By People & Power reporter Bob Abeshouse
Charles and David Koch are each worth about $25bn, which makes them
the fourth richest Americans. When you combine their fortunes, they are
the third wealthiest people in the world. Radical libertarians who use
their money to oppose government and virtually all regulation as
interference with the free market, the Kochs are in a class of their own
as players on the American political stage. Their web of influence in
the US stretches from state capitals to the halls of congress in
The Koch brothers fueled the conservative Tea Party movement that
vigorously opposes Barack Obama, the US president. They fund efforts to
derail action on global warming, and support politicians who object to
raising taxes on corporations or the wealthy to help fix America’s
fiscal problems. According to New Yorker writer Jane Mayer, who
wrote a groundbreaking exposé of the Kochs in 2010, they have built a
top to bottom operation to shape public policy that has been "incredibly
effective. They are so rich that their pockets are almost bottomless,
and they can keep pouring money into this whole process".
Koch industries, the second largest privately-held company in the US,
is an oil refining, chemical, paper products and financial services
company with revenues of a $100bn a year. Virtually every American
household has some Koch product - from paper towels and lumber, to
Stainmaster carpet and Lycra in sports clothes, to gasoline for cars.
The Koch’s political philosophy of rolling back environmental and
financial regulations is also beneficial to their business interests.
The Kochs rarely talk to the press, and conduct their affairs behind
closed doors. But at a secret meeting of conservative activists and
funders the Kochs held in Vail, Colorado this past summer, someone made
undercover recordings. One caught Charles Koch urging participants to
dig deep into their pockets to defeat Obama. "This is the mother of all
wars we've got in the next 18 months," he says, "for the life or death
of this country." He called out the names of 31 people at the Vail
meeting who each contributed more than $1m over the past 12 months.
Inthe 2010 congressional elections, the Kochs and their partners spent at
least $40m, helping to swing the balance of power in the US House of
Representatives towards right-wing Tea Party Republicans. It has been
reported that the Kochs are planning to raise and spend more than $200m
to defeat Obama in 2012. But the brothers could easily kick in more
without anyone knowing due to loopholes in US law.
The Kochs founded and provide millions to Americans for Prosperity, a
political organisation that builds grassroots support for conservative
causes and candidates. Americans for Prosperity, which has 33 state
chapters and claims to have about two million members, has close ties to
Tea Party groups and played a key role in opposing Obama's health care
This year, Americans for Prosperity spent at least half a million
dollars supporting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's efforts to cut
social spending and roll back collective bargaining rights for public
employee unions. The legislation passed by Walker makes it more
difficult for unions, which are major backers of Democratic candidates,
to secure funds for political purposes.
Americans for Prosperity is alsovery active in a battle against unions in Ohio, another important 2012 presidential state. Its president, Tim Phillips, says that the
organisation is winning in Wisconsin and around the country "because on
the policies of economic freedom, we're right". He refused to tell People & Power reporter Bob Abeshouse how much the organisation is spending to combat the unions.
The Kochs have also poured millions into think tanks and academia to
influence the battle over ideas. According to Kert Davies, the director
of research for Greenpeace in the US, the Kochs have spent more than
$50m since 1998 on "various front groups and think tanks who ... oppose
the consensus view that climate change is real, urgent and we have to do
something about it". As operators of oil pipelines and refineries, the
Kochs have opposed all efforts to encourage alternative sources of
energy by imposing a tax on fossil fuels.
Patrick Michaels, a senior fellow at the CATO Institute, often
appears in the media to contest global warming science. CATO was founded
by Charles Koch, and the Kochs and their foundations have contributed
about $14m to CATO. Since 2009, there has been a sharp drop in the
percentage of Americans who see global warming as a serious threat
according to Gallup polls. Davies argues that the change can be
attributed in large measure to the efforts of scientists like Michaels
and others who are funded by the fossil fuel industry.People & Power asks if the tycoon duo's fortune could put the radical right into the White House.
The Kochs have also promoted their free market ideology and business
interests through aggressive lobbying in Washington DC, and financial
support of political candidates. Greenpeace has tracked more than $50m
that Koch Industries has spent on lobbyists since 2006, when Cap and
Trade and other legislation to combat global warming was being
considered. The Kochs have been the largest political spender since 2000
in the energy sector, exceeding Exxon, Chevron, and other major
The Kochs contributed to 62 of the 87 new members of the US House of
Representatives in 2010. Members of the House Energy and Commerce
Committee that the Kochs supported have taken the lead in opposing US
Environmental Protection Agency efforts to reduce global warming
emissions. Other members backed by the Kochs belong to the right-wing
Tea Party bloc that took the US to the brink of default in July by
refusing to consider a budget deal that would include tax increases.
In 2012, many believe that President Obama can raise a billion
dollars for the presidential race, and break all fundraising records.
But as Lee Fang of the Center for American Progress tells reporter Bob
Abeshouse, in the end it may not matter "because the Koch brothers alone
increased their wealth by $11bn in the last two years".http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/peopleandpower/2011/10/2011102683719370179.html
|Liveleak on Facebook|