Magazine article New Internationalist

The Koch Brothers

Magazine article New Internationalist

The Koch Brothers

Article excerpt

Job: Billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries

Reputation: Financial angels of the US right wing

Leftists are often accused of painting crude caricatures of heavy-handed fat capitalists manipulating everything to maintain their power and privileges. In the 'real world', things are supposed to be much more complicated. Well, meet the Koch brothers. Admittedly they aren't fat. But aside from that, these class warriors for the one per cent are manipulating public opinion and the political process beyond even the most paranoid of radical fantasies. Charles and David Koch are co-owners of Koch Industries, and have a combined wealth of $50 billion (up 43 per cent since 2010) - second only to Bill Gates among the US super-rich. The Kochs are big in the oil and gas business and trade derivatives; they dominate the biofuel market; turn dirty Alberta tar sands oil into gasoline; and they have operations from China (spandex) to Trinidad (fertilizer) and many stops inbetween. Altogether they have 70,000 employees and operate in 60 countries and every US state.

For decades the Kochs have been funding a plethora of conservative think-tanks and foundations - including the Cato Institute and the Heartland Institute - that have come to dominate official policy agendas in Washington DC. Their most activist project is Americans for Prosperity, which has been leading the charge against the re-election of Barack Obama, who David Koch believes is 'the most radical president we've ever had... [who] has done more damage to the free enterprise system and longterm prosperity than any president we've ever had.' The Americans for Prosperity Foundation (also big funders of the fanatical Tea Party movement) built up a war chest of over $100 million to spend in key states in the run-up to the election.

The effectiveness of the brothers' financial clout was on display earlier this year when they bankrolled the defence of rightwing darling Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, who was facing a recall election. Walker had gutted collective bargaining and social services in the state and faced unprecedented popular resistance, but some $3 million from Americans for Prosperity set offa deluge of other billionaire giving (Walker's Republicans spent $30 million - roughly 10 times more than his Democratic opponent) that saved Walker's bacon. …

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