Death of a politically active conservative & one of the world’s richest person and the system of property

A Journal of People report

US billionaire conservative politician and key Republican Party donor David Koch has died at the age of 79. Forbes listed David as the 11th richest billionaire in 2019.

Koch stepped down from the family business, Koch Industries, last year amid health problems.

His older brother Charles has confirmed his death. “It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of my brother David,” says Charles Koch in statement.

The family firm, launched by his father Fred, is the second-largest privately held company in the US, with revenues of around $110 billion a year.

Despite his conservative political connections, Koch held a variety of liberal positions, including being pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, and was staunchly opposed to both the drug war and US foreign intervention. “I’m basically a libertarian, and I’m a conservative on economic matters, and I’m a social liberal,” Koch said in a 2014 interview. [The interview is posted below this report.]

Together with his brother Charles, Koch made significant political contributions to leading figures in the Republican Party, including to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s 2010 election campaign and to Mitt Romney’s 2016 presidential campaign, though the brothers refused to donate to Donald Trump’s 2016 run.

The brothers reportedly pledged $60 million to defeat president Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012.

David supported a number of political think tanks including the now-defunct Citizens for a Sound Economy, which he founded with his brother in 1984.

He was also a donor to the foundation Americans for Prosperity, a major conservative lobbyist group, which the brothers founded in 2004.

Despite allegations to the contrary, David Koch denied any affiliation with the Tea Party, but said he sympathized with it.

He also sat on the board of the libertarian Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation.

In February 2018, members of the American Federation of Teachers held up signs depicting David Koch and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos while demonstrating in support of unions in Washington.

The system of property

The rich person’s activity is an example of a part of the system of property operates. The following reports help understand the activity. These also show the how terms are misused, and proper definitions and interpretation of terms including “left”, “liberal” is needed.

Mark Gollom reported in CBC News on August 24, 2019:

“News of David Koch’s death on Friday drew out many critics of the billionaire industrialist and his equally controversial brother, with some taking to social media to welcome the news.

“The LGBT magazine The Advocate tweeted: ‘Ding Dong #David Koch.’ Actor Ron Perlman added: ‘Wishing the Koch brothers a speedy reunion,’ while progressive activist Ryan Knight tweeted that his death is a ‘great GAIN for the planet.’

“Some of this was likely fuelled by the toxicity of U.S. politics right now, says Christopher Leonard, author of Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America.

“But it’s also rooted in some substance, and the degree in which opponents of Koch and his brother Charles resent both their views and the significant impact these billionaires have had on U.S. political life.

“‘It’s a combination of their wealth and their effectiveness,’ Leonard said. ‘They really have had a massive effect on U.S. politics.

“‘But the other part of it is they have been caricatured. They’ve become a cartoon. They’ve become a stand-in for everything wrong with American politics. For many people in America they are billionaires who affect policy deeply.’

“However, there’s also no denying, says Leonard, that the brothers have been among the most influential and effective corporate lobbyists for deeply conservative causes over the last 40 years.

“‘David and Charles Koch have built a political influence network that is really unrivalled in corporate America,’ he said.

Free market crusaders

“There are certainly wealthy liberals who wield their own political power and influence. Billionaire George Soros, for example, is very politically active, runs thinktanks for the left, and donates lots of money to liberal causes.

“But Jim Geraghrty, the senior political correspondent of the conservative magazine National Review, wrote that the difference between wealthy liberal activists like Soros and the Koch brothers, is that they are better at achieving their goals and focusing on ‘the long-term and easily-overlooked corners of the governing process — i.e., state legislatures, local tax initiatives and the political races that aren’t “sexy.”’

“And the Koch political machine, says Leonard, dwarfs all others.

“‘There’s no equivalent group like that run by anyone on the left or right. So, taken together, this is a political influence machine that is unrivalled in America,’ Leonard said.

“Their politics have been libertarian — both anti-government, tax-cutting warriors and unapologetic free market crusaders who opposed all kinds of social programs, business and environmental regulations.

“But while some of those views may find common cause with Republicans, the brothers have differed with many conservatives on social issues — supporting gay rights, being pro-choice on abortion and opposing drug laws.

“It was those social views, according to David, that led him to run for the vice-presidency in 1980 under the Libertarian Party banner.

“Initially, the brothers stuck to supporting pure libertarian causes and groups, said Brian Doherty, senior editor of the libertarian magazine Reason, and author of Radicals for Capitalism: A History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.

“But at a certain point in the last 15 to 20 years, they decided they would interact with one of America’s two major parties. And at least on the economic angle, the Republicans were a better fit.

“‘They continued to try to push libertarian ideas but they just started trying to do it within a major party context,’ he said.

‘Push libertarian ideas’

“But it also meant they would support Republican candidates whose views, at least on some social issues, clashed with their own.

“Doherty said the new coziness with the Republicans certainly disgruntled some libertarians. But it also meant that progressives wouldn’t cut them slack for their personal socially liberal views.

“‘David Koch may say he supports marriage equality but every political check he’s written says the exact opposite,’ Advocate executive editor Neal Broverman wrote in 2014.

“In 2004, the brothers founded Americans for Prosperity, a conservative/libertarian advocacy group, built through a network of wealthy donors. It became a nationwide network of volunteers and employees that could knock on doors, protest at town hall meetings, drive to Washington and lobby lawmakers.

“That money was used to oppose a number of policies favored by Democrats, including President Barack Obama’s health-care plan, proposed gun laws and union and workers’ rights. They were also credited for playing in the rise of the conservative Tea Party.

“In terms of policy, Leonard believes the brothers were most effective thwarting action on climate change and played a pivotal role in not only delaying but derailing any efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

“He said they gutted the Republican Party of any moderates who might be willing to act on climate change.

“‘They really had a scorched earth effort to take away any politicians in the Republican Party not just willing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions but to acknowledge the science was real.’

“At its peak, Americans for Prosperity was raising basically as much money as the Republican National Committee, says Daniel Schulman, author of Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty.

“‘They had their own data operation that rivaled the Republican Party’s data operation. So they basically did establish their own centre of gravity within the Republican Party.’

“And they have played an ‘incredibly influential role’ in helping conservative opinion makers, influencers and politicians, Schulman said.

“‘There are a variety of other politicians who if they don’t owe their political rise to help from the Kochs they certainly got an assist over the years from them.’”

Five key ways the Koch brothers pushed their rightwing agenda

Edward Helmore wrote on August 23, 2019 in The Guardian:

“Charles and David Koch long claimed to belong to a system of belief based in the freedom of the individual, unimpeded trade and lives lived free from the intrusion of tax, drafts, business regulations, welfare support and laws designed to curb free expression.

“To that end, and in particular with the financing of the Tea Party revolution, the Kochs spent in excess of $100m to promote conservative candidates and causes. Their actions provoked dismay and anger among liberals and devotion among the conservatives and libertarians whom they funded.

“The death of David Koch, which was announced on Friday, is unlikely to diminish the power of the network of influence the brothers created. Here are five ways they pushed their agenda:

Americans for Prosperity

“Among the institutions the Kochs support is Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group behind many public campaigns promoting conservative causes on healthcare, fighting climate crisis rules and advocating for more limited government. It has also turned its fire on public transit, opposing the construction of light rail trains and new bus routes in many cities across the U.S.

The Cato Institute

“The Cato Institute is a key thinktank co-founded by the Kochs and supporting much of the brothers’ rightwing and libertarian agenda, including lowering or abolishing taxes and the privatization of numerous government agencies and social welfare programs. In 2012, the Kochs sued Cato after some of its libertarian positions supporting same-sex marriage and drug decriminalization angered conservatives. “We want to ensure that Cato stays true to its fundamental principles of individual liberty, free markets and peace into the future,” Charles Koch said.

Annual gatherings

“The brothers hold regular gatherings often described as highly secretive mega-donor conferences that feature a who’s who of Republican political elites. Almost certain to attend are conservative political candidates looking to show off their ideological credentials in exchange for campaign funding. It is estimated that the Kochs’ political network raised $126m in 2014 alone and distributed millions to conservative groups in the 2018 midterm elections.

The climate crisis

“While the Cato institute acknowledges the climate crisis, it holds that there is time to find privately funded solutions. The recent book Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America offered a detailed account of power the Kochs exerted to cripple government action on the climate crisis, including their role in a 1991 conference of climate crisis deniers who opposed George HW Bush’s support of a treaty limiting carbon emissions. Despite opposing Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, he delivered for them by withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, nominating pro-carbon appointees to lead regulatory agencies and slashing personal and corporate taxes.

Supporting the arts and philanthropy

“To offset negative publicity, the Kochs donated hundreds of millions to cultural institutions, including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. ‘We must build a positive reputation based on reality, or others will create one for us based on speculation or animus and we won’t like what they create,’ Charles Koch wrote in 2007’s The Science of Success.

The billionaire’s claim he’s a social liberal

An ABC News report by Benjamin Bell on December 15, 2014 said:

Reclusive billionaire David Koch, a powerful donor in American conservative politics, says he’s a “social liberal.”

“I’m basically a libertarian, and I’m a conservative on economic matters, and I’m a social liberal,” Koch told ABC News’ Barbara Walters during an interview for her special “The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2014? that airs at 9 p.m. ET Sunday on ABC.

Koch, who supports abortion rights and gay marriage, said he isn’t concerned with candidates he supports who don’t share some of his views. He said his primary concern when choosing a candidate to support is their fiscal policies.

“What I want these candidates to do is to support a balanced budget,” he said. “I’m very worried that if the budget is not balanced that inflation could occur and the economy of our country could suffer terribly.”

The Koch Brothers pledged $60 million to defeat Obama

The report by Eric Randall in The Atlantic Wire on February 4, 2012 said:

David and Charles Koch, billionaire businessmen known for their donations to conservative causes, together pledged $60 million to defeat President Obama at a private California retreat for donors and strategists, reports the Huffington Post, attributing the information to an anonymous source who was in the room.

The news that the brothers are committing money to defeating a president with whom they don’t get along is not very surprising. After all, their lawyer wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal Wednesday lamenting Obama’s regular “attacks” on the brothers in his speeches, likening the treatment he gives them to Richard Nixon’s enemies list, and saying they’ve been “selected as an attractive political punching bag by the president’s re-election team.” So the Koch people really don’t like Obama.

But $60 million is a lot of money, and shows the kind of funding that a few people can put into a race with the advent of Super-PACs, where most of their money will probably go due to restrictions on donations to actual campaigns.

Details of exactly how and when they will dole out the funds are, of course, still unreported. But along with the $68 million Obama raised last quarter, this promises to be quite the moneyed campaign.

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