forward, Bashes Electric Car Tax Credits in Latest Misleading Video,” DeSmog, July 22, 2017.

The FUSF website shut down in October 2017 and no longer appears to be in operation, however DeSmog continues to document the Koch brothers’ ongoing efforts to undermine electric vehicles and renewable energy at KochVsClean.com.66Ben Jervey. “Koch Front Group, Fueling US Forward, Bashes Electric Car Tax Credits in Latest Misleading Video,” DeSmog, July 22, 2017.

FUSF, which had sponsored a gospel concert as part of its public relations effort, was later criticized for a “an exploitative, sad and borderline racist strategy” by Eddie Bautista, executive director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance.67Ben Jervey. “Minority Communities in Virginia ‘Push Back on Koch Brothers,’ Call Fueling U.S. Forward a ‘Distasteful Effort’,” DeSmog, March 6, 2017.

July 2016

Three Koch groups were fined by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for concealing the sources of funds they spent on political ads in 2010. The fines amounted to a combined total of $233,000.68Farron Cousins. “Koch-Funded Groups Slapped With Fines By Federal Election Commission,” DeSmog, July 15, 2016. 69Libby Watson. “FEC fines Koch groups for illegal dark money,” Sunlight Foundation, July 13, 2016. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/FIg3A

The three groups involved were the American Future Fund, 60 Plus Association and Americans for Job Security, which had received funding from the Koch-connected Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR), now American Encore.70Libby Watson. “FEC fines Koch groups for illegal dark money,” Sunlight Foundation, July 13, 2016. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/FIg3A

The FEC found that CPPR’s funding had been set to be spent on independent expenditures such as TV ads, and should have been disclosed. Classified as 501(c)(4) organizations, the groups are permitted to spend funds on political advertising as long as it isn’t their “primary activity.” However, if a donor gives money specifically earmarked for spending on an election, it must be disclosed to the FEC.71Libby Watson. “FEC fines Koch groups for illegal dark money,” Sunlight Foundation, July 13, 2016. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/FIg3A

2015/2016

In 2015, Politico reported the Koch brothers promised to spend $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 elections, “a historic sum that in many ways would mark Charles and David Koch and their fellow conservative megadonors as more powerful than the official Republican Party.”72The Kochs put a price on 2016: 9 million,” Politico, January 26, 2015. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/fNY2Y

In response to, among other issues, the emergence of Donald Trump, the Koch brothers didn’t spend the promised funds. Roughly a year after their spending promise, the National Review reported that the Kochs were “reevaluating their approach to politics.”73Tim Alberta and Eliana Johnson. “Exclusive: In Koch World ‘Realignment,’ Less National Politics,” National Review, May 16, 2016. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/fmMaZ

Sources said that there is “mounting evidence—reduced budgets, the shuttering and streamlining of departments, the elimination of grants to allied political organizations, and the departure of top executives—demonstrating a shift of resources and attention away from federal campaign activity.”74Tim Alberta and Eliana Johnson. “Exclusive: In Koch World ‘Realignment,’ Less National Politics,” National Review, May 16, 2016. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/fmMaZ

November 2015

As reported at Politico and at The New Yorker, the Kochs had been running a “competitive intelligence team” to gather intelligence on liberal groups and activists while monitoring potential threats to their network.75Kenneth P. Vogel. “The Koch intelligence agency,” Politico, November 18, 2015. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/Sc64H 76Do the Kochs Have their Own Spy Network,” The New Yorker, November 18, 2015. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/1sAnj

The Koch’s team was made up of a staff of 25, including one former CIA analyst, and its operations included regular “intelligence briefing” emails with information on things like tracking the canvassing, phone-banking and voter-registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups and their allies.77Kenneth P. Vogel. “The Koch intelligence agency,” Politico, November 18, 2015. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/Sc64H 78Do the Kochs Have their Own Spy Network,” The New Yorker, November 18, 2015. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/1sAnj

“Such stealth activities are the kind that campaigns and party operatives often fantasize about but mostly shy away from ― both because of cost and potential political backlash if exposed,” ‘Politico reported.79Kenneth P. Vogel. “The Koch intelligence agency,” Politico, November 18, 2015. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/Sc64H

June 25, 2012

As The New York Times reported, Charles and David Koch agreed to revamp the Cato Institute’s leadership to allow the group to maintain political independence. This was after the Koch brothers had filed two lawsuits seeking greater control over the Cato Institute’s board.80Eric Lichtblau. “Cato Institute and Koch Brothers Reach Agreement,” The New York Times, June 25, 2012. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/wxgnr

Charles Koch had helped found the Cato Institute in 1977, and the family had donated more than $30 million to it by 2012. However, he and longtime chief executive Ed Crane had a falling out due to what the NYT described as “management and philosophical differences.”81Eric Lichtblau. “Cato Institute and Koch Brothers Reach Agreement,” The New York Times, June 25, 2012. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/wxgnr

The Koch brothers had long aimed to control a larger portion of the Cato Institute’s 16-member board to establish a “more direct pipeline between Cato and the family’s Republican political outlets, including groups that Democrats complain have mounted a multimillion-dollar assault on President Obama.” This had caused tensions inside the governing structure, as Cato officials said this threatened their reputation for independent research.82Eric Lichtblau. “Cato Institute and Koch Brothers Reach Agreement,” The New York Times, June 25, 2012. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/wxgnr

Describing the lawsuit, then-Cato president Edward H. Crane said:83Eric Lichtblau. “Cato Institute Is Caught in a Rift Over Its Direction,” The New York Times, March 6, 2012. Archived December 27, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/qz1nD

“This is an effort by the Kochs to turn the Cato Institute into some sort of auxiliary for the G.O.P. What he is doing now is detrimental to Cato, it’s detrimental to Koch Industries, it’s detrimental to the libertarian movement.”84Eric Lichtblau. “Cato Institute Is Caught in a Rift Over Its Direction,” The New York Times, March 6, 2012. Archived December 27, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/qz1nD

The Kochs eventually withdrew the lawsuit on the condition that Ed Crane retired. Greenpeace reported that before the attempted Koch takeover, Cato was seen as a “relatively independent think tank, willing to criticize both democrat and republican administrations,” but that the Kochs had wanted “the power to fold Cato into their suite of other front groups, making it another Koch-controlled cog in the republican political machine.”85Jesse Coleman. “Why the Koch brothers are cannibalizing the Cato Institute,” Greenpeace, March 20, 2012. Archived December 28, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/CXtIk

2012

Koch Industries was among several organizations including ExxonMobil, Chevron, America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), Peabody Energy, Edison Electric Institute, and other industry groups who lobbied for the “Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011,” designed to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.86Clients lobbying on S.482: Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011,” OpenSecrets.org. Accessed December 28, 2017.

January 3, 2011

As detailed in her 2016 book, Dark Money, New Yorker staff reporter Jane Mayer received unfounded plagiarism accusations after she published an investigative piece on the Koch brothers in The New Yorker.87Steve Horn. “Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” Book Reveals Koch Brothers Paid Firm Run by Former NYPD Chief to Smear Her,” DeSmog, January 19, 2016.

“Their aim, according to a well-informed source, was to counteract The New Yorker’s story on the Koch brothers by undermining me,” wrote Mayer. “’Dirt, dirt, dirt’ is what the source later told me they were digging for in my life. ‘If they couldn’t find it, they’d create it.’”88Steve Horn. “Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” Book Reveals Koch Brothers Paid Firm Run by Former NYPD Chief to Smear Her,” DeSmog, January 19, 2016.

As she detailed in “Dark Money,” with verification from a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity, a group called Vigilant Resources International (VRI) had received a retainer fee to help along the charges of plagiarism.89Steve Horn. “Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” Book Reveals Koch Brothers Paid Firm Run by Former NYPD Chief to Smear Her,” DeSmog, January 19, 2016.

Mayer received plagiarism inquiries from the right-wing The Daily Caller, as well as others from The Washington Post, ThinkProgress, and others.90Steve Horn. “Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” Book Reveals Koch Brothers Paid Firm Run by Former NYPD Chief to Smear Her,” DeSmog, January 19, 2016.

“Paul Kane, a reporter at The Washington Post, quickly looked up the story in question and sent me an e-mail saying, ‘Not only did you not steal from me, you Frickin’ credited me in the VERY NEXT line,’” Mayer explained in “Dark Money.” “The New Yorker had even linked to his story online. And, I later learned, my husband, who was then an editor at The Washington Post, had edited the story that I supposedly stole.”91Steve Horn. “Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” Book Reveals Koch Brothers Paid Firm Run by Former NYPD Chief to Smear Her,” DeSmog, January 19, 2016.

Lee Fang, now a reporter at The Intercept, also said that Mayer had properly credited him in her story.92Steve Horn. “Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” Book Reveals Koch Brothers Paid Firm Run by Former NYPD Chief to Smear Her,” DeSmog, January 19, 2016.

“With only a few hours before these allegations were set to go online, all I could do was to try to get out the truth before the lies were spread,” Mayer explained. “By midnight, I had reached three of the four authors from whom I was alleged to have plagiarized. All offered to make public statements supporting me and denying I had misappropriated their work.”93Steve Horn. “Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” Book Reveals Koch Brothers Paid Firm Run by Former NYPD Chief to Smear Her,” DeSmog, January 19, 2016.

“In the end, even the Daily Caller found the allegations to be unfounded, and to its credit, abandoned the story,” wrote the New York Post. “The story is dead but the person or persons behind the allegations remains a shadowy mystery.”94Steve Horn. “Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” Book Reveals Koch Brothers Paid Firm Run by Former NYPD Chief to Smear Her,” DeSmog, January 19, 2016.

A source later told Mayer that Nancy Pfotenhauer, former head of Koch’s Americans for Prosperity/Citizens for a Sound Economy, as well as a former Koch Industries lobbyist in Washington, DC, had been a key part of the effort.95Steve Horn. “Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” Book Reveals Koch Brothers Paid Firm Run by Former NYPD Chief to Smear Her,” DeSmog, January 19, 2016.

Affiliations

Note that David Koch was reportedly stepping down from his positions at AfP and Koch Industries, according to reports in summer 2018.96David Koch is leaving Koch Industries, stepping down from Americans for Prosperity,” The Washington Post, June 5, 2018. Archived June 5, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/7wlnm

Koch Industries

Koch Foundations

  • David H. Koch Charitable Foundation — Former Director.
  • Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation — Former Director.

Social Media

Publications

Investigative Reporting

Jane Mayer at The New Yorker has produced a long series of investigative reporting pieces on the Koch brothers:

Other Resources

Resources

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