Inside The Koch Empire: How The Brothers Plan To Reshape America
Daniel Fisher, Forbes
12/05/2012 @ 11:57AM
Charles’ many critics on the left-including the President of the United States-accuse him of accumulating too much power and using it to promote his own economic interests through a network of secretive organizations they call the “Kochtopus.” Ironically, the Koch brothers believe they’re fighting against power, at least in the political realm. For the Kochs the real power is central government, which can tax entire industries into oblivion, force a citizen to buy health insurance and bring mighty corporations like Koch Industries to heel.
“Most power is power to coerce somebody,” says Charles, in a voice that sounds like Jimmy Stewart with a Kansas twang. “We don’t have the power to coerce anybody.”
The goal has always been, Charles says, “true democracy,” where people “can run their own lives and choose what they want to buy, choose how to spend their money.”
In the mid-1970s their business of changing minds got more formal when Charles cofounded what became the Cato Institute, the first major libertarian think tank. Based in Washington, it has 120 employees devoted to promoting property rights, educational choice and economic freedom. In 1978 the brothers helped found-and still fund-George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, the go-to academy for deregulation; they have funded the Federalist Society, which shapes conservative judicial thinking; the pro-market Heritage Foundation; a California-based center skeptical of human-driven climate change; and many other institutions.
All of these organizations, unknown to 99% of the population, and their common source of support, unknown to most of the rest, have provided the grist for conservative thinking since Reagan. It’s a measure of Koch’s success that 40 years after Richard Nixon was stumping for national health insurance, Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand-tinged economics are just a little right of center. That the Supreme Court’s conservative majority led by Chief Justice John Roberts has issued a number of pro-property rights, anti-government decisions in recent years that read like they came straight out of a Federalist Society position paper. That when George W. Bush sought a watchdog on regulation costs, he appointed a top Mercatus executive. And none of this was accidental-it just took millions of dollars over decades of time.