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Charles Koch Walks a Tight Rope – Shaping Elections to His Liking while Quietly Using Popular Consumer Brands Like Dixie and Brawny to Fund His Agenda

Courtesy of Pam Martens

Riverside County Sheriff officers guard the entrance to a Rancho Mirage, California luxury resort where the Koch brothers held their January 2011 political strategy confab.

Riverside County Sheriff Officers Guard the Entrance to a Rancho Mirage, California Luxury Resort Where the Koch Brothers Held their January 2011 Political Strategy Confab. Photo Courtesy of Michael Cline, ClineFoto.com

Charles Koch is the Chairman and CEO of the fossil fuels giant, Koch Industries, ranked by ValueWalk as the second largest private corporation in America. Forbes puts his net worth at $45 billion. While Koch Industries has sprawling holdings in pipelines and refineries, in 2005 it bought the paper and lumber company, Georgia-Pacific. That Koch Industries’ division relies on the goodwill and trust of consumers in order to achieve billions of dollars in revenues for its Dixie disposable paper plates, bowls and cups; its Northern Quilted and Angel Soft bath tissue; its Brawny and Sparkle paper towels; and its Vanity Fair and Mardi Gras table napkins.

The perception that Charles Koch, the man who has sat atop Koch Industries for more than half a century, is attempting to subvert the will of American voters on behalf of his fellow billionaires by untoward meddling in elections has gained traction in recent years. That’s a big problem for a company that needs a warm and fuzzy image in order to sell its household product brands.

The Koch political machine and its decades of sneaky dealings had its dark curtain yanked back in the August 30, 2010 issue of The New Yorker in a sweeping expose by Jane Mayer. Back then Charles, and his brother David, were known simply as “the Koch Brothers,” or the Kochtopus, in a nod to the array of nonprofit front groups they had created. (David died in August of 2019.) Mayer noted that studies had dubbed Koch Industries “one of the top ten air polluters” in the United States and “a kingpin of climate science denial.”  Mayer wrote that the “Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change,” and had underwritten “a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups,” that were funding opposition campaigns against a multitude of Obama administration policies – “from health-care reform to the economic stimulus program.”

In October of 2010, we took a look at the dizzying array of front groups that had been spun out of Americans for Prosperity, one of the nonprofits of the Koch machine and the billionaire money propping up their agenda. In the same month, we broke the story that a secretive organization that does not reveal its donors, Donors Capital Fund, which had Charles Koch’s fingerprints all over it, had financed a race-baiting film in 2008 as Barack Obama became the first black Democratic candidate for President of the United States. The secretive group handed over $17 million to produce 28 million DVDs of this race-baiting film and approximately 100 newspapers and magazines in the U.S. obligingly stuffed the DVD into their newspaper as a free giveaway seven weeks before the presidential election. Those newspapers included the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer and St. Petersburg times. (Read our in-depth report here.)

In 2011 we broke the news that Charles Koch and his wife had wined and dined a sitting Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, at their private club in Indian Wells, California, the same year that the notorious Citizens United decision was accepted to be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court at that time accepted less than two percent of cases appealed to it. The 5-4 Supreme Court decision in the case opened the floodgates to corporate money in U.S. elections. Four of the nine Justices on the court issued a scathing dissent that suggested the decision didn’t pass the smell test and raised the question of unethical behavior on the part of the 5-judge majority which had ruled on issues that they said were not legally before the court.


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