Just the mention of the Koch Brothers is enough to get many people’s blood pressure rising. Despite their tales of philanthropy and business acumen, the Koch brothers continue to be personified as evil incarnate.
Is this fair? Yes, and here are 10 reasons why:
Roots in the John Birch Society
The Koch brothers’ father, Fred, was one of the founding members of the John Birch Society, a far-right organization that fought against civil rights and accused President John F. Kennedy of treason shortly before he was assassinated in 1963. Charles Koch was a member until 1968, one year after he became chairman of Koch Industries.
Tainting the Election Process
Through the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AIP), huge amounts of money are being spent to fund their candidates. The huge disparity helps bring about fears that elections will soon be decided not by votes, but by who gave the most money, making a joke of campaign financing. This fear has been buoyed in the last decade by Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United.
Voter Suppression Efforts
AIP has supported voter identification laws, which disproportionately affects minority voters, who usually vote Democratic. AIP also sent out wrong information to these voters about the election date for and the wrong number for the Board of Elections.
Koch Industries and Pollution
Koch businesses release roughly 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the environment. In addition, they have been cited and fined on numerous occasions due to environmental violations.
Climate Change Denial
Climate change, caused primarily caused by pollution, is something that the Kochs have done their best to deny and spread disinformation against. Since 1997, they have spent $67 million supporting groups that completely reject the concept.
Despite the environmental issues above, the Kochs have worked to limit or eliminate regulations that cut into their company profits, regardless of the overall effect or danger that might result.
Misrepresentation of Education
Attempting to eliminate teacher unions, thereby reducing their pay, Koch-funded efforts are also attempting to alter what is taught to children through textbooks. These publications deny climate change and offer revisionist history.
Attempting to Eliminate the Minimum Wage
Charles Koch has stated the minimum wage is a major obstacle to economic growth, and eliminating it will help the poor. In reality, the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation since 1980 and studies support the conclusion that minimum wage actually promotes economic growth.
Fighting to Stop Medicaid Expansion
The Kochs have funded lobbying groups to fight additional federal health care funding through the Affordable Care Act, attempting to deny a segment of society basic health care based on their economic status.
Avoiding Taxes Via Questionable Means
The Kochs (and many other corporations) have used the country of Luxembourg as a tax shelter, an ethically-challenged move that’s been severely criticized. Their support of massive business tax cuts in the company’s home state of Kansas has led to massive budget shortfalls.
Given the massive amounts of cash that the Kochs are capable of providing, their influence will continue to be an issue for years to come. The question remains: will politicians have the courage to ignore the siren call of this funding?