— Theodore Roosevelt.
Charles Koch lives in a world of wealth and privilege you cannot imagine. His every desire is fulfilled instantly by the fawning personal staff that surrounds him.
His fortune is inherited, so it has always been thus for Charles, whose net worth exceeds $40 billion.
It would be impossible for Charles to spend all his money even if he succeeds in purchasing our political system, a goal made more attainable after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority dutifully paved the way for him by striking down limits on political campaign giving.
Yet, at an age when many wealthy people seek to benefit America’s greater good when they’re gone, 78-year-old Charles is another embittered conservative billionaire who feels America has let him down.
“I have devoted most of my life to understanding the principles that enable people to improve their lives,” Charles wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece last week. “It is those principles … that have shaped my life, my family, our company and America itself.”
Revealing isn’t it? His very first word is “I.” America comes last.
“Unfortunately,” continues Charles, “the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation’s own government. ... It was only in the past decade that I realized the need to … engage in the political process.”
Charles presents no examples but I would love to know how the “nation’s own government” has robbed him or anyone else of their “dignity” or “personal freedom.”
His engagement with politics happens to coincide with the rise of authentic American democratic principles, the ones that put President Obama in office after eight ruinous years of Koch-supported conservative rule that begat a disastrous economic recession.
I’ll give Charles this: He puts his money where his mouth is. He spent $122 million in 2012 trying to defeat Obama.
Just free me from taxation and regulation, whines Charles, and all will be well with you hoi polloi; the conservative trickle-down myth — again.
“Big government and collectivism,” he goes on, sounding like Sean Hannity’s cranky grandpa. “Health care debacle … character assassination … Saul Alinsky … despots …” Yada, yada, yada.
Evidently vast wealth buys no originality.
Until they were smoked out by watchdog groups, Charles and his brother David attempted to anonymously manipulate the American political system through front groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, two of the many propaganda outfits they fund to promote their agenda with help from tea party dupes and the right wing media.
And if you know what Charles’ agenda is, you’ll understand why he’d prefer to stay hidden. It is dangerously undemocratic, one in which Koch and his fellow one per centers are the ruling aristocracy.
Everyone else eats cake.
“(The) Koch brothers seek broad ideological change,” noted the New York Times, “knowing that reducing the overall power of government will give their widely scattered industries more freedom and higher profits, unburdened by pesky environmental and financial regulations.”
Charles has good reason to abhor regulators. His company is one of the biggest polluters in America, annually discharging 200,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, which explains why he spent $50 million pushing global warming denial.
Meantime, he paid the EPA a $1.7 million fine and promised another $500 million to repair the environmental damage his companies caused in seven states.
“The political network spearheaded by (the Kochs) has expanded into a far-reaching operation of unrivaled complexity,” reported the Washington Post.
“There’s no one else who has spent this much money,” adds Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity. “(The Kochs have) a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. … They are the Standard Oil of our times.”
Kevin Foley is an author, writer and public relations executive who lives in Kennesaw.