long as the markets are free and the rich stay that way, human suffering
and environmental devastation are irrelevant. Beneath the “feel good”
facade of baseball, apple-pie, mom, and Chevrolet lurks this sinister
reality of the American Way.
Much of humanity is shackled by poverty
and besieged by the violence of war. Earth is experiencing a slow,
agonizing death. Animal and plant species are disappearing at an
alarming rate. Despite these tragic and inevitable consequences, the
United States persists in spreading the cancers of Americanized
Capitalism and Democracy.
Here's to Saint Charles
America’s wealthiest owe a significant debt of gratitude to their patron
saint, Charles G. Koch. Mr. Koch’s Herculean efforts have virtually
ensured that the United States’ plutocracy and its complimentary
corporatocracy will continue their reign in America’s highly
dysfunctional democracy. Blessed with a significant number of Americans
still rendered somnambulant by a mass media machine, Koch and his fellow
patricians are riding high.
Mr. Koch has virtually endless resources at his disposal to keep “his
people” in power. Charles owns 40% of the shares of the largest
privately held company in the world. Koch Enterprises generated revenues
of $40 billion in 2004. Koch recently acquired gargantuan lumber and
paper producer Georgia Pacific, which significantly expands his empire
of oil, pipeline, fiber, and chemical enterprises. By shunning public
sale of Koch Enterprise stock, Charles Koch has maintained a
tight-fisted grip on his company while cloaking its finances behind a
veil of secrecy.
It's in their blue blood
Causes enhancing the power of America’s Capitalist elites are a Koch
clan obsession. They live to pursue lower taxes on corporations and the
wealthy, shifting the burden of subsidizing America’s burgeoning
military, oil, pharma, and prison industrial complexes to the middle
class and poor.
As they press to defang consumer, labor and environmental protection
laws to shelter corporations from liability and increase their
profit-making capacity, the Koch family vigorously toils to enhance
Consider that Fred Koch, Charles’s father, was a charter member of the
John Birch Society, which pushed for the repeal of income taxes and
civil rights legislation. Practicing a racist agenda on behalf of the
White wealthy elite, the JBS was formed on the pretext of fighting
Communism. Fred’s interest in the JBS allegedly stemmed from having
witnessed the Purges under Stalin in the 1930’s. Despite his concern for
Stalin’s victims, Fred still remained in Russia to make money by
upgrading Communist oil refineries. A true Capitalist.
Happiness is not for sale, but in America, power and influence are
David Koch, Charles’ brother, founded the Cato Institute in 1977 and was
a presidential candidate in 1980 as a Libertarian. Charles, David and
Cato are no friends to America’s working class or minorities. Staunch
supporters of social security privatization and property rights, Cato
strongly opposes affirmative action and government regulation. With such
an obviously biased agenda, it is rather curious that the “liberal”
mainstream media often cites Cato as a neutral source.
In 1996, the Cato Institute itself wrote: "Dozens of huge corporations,
eager to roll back government regulatory powers, are among Cato's
With the backing of one of the wealthiest families in America, Koch
Family Foundations provides funding to several think tanks similar to
Cato, each of which “nobly” crusades for the rights of the “oppressed”
upper class and fights for the freedom of corporate America.
According to the Nation (in a 1996 article documenting Bob Dole’s
incestuous relationship with the Koch group) the reverse Robin Hoods
from Wichita, Kansas have "lavished tens of millions of dollars in
the past decade on 'free market' advocacy institutions in and around
In 2004, Koch Industries made $587,000 in campaign donations, more than
any other oil company. From 1998 to 2004 the Koch family and its
enterprises gave $3.9 million in political contributions. Compare that
to the $3.8 million contributed by Exxon Mobile, which is six times the
size of Koch. During that same period, the Koch boys spent $2.4 million
lobbying Congress to pass “humanitarian” legislation that would repeal
the estate tax and significantly reduce the capacity of consumers to
Particularly noteworthy is the fact that 79% of Koch’s campaign funding
in 2004 went to Republicans, including $121,000 to Todd Tiahrt, the US
Congressman representing Wichita (where Koch Enterprises is
head-quartered); $109,000 to George Bush; and $53,000 to the Hammer, Tom
DeLay. Evidently Charles and David forgot that one is often judged by
the company one keeps. Or perhaps they simply don’t care.
For people with such a professed aversion to government, it seems a bit
odd that Charles Koch and kin would part with their beloved greenbacks
so readily to participate in political activities. Slicing through their
rhetoric, it appears they are far more interested in manipulating the
United States government than in minimizing it.
In 1996, Triad Management, a shell corporation with little purpose or
substance, began influencing federal elections by airing attack ads.
Since Triad did not publicly disclose the source of its funding, wealthy
individuals could exceed legal limits on campaign contributions by
donating to Triad. In essence, Triad was a vehicle for laundering
One of its chief beneficiaries was Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who
defeated Jill Docking in the 1996 Senatorial race with a Triad-financed
anti-Semitic ad campaign. Evidence indicates that Koch was Brownback’s
primary financier, through Triad of course. In exchange, Brownback has
represented Koch interests so well that he has earned a 100% rating from
the Cato Institute.
Of major theft, environmental crime, and wrongful death
In their relentless pursuit of the sacred tenets of free markets and
deregulation, the Koch brothers and their multi-tentacled corporate
entities have committed several egregiously immoral and criminal acts.
Fortunately for Charles and David, the Gods of Capitalism have smiled
upon them. Leaving carcinogenic pollutants and death in its wake, Koch
Enterprises has emerged relatively unscathed.
In 2000, Bill Koch, another of Fred’s sons, appeared on 60 Minutes II
and characterized Koch Enterprises like this:
"It was -- was my family company. I was
out of it," he says. "But that’s what appalled me so much... I did not
want my family, my legacy, my father’s legacy to be based upon organized
When he made that statement, Bill Koch had
already parted ways with his brothers and filed a federal lawsuit
alleging that much of Koch Industry’s oil profit was derived from theft
and fraud. In December of 1999, a jury decided that Koch stole oil
24,000 times by “adjusting” the volume they had collected. Koch’s own
records showed that their “adjustments for errors” translated into at
least 300 million gallons of oil in their favor. Koch Industries
eventually settled the suit for $25 million.
Koch Industries has the largest network of gas and oil pipelines in the
United States. Quite an achievement. Unfortunately, Koch chose increased
profits over the environment. In 2000, it paid $30 million for violating
federal environmental laws. Koch had caused over 300 oil spills in seven
states because it didn’t maintain its pipelines properly.
In 1996, Danielle Smalley and Jason Stone died tragically before they
reached their twentieth birthdays. These Texas teens were in the
vicinity of a Koch high-pressure gas line that was leaking when it
suddenly exploded. Danielle and Jason were incinerated, their bodies
burned beyond recognition. Danielle’s family won a $296 million wrongful
death judgment as a result of Koch’s criminal negligence. Koch
eventually paid the Smalleys an undisclosed settlement.
Does Bill Koch think about the charred remains of Danielle and Jason
when he writes checks to Cato and its ilk?
Bill Koch again captured the essence of Koch when he commented: "Koch
Industries has a philosophy that profits are above everything else."
As the 2000 election approached, the Koch brothers’ political
contributions proved to be money very well spent. It seems that the Koch
conglomerate had dumped 91 metric tons of benzene, a cancer-causing
agent, near its refinery in Corpus Christi. They added insult to injury
by attempting to conceal their crime. Facing a 97-count indictment,
possible prison time for company executives, and potential fines of $352
million, Charles and David needed a “white knight” to ride to their
Enter George Bush, who “won” the election with the aid of $800,000 worth
of Koch donations. Striking a blow for the free market, Attorney General
Ashcroft dropped almost all of the charges. Koch Industries pled guilty
to falsifying documents and paid a settlement of a mere $20 million. No
one served jail time.
Putting outsiders in and bringing insiders out
To ensure the continued success of their malignant influence on the
United States government, in 2005 Koch hired a “Beltway insider.” Matt
Schlapp became their director of Washington lobbying. Schlapp had been
working in the White House’s Office of Political Affairs.
Disturbingly, Elizabeth Stolpe, a former Koch lobbyist, now holds a
significant position on the White House Council on Environmental
Quality. Another former Koch employee, Alex Beehler (who reported to
David Koch), exerts influence on federal environmental policy from his
position with Environment, Safety and Occupational Health.
Charles Koch has covered his political bets going both ways. Very
impressive, in a Machiavellian way.
A criminal by any other name...
Charles Koch also gets an “A” for somehow manufacturing a respectable
public image. On 3/13/06 Forbes ran a story about Koch
entitled "Mr. Big." Much to the discredit of the publication, Forbes
writer Daniel Fisher focused almost exclusively on the buyout of Georgia
Pacific and the “Capitalistic virtues” of Charles Koch, a man who
belongs in prison.
Charles Koch is indeed an “American success story” by the measure of
those who still believe in the real American Way, which is the suffering
of the many for the pleasure of the few.
For those who know the American Dream is a nightmare, Charles Koch puts
a human face on the ruthlessness of Capitalism as it is practiced in the
United States. Born into America’s de facto aristocracy, Koch is one of
the privileged top 1% of Americans who hold a significant portion of the
While the poor and working class of the world bleed, sweat, cry, and die
to keep the money flowing from the spigot for such men, Koch, his
friends, and his progeny reside comfortably in their secure castles and
No wonder Mr. Big smiled so brightly for the Forbes photo.
Jason Miller is a 39-year-old
sociopolitical essayist with a degree in liberal arts and an extensive
self-education (derived from an insatiable appetite for reading). He is
a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam
International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at:
or comments on his blog,
Thomas Paine's Corner.
Other Articles by Jason
Democratizing the World: One Torture Victim at a Time
* Satan is
Resting Easy: The Power of Christ "Propels" Them
* How the
West and the West Bank Were Won
* May a
Flock of Thrushes Disrupt Your Hologram This Yuletide Season
Quest for the Many Manifestations of Bigfoot
* Let's Be
Blunt: Bush's Proxy is Spreading Social Darwinism to the State Level
of an Intellectually Shell-Shocked Kansan
Greatest Show on Earth?