Koch Party Time: Billionaire Brothers Show Off the Republican Politicians They Bought
Photo Credit: A.M. Stan
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
TAMPA, FLA. -- In a beautifully appointed meeting room overlooking Tampa Bay, David Koch, principal in Koch Industries and benefactor of Americans For Prosperity, basking in the glow of what, for him, has been a very good couple of years, now capped off by the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan, Wis., a favorite of AFP, as the vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party. Since 2010, when Tea Partiers swept the House of Representatives and state houses across the nation, Koch has been on a roll, moving the G.O.P. in line with his hard-core anti-regulatory, anti-labor, anti-health-care reform, anti-safety net, anti-environmental agenda -- thanks to a relentless effort to build a get-out-the-vote infrastructure and a torrent of backlash against the nation's first African American president.
But to hear Koch tell it, he wants nothing more than to benefit all of humankind through his largess. "I try to do things in life that make the world better place, Koch tells a USA Today reporter just before he steps up to a microphone to deliver remarks to several hundred convention delegates and party dignitaries, who are grazing on a dazzling display of hors d'oeurves that includes beef tenderloin, sushi and a splendid cheese board.
"I'm very philanthropic," Koch continues, adding: "I'm a major contributor to cancer research, medical research. I'm a big supporter of cultural institutions and educational institutions. In fact, the smallest area of my activity is political institutions."
Not content to leave it there, Koch adds: "[M]y brother and I have built a great company, which we think is a fabulous achievement. We employ 50,000 people. We're very successful, and we're proud of all of the employment we provide to so many people."
Translation: I'm a job creator.
The event at which Koch appears on the final day of the Republican National Convention is sponsored by Americans For Prosperity, and billed as a salute to entrepreneurs, a message in keeping with the Romney campaign's false accusations against President Barack Obama that he stands against business, especially small business owners.
"With all due respect to the president," says Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips, "we're calling this [event] 'They Did Build It: The Reception.'"
The invitation also tells attendees that both Koch, chairman of the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, and Art Pope, the North Carolina businessman who chairs the foundation's sister organization, simply known as Americans For Prosperity, will be honored at the event. Structured as non-profits under the tax code, neither group is required to publicly reveal its funders, though Koch and his brother, Charles, are presumed to be major donors.
In his remarks to the group, Koch speaks of his long involvement "in the public policy arena" with his brother, Charles, noting their work with institutions ranging from the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., to the Reason Foundation in Los Angeles.
"The institution I feel the most closely attached to, and the most proud of, is Americans For Prosperity," Koch says. "And my brother and I provided funding to create this wonderful organization about 10 years ago. And when we started, it was very small, and we've grown enormously now to an organization that has 2 million grassroots activists -- we call them a citizen's army."
Any doubt that Koch has reinvented the GOP in his own image is easily dispelled by a check of the podium roster at this year's Republican National Convention, presided over by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who, as chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, was involved in a 2010 vote-caging scheme executed by Americans For Prosperity. The aim of the scheme was to suppress the vote of young people and African American voters in Milwaukee.