The Koch 130

How the billionaire brothers have spread their web of influence across every sector of American society.

In 1958, Fred Koch, the founder of the Midwestern oil and cattle ranching empire that would become Koch Industries, became a charter member of the John Birch Society, the fiercely anti-communist organization whose members believed Soviet influence was infecting all aspects of American society. The Birchers attempted to place their weight on “the political scales…as fast and as far” as they could, but their movement was quickly sidelined to the ideological fringe. Two of Fred’s four sons, Charles and David, have carried forward the conservative torch, and they have succeeded where their father and his allies failed. Their father’s company, meanwhile, has grown into a multibillion-dollar conglomerate that is the second-largest private corporation in the country.

Though the Koch surname has become synonymous with political spending, the family’s philanthropy has flowed to a wide range of causes. A significant portion has gone to think tanks and policy institutes that advance the brothers’ free-market beliefs. And Charles Koch has lavished millions on universities to bolster their study and teaching of this school of economics. But Koch contributions have also established cancer research centers, funded ballets and preserved cultural institutions, and provided grants and scholarships to students.

This project, an effort to track the breadth of the Kochs’ philanthropic influence, builds on several years of reporting (which culminated in Dan Schulman’s book, Sons of Wichita, and our cover story “Koch vs. Koch“), news stories, as well as data from tax filings and the organizations’ websites. (See more about our methodology below.) What follows is by no means exhaustive. It’s the first round of a project that we’ll continue to expand and update; please leave suggestions and tips in the comments.

 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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