The Truth About Koch Industries

The Truth About Koch Industries
AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

With the notable exception of our president, probably no individuals in the last decade of politics have attracted as much dismay and fury as the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, who have leveraged control of their family’s gargantuan, Kansas-based Koch Industries to create a political-influence machine of rare scope. As documented by The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and others, the Kochs have spent hundreds of millions of dollars advocating their free-market agenda and bankrolling think tanks like the Cato Institute, conservative activist groups and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of state and national legislators — all in the service of pushing back against government regulations, especially those dealing with climate change, pollution and energy policy.

[David Koch Died on Aug. 23 at the Age of 79]

The attention lavished on the Kochs’ influence, however, has tended to overshadow what made that influence possible in the first place: Charles Koch’s eye-opening prowess in business. While David Koch emerged as a Fifth Avenue philanthropist and bon vivant, it was Charles — calm, modest and analytical — who over the last 50 years transformed an obscure Wichita oil company into a $110 billion colossus. In a different world, he might be celebrated along the lines of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. The story of how he did it is told in Christopher Leonard’s superb “Kochland.” To my mind, it ranks among the best books ever written about an American corporation.

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