Over the weekend, at a political conference organized by the Koch Brothers where mega-donors and Republican presidential candidates rubbed elbows, Charles Koch compared his network’s influence over U.S. elections to past “freedom movements.”
“Look at the American revolution, the anti-slavery movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement,” he said. “All of these struck a moral chord with the American people. They all sought to overcome an injustice. And we, too, are seeking to right injustices that are holding our country back.”
Koch also repeatedly cited his crusade for shrinking the government as a gift to the nation’s poor, as well as his organization’s criminal justice reform push.
Yet the Koch Brothers’ have a checkered record on civil rights, and continue to support policies that harm voters of color.
The brothers have long backed efforts to make all states demand a voter ID at the polls, a policy that disproportionately suppresses the voters of people of color, the elderly, students, and the poor — all demographics that tend to vote for Democrats.
The Koch-funded organization Americans for Prosperity has similarly fought tooth and nail against the expansion of Medicaid, resulting in the most harm to African Americans who live in southern states.
Additionally, the brothers’ past political summits have hosted speakers with explicitly racist views. Author Charles Murray — who has argued that African Americans and Latinos are genetically inferior to white people — was a celebrated keynote speaker at the Koch summit in 2014.
And though Koch Industries has received waves of positive press attention for their criminal justice reform, the network continues to back politicians known for doubling down on long sentences for non-violent drug crimes and expanding the use of private prisons.
This isn’t the first time the Koch empire has attempted to re-brand itself. Earlier this year, the brothers launched a media charm offensive in which they described themselves as economically conservative and socially liberal — despite spending tens of millions of dollars on campaigns to ban abortion and gay marriage, among other socially conservative causes.