Celebrate the Facts!
Liberal and progressive interests have long anticipated the expiration of Charles Koch, the remaining Koch brother. Unfortunately for them, their apparent heir shares the corrosive Libertarian ideologies and will likely continue the legacy of dark money and outsized influence on the political process. Chase Koch brands himself as a new breed of consensus-building philanthropist, but the facts suggest otherwise. Expect the Koch money to continue its prominent role in American politics.
The story of the Koch brothers and their influence on American politics and society is darkly fascinating. Charles Koch took over his father's business in the 1960s and rebranded it as Koch Industries. The company later diversified into finance, agriculture, and technology. By 2020, Koch Industries had revenue of $115 billion.
In 1980, David Koch, the other half of the Koch brothers duo, ran as the vice-presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party. David Koch sadly drew his last breath in August 2019. Charles Koch is now worth about $62 billion.
Fast facts about the Koch dynasty:
The Koch brothers were quick to jump on the lobbying bandwagon. They established their pet charitable foundation and named it Americans for Prosperity in 2004. Their agents registered it as a social welfare organization, along with its affiliates Americans for Prosperity Action, a super PAC, and Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
Americans for Prosperity states its purpose as promoting 'broad-based grassroots outreach to advocate long-term solutions' to issues including 'unsustainable government spending and debt, a broken immigration system, a rigged economy.' Americans for Prosperity claims it now has 38 statewide chapters and has recruited over 3.2 million activists and 100,000 financial supporters.
Americans for Prosperity is a 501(c)(4), meaning its purpose is for the 'promotion of social welfare,' and that it can spend less than half its annual budget on political activities. Under these rules, these organizations don’t have to do disclose their donors. In other words, it's a wellspring of dark money.
The Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court, Supreme Court ruling provided the on-ramp to the current political situation in the United States. Dark money groups have spent about $1 billion to influence elections since 2010. Dark money means political spending meant to influence the decision of a voter, where there is no requirement for donor disclosure or source.
Americans for Prosperity claims seminal roles in governance in the United States:
David Koch's death didn't stop the family from continuing its outsized and corrosive campaigns for the Koch interests, however.
Chase Koch is the ranking Koch heir. He's climbing the Koch Industries corporate ladder, no surprise given his surname. Chase Koch is Executive Vice President of Koch Ag & Energy Solutions and president of Koch Disruptive Technologies. His only sibling, Elizabeth, disengaged from the family's businesses, and David Koch's children are all much younger.
Chase Koch was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1997. In 1993, a Kansas court convicted a 16-year-old Charles Koch of misdemeanor vehicular homicide after his Ford Explorer hit and killed twelve-year-old Zachary Siebert at a cross-walk after he ran a red light in Wichita. His sentence was 18 months of probation, 100 hours of community service, completion of a defensive driving course, and payment for the victim's funeral.
Koch is now married and has fathered one child. The family lives on a 70-acre property in Wichita, Kansas.
Chase Koch has done a good job of grooming his public image to portray a kinder and gentler Libertarian leaning. The normally leftist Politico published a fawning article in 2018 that read almost like a product placement. Business Insider, a clickbait Internet publication, provided a similar article in 2019 that reads almost as if it were penned by a publications relation firm charged with polishing Chase Koch's brand. Media rarely gets a shot at Chase Koch, and it seems he's carefully grooming his future by dispersing favorable bits.
Any liberal hopes Chase Koch will change the direction of Koch dark money are vain.
Chase Koch's personal contributions to political candidates include:
Notably absent from Chase Koch's contributions is any evidence of contributions to Democrats. One can surmise, despite the smarmy media placements, that Chase Koch is but a younger version of his father and uncle and will continue the family's political traditions.
A huge question for American society is the incredible influence of individual billionaires on political discourse and societal evolution. Melinda Gates, Michael Bloomberg, and George Soros are the public face of an extensive billionaire class with an outsized vote in what is said and done in the United States. The uber-rich can donate to charity or form their charitable foundations and write the donations off their taxes, effectively having United States taxpayers co-fund their pet causes. They can use these ostensible charities to fund their political causes as well as enhance their public image through more palatable endeavors.
Simply being the spawn of wealthy parents or marrying big money and advocating for political causes requires a great deal of audacity. Chase Koch joins a group such as Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner in the club. Winning the genetic lottery or marrying a rich person is an easy way to a posh life. A privileged life with few worries, however, is no way any kind of qualification for much of anything, especially leading or influencing political movements.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.