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The Koch family (/kk/ KOHK) is an American family engaged in business and most noted for their political activities (donating to libertarian, criminal justice reform, and Republican Party causes) and their control of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately owned company in the United States (with 2017 revenues of $100 billion).[1] The family business was started by Fred C. Koch, who developed a new cracking method for the refinement of heavy crude oil into gasoline.[2][3] Fred's four sons litigated against each other over their interests in the business during the 1980s and 1990s.[4]

By 2019, Charles G. Koch and the late David H. Koch, commonly referred to as the Koch brothers, were the only ones of Fred Koch's four sons still with Koch Industries.[5] Charles and David Koch built a political network of conservative donors and the brothers funneled financial revenue into television and multi-media advertising.[6]

Family membersEdit

Non-profit organizationsEdit

The Koch family foundations are a related group of non-profit organizations that began with the establishment of the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation in 1953, and now includes the Charles Koch Foundation, the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Koch Cultural Trust. The organizations collectively have a stated goal of "advancing liberty and freedom" through the support of various causes which "further social progress and sustainable growth in prosperity."[12] In addition to the direct action of the non-profits, the groups have also contributed financially to other philanthropic organizations in the fields of research, public well-being, arts, and education, including contributions to scholarship programs, university support, and loan assistance through organizations like the United Negro College Fund.[13]

Political activitiesEdit

Charles and David Koch have been active in American politics since at least 1980, when David Koch was the Libertarian Party's vice-presidential nominee. Their political contributions began to attract widespread attention from media outlets in 2008, when, through their family foundations, the brothers contributed to 34 political and policy organizations, three of which they founded, and several of which they directed.[14] They have since organized a network of an estimated 500 libertarian and conservative donors,[15] candidates, think tanks, and other groups. As an example of their influence, Jane Mayer noted House Speaker John Boehner's appeal to David Koch in 2011 when Boehner needed votes to prevent a government shutdown.[16]

The Koch brothers indicated that they intended to raise almost $880 million in support of candidates in the 2016 elections,[17] and have given more than $100 million[18] to conservative and libertarian policy and advocacy groups in the United States,[19] including the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, and more recently Americans for Prosperity.[20]

"Americans for Prosperity", founded by David Koch, has been reported by Kenneth Vogel of Politico to be one of the main nonprofit groups assisting the Tea Party movement; but in 2010, Koch spokeswoman Melissa Cohlmia distanced the Kochs from the tea parties and FreedomWorks saying that "no funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the tea parties."[21] According to the Koch Family Foundations and Philanthropy website, "the foundations and the individual giving of Koch family members" have financially supported organizations "fostering entrepreneurship, education, human services, at-risk youth, arts and culture, and medical research."[22]

Former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough, co-host of MSNBC's Morning Joe, has pointed out that the Koch brothers have supported more than just what are generally considered conservative causes. They opposed George W. Bush on many issues, are pro-choice, support same sex marriage, and worked closely with the Obama White House for the Obama administration's criminal justice reform initiatives that aligned with their own.[23][24]

In early 2018, political advocacy groups linked to the Koch family pledged to spend $400 million on the 2018 midterm elections, including $20 million to promote the H.R.1 – An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018 to skeptical voters.[25]

Public policyEdit

The Koch family funding apparatus has been funding libertarian groups through think tanks for over forty years. The Cato Institute, which Charles Koch helped create in 1974, is consistently ranked as among the top 25 U.S. think tanks overall in terms of influence on public policy in the United States.[26] In 2015, the Kochs worked with the American Civil Liberties Union on criminal justice reform, specifically in the realm of civil asset forfeiture. The Kochs have also worked to push legislation aiming to adjust federal sentencing guidelines and reduce prison populations.[27]

According to investigative reporter Jane Mayer[28] and the environmental NGO Greenpeace, the Koch brothers have played an active role in opposing climate change legislation. Anthropogenic climate change skeptic Willie Soon received $230,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.[29][30] Organizations that the Koch brothers help fund, such as Americans for Prosperity, The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the CO2 Coalition and the Manhattan Institute, have been active in questioning global warming.[31]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Forbes America's Largest Private Companies". Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  2. ^ Koch, Charles C. (2007). The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World's Largest Private Company. John Wiley & Sons. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-470-13988-2.
  3. ^ "Koch Industries, Inc". Company Profile Report. Hoover's, Inc. 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-10. [W]hen he tried to market his invention, the major oil companies sued him for patent infringement. Koch eventually won the lawsuits (after 15 years in court), but the controversy made it tough [?!] to attract many US customers.
  4. ^ "Epic struggle among Koch brothers ends". Houston Chronicle. May 26, 2001. p. 2.
  5. ^ Schulman, Daniel (2014-05-20). "Koch vs. Koch: The Brutal Battle That Tore Apart America's Most Powerful Family". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
  6. ^ Reid Wilson (February 7, 2014). "Why there's no Democratic version of the Koch brothers organization". Washington Post.
  7. ^ Davis, Jonathan T. (1997). Forbes Richest People: The Forbes Annual Profile of the World's Wealthiest Men and Women. Wiley. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-471-17751-7. Founding member (1958) John Birch Society  – reportedly after seeing Russian friends liquidated
  8. ^ Hoover's 500: Profiles of America's Largest Business Enterprises. Hoover's Business Press. 1996. p. 286. ISBN 978-1-57311-009-9. In 1929 Koch took his process to the Soviet Union, but he grew disenchanted with Stalinism and returned home to become a founding member of the anticommunist John Birch Society.
  9. ^ Wayne, Leslie (7 December 1986). "Brothers at Odds". The New York Times. NY. p. Sec. 6; Part 2, p 100 col. 1. ISSN 0362-4331. He returned a fervent anti-Communist who would later become a founding member of the John Birch Society.
  10. ^ Diamond, Sara (1995). Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. NY: Guilford Press. p. 324 n. 86. ISBN 0-89862-862-8.
  11. ^ a b "Fred and Mary Koch Foundation". Archived from the original on 2013-11-14. Retrieved 2014-05-23.
  12. ^ Koch Family Foundations. "Koch Family Foundations and Philanthropy". Archived from the original on 23 June 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  13. ^ "Koch brothers donate $25 million to United Negro College Fund". 2014-06-06. Retrieved 2014-09-08.
  14. ^ Mayer, Jane (2010-08-30). "Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama". The New Yorker. Condé Nast Publications.
  15. ^ SEVERNS, MAGGIE (14 December 2018). "The Next Koch Doesn't Like Politics". Politico.
  16. ^ Confessore, Nicholas (Jan 11, 2016). "Father of Koch Brothers Helped Build Nazi Oil Refinery, Book Says". New York Times.
  17. ^ Confessore, Nicholas (26 January 2015). "Koch Brothers' Budget of $889 Million for 2016 Is on Par With Both Parties' Spending" – via
  18. ^ Mayer, Jane (2010-08-30). "Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama". The New Yorker. Condé Nast Publications.
  19. ^ Zernike, Kate (October 19, 2010). "Secretive Republican Donors Are Planning Ahead". New York Times.
  20. ^ Charles Koch, in interview with Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal. May 6, 2006.
  21. ^ Vogel, Kenneth P. (August 9, 2010), "Tea party's growing money problem", Politico, retrieved 2011-06-14
  22. ^ "Koch Family Foundations and Philanthropy - Foundations". Archived from the original on 2014-08-11. Retrieved 2014-05-23.
  23. ^ "Charles Koch sits down with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski to discuss opposing George W. Bush, what motivates him politically, the 2016 GOP field and money in politics", Morning Joe, October 4, 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-05
  24. ^ Nelson, Colleen Mccain; Fields, Gary (Jul 16, 2015). "Obama, Koch Brothers in Unlikely Alliance to Overhaul Criminal Justice". Wall Street Journal.
  25. ^ Mui, Ylan (2018-01-27). "Koch brothers' network boosts spending for midterm cycle, including $20 million to sell GOP tax law". CNBC. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  26. ^ Rojc, Phillip. "Rightward, Ho! Ten Top Funders Behind the Surging Libertarian Movement". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  27. ^ Hudetz, Mary. "Forfeiture reform aligns likes of billionaire Charles Koch, ACLU".
  28. ^ "Koch Pledge Tied to Congressional Climate Inaction". The New Yorker.
  29. ^ Suzanne Goldenberg (2015-02-21). "Work of prominent climate change denier was funded by energy industry". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  30. ^ Goldenberg, Suzanne; correspondent, US environment (21 February 2015). "Work of prominent climate change denier was funded by energy industry" – via The Guardian.
  31. ^ Vidal, John."US oil company donated millions to climate sceptic groups, says Greenpeace", The Guardian, March 30, 2010.