Koch family

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The Koch family (/kk/ KOHK) is an American family engaged in business, best known for their political activities and their control of Koch Industries, the 2nd largest privately owned company in the United States (with 2019 revenues of $115 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 Koch and David 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 libertarian and conservative donors, and the brothers funneled financial revenue into television and multi-media advertising.[6][7] David Koch died in August 2019.

Family members[edit]

  • Fred C. Koch (1900–1967), American chemical engineer and entrepreneur who founded the oil refinery firm that later became Koch Industries and was one of the founding members of the John Birch Society.[8][9][10][11]
  • Mary Robinson Koch (1907–1990),[12] wife of Fred C. and eponym of the company's namesake tanker vessel Mary R. Koch
  • Four sons of Fred C. and Mary Robinson Koch:[12]
    • Frederick R. Koch (1933–2020), collector
    • Charles Koch (born 1935), chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Koch Industries
    • David Koch (1940–2019), executive vice president of Koch Industries
      • Julia Koch (born 1962), socialite and wife of David Koch
    • Bill Koch (born 1940), businessman, sailor, and collector

Non-profit organizations[edit]

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."[13] In addition to the direct action of the non-profits, the groups have also contributed financially to other organizations in the fields of research, libertarian solutions to public well-being, arts, and education, including contributions to think-tanks through organizations like the Cato Institute (formerly the Charles Koch Foundation).[14]

Political activities[edit]

While Bill Koch has also been active in conservative political causes (particularly opposing the Obama administration's climate change program),[15] it is his brothers Charles and David who have become famous for their activity in American politics, beginning in at least 1980, when David Koch was the vice-presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party. 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.[16] They have since organized a network of an estimated 500 libertarian and conservative donors,[17] candidates, think tanks, and other groups. As an example of their influence, investigative journalist Jane Mayer noted House Speaker John Boehner's appeal to David Koch in 2011 when Boehner needed votes to prevent a government shutdown.[18]

The Koch brothers indicated that they intended to raise almost $880 million in support of candidates in the 2016 elections,[19] and have given more than $100 million[20] to conservative and libertarian policy and advocacy groups in the United States,[21] including The Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, and more recently Americans for Prosperity.[22]

Americans for Prosperity, founded by David Koch, has been reported by Kenneth P. 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."[23] 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."[24]

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.[25][26]

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.[27]

Public policy[edit]

The Koch family funding apparatus has been funding conservative and 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.[28] 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.[29]

According to a report by American University's Investigative Reporting Workshop, the Koch brothers have built "what may be the best funded, multifaceted, public policy, political and educational presence in the nation today."[30] Opposition to the government spending any money on climate change is among this network's activities.[31][30] Anthropogenic climate change skeptic Willie Soon received more than $500,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and a trust used by the Kochs.[32] The primary recipients of Koch contributions, including Americans for Prosperity, The Heritage Foundation, and the Manhattan Institute, actively oppose clean energy and carbon legislation and are skeptical of climate science.[33] In fact, the Koch brothers were involved in the first known gathering of climate change skeptics in 1991.[34] Organized by the Cato Institute, the meeting shifted the position of the Republican Party on climate change. While George H. W. Bush had still supported research into global warming under the Global Change Research Act of 1990, acceptance of scientific evidence on climate change began to weaken due to the Koch family's influence.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Forbes America's Largest Private Companies". Forbes.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  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 May 10, 2010. [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 (May 20, 2014). "Koch vs. Koch: The Brutal Battle That Tore Apart America's Most Powerful Family". Mother Jones. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  6. ^ Reid Wilson (February 7, 2014). "Why there's no Democratic version of the Koch brothers organization". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ Leonard, Christopher (2019). Kochland: the secret history of Koch Industries and corporate power in America. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4767-7538-8.
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Wayne, Leslie (December 7, 1986). "Brothers at Odds". The New York Times. 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.
  11. ^ Diamond, Sara (1995). Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford Press. p. 324 n. 86. ISBN 0-89862-862-8.
  12. ^ a b "Fred and Mary Koch Foundation". Fmkfoundation.org. Archived from the original on November 14, 2013. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  13. ^ "Koch Family Foundations and Philanthropy". Koch Family Foundations. Archived from the original on June 23, 2013. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  14. ^ "The Kochs vs. Cato". The New Yorker. March 1, 2012.
  15. ^ Beckel, Michael (August 13, 2013). "William Koch emerges from shadow of famous siblings". Center for Public Integrity. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  16. ^ Mayer, Jane (August 30, 2010). "Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama". The New Yorker. Condé Nast Publications.
  17. ^ SEVERNS, MAGGIE (December 14, 2018). "The Next Koch Doesn't Like Politics". Politico.
  18. ^ Confessore, Nicholas (January 11, 2016). "Father of Koch Brothers Helped Build Nazi Oil Refinery, Book Says". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Confessore, Nicholas (January 26, 2015). "Koch Brothers' Budget of $889 Million for 2016 Is on Par With Both Parties' Spending". The New York Times.
  20. ^ Mayer, Jane (August 30, 2010). "Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama". The New Yorker. Condé Nast Publications.
  21. ^ Zernike, Kate (October 19, 2010). "Secretive Republican Donors Are Planning Ahead". The New York Times.
  22. ^ Charles Koch, in interview with Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal. May 6, 2006.
  23. ^ Vogel, Kenneth P. (August 9, 2010), "Tea party's growing money problem", Politico, retrieved June 14, 2011
  24. ^ "Koch Family Foundations and Philanthropy - Foundations". Koch Family Foundations. Archived from the original on August 11, 2014. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  25. ^ "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 November 5, 2015
  26. ^ Nelson, Colleen Mccain; Fields, Gary (July 16, 2015). "Obama, Koch Brothers in Unlikely Alliance to Overhaul Criminal Justice". The Wall Street Journal.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ Mui, Ylan (January 27, 2018). "Koch brothers' network boosts spending for midterm cycle, including $20 million to sell GOP tax law". CNBC. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  28. ^ Rojc, Phillip (July 27, 2016). "Rightward, Ho! Ten Top Funders Behind the Surging Libertarian Movement". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved June 26, 2018.
  29. ^ Hudetz, Mary. "Forfeiture reform aligns likes of billionaire Charles Koch, ACLU".
  30. ^ a b Lewis, Charlse; Holmberg, Eric; Campbell, Alexia Fernandez; Beyoud, Lydia (July 1, 2013). "Koch millions spread influence through nonprofits, colleges". American University School of Communication. Archived from the original on August 12, 2018.
  31. ^ Mayer, Jane (June 30, 2013). "Koch Pledge Tied to Congressional Climate Inaction". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 15, 2020.
  32. ^ Goldenberg, Suzanne (February 21, 2015). "Work of prominent climate change denier was funded by energy industry". The Guardian. London. Retrieved February 15, 2020.
  33. ^ Vidal, John (March 30, 2010). "US oil company donated millions to climate sceptic groups, says Greenpeace". The Guardian. London. Retrieved February 15, 2020.
  34. ^ Mayer, Jane (August 13, 2019). ""Kochland" Examines the Koch Brothers' Early, Crucial Role in Climate-Change Denial". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  35. ^ Leonard, Christopher (August 13, 2019). Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781471186974.