In light of the recent news that David Koch is signing an amicus brief in support of gay marriage, I felt that this is a good opportunity to repost the article I wrote for The Gate about the Koch brothers earlier this quarter.

Anyone who has actually read about the brothers should know that this isn’t exactly shocking news, since their libertarian streak has been well documented over the years (as a fun fact, David Koch even ran as the Vice Presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party in 1980).

On one final note, one of the winter fellows at our Institute of Politics this quarter was Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, which was awesome.

The perks of being in College Republicans include having breakfast at The Med with Tim Phillips.
The perks of being in College Republicans include having breakfast at The Med with Tim Phillips.

That’s enough of an introduction (for the original article, click here).

The Koch brothers are back in the news again, and from what’s being reported in the media, it seems like they’re ready to take over the world from Wichita, Kansas.

Salon would have us think that the Kochs will literally destroy the planet, but the truth tells another story.

After reports indicated that the Kochs are intent on spending just under a billion dollars on the 2016 election (keep in mind this isn’t just for the presidential election, since their network will extensively work on Senate, House, and local races as well), the hatred of the Kochs ramped back up on the left, despite the fact that the Democrats’ anti-Koch strategy (spearheaded by Harry Reid, who has mentioned the Koch brothers 134 times on the Senate floor) of demonizing the brothers failed so miserably in the 2014 cycle.

Despite how they are portrayed in the media, the Kochs provide benefits to same-sex couples they employ, have unionized nurses, and also donate to historically underrepresented student groups, the arts, and numerous other causes.

Specific examples of their philanthropy include the Koch Cultural Trust, which has given $1.8 million to artists with ties to Kansas, and David Koch’s donation of over $50 million to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Despite what many Democrats would like the public to know, the Kochs have received countess accolades for environmental stewardship. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency called Flint Hills Resources (a Koch subsidiary) a “model for other companies seeking to transition to federally-approved permits.”

Flint Hills Resources’ environmental impact also includes its conservation efforts, for which it won the Ducks Unlimited’s Emerald Teal Award for its partnership with Ducks Unlimited to preserve just under forty thousand acres of habitat for waterfowl.

After surviving a plane crash in 1991 and prostate cancer shortly thereafter, David Koch has donated over half a billion dollars to medical philanthropies, including $25 million to Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to eliminate genitourinary malignancies, $100 million for cancer research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and $100 million for a new ambulatory care center at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Democratic Party attacks on the Kochs are laden with irony. For example, Senator Chuck Schumer’s campaign has accepted money from KOCHPAC, and Harry Reid has accepted a donation from a Koch lobbyist. This doesn’t even include the $196,000 the Kochs gave to Democrats in 2010, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which received the largest check the brothers gave to Democrats.

After having been called everything from “cartoonish evil billionaires” to “un-American,” it’s worth contextualizing the Kochs’ donation history.

In the 2012 election, the Center for Responsive Politics reported that thirteen of the twenty largest groups donating money were… on the left. In fact, search the list for Koch industries and you’ll see them all the way in the 136th spot on the list.

This past election cycle, the logical conclusion would be to believe that the Kochs were the largest donors, right?

Well, that’s simply not true, with liberal billionaire Tom Steyer topping all lists with his failed spending spree of $73.7 million.

This past weekend, at the “secret” retreat the Kochs hosted, Marco Rubio said the following about Steyer: “There is a gentleman out there who has radical environmental ideas who has spent tens of millions of dollars . . . attacking Republicans that don’t want to impose his radical environmental agenda. He has a right to do that.”

As National Review’s Ian Tuttle (whose article was the inspiration for my writing about the Koch brothers) wrote:

“When it comes to the political-spending debate, there are two distinct cultures in the United States: one that understands political expression as a right, generally regardless of how disagreeable the particulars of that expression may be, and another that understands it as a privilege, contingent upon the content of that expression. Put another way, there is a Right that broadly agrees with Marco Rubio, and there is a Left that cheers on Harry Reid’s Koch-induced ranting one week and turns a blind eye to Lois Lerner the next. It is no coincidence that the IRS targeted only one type of political group.

The Left’s unyielding insistence on donor-disclosure requirements is simply an effort to make easier the political intimidation that is already underway. Democratic donors face no consequences from having their names and contributions revealed as their positions have the support of controlling political-cultural institutions (the media, academia, etc.), and they know that the Right does not take a Tony Soprano–style approach to its political opponents. Only supporters of right-wing causes are likely to suffer a curbing. As Charles Koch told Forbes, “So long as we’re in a society like that, where the president attacks us and we get threats from people in Congress, and this is pushed out and becomes part of the culture — that we are evil, so we need to be destroyed, or killed — then why force people to disclose?”

The problem Reid and others have with “money in politics” is not money in politics, but freedom in politics. They want you to be free to agree with them.

Which, of course, is no freedom at all.”

So where does all this leave us? Are the Kochs Professor Moriarty-like figures, as Tuttle writes that many on the Left perceive them to be? Most certainly not. In fact, the hypocrisy of people like Reid, who lambast the brothers while simultaneously benefiting from similar sources of money from the Left is astounding. Ironically, the Kochs may actually stand to lose financially when their candidates win. (Contrary to what talking heads proclaim, they don’t stand to make any money off of Keystone, and may very well lose money with its passage.)

Steyer was, until recently, a major investor in a company that was building a competitor to Keystone. Powerline has detailed exactly how Steyer used his political donations (exactly the kind that Reid, among others, would oppose if the Kochs were the ones making them) to enhance his fortune (here, here, here, here, and here).

In a final ironic twist, much of Steyer’s fortune has come from investments in, you guessed it, coal companies. Examples of these coal companies Steyer now demonizes include PT Kaltim Prima Coal, PT Berau Coal, PT Adaro Coal, and Aston Resources.

I would love for Reid to continue his strategy of focusing on the Kochs (which there are some indications he intends to do) through 2016.

The only better eventuality would be for Tom Steyer to reconsider his lack of interest in running for Senate in California. I would relish the thought of the financial scrutiny his candidacy would bring (and I think that is one of the main reasons that he decided against a bid).

In light of all of these facts, is it really likely that the Kochs are the root of all evil in the American political system? Count me among the skeptics.

The Koch Brothers themselves. Image source:
The Koch Brothers themselves. Image source: