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David Koch, courtesy DonkeyHotey
David Koch, would-be vice president
How did the Kochs become the Kochs, politically? The New York Times takes a deep look, examining David Koch's first real brush with politics, when he was the vice-presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 1980. Everything the Kochs learned about politics, they learned in that campaign.
“The 1980 campaign was instructive in helping them learn what ideas resonated,” said Robert A. Tappan, a Koch Industries spokesman, “and at the same time, giving them an understanding of the implications of the electoral political process.”
It also taught them that money is everything, and that a completely unfettered campaign spending environment was what they needed.
“The development of a well-financed cadre of sound proponents of the free enterprise philosophy is the most critical need facing us today,” he said, according to a copy of his speech in a Libertarian Party archive at the University of Virginia, one of thousands of documents reviewed by The New York Times for this article. […]

But a Clark presidential campaign needed money and a running mate. The Kochs could provide both. If one of the brothers joined the ticket, he could—thanks to the Buckley loophole—donate as much as he wanted to the campaign, finally giving the ticket enough cash to run ads and seek a ballot spot in all 50 states. David Koch announced his candidacy in August 1979.

The post-Watergate campaign finance law “makes my blood boil,” Mr. Koch wrote in a letter to party members. He had a simple proposal: “As the Vice-presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party I will contribute several hundred thousand dollars to the Presidential campaign committee in order to ensure that our ideas and our Presidential nominee receive as much media exposure as possible.”

Ultimately, the Libertarian Party ticket tanked, getting barely 1 percent of the vote, a far cry from the 3 percent that Koch said would constitute a "moral victory." And that taught the Kochs another important political lesson: if they really wanted to succeed, they couldn't do it with a third party. So they bought themselves the GOP. The success of that project definitely remains in question, but it won't be for a lack of money.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Something tells me William McKinley would have (25+ / 0-)

    LOVED these two. Which tells me everything I need to know about them. They're the kind of people TR used to love to put in their place and of course, he was rolling in money himself.


    by commonmass on Mon May 26, 2014 at 11:07:52 AM PDT

  •  What about their Bircher father? (12+ / 0-)

    Frederick Koch Sr. was a founder of the John Birch Society, long-time home of the lunatic fringe.  He wasn't as directly involved in electoral politics but he taught his boys to hate Americans, and to hate everyone else even more.

  •  They're just going it on the fly, (7+ / 0-)

    by the seat of the pants, like the rest of us. Of course they aren't going to come out of the gate perfect. They have a lot more money, but money actually isn't quite everything in politics. You have to know how to use it, too.

    On this theme, when CU passed, we were all biting our nails through the first election-cycle that followed. Then, "Who-wee! Look at these races where candidates spent this new windfall on their race, and they lost, anyway!! Celebration time, come o-o-on! Pop the champagne!"

    The champagne over electoral disappointments, despite bazzillions spent, might've been premature, I fear. The Kochs were still learning how to use all the new money. Future elections will tell...

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Mon May 26, 2014 at 11:23:13 AM PDT

  •  Campaign finance laws (10+ / 0-)

    might have made David Koch's blood boil 30+ years ago. It's the dismantling of those laws by the Kochs and other wealthy people that makes my blood boil today.

  •  Re (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    foresterbob, nextstep
    He backed the full legalization of abortion and the repeal of laws that criminalized drug use, prostitution and homosexuality. He attacked campaign donation limits and assailed the Republican star Ronald Reagan as a hypocrite who represented “no change whatsoever from Jimmy Carter and the Democrats.”
    Including the first sentence of the NYT story for some extra context.

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Mon May 26, 2014 at 11:26:45 AM PDT

    •  And now, many who describe themselves (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      as libertarian are perfectly okay with allowing the government to regulate the details of our personal lives. For the Kochs, if an alliance with the Let Big Government Invade Everyone's Lives (Except Mine) Club helped them to gain power, so be it.

      •  boosht (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Not a libertarian if they are content with govt regulating personal life choices.

        •  No true Libertarian, huh? (0+ / 0-)

          It's a pretty woolly world view. You can believe what you like with a bit of effort. There are plenty of corporatist Libertarians. They might even say they're against corporations now and again. But they typically believe in a special class of people who deserve special treatment and the rest, the "sheeple". And that is the concept underpinning the formation of corporations, a legal institution to protect the special people from the rabble. When you accept that corporations have inalienable rights, whether or not you'll come out and say that they're equivalent to those of people, you can accept the "religious freedom for corporations" argument.

          The other common strand of (de facto) corporatist libertarianism is to actively dislike corporations and all other forms of power (with an emphasis on democratically elected government-- typically by disparaging the electoral process) and to accept not only the reality they exist but to believe that the only possibility is to exploit the situation as best as you can, as opposed to trying to improve it.

    •  Democrats have more in common with (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jjc2006, JeffW, starduster, TomP

      Their pets than they do the people who ascribe themselves as Koch libertarians or left libertarians.

      Just a misleading load of bs designed to to hide the fact they and people of their ilk are really just selfish, boorish, greedy narcissistic a$$es whose primary one and only concern in life is themselve$ and how to enrich themselves no matter what the cost is to any others in society( especially the least amongst us). They are the antithesis of democracy or the belief of government of, for, and by ALL the people.

      Government of, for, and by the wealthy corporate political ruling class elites. Elizabeth Warren Progressive Wing of political spectrum.

      by emal on Mon May 26, 2014 at 11:58:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  One fallacy (6+ / 0-)

    of the "money is speech" argument is that money lacks one of the key characteristics of speech. Speech is unlimited in abundance for each individual. Money is not. Calling money 'speech' means that a few will inevitably have much more freedom of speech than all the rest. I'm pretty sure that's not what the intent of the 1st Amendment was.

    Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho

    by DocDawg on Mon May 26, 2014 at 11:36:05 AM PDT

    •  Whatever the Intent of th 1st AMendment Was, (0+ / 0-)

      what it actually creates is information and communication warlordism. And it didn't require speech equating to money to do that.

      The 1st amendment more than any other feature of our system is what's bringing it down, in the future I'm sure it in its near prehistoric oversimplification will be seen as among the Constitutional system's fatal flaws.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon May 26, 2014 at 12:47:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Brothers in 1983 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Toprow, foresterbob, JeffW

    In 1983, they made a second attempt to take over the Libertarian party at the 1983 Presidential nominating convention.  They failed, walked out, and because that door was closed to them went elsewhere.

    Yes, 1983.  That choice of year for the nominating convention meant that the nominee's name was known before ballot access petitioning started.

    Restore the Fourth! Save America!

    by phillies on Mon May 26, 2014 at 11:49:11 AM PDT

  •  Not subject to political interpretation (0+ / 0-)

    The Kochs have a good chunk of libertarianism in them, but they also have a large amount of avarice, in both power and things.
    There has been a big push to redefine what is libertarian and what can be not doctrinaire libertarian but still try to fall under the libertarian canopy.

    The Kochs are on the edge of this, they could be nudge in or out of the libertarian tent, so they aren't all evil, but they are not directly driven either by clean ideological libertarianism either.

    I haven't thoroughly vilified them in my book yet, because they flirt close enough to the clean way.

    Of course to progressive liberals they would be evil incarnate, as is probably libertarianism itself.

  •  Something Important Is Missing Because (0+ / 0-)

    Reagan was foisted onto the Republican party certainly by rightwing revolutionaries. If the Kochs were late to the party, it doesn't mean there wasn't a party.

    The larger movement was in gear in the late 60's, and the evangelicals had to have been mobilized before Reagan's 1976 attempt because they were an element of his coalition.

    It's definitely not all Koch.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon May 26, 2014 at 12:45:27 PM PDT

  •  The rich rule (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It doesn't matter which party we're talking about here.  The rich rule politics in America.  It's not anything to's just a fact.  Citizens United has done nothing but increase this and union participation in the political arena has gone up exponentially....and even though these aren't necessarily a single "rich" person...they ARE rich in resources.  

    I have been an advocate of publicly funded elections in America for eons.  That would take the graft and corruption and cronyism out of the election process.  But, because BOTH sides of the aisle rely on heavy monetary involvement by "rich" elements...that's just not something that would EVER pass in either houses of congress.  

  •  the seeds of the Koch political empire started (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in Russia in the 40's when their dad made a fortune selling war material to the Russians. Afterwards he helped start the John Birch Society, he must not have liked the communists that made him rich.

  •  Fact That They Are Not Exactly Self-Made Men (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    emal, foresterbob

    do not give them much cred in preaching up from your bootstraps economic philosophy. Democrats need to keep up their campaign against them because many Americans don't know who they are. GOP as party of the rich becomes more apparent once people know what the Koch brothers are about.

  •  Koch Brothers Chemical Properties (0+ / 0-)

    KO2CH = Potassium Formate. May cause irritation of respiratory tract. May cause allergic skin reaction. Avoid contact with eyes. Harmful if swallowed, especially hook, line, and sinker. If allowed to dump in waterways, will cause H2 woes. http://www.BestPuns.Com

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