By Elaine Magliaro
On Monday, officials for the Koch brothers’ political organization announced that the group had budgeted a “whopping $889 million” for the 2016 presidential campaign. Nancy Benac of the Associated Press reported that that amount was “more than double the approximately $400 million it spent in 2012.”
Why do the Koch brothers spend so much money on political elections? Who are they…and what do they want? Senator Bernie Sanders explains:
MORE ABOUT THE KOCH BROTHERS
Back in March of 2011, Andy Kroll wrote an article for Mother Jones titled Hypocrisy Alert: Charles Koch Blasts “Crony Capitalism.” In his piece, Kroll reacted to an op-ed that Charles Koch had penned for the Wall Street Journal titled Why Koch Industries Is Speaking Out. Kroll said that in his op-ed Koch decried the years of “overspending” that have “brought us face-to-face with an economic crisis.” Koch blamed the crisis on both Democrats and Republicans who had “done a poor job managing our finances.” Koch explained “how he, his family, and his multi-billion-dollar company, Koch Industries, have tried to support politicians like Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker who were ‘working to solve these problems.’”
Kroll said that Koch’s op-ed got interesting when the billionaire businessman railed against businesses that had “successfully lobbied for special favors and treatment” like government subsidies and regulations.
From Kroll regarding the “hypocrisy alert”:
For starters, Koch Industries has benefited plenty from government subsidies in the past. As the New York Observer reported, Koch companies have received subsidies from the Venezuelan government as part of a deal to sell Venezuelan-made fertilizer in the US; used US land subsidies for its Matador Cattle Company; and profited from private logging of US forests that wouldn’t have been possible if the US Forestry Service hadn’t built new roads with taxpayer money to un-logged lands, among other examples.
Later in his article, Kroll went on to say the following:
And while Charles Koch criticizes “crony capitalism,” his company is one of the biggest players in the nation when it comes to lobbying and political donations. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Koch Industries has spent more than $40 million lobbying the federal government in the past three years alone. Koch Industries, company executives, and the company’s political action committee have doled out $11 million since 1989 to federal candidates, political parties, and political committees; Charles and David Koch and their wives contributed $2.8 million of that, a mere $1,500 of which went to Democrats, according to the Public Campaign Action Fund (PCAF). Much of that spending has gone toward fighting new regulations of the oil and gas industry, which would hurt Koch Industries’ profits. Not surprisingly, then, lawmakers on the influential House energy and commerce committee have pocketed $630,950 in Koch-connected donations.
Koch’s concerns about the fiscal health of the US, as voiced in his op-ed, are not unfounded. But his criticism of lobbying and “crony capitalism” flies in the face of his own actions and those of companies, critics say. “Koch Industries is the perfect example of absolutely everything Charles claims to hate about our current political system,” David Donnelly, national campaigns director for Public Campaign Action Fund, said in a statement. “The hypocrisy is palpable.”
Last year, David Sirota wrote about the Koch brothers in an article for In These Times titled The Real Welfare Queens:
Consider Charles and David Koch. Their company, Koch Industries, has relied on $88 million worth of government handouts. Yet, as the major financiers of the anti-government right, the Kochs are still billed as libertarian free-market activists.
In September of 2010, Yasha Levine wrote an article for The Exile about the billionaire brothers. In it, he listed seven ways in which the Kochs had benefited from “corporate welfare.” Levine posed a question early is his article about the Kochs: “How libertarian are they?” Levine replied to his own question: “The short answer…not very.”
Here are two of the reasons why Levine thinks the Koch brothers aren’t as libertarian as they claim to be:
For the past fifty years, through its Matador Cattle Company subsidiary, Koch Industries has been quietly milking a New Deal program that allows ranchers to use federal land basically for free. Matador, one of the ten biggest domestic cattle ranching operations, has something in the neighborhood of 300,000 acres of grazing land for its cows—two-thirds of which belong to American taxpayers, who will never see a penny of profit.
6. EMINENT DOMAIN
Although highly diversified, Koch Industries’ vast network of oil and gas pipelines remains the company’s core business and main source of revenue. The exact size of their pipeline network is not known, but some estimate that Koch Industries operates anywhere between 35,000 and 50,000 miles of pipelines between Texas and Canada—enough plumbing to wrap around the globe twice or zigzag between New York and Los Angeles 15 times. How did the Kochs manage to build up a pipeline network of this magnitude? By getting the government to use its tyrannical powers of eminent domain to forcibly seize private property on Koch Industries’ behalf.
As far as libertarians are concerned, eminent domain is a socialist tyranny straight out of the Leninist playbook, as it recognizes the government as the real owner of all land and vests it with the power to expropriate private property for alleged public good. At the most fundamental level, libertarians believe that eminent domain invalidates the notion of private property rights, threatening not just prosperity, but freedom. Charles Koch is clear on this. “Countries that clearly define and protect individual private property rights stimulate investment and grow,” he writes in his book The Science of Success. “Those that threaten and confiscate private property lose capital and decline.”
But not all property rights are created equal. A Koch Industries oil pipeline recently built in Minnesota shows that Charles Koch does not see an is anything wrong with the government confiscating private property, as long as he stands to make a profit.
Completed in 2008, the 304-mile line now carries crude oil from the Canadian border to a Koch Industries refinery near the Twin Cities area via a two-foot-wide pipe. Company PR execs pitched the pipeline as a public benefit project, as it would increase Minnesota’s gasoline supply. But the 1,000-plus landowners who were forced to handover their private property so that Koch Industries could run its pipeline didn’t quite see it that way. “People’s rights were violated, and they never got their due process,” a farmer whose fields were going to be cut in two by the pipeline told a newspaper in 2007. “It’s wrong. People’s property is one of the most important things to their livelihood.”
In Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire, Tim Dickinson wrote the following:
But in the real world, Koch Industries has used its political might to beat back the very market-based mechanisms – including a cap-and-trade market for carbon pollution – needed to create the ownership rights for pollution that Charles says would improve the functioning of capitalism.
In fact, it appears the very essence of the Koch business model is to exploit breakdowns in the free market. Koch has profited precisely by dumping billions of pounds of pollutants into our waters and skies – essentially for free. It racks up enormous profits from speculative trades lacking economic value that drive up costs for consumers and create risks for our economy.
The Koch brothers get richer as the costs of what Koch destroys are foisted on the rest of us – in the form of ill health, foul water and a climate crisis that threatens life as we know it on this planet. Now nearing 80 – owning a large chunk of the Alberta tar sands and using his billions to transform the modern Republican Party into a protection racket for Koch Industries’ profits – Charles Koch is not about to see the light. Nor does the CEO of one of America’s most toxic firms have any notion of slowing down. He has made it clear that he has no retirement plans: “I’m going to ride my bicycle till I fall off.”
Yasha Levine warned that when you hear a shill from the Cato Institute—a think tank founded by Charles Koch in 1977—“on Meet the Press layout a case for why you should support the privatization of social security, remember: they aren’t hypocrites, they’re cons looking to rip you off.”
Are Charles and David Koch true libertarians? Are they crony capitalists? Hypocrites? Con artists? Who do you think the Koch brothers are?
7 Ways the Koch Bros. Benefit from Corporate Welfare (The Exiled)
Hypocrisy Alert: Charles Koch Blasts “Crony Capitalism” (Mother Jones)
Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire (Rolling Stone)
Who are the Koch brothers? (PBS Newshour/AP)