In recent years, Charles and David Koch — the billionaire brothers who run Koch Industries — have sought to cast themselves as selfless patriots, pushing policies that were against their own interests for the good of the nation. The argument was part of a gauzy and extensive public relations campaign intended to blunt attacks from liberals highlighting their outsized influence on the political system.
For example, in 2014, Charles Koch wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal highlighting their altruistic approach:
Far from trying to rig the system, I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs — even when we benefit from them. I believe that cronyism is nothing more than welfare for the rich and powerful, and should be abolished.
But a deeply reported piece in the National Review, which included interviews with “numerous people close to the brothers, including a half-dozen sources with direct knowledge of developments inside their donor network and political operation,” finally puts this myth to rest.
The piece confirms that the Kochs’ corporate and political operations are deeply intertwined, with the corporate side weighing in on political spending decisions. According to the report, to an increasing degree, the Kochs’ political activity is driven by their corporate interests. This was especially apparent during a February meeting where the Kochs took a pass at spending money to oppose Donald Trump:
The meeting, reported here for the first time, confirmed what some Koch insiders had begun to suspect: That the brothers’ political decision-making was increasingly being influenced by their business and public-relations interests…
The article describes a general retrenchment of the Kochs’ political spending overall. But it also establishes that their political activity is inextricably linked to their corporate self-interest.
Of course, the self-interest that motivates the Kochs’ advocacy has always been apparent just beneath the surface. For example, the Koch brothers — who have massive holdings in the fossil fuel industry — claim that they are against all forms of government energy subsidies.
While Koch advocacy groups rail against any programs designed to support renewable energy, they deny that government subsidies for fossil fuels exist. “The myth of subsidies for the larger oil and gas companies has been repudiated many times,” Americans For Prosperity, the Kochs’ main advocacy vehicle, wrote. (There are over $17 billion in annual federal fossil fuel subsidies.) While the Kochs claim to oppose new taxes, they pushed state legislatures to impose new fees on solar panels.
The National Review has fully pulled back the curtain on the true nature of the Koch network — a complex, well-financed organization that puts the corporate and personal interests of Charles and David Koch above all else.