Until six months ago when Jane Mayer’s article, “Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama” appeared in The New Yorker, [Here] the broad range of Americans had never heard of Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in the United States. David had been known for his generous charitable philanthropy with contributions to cancer research, to museums and the arts, but the average American had never heard of their political involvement.
Now, the Koch name, at least David’s, is known and connected to all manner of overt and covert conservative political activism, from underwriting twice-yearly conservative national political strategy sessions to funding rightwing think tanks, such as the Cato Institute, as well as hefty direct political contributions. David is generally credited with funding and founding the Tea Party movement--which he denies.
Charles’s and David’s money comes from Koch Industries, a huge, privately-owned energy conglomerate dealing with the refining, and distribution of petroleum products, chemicals and other materials. According to Wikipedia, Koch Industries is the second largest privately owned company in the country, with annual revenues upwards of $98 billion dollars.
On Saturday the NYTimes ran a story and an interview with David Koch by Michael Cooper, titled “Cancer Research Before Activism, Billionaire Conservative Donor Says.” [Here] Yep, there was our usually secretive David Koch receiving applause and gratitude at the opening of a new cancer research center at MIT, named after him in gratitude for his $100 million dollar contribution. (David was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992 and has given generously since then to further cancer research.)
What was unusual was not the huge Koch donation, but, rather, the short but very interesting interview he granted, given no doubt to help counter the negative spotlight that was shone on him from a telephone call to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker from a Buffalo blogger who claimed to be David Koch. It was a shot heard ‘round the world.
Koch told the press, “It was a case of identity theft...I didn’t even know his name before this brouhaha erupted.” [Here]
Didn’t even know his name? Hmmmm. Mother Jones reports [Here] that, according to official state filings, the Koch Industries PAC gave $43,000 to Walker’s election campaign, the second highest contributor to his gubernatorial campaign. I’m not a politician but I can guarantee that any politician knows and remembers who signed the big checks in one’s campaign.
And remember that Scott Walker/fake David Koch conversation? (If you haven’t heard it yet, listen here.) The blogger/prankster at BuffaloBeast included a description of the steps it took to get to the busy Governor. His initial call was put in at 11:30 in the morning and was put through immediately to the Deputy Mayor who told him to call back in half an hour. He did and was given Walker’s Chief of Staff and was told to call at 2:00. He did and immediately got to Walker. Does that sound to you as if the name of Koch was unfamiliar to Walker and his staff? The subsequent conversation suggests that Walker is not very bright, but is not talking with a stranger.
Clearly, Koch and Walker had met before and the statement to the press was ...well, shall we say, hot air? However, the most telling statement was what Koch went on to say in that same interview. This is what reporter Cooper wrote: [Here]
Mr. Koch joked that the call could cause him problems. "I was thinking to myself, ‘My God, if I called up a senator or a congressman to discuss something with them, and they heard ‘David Koch is on the line,’ they’d immediately say, ‘That’s that fraud again — tell him to get lost!’ ” he said with a laugh.”
Dear Reader, may I ask you one question? When is the last time you picked up the phone and chatted with your Senator or Congressman/woman?
The one thing that we learn from this interview is that David Koch was shaken by the huge publicity that he and his brother got by that prank.
David Koch also said that he and his brother had not yet decided how much money that they would throw into the 2012 election. (Unfortunately, due to Citizens United, we’ll never know the total amount that will be poured into our next general election.)
I can’t even count that high. Can you? Too many zeros...