Fred Koch was born in 1900 in Quanah Texas. His parents were Dutch immigrants. After attending Rice University and MIT and graduating with a degree in Chemical Engineering Practice, he started working for Texas Company, and then became chief engineer with Medway Oil and Storage in Kent, England. He moved to Wichita, Kansas, where he joined an engineering firm, later becoming a principle.
He developed a new method for turning crude oil into gasoline. After a series of lawsuits (which he won), he was broke. Thus he went to work in the Soviet Union setting up oil refineries. He also built refineries in Europe. Notably, he built the third largest refinery for the Third Reich, project personally approved by Adolf Hitler.
After the war, Fred returned to Wichita and created Koch industries, which he turned over to Charles Koch in 1966.
In 1958, Fred became a founding member of the John Birch Society, and also worked to make Kansas a Right to Work state. These two items are important to recognize in the thought processes of the to favorite sons, Charles and David.
One of the tenets of the John Birch Society is that “Their (liberal conspirators against the United States) tactics include bribing the people with their own money, employing the use of force, deception and fear, and using every other trick they can think of to acquire total government power over the lives and well-being of the American people….Totalitarian government was to be established in this nation, claimed Robert Welch, not as a result of lightning quick leaps, but through a campaign of patient gradualism designed to persuade a once-free people to vote themselves into tyranny and their nation into an all-powerful world government. The goal of the conspirators has always called for the eventual merger of all peoples and all nations into a diabolically conceived “new world order.” source: own Birch Blue Book This group opposed such things as membership in the United Nations. Sound familiar?
It is important to note that this was their basis for opposing any transfer payments to the poor, through anti-poverty programs, social security, medicare/medicaid, etc. Some was a reaction to the New Deal put forward by FDR. It was all based on a conspiracy theory that there were “insiders” in the seats of power. These programs were, they claimed, instituted to obtain control over all the people, strip them of their freedom by making them dependent on the government, and result in a totalitarian world order.
By the 60’s, the John Birch Society had between 60,000-100,000 members and had been condemned by both William F. Buckley Jr, and Barry Goldwater as a fringe group “removed from common sense.” However, their tenets remained with David and Charles Koch. The John Birch Society was a co-sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference.
David and Charles Koch remained active in politics. In 1980, he ran as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Libertarian party, thinking that their party could be molded into his views. When that ticket failed to catch on, the brothers began working with the power structure in the Republican party. They provided significant funding to a number of right wing think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation. They sponsored political donor meetings at high end resorts, such as the Freedom Partners seminars. They provided much of the funding for PACs, like American Crossroads. In addition, they recruited other business moguls to join their efforts. They also supported a number of political candidates, from the school board races in Douglas County, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, to commissioners, to state legislatures, to national offices. Among their favored political figures are Scott Walker, Mike Pence, Sam Brownbeck, Snyder, Rauner, and at one time, Kasich. Newt Gingrich was one of their golden boys until his resignation. More interesting is that they also blocked or blackballed potential candidates who would not support their agenda. They also invested in Chris Jankowski’s REDMAP, to take over state legislators in time for the post 2010 redistricting. They also developed a significant voter database that they would share with their selected candidates that could target communities and even individuals with pleas that appealed to specific voters. The information in that database is coincidentally similar to information known to be in the Cambridge Analytica database that was used by the Trump campaign after Trump won the primaries.
When the Soviet Union fell in 1991 after Desert Storm and Boris Yeltsin replaced Mikhail Gorbachev as President, the Kochs decided that with that event the Soviet Union was no longer Communist and they could do business with the new administration. In 1996, Yeltsin was reelected democratically as the head of what was now Russia, and commenced on democratic reforms. His administration was a disaster. Under his watch, many former KGB agents looted the Russian economy and cornered the assets. By 1999, Yeltsin was extremely unpopular and unwell. He resigned and personally appointed Vladimir Putin as his successor. Putin, over a short time, took control of all of the Russian assets, or gave them to his oligarch friends. One of those assets was the fossil fuel industry. Both Exxon and the Kochs began discussions of worldwide control of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels became their shared interest.
The Koch brothers, through the think tanks they support and through donations, have continued to work on down ticket issues and races. We have seen legislation in many states that restricts or makes more expensive any investment by the state or individuals in fossil fuels. We have seen the whole Koch agenda enacted in Kansas and significant parts of it in Michigan and Wisconsin, and select issues in Colorado, Arizona, Florida, and Illinois. At all levels of government from county commissioner and school board up to US Congress, candidates are beholden to Koch donations and support. The Republican Party is, to a large extent, a reflection of the Koch Brothers. However, not entirely, as I investigate in my next article, The Evangelicals.