By Heather Smith on 29 Jan 201
How did the Koch brothers — Charles and David Koch, who are, respectively, the sixth and seventh wealthiest people in the world — become the Koch brothers, founders and funders of a vast right-wing message machine? Why aren’t they buying their own islands or hanging out at the Kentucky Derby, instead of pressuring politicians to vote against carbon taxes and spending ever-increasing amounts of money on local and national elections?
Born into another era, or another culture, the Kochs would have been eccentric cranks, operating out at the fringes of political theory. Instead, they’re the leaders of a political machine that has over three times the employees and more funding than the Republican Party. They spent an estimated $122 million in the 2012 election, and $290 million more in 2014; they’ve earmarked $889 million for the upcoming presidential race. How has America come to produce these billionaires, instead of the kind who start by oppressing people but then build a bunch of libraries?
If you want to answer these questions, you won’t find a better starting place than Dark Money, a new history of the Kochs by Jane Mayer, an investigative reporter at the New Yorker. The reviews have understandably focused on the most indelible details Mayer has unearthed from the Koch past — particularly the stern German nanny with a policy of mandatory enemas for those children who didn’t master her toilet-training regimen. (The nanny quit in 1940, when Charles was 5, to return to Europe and help celebrate the Nazi conquest of France.)
They’ve also focused on Mayer’s discovery, after she published an article about the Kochs in the New Yorker, that the Kochs hired a group of “half a dozen or so” investigators to attempt to discredit her and her reporting. “Dirt, dirt, dirt” a source tells her. “If they couldn’t find it, they’d create it.”