CHARLES AND DAVID KOCH
$50 BILLION [AS OF NOVEMBER 2011]
Wealth: In 2010, Koch Industries topped $100 billion in sales and now ranks as America’s second-largest private company, behind Cargill (with $109.8 billion).6 The Koch brothers’ father, Fred C. Koch, invented the “cracking” method for refining crude oil into gasoline, and the family fortune is founded on the expansion of the fossil fuels economy. Sons Charles, David, Frederick and William inherited Koch Industries after their father, who also founded the John Birch Society. Charles and David bought out William and Frederick for $1.1 billion in 1983. Today, the company has stakes in pipelines, refineries, fertilizer, fibers and polymers, forest and consumer products, chemical technology, and commodity and financial trading. Koch Industries employs 70,000 workers in 60 countries. In 2004, the company purchased Invista, the maker of Lycra and Coolmax fabric, for $4.2 billion. In 2005, Koch Industries purchased the paper and building-supply vendor Georgia-Pacific for $21 billion. The Koch brothers now profit from the sale of every Dixie Cup and every roll of Brawny kitchen tissue and Quilted Northern toilet paper. Each brother owns 42 percent of the Koch Industries.
The Koch’s Flint Hills Resources subsidiary owns three refineries that process more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil daily. Koch operates crude gathering systems and pipelines across North America as well as cattle ranches in Kansas, Montana, and Texas with a total of 15,000 head of cattle, a huge source of the dangerous greenhouse gas methane. The company owns a 3 percent stake in the Trans Alaska Pipeline System, 4,000 miles of pipelines that carry crude oil, refined petroleum products, natural gas and chemicals across the United States, and an 80,000 barrels-per-day refinery in Rotterdam in The Netherlands. Koch’s numerous subsidiaries (including its proprietary Market Based Management system) uses its operational, trading, transaction and public-sector skills to create long-term value for its customers. The company has pursued a strategy of reinvesting about 90 percent of its earnings into acquisitions and investments (some $32 billion between 2005-2010, including the $21 billion purchase of Georgia-Pacific). Expanding its product line, in 2010 Georgia-Pacific agreed to buy oriented strand board manufacturer Grant Forest Products for $400 million.
Power Networks: Charles and David Koch co-founded the Cato Institute (a radical right think tank) and David (along with Koch board member Richard Fink) created Americans for Prosperity, a controversial Washington-DC-based political action committee that has helped fund the Tea Party movement. During the 2010 election-year, AFP handed out $40 million to right-wing campaigns. The full extent of the Koch’s lobbying is difficult to assess since, as The New Yorker pointed out in an August 30, 2010 article, the Kochs are known for creating slippery organizations with generic-sounding names. The Koch brothers and Koch Industries have opposed President Obama’s environmental initiatives and are such fierce proponents of climate-change denial that they spent more money than Exxon to fight climate-stabilizing policies from 2005 to 2008. They contributed several million dollars to California’s Proposition 23 campaign in the November 2010 election in a failed attempt to overturn the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Koch Industries is not on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
Environment: After an August 2010 profile of the Koch brothers in The New Yorker, environmental groups have begun a name-and-shame campaign against them11 and have called for a boycott of Koch Industry products including Zee paper towels, Lycra® fiber, Teflon and Stainmaster carpets. As the most influential fossil fuels family in the country that is blocking global progress on climate action, the Kochs have arguably the largest burden of responsibilities for a deepening climate crisis. The Kochs’ capture of U.S. policy-making processes act as a sort of full spectrum domination of democracy.