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Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch joined the Tea Party movement. They didn’t create it.
(Page 2 of 3)
Lee Fang of Think Progress, the most obsessive and ignorant of the anti-Koch conspiracy theorists, accused Koch businesses of “ask[ing] Gov. Sarah Palin’s administration to use taxpayer money to bail out one of their failing refinery [sic].” But there was no bailout, and the issue discussed occurred not under Palin but under her adversary, former Gov. Frank Murkowski.
Fang accused the Kochs of “manipulating the oil market” and exerting “control of every part of the market.” To which Hinderaker noted, first, that no manipulation actually occurred and, second, that Koch was in no position to have done any manipulating: “Koch owns [only] three of the 141 largest refineries in the United States; its biggest weighs in at number 12. So how, exactly, does Koch ‘control every part of the market’?”
Moving to the entirely laughable, the Huffington Post headlined a story as follows: “Former Koch Executive Supplying House’s New Styrofoam Cups“—which, the story’s lead sentence informs us, are “now littering the building following the House GOP’s decision to phase out biodegradable cups from a Capitol lunchroom.” How awful. A host of other media outlets picked up this outrageous story of insider influence.
But (again as per Hinderaker), the House Republicans didn’t choose the company that makes the cups. And the company that makes the cups isn’t owned by the Kochs. And the executive who owns the cup company wasn’t a Koch man: for four years he was a vice president of Georgia-Pacific, which then was bought by the Kochs—at which point he immediately left Georgia-Pacific. A year later the executive went to work for the cup company, which has no Koch connection.
This is the “guilt by association” version of “connect the dots,” except there’s no guilt to start with and the dots themselves are in invisible ink, not just on different pages but in entirely different books in different libraries.
AN ENTIRE VOLUME could detail other scurrilous attacks against the Kochs or their enterprises, including several shots across their bow from President Obama and his administration. For sheer, sickening viciousness, however, nothing comes close to one of the manifold smears in a New Yorker article by Jane Mayer, the crusading liberal known for a quarter-century of demonizing conservatives—especially Clarence Thomas, whom one reviewer said Mayer effectively had depicted as “an id suffering in the role of a Republican superego.” It was Mayer who widely popularized the term “Kochtopus” to describe the Kochs’ tentacles supposedly extending their grip in slimy ways throughout the conservative world.
While rather grudgingly listing in dollar terms some of David Koch’s “spectacularly large donations” to the arts and sciences, especially cancer research (Koch himself is a survivor of prostate cancer), she broke all twisted-logic records to portray this philanthropy in a negative light. In lefty la-la land, conservatives/libertarians are evil even when they fight cancer:
In 2004, President Bush named him to the National Cancer Advisory Board, which guides the National Cancer Institute. Koch’s corporate and political roles, however, may pose conflicts of interest. For example, at the same time that David Koch has been casting himself as a champion in the fight against cancer, Koch Industries has been lobbying to prevent the E.P.A. from classifying formaldehyde, which the company produces in great quantities, as a “known carcinogen” in humans….Koch Industries became a major producer of the chemical in 2005, after it bought Georgia-Pacific, the paper and wood-products company, for twenty-one billion dollars. Georgia-Pacific manufactures formaldehyde in its chemical division….David Koch did not recuse himself from the National Cancer Advisory Board, or divest himself of company stock, while his company was directly lobbying the government to keep formaldehyde on the market. (A board spokesperson said that the issue of formaldehyde had not come up.)
The parenthetical sentence provides a thin veil of objectivity. Very thin. Of course the issue of formaldehyde never came up—because the NCAB’s only job is to evaluate grant requests. It has no role whatsoever in adjudging whether substances are carcinogenic. Furthermore, for years there has been a legitimate scientific debate about whether formaldehyde is carcinogenic—so it’s not as if Georgia-Pacific, which the Kochs bought only after Koch already was on the NCAB, was unusual in arguing the case for its product. But never mind all that: The Kochs are by definition evil, so they must be ascribed ulterior motives.
Then again, maybe a cancer survivor like David Koch might legitimately want to see cancer cured. Imagine that. To date, he has donated in excess of $250 million to the anti-cancer effort, at places like the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and especially to cancer research at his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. What formerly was the MIT Center for Cancer Research is now the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, after Koch donated a cool $100 million for a completely new building, another $20 million for new equipment, and (through the years) more than $30 million for other purposes. What formerly featured 13 faculty and about 250 total employees, focusing solely on biological research, now boasts 26 faculty and some 600 employees and, as its name indicates, integrates biological research with chemical engineering, nanotechnology, and other science that puts MIT at cancer fighting’s cutting edge.
Koch’s involvement resulted from a collaborative, evolving relationship with MIT’s cancer center.
“He initially pledged a certain amount of money to help MIT do a new building, just as a replacement for the old one,” Dr. Tyler Jacks, then an MIT professor and now director of the new center, told me. “But as we talked about it, the faculty and administration developed this concept of an integrative facility, and he was interested, and he doubled his gift. And then he doubled it again! And at some point as he increased his commitment, he added this condition that we make the commitment to fast-track construction of it. We actually cut about a year of the normal timing for a project of this size and scope.….He pushed it in ways certainly helpful to the researchers, to the field, to cancer research overall. The sooner we were able to take advantage of this, the better. I think MIT was excited to be able to move quickly.”
Significantly though—in contradistinction to
the Left’s portrayal of the Kochs as
puppet masters—Jacks said Koch was “very
supportive of what we are doing, but at no point did he ever
tell us what to do. He never said you should study this type of
or you should study cancer in this way. He never tried to influence the nature of our research program.”
MOVING FROM SCIENCES to arts, David Koch’s $100 million donation to renovate what had been the “State Theatre” of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts was similarly transformative in the best of ways for the New York City Opera, for all sorts of other performances there, and particularly for ballet. The acoustics were improved, a center aisle was added to make it more convenient for patrons, and the orchestra setup was vastly improved.
“It restored a great hall,” Lincoln Center chair Katherine Farley told me. “It was a life-changing gift to the New York City Ballet. And there were two other things about this gift that really were significant from a philanthropic standpoint. The timing of this gift was important because it happened in the midst of a recession , and a gift of that magnitude at a time when it was really hard to raise money was both stimulating of other giving, and symbolically very important.”