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Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch joined the Tea Party movement. They didn’t create it.
(Page 3 of 3)
The second thing special about the donation, she said, is that a gift so large usually carries with it the expectation that the donor’s name be permanently attached to the facility. Instead, “David volunteered to make his gift a 50-year gift,” explained Farley. “He knew that in 50 years it would need renovations again, which is just the nature of facilities like these, so he specified that after 50 years his name be taken down so that another donor could come forth and get the naming. Otherwise, it’s more difficult to raise the money because people like to have the building named for themselves.”
Another Koch favorite, since at least 1982, has been the Metropolitan Museum of Art—to similar good effect, rising to the tune of some $5 million annually in recent years.
“He’s keenly interested, keenly aware, and extraordinarily generous,” said Emily Rafferty, president of the Met. “Part of a museum’s mission is to preserve works of art. They have to be taken care of like anything else. We take care of paintings, objects, textiles, library books, all sorts of things….In particular, as you know, he is interested in science and he’s been active as a donor to our conservation area—in particular to our textile conservation center. He serves, also, on our trustees’ building committee and as you know he is an engineer by training. He’s very interested in the infrastructure of our 21 buildings, all the engineering components, and he’s very helpful.”
On and on the major philanthropic record goes: to his high school, Deerfield Academy; to New York Presbyterian Hospital; to the American Museum of Natural History; to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, and others. Older brother Charles Koch’s donations are just as extensive, many of them to educational institutions. All told, these philanthropic activities far exceed their gifts—substantial as they are—to political, or quasi-political, causes of a libertarian bent.
Yet it’s true, and thank goodness for it, that the Kochs are highly significant and effective boosters of the free market cause. Heck, as I was writing this story, I came across third-party claims that the Kochs even give some money to The American Spectator Foundation, which through The American Spectator magazine provides me with a decidedly small portion of my income. I don’t know how much, if any, their alleged fraction of my fraction amounts to, and I don’t want to know. Nobody even came close to telling me what to write when I embarked on this story.
MAYBE that’s the point. I’ll gladly tell the Left that I’ve been a member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy since 1979. But I was aware of the Koch brothers only in the vaguest sense until a conversation with a then-colleague at the Washington Examiner in 2008. If the Kochs’ contributions are large and effective, their touch is light—and it aims not toward centralized control, but toward freedom.
As Charles Koch noted in a March 1 column in the Wall Street Journal, “Recent studies show that the poorest 10 percent of the population living in countries with the greatest economic freedom have 10 times the per capita income of the poorest citizens in countries with the least economic freedom. In other words, society as a whole benefits from greater economic freedom.”
For the Kochs, then, the political giving is part and parcel of the philanthropic impulse. Via e-mail, David Koch explained his thinking to me, after weeks of my pleading through his aides for a comment:
“Liberty and the free enterprise system create prosperity, and that’s why we’ve advocated for these principles all our lives.”
Methinks Thomas Jefferson himself would dance to celebrate that.
Disclosure: The Charles G. Koch Foundation made a small contribution to The American Spectator Foundation in 2010.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?