Money in Politics

About the Koch Brothers


Charles and David KochCharles and David Koch are the owners of Koch Industries, a privately-held firm with revenues estimated at $100 billion (no, that’s not a typo!). The firm runs oil refineries in Alaska, Texas and Mexico and owns consumer brands like Brawny Paper towels, Stainmaster carpets, and Dixie cups. They’re also among America’s most generous patrons of the arts – David Koch gave $100 million in 2008 to modernize the theatre at Lincoln Center in NYC and has donated $20 million to remodel the National Museum of Natural History in Washington.

The Kochs and their firm are the central figures in an informal alliance of business executives, conservative theorists and government officials who for several years have met twice annually to strategize over how best to advance an ambitious libertarian agenda. They favor dramatically lower personal and corporate income taxes, less government oversight of industry -- particularly when it involves environmental regulations that impact their businesses --  and minimal public assistance for the needy.

Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan watchdog organization based in Washington, calls the Kochs “the Standard Oil of our times.” They have invested millions of dollars in campaigns designed to raise doubts about climate change and oppose Obama administration policies ranging from health care reform to the economic stimulus. They are also a major funding source for the Tea Party, supporting it through “Americans for Prosperity,” an organization founded by David Koch in 2004.

In a detailed profile of the Koch’s published IN 2010, The New Yorker reported that “only the Kochs know precisely how much they have spent on politics. Public tax records show that between 1998 and 2008 the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation spent more than $48 million. The Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is controlled by Charles Koch and his wife, along with two company employees and an accountant, spent more than $28 million. The David H. Koch Charitable Foundation spent more than a $120 million.”

The Kochs also run KochPac, which has donated about $8 million to candidates, most of them Republicans, and Charles and David have made personal contributions of more than $2 million to candidates over the past dozen years, The New Yorker reported.

Common Cause has raised questions about the Kochs’ ties to Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who according to Koch Industries have been “featured” guests at twice-annual political fundraising and strategy sessions sponsored by the company. In January 2011, we sponsored a public forum, “Uncloaking the Kochs” in conjunction with one of the Koch meetings in Southern California to spotlight their pursuit of an agenda that advances their private interests at the expense of the public interest. Common Cause also has asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether Justices Scalia and Thomas have participated in Koch-sponsored events and if so whether their participation should have triggered their recusal when the court considered the landmark campaign finance case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Koch Industries was a major beneficiary of the court’s decision in that case, which overturned longstanding regulations limiting corporate spending around elections.

From their base in Kansas, Koch Industries’ top executives David and Charles Koch are major stealth funders of efforts to fight reasonable government regulations, especially around climate change. They’re also leaders in a national campaign to roll back campaign finance laws that for a century have served as a check on corporate power.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission permitted corporations and unions to tap their treasuries and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate the election or defeat of political candidates. The ruling has triggered a flood of new spending on our elections, with more than $1 billion invested by special interests though new “Super PACs” and non-profit organizations in the 2012 campaign. Much of that money came from undisclosed donors; there’s strong evidence that much of it was provided by corporate interests, including hedge fund managers, Wall Street financiers, defense contractors, energy companies, and private health insurers, all determined to prevent sensible legislative action on health care reform, financial reform, and climate change. While Americans have strong disagreements about how best to confront these issues, we believe there’s broad agreement that they can’t be ignored. But ignoring them, and rolling back government regulation to the robber-baron era, is central to the Koch agenda. We are determined to bring that agenda and those advancing it into the sunshine.

More Resources for Bloggers and Reporters


Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama- Jane Mayer, The New Yorker


The Brothers Koch: Rich, political, and playing to win- National Public Radio

The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party - Frank Rich, New York Times

ThinkProgress' Interview with David Koch - Part 1Part 2Part 3 - Lee Fang, Center for American Progress