Billionaires buying the White House
Charles and David Koch are each worth about $25bn, which makes them the fourth richest Americans. When you combine their fortunes, they are the third wealthiest people in the world. Their web of influence in the US stretches from state capitals to the halls of congress in Washington DC. The Kochs rarely talk to the press, and conduct their affairs behind closed doors.
According to New Yorker writer Jane Mayer, who wrote a groundbreaking exposé of the Kochs in 2010, they have built a top to bottom operation to shape public policy that has been “incredibly effective. They are so rich that their pockets are almost bottomless, and they can keep pouring money into this whole process”.
Koch industries, the second largest privately-held company in the US, is an oil refining, chemical, paper products and financial services company with revenues of a $100bn a year. Virtually every American household has some Koch product – from paper towels and lumber, to Stainmaster carpet and Lycra in sports clothes, to gasoline for cars.
The Kochs founded and provide millions to Americans for Prosperity, a political organization that builds grassroots support for conservative causes and candidates. Americans for Prosperity, which has 35 state chapters and claims to have about two million members, has close ties to Tea Party groups and played a key role in opposing Obama’s health care initiative.
The Kochs have also poured millions into think tanks and academia to influence the battle over ideas. According to Kert Davies, the director of research for Greenpeace in the US, the Kochs have spent more than $50m since 1998 on “various front groups and think tanks who … oppose the consensus view that climate change is real, urgent and we have to do something about it”. As operators of oil pipelines and refineries, the Kochs have opposed all efforts to encourage alternative sources of energy by imposing a tax on fossil fuels. The brothers have been the largest political spender since 2000 in the energy sector, exceeding Exxon, Chevron, and other major players.
Since 2009, there has been a sharp drop in the percentage of Americans who see global warming as a serious threat according to Gallup polls. Greenpeace has tracked more than $50m that Koch Industries has spent on lobbyists since 2006, when Cap and Trade and other legislation to combat global warming was being considered.
They are now setting their sights on defeating Barack Obama and expanding their influence in the US House and Senate. It has been reported that the Kochs are planning to raise and spend more than $200m to defeat Obama in 2012. But the brothers could easily kick in more without anyone knowing due to loopholes in US law.
A Republic Report reporter stated that the “This election will come down to a few billionaires: a couple on the left supporting the Democrats, and a lot on the right supporting the Republicans. I think in 2013 people will look back on this election as the greatest one bought and sold.”