The Latest Line of Koch

According to a largely overlooked report in The Washington Post, the “Koch network” is “turning away from partisan politics,” which strikes us as an intriguing development. The story has significant implications for President Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican party, and will surely be of hopeful interest to the Democratic party and the rest of the left, and it has a special local interest for us.
The multi-billionaire and big-bucks political donor to conservative causes Charles Koch has long been a leading villain of the conspiracy theories spun on the left, much as multi-billionaire and big bucks donor to liberal causes George Soros is the bogeyman of all the right’s conspiracy theories, which we’ve always found amusing.
It’s hard for us to believe that the headquarters of the diabolically ingenious organization secretly controlling everything is Koch Industries, which is located right next door to where we attended elementary school on the outskirts boring old Wichita, Kansas, and the company has always been a good neighbor. The local zoo’s award-winning ape exhibit was paid for by the Koch family, you can’t go to the city’s surprisingly excellent art museum or symphony orchestra or musical theater troupe without seeing Koch’s generosity prominently thanked in the program, the Friends University dance department that provides some of the the best of the city’s ballet offerings was started by the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation of his parents, and if you’re lucky to attend a Wichita State University Wheatshockers basketball game they play in the very swank Charles Koch Arena, and the family has funded some charities for the poor as well. Wichita’s still a small enough enough town that we’ve had a couple of personal encounters with the internationally notorious Charles Koch, who lives not far from our parents’ swank retirement home over on the east side, and we’ve found him an affable fellow.
Koch has also spent a considerable chunk of his vast fortune funding anti-tax and pro-free market causes here and around the country and the world, which is why the left hates him so, but for the most part that’s been fine with us. The “tea party” movement that briefly fought for fiscal sanity was a genuine grassroots movements, but there’s no denying it was fertilized a bit by Koch’s money, and although the left recoiled in horror we wish it were still around. We’ve voted for most of the politicians that Koch has funded around here, and rooted for most the of ones he funded in other states and districts, and generally agree with his red-in-tooth-and-claw sort of capitalism. He’s carefully stayed out of the abortion politics and other social issues that are so contentious around here, and we think he’s been wise to do so.
There have been the occasional differences of opinion. Koch was a big backer of Gov.. Sam Brownback’s admittedly radical tax-and-budget-slashing agenda, which we eagerly voted for, but he continued to back it even after we had to begrudgingly admit it hadn’t worked out quite as promised. We’re also the sort of traditional Pax Americana Republicans who can’t agree with Koch’s characteristically Libertarian isolationist foreign policy, although we have to admit that’s one reason the conspiracy theories sound crazy. The one thing that Koch and Soros have agreed on over the years was their opposition to the Iraq War, and we note that despite their combined billions and alleged world-shaking influence they couldn’t stop that from happening.
Which makes it interesting to read in The Washington Post that Koch and his network of well-heeled and like-minded big bucks donors have “emphasized new investments in anti-poverty initiatives and reentry programs for former convicts.” At their annual meeting in a luxury resort the group “also announced a new education initiative.” Unstated but more important, they once again won’t be giving any money to the Trump campaign, much less the big bucks that Republican nominees used to get. Trump’s populist base will no doubt boast that it goes to show he can’t be bought, even by the most ideologically pure capitalist billionaires, but they’ll likely need both the money and the free market sort of voters it brings in.
Koch and his well-heeled buddies presumably like the tax bill Trump signed and the deregulations he’s ordered by executive action, as do we, for the most part, although they probably share our preference they’d been more carefully done. Trump’s military retreats from former spheres of American probably don’t bother them, either, although we think they should. On several other matters, though, Trump is estranged from both Koch’s libertarianism and our old-fashioned conservatism, which leaves the Republican party is in poor shape.
Trump’s trade wars are an affront to Koch’s free-market sensibilities, and although we’re not taking the same financial hit as our multi-national neighbor we share hit outrage. Koch is far more cool with mass immigrants than Trump seems to be, too, and although we don’t enjoy the same benefits of cheap labor neither do we support Trump’s panicked call for big and beautiful border wall. Over the two years Trump worked with Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress the country racked up trillion dollar deficits, despite a booming economy that Trump frequently bragged about, and now that the Democrats have a majority in the House and growth is slowing that doesn’t look to get better, and we can hardly blame Koch and his well-heeled buddies for not wanting to fund more of that.
On the other hand, Trump and his die-hard defenders can rightly note that only likely alternative is the damned Democrats and George Soros and all the socialist conspiracies he’s funding, and we guess that Koch and most of his well-heeled buddies will agree with us that’s also pretty damned frightening. Even so, we’re pleased to see that our far richer and more influential neighbor has joined us here on the political sidelines, and we’ll be grateful if Koch can do for poor people and convicted felons as well as they’ve done for our local arts and sporting and economic  communities, and we’ll try out best to chip in..

— Bud Norman



Our good friends at the invaluable Voice for Liberty in Wichita have reminded us of the New York Times’ ongoing vendetta against the Koch brothers, which depicts the pair of wealthy industrialists, philanthropists, and free-market advocates as something akin to the diabolical billionaire arch-villains found in James Bond movies. That in turn reminded of us an old script we still had tucked away in a drawer.

The following was originally presented as a sketch in the local Society of Professional Journalists’ annual “Gridiron Show,” but we’re still hoping to get the green-light from Hollywood for a bigger-budget version. If you know any big-time agents, feel free to forward it along.

(Scene opens with CHARLES KOCH sitting in a plush leather chair, stroking a cat and looking very diabolical. Suddenly a tuxedo-clad JAMES BOND enters, brandishing his Walther PPK. The Bond movie theme twangs in the background.)

BOND: My name is Bond — James Bond.

KOCH: I’m Koch — Charles Koch.

BOND: Ah-ha! At last I’ve discovered the top secret headquarters of the diabolical organization conspiring to destroy the world.

KOCH: So you have, Mr. Bond.

BOND: I have to admit that Wichita, Kansas, was the last place I thought to look. I mean, you billionaire arch-villain guys usually go in for Alpine castles or Caribbean plantations or big high-tech factories inside of South Pacific volcanoes. Something a little more, you know, exotic.

KOCH: Well, the schools are pretty good, and housing is such a bargain here.

BOND: How’s the climate?

KOCH: Eh, that’s not so great, but we can change that. (Laughs diabolically.)

BOND: Sorry, Koch, but your evil-doing days are over.

KOCH: Evil-doing? Moi?

BOND: Just look at what you’ve done in Wisconsin. You used your dastardly mind control powers to brainwash the state into electing a governor that actually wants to balance the budget, thereby causing an outbreak of hippie drum circles all over the place. Do you have any idea how annoying those are?

KOCH: That’s just the beginning, Mr. Bond, and I’m afraid that you can’t stop me.

(A security team of scantily-clad women appear and knock the gun out of Bond’s hand, throw him in a chair and tie him down.)

BOND: I guess I should have seen that coming.

KOCH: And now, Mr. Bond, I’m going to have my brother, David, come in and explain to you how the Austrian and Chicago schools of economic theory differ on monetary policy.

BOND: Do you expect me to talk?

KOCH: No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die — of boredom!

BOND: You evil bastard.

KOCH: Hey, a billionaire arch-villain has to get his kicks somehow.

BOND: You could find a nice hobby. Yachting, maybe.

KOCH: Yachting? What kind of sissy sport is that?

BOND: OK, then, but you do know that whenever an arch-villain tries to kill me in some convoluted and time-consuming way, instead of just shooting me in the head like a sensible person, he always tells me every detail of his evil scheme before leaving to allow me to escape.

KOCH: Really? Why do they do that?

BOND: I don’t know, but it’s kind of a convention of the genre.

KOCH: Well, all right then. Basically, what we’re doing is funding a few think tanks where scholars study how to apply free market principles to social and economic problems, we’re helping to organize some public advocacy groups that protest out-of-control government spending, and we’re contributing to the campaigns of candidates who support capitalism and individual liberty.

BOND: That’s it?

KOCH: Yeah, pretty much. Oh, and we also donate to Music Theatre of Wichita.

BOND: You evil bastard.

KOCH: And with you out of the way, Mr. Bond, there will be nothing to stop us. Well, except for George Soros, the MacArthur Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Brookings Institute, the SEIU, the AFSCME, the NEA and the AFT, Organizing for America, Hollywood, academia, all the Wall Streeters who want to regulate all their competition out of business, all of the broadcast media except for FOX, and all the newspapers.

BOND: You’re kidding about the newspapers, right?

KOCH: Yeah, I make a little joke. Nobody reads newspapers anymore.

BOND: There’s just one thing I don’t understand, Koch. What’s in it for you? A truly free market might even find an alternative energy source that puts you out of business.

KOCH: Hmm. I’m not real clear on that myself. You’ll have to ask Rachel Maddow. Well, toodle-oo, Mr. Bond.

(KOCH exits. BOND struggles against the ropes.)

BOND: Damn it.

— Bud Norman