A man in Kansas has taken over the American political system
Who’s the most dangerous man in America? Tough competition for sure, so let’s narrow it down to—who’s doing the most damage to America and the rest of the world? Trump? Nope—there’s a higher power screwing us, and he lives in Witchita, Kansas.
His name is Charles Koch (pronounced “coke”) and last Friday he announced that he is now the sole power behind Koch Enterprises, America’s second largest privately-owned company, with annual revenues of 115 billion dollars. Charles, who’s 82, has outlasted and outwitted his three brothers to control the Koch family oil and chemicals empire, and the Koch political machine that now essentially runs the US government.
Charles and his 78-year-old brother David bought out their other two brothers years ago, amidst a torrent of acrimony. Last week Charles announced that David had retired for health reasons, so now their combined assets could be effectively in Charlie’s hands—all 120 billion dollars of it.
After generating trillions of dollars out of the fortune their father left them, what have the Koch brothers done with their billions? They have comprehensively remade America’s political system.
Back in 1980 David Koch tried being an elected politician when he ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket, but he got less than one percent of the vote. After that, the brothers decided to ditch democracy and simply buy control of the Presidency, the Congress, the judiciary, the media, and state and local governments across the USA.
They don’t just pay the campaign bills of candidates for all levels of office—though they do that. They also finance think tanks that write laws for their politicians to enact, such as repealing Obama’s health care reforms and a vast range of environmental protections, or pushing for jail terms for protesters against environmental outrages perpetrated by big corporations.
In practical terms, the Koch agenda is to remove all constraints on what individuals and businesses can do, which is what Charles K calls “libertarianism” (not to be confused with the anti-elite libertarianism promoted in the sixties by Sydney intellectuals such as Germaine Greer and John Anderson). They want to be freed from the burden of cleaning the emissions from their oil refineries, free to dump toxic effluent from their paper mills into rivers and oceans, free to soak their Stainmaster carpets in formaldehyde and VOCs, free to make and sell abhorrent weapons of war, and to litter the world with oil pipelines and skyscrapers of dodgy financial paperwork.
My long-time publishing partner Jim Hightower calls this take-over and make-over of America “the Koch coup”, the fundamental goal of which is to destroy the idea that America is united by the principle that we’re all in this together. It is hard to overstate the breadth of the Koch plan. Charles himself has said “Our movement must destroy the prevalent statist paradigm.”
Over the past 40 years the Kochs have drawn in hundreds of fellow billionaires including Richard and Rebecca Mercer (Trump backers and founders of Cambridge Analytica) and Sheldon Adelson (casino multi-billionaire and extreme Zionist)–plus undisclosed multinational corporations serving as silent partners. They coordinate campaign contributions from all these donors, and the Koch network of think tanks and universities that promote their theories and practices, into what Hightower calls a Plutocrats-United conspiracy—yep, that word—which has largely succeeded in co-opting the US government. They spend more to elect Republican candidates of their own choosing than the Republican Party itself can afford to spend. In her recent exposé book on these guys, Democracy in Chains, Duke University historian Nancy MacLean calls them “property supremacists”.
During the 2016 election Charles Koch didn’t support Trump; he said choosing Clinton or Trump was like choosing “cancer or a heart attack.” He preferred the anti-gay, anti-healthcare Senator Ted Cruz, who also says he “leads the fight for Israel, to honor God’s promise.”
But Trump won, so Koch set out to take over his administration without having to confront the bullying buffoon directly.
As Trump’s own choices for his top ten staff members have been fired, quit, or removed for legal reasons, their jobs have been taken by politicians groomed and financed by the Kochs, including E.P.A. administrator Scott Pruitt, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump liaison with Congress Marc Short, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and other crucial operatives. Vice-President Mike Pence has long been a Koch yes-man. Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon recently told New Yorker writer Jane Mayer that if Pence were ever elected or appointed to the top job, “he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”
Charles Koch is not satisfied with just taking over the US political system—he likes to groom operatives from other countries, including Australia. In recent years, Senator Cory Bernadi, who quit the Liberals to form his own Conservative Party, and Libertarian Senator David Leyonhjelm have enjoyed the support of Koch organisations. The victorious Liberal campaign in South Australia last month was aided by the Kochs’ micro-targeting company called i360.
This Koch family saga sounds like Kurt Vonnegut wrote it, but like Mark Twain said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.”
The family patriarch, Fred Koch, got into oil drilling and refining in the 1930s. He is reported to have sympathized with the Ku Klux Klan, and in the 1950s he co-founded the John Birch Society, whose members included many with white supremacist and anti-semitic tendencies. In 1958 Fred claimed that “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America.” He saw welfare as a plot to attract rural blacks to cities, where they would foment “a vicious race war.” Charles and David Koch were also Birchers.
In the 1930s, Fred set the family fortune zooming by selling his oil refining technology, and 15 oil refineries, to the highest bidder of the day—the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics led by Premier Josef Stalin. Ya wouldn’t read about it, certainly not in Time magazine, recently acquired by Charles Koch.