Americans have always applauded those who have succeeded and overcome surmountable hurdles to go on and “win it all” so to speak. Americans are also somewhat obsessed with certain families, such as the Kennedy family. Still, now and then, in a time of crisis such as the situation with Scott Walker’s massive budget cuts and reforms in Wisconsin, the thousands of protesters on the scene could be seen marching with various signs expressing their anger with the official. Still, one curious fact about the entire scenario is the single incident of a prank call where a blogger posed as billionaire David Koch and exposed a secret alliance between the Walker administration and Koch industries. Naturally, a storm appeared in the mainstream media about Koch Inc and a short history of the family after the prank-call broke loose.
Still, the so called “exposure” of the Koch brothers has long been overdue. With a very early exposition piece from back in February 2009, shortly after Obama was sworn in as president, an underground and largely ignored-except when mainstream newspapers decide to plagiarize it- news-site, The Exiled Online, published a short feature on the rise of a seemingly unknown CNBC correspondent, Rick Santelli, and the corporate funders that caused his popularity to skyrocket. Of course, while the name is obscure now, his call to action of a “Chicago Tea Party” to protest President Obama’s plans to help distressed American homeowners has had a large effect even up to today.
A mere two years later, this right-wing, libertarian Tea Party sect has gained power in several positions. Kentuckians such as we don’t have to look very far to see that we elected a Tea Party endorsed candidate into the Senate. Up North in Wisconsin, the voters did a similar thing by electing a Tea-Party endorsed candidate as their Governor. Obviously, this Tea Party has grown rather fast and has already elected a considerable number of politicians into power, especially for a seemingly grassroots campaign. Within months of Obama’s inauguration, the Tea Party had begun. Charles described the growth of the Tea Party as “The way it’s grown, the passion and the intensity, was beyond what I had anticipated... it was beautiful—a sight to behold.” But there was one other thing the Kochs didn’t expect: the buzz saw of the contemporary left.
Only now, when thousands of teachers and other workers in the public sector are threatened with cuts, thus causing them to protest, thus causing the media to turn their attention on them, thus causing an investigation into the Walker government, thus leading us back to the beginning of the cookie crumb trail. However, those crumbs were donated by right-wing think-tanks such as the Cato institute.
The Cato Insitute can be summed up in it’s own mission statement: “The Institutes's stated mission is "to broaden the parameters of public policy debate to allow consideration of the traditional American principles of limited government, individual liberty, free markets, and peace" by striving "to achieve greater involvement of the intelligent, lay public in questions of policy and the proper role of government."”
Of course, anybody with half a brain knows that this sums up the basic philosophies of the libertarian. Still, what’s ironic about the entire rise of the tea-party, a group which claims to be based on “libertarian values of limited government, free markets, etc” is, well, pretty much socially conservative. For example, many tea-partiers are extremely socially conservative, which counter-acts the limited government in their philosophies when they want to impose various restrictions such as anti-abortion bills, allowing the use of religion alongside various government facilities, etc. So, with this in mind, it’s somewhat safe to say that the tea-party is nothing more than a “hip” bandwagon for the conservatives upset about the economy.
Thus, we’re back to what probably caused this entire situation to begin with, a crappy economy. Of course President Obama has done several questionable actions such as bailing out banks and the auto industry while also extending the patriot act and of course the continued imprisonment of Bradly Manning. Still, with any administration, there are some strange decisions, but with the Obama administration, and his continuing and somewhat silly attempt to be as bi-partisan as possible, making both sides happy with lukewarm compromises that just waters down the bill in question. But still, how does this go back to these Koch Bros?
Well, quite honestly, we saw the seeds being planted as soon as Obama walked the blue carpet with red outlines during his inauguration speech. The carpet, which was made by Invista, a subsidy of Koch Industries. Shortly after the inauguration, the company posted a statement on their website, bragging about how “INVISTA helped make history when Barack Obama was sworn in as the U.S.A.’s 44th president. The red and blue carpet cascading down the steps of the U.S. Capitol and underneath the presidential podium was Bentley Prince Street’s King’s RoadTM carpet, made from INVISTA’s Antron® LegacyTM fiber. Several thousand yards of Bentley carpet (the same type used for the inauguration) have been purchased for installation in the Koch Tower in Wichita.”
Of course, this is just one company under the long arm of the Koch bros. The men have made two staggeringly expensive buyouts, including not only the mentioned Invista for $4.4 billion in 2003. Two years later, an even more expensive buyout of Georgia-Pacific occurred for $23 billion.
Obviously, they have more than enough money to play around with. In 2008, Forbes calculated the total profits of Koch Industries were about $100 billion, just $6.8 billion shy of the first place mark held by Cargill. So, how did this massive wealth come about? Well, it all started back a mere 70 years ago, back when the US was suffering from a crippling depression and a certain communist state was beginning to modernize itself.
Back then, of course, the David and Charles was just a glimmer in their father Fredrick C. Koch’s eyes. He is notable for being one of the founding members of the John Birch society, a ultra right-wing group which blamed the rise of socialism in America on everything and everybody besides the stereotypical WASP of the time.
So, here you have Fred Koch. He came from a tiny town in Texas, but using his sheer willpower and might, the man got accepted into MIT, graduating with a degree in chemical engineering. By 1925, Koch, along with a former classmate, formed the Winkler-Koch Engineering Company, developing and patenting a peculiar process to refine gasoline from crude oil that had a higher-yield than anything on the market. It was shaping up to be an American success story, where anything was possible with a bit of elbow grease and good ol’ ingenuity. Of course, given the almost complete lack of regulation in the free market during the roaring twenties, the bigger businesses began to gang up on poor Fred Koch, due to fears that their royalty-revenue streams would drop.
A statement by Hoover’s Company Records service sums up the rest of the story quite well: “When 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.” By this time, foreign contracts such as the Soviet Union was looking pretty useful to Fred Koch.
By the late 30’s, Stalin was pushing the first Five Year Plan in an effort to transform his socialist state into a world-revered technological marvel produced by the proletariats. But, of course, the soviets didn’t really have the means and men required to transform this rapidly. So, as a way to get the end he wanted, he sought out capitalistic means by buying $20 million worth of oil industry equipment from America during the late 20’s.
Then, in 1929, the soviets signed a $5 contract with the Winkler-Koch Engineering Company, having them build 15 refineries in the USSR. At this time, the soviet budding oil system was a disaster, with parts and refineries always breaking down. So, the Winkler-Koch Engineering Company became a shining beacon in the eyes of the Soviets.
In an article by Oil of Russia, titled Learning from American Experience, the business history between the two countries can be seen.
“The first Winkler–Koch plants were set up in Tuapse in 1930. The cracking unit operated commendably, and would in the future be the type preferred by the heads of the Soviet Union's petroleum industry when purchasing new cracking equipment.
In 1931, two Winkler–Koch cracking units were launched in Baku, another two in Batumi, and six at once in Grozny; the last had a combined refining capacity of 900,000 tons per year. In 1932, a Winkler–Koch unit commenced operations in Yaroslavl.
Between 1930 and 1932, some 15 Winkler–Koch cracking units were delivered to the USSR, but no more new orders were sent to the United States. It was much more advantageous for the Soviets to build such installations themselves, especially since the need for them was constantly growing: domestic production of automobiles and airplanes had risen sharply.”
Great story, eh comrades?! After building the 15 units, the young Fred Koch, fresh out of college, had earned $500,000 by 1930. This $500,000, a wonderful wealth by 1933 means, created the foundation of the future Koch industries when Fred began to buy out various companies at a time when prices were at an all-time-low.
One would think that the man would grow to revere the communists and thank them for helping build his future empire, right? It was quite the opposite it seems.
By the 50’s, during the classic McCarthy era, Koch revealed his true colors of a frivolous, hare-brained commie-hater. This reversal soon led to almost pure paranoia. By 1964, Fred Koch, along with his John Birch society was going off the deep end by calling Lee Oswald a communist, plots by the communist to infiltrate protestant churches and preach about the miracles of marxism, etc. Earlier in 1961, he recounted his adventures in Russia in a pamphlet called “A Businessman Looks at Communism.” There, we see the base of his conspiracies.
“The government detailed a little man by the name of Jerome Livshltz to go around to our various installations with me. Livshitz had taken part in the revolution of 1905, and had spent twelve years in the U.S.A. as a revolutionary, most of the time in jails….
In the months I traveled with him he gave me a liberal education in Communist techniques and methods. He told me how the Communists were going to infiltrate the U.S.A. in the schools, universities, armed forces and to use his words, “Make you rotten to the core.” I believe that due to his American experience he was one of the original architects of the Communist plan of subversion of the U.S.A.
My associate and I pulled him from under an overturned car in Tiflis, and he was amazed. “Why did you save my life?” he said. “We are enemies. I would not have saved you. Perhaps when the turn there, I will spare your lives.” He told me that if his own mother stood in the way of the revolution he would kill her. My associate and I pulled him from under an overturned car in Tiflis, and hewn mother stood in the way of the revolution he would strangle her with his bare hands. This is the mark of a hard-core Communist. They will do anything—anything.”
An article from the Weekly Standard, the boys explain their father in their own words.
“After he returned to America, Fred started a family. Charles, the second of four sons, was born in 1935. David followed five years later. Fred tried to instill in his boys the lessons he’d learned overseas. “He was a very conservative Republican and was not a fan of big government,” David said. Conversations at the kitchen table often revolved around the Communist threat. “He told me that once there were a couple of engineers [from Russia] in the office here in Wichita,” Charles said, “and the KGB came looking for them, and he hid them in the bathroom. Later the engineers were going back to the Soviet Union, and one of them supposedly jumped out of a hotel window and committed suicide.” Fred smelled foul play. “He was always convinced that they pushed him out,” Charles said.
Fred was a towering personality. “My father was a man of enormous integrity, and he wanted his children to grow up to be great men, and fine, honest, decent people,” David said. Charles and David attended their father’s alma mater and studied his chosen field. When Charles graduated, he stayed in Boston. He found a job with the consulting firm Arthur D. Little, where he worked in business development and management services. Life was good.
Then in 1960 he got a call from his father: “My health is failing,” Fred told him. “You need to come back and work for the company and succeed me.”
“I said, ‘God, I’m doing great here, so I’d rather stay here,’ ” Charles said. Which he did.
A year later Fred called Charles again. Return home and work for me, Fred said, or I’ll sell the company. Charles complied. “He was very strong, and Dutch, and one of his favorite sayings was, ‘You can tell the Dutch but you can’t tell them much,’ ” Charles said. He took over the company after his father’s death in 1967. In the years since Charles Koch went to work for Fred, Koch Industries has grown more than 2,600-fold. The notion that Charles and David are “inheritance babies” is nonsense.”
As seen earlier in the piece, the brothers have amassed several major companies. These deals and buy-outs made them the company they are today. Needless to say, they are damn proud of their accomplishments. These accomplishments have been criticized lately, though.
The root of the latest criticisms and frenzied terror by the left can be traced back to one man, Ian Murphy of The Beast, an online news-site. On February 27th 2011, Murphy decided to call up Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, impersonating himself as David Koch. In his piece, Koch Whore, Murphy describes how easy it was to gain access to one of the most tightly-lipped men at the time.
“I first called at 11:30 am CST, and eventually got through to a young, male receptionist who, upon hearing the magic name Koch, immediately transferred me to Executive Assistant Governor Dorothy Moore.”
She then told him to call back at noon.
“I called at noon and was quickly transferred to Moore, who then transferred me to Walker’s Chief of Staff Keith Gilkes. He was “expecting my call.””
After a bit of chit-chat in which Murphy jokingly implied that his hispanic maid accidentally washed his phone, explaining that “I’m calling from the VOID—with the VOID, or whatever it’s called. You know, the Snype!”
“Gotcha,” Gilkes said. “Let me check the schedule here…OK, there’s an opening at 2 o’clock Central Standard Time. Just call this same number and we’ll put you through.”
By 2 CST, Murphy was talking to the infamous man himself, Scott Walker. The conversation itself is rather hilarious in a strange way. Murphy barely speaks the entire time, just recording everything from Walker’s mouth and somewhat letting him go on about topics related to the senators involved in the bill and Walker’s own beliefs. Well, needless to say, these recordings blew the entire situation out of the water at that point.
By then, I saw the names being mentioned everywhere. It was on some of the major newspapers like the New York Times and others. Still, I was skeptical of the entire scenario that was unfolding at that point.
By then, both sides were gearing up ammunition for a big epic clash on the interwebs and the blogosphere over the brothers. You had the right going off about the “great American success story” and offering their scrapegoat for this, George Soros. The left screamed about the Koch’s perceived massive influence on American politics, cried about their ecological skepticism of global warming, and dismissing the George Soros figure as a lame excuse. Well, it descended into madness by the time of writing.
In the past month or two, I’ve personally read 50-something articles about the entire fiasco. So, as I sit here at my computer typing this out, even I’m at a loss to explain this chaos. Surely the Kochs cannot be the only people to blame for this, it’s way too simple. Even if they control/own a lot of our products, develop think-tanks, and lobby in our government, they’re still only two men. Yes, they have loads of wealth, but at the same time, so do a few hundred others. Let’s look at George Soros for example.
His Wikipedia page has some basic info that gives us a mild summary of the guy. Looks like he’s mainly a speculator, to say the least.
“Soros is Chairman of the Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Institute and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations. He played a significant role in the peaceful transition from communism to capitalism in Hungary (1984–89) and provided Europe's largest-ever higher education endowment to Central European University in Budapest. Later, the Open Society Institute's programs in Georgia were considered by Russian and Western observers to have been crucial in the success of the Rose Revolution. In the United States, he is known for donating large sums of money in an effort to defeat President George W. Bush's bid for re-election in 2004. In 2010, he donated $1 million in support of Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana in the state of California. He was an initial donor to the Center for American Progress, and he continues to support the organization through the Open Society Foundations. The Open Society Institute has active programs in more than 60 countries around the world with total expenditures currently averaging approximately $600 million a year.”
Can this be used? Eh, not really, mainly due to the fact that Wikipedia can be edited by any-one and several corporations-including the Koch bros- have used companies such as New Media Strategies. Yasha Levine of The Exiled covered this fact in a small story on the site.
“According to Lee Fang over at ThinkProgress, an internal Wikipedia investigation revealed that a number of Wikipedia users making pro-Koch edits were actually sock puppets set up by employees at an Internet marketing company called New Media Strategies. After being outed, a New Media Strategies rep all but confirmed the findings of the Wikipedia investigation:
Soren Dayton, a GOP operative and executive at New Media Strategies, is reported to be the contact for Koch Industries at NMS. Reached by phone yesterday by ThinkProgress, Dayton exclaimed, “I’m not going to talk about this, thanks,” before hanging up. Lyndsey Medsker, a senior account director for NMS, spoke to ThinkProgress today. She explained that NMS also maintains the Koch Industries Twitter page, Facebook page, and has an active team working on promoting Koch Industries in the comment section of blogs and news websites.
They had worked together going back as far as 2008, when New Media Strategies partnered with the Heritage Foundation, Sam Adams Alliance and other Koch-funded organizations to set up and develop the imitation grassroots social media network that would be activated to push the Tea Party Movement. For example: In 2008, New Media Strategies was involved in a series of “RightOnline Summit” events for conservative new media activists, where its employees trained people how to use Wikipedia for “total reputation management” and worked side-by-side with star Koch media operatives like Eric Odom, who was a leading figure in the Tea Party AstroTurf campaign in February 2009.”
Well, darn, looks like Wikipedia isn’t that much of a help either. So, what can one do in the face of challenges like this? I realized the futility of this so called “exposé” a few days ago. The scope and scale of the problem is way too complex to be summed up in a newspaper, especially a high-school newspaper. It is also absurd to just name two men as the components of some vast crazy conspiracy theory in which these guys are the “they”. Yeah, it’s a pathetic, yet terrifying title, simple because we never know who “they” are.
But, alas, where can all of this paranoia and greed be traced back to? If it can be traced back to the American dream of lucking out and striking it rich (which in itself is a very very slim possibility, especially if one uses a bell curve as a starting point), then what does this say for our values? While we sit at our computers, goofing off on Facebook about our day or doing random quizzes that calculate how “sexi u r” and other mindless drivel, we seem to forget that our countrymen and women are losing their homes, their jobs, their own livelihood and happiness as this recession worsens. The gap is growing between the ultra-wealthy oligarch and the common worker today. Numerous attacks are being made on our rights and lives simply for a “better, safer nation.” But, then again, when one is out at one of our fine fast food restaurants or mega-stores or website and we see that deal or “gottahaveit!” item, it’s easy to dismiss everything that is going on around you as a product of an alternative reality. It is a nice feeling when we are comforted by the replies of “thank you and have a nice day.” We will have a nice day indeed, indeed.