David Koch, of Koch Industries, resisted resigning despite his declining health, according to sources close to the family, but his brother Charles forced him out.
Photograph by Krista Schlueter / The New York Times / Redux
An arch-conservative political machine will be down one billionaire but have more clout than ever.
By Jane Mayer June 7, 2018
The retirement of David Koch from Koch Industries will make it easier to see more clearly what has been true from the start: Charles and David Koch, who came to be known as “the Koch brothers,” were equals in bloodlines and in wealth, but Charles has always been the brains behind the brothers’ vast corporate and political operations. Those who know the brothers well predict that David’s retirement will have scant impact, particularly in the political realm, where the Kochs exert enormous influence.
For the past four decades they have tapped their vast fortune from a hundred-and-fifteen-billion-dollar-a-year family business, Koch Industries, to finance a private political machine whose reach and size have been described as rivalling that of the Republican Party. By lavishly underwriting candidates, policy organizations, and advocacy groups—often through untraceable donations—they have pulled American politics toward their own arch-conservative, pro-business, anti-tax, and anti-regulatory agenda, particularly in the environmental area. Although David Koch is also stepping down from his role as chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the foundation wing of the Kochs’ main political-advocacy group, their influence isn’t likely to wane anytime soon.
David Koch, who is seventy-eight and the wealthiest resident of Manhattan, is more socially prominent than his older brother. He is often chronicled on the social pages, having donated by his own estimate $1.2 billion to philanthropic causes, including many of New York City’s cultural, medical, and educational institutions, several of which bear his name. In contrast, Charles Koch, an eighty-two-year-old libertarian ideologue who continues to live in the brothers’ home town of Wichita, Kansas, has largely stayed outside of the limelight. But those familiar with the brothers suggest that although Charles is less well-known, he, not David, has long been the driving force behind both the phenomenal growth at Koch Industries and the duo’s ambitious political ventures.