Fred Koch was born in 1900 in Quanah Texas. His parents were Dutch immigrants. After attending Rice University and MIT and graduating with a degree in Chemical Engineering Practice, he started working for Texas Company, and then became chief engineer with Medway Oil and Storage in Kent, England. He moved to Wichita, Kansas, where he joined an engineering firm, later becoming a principle.
He developed a new method for turning crude oil into gasoline. After a series of lawsuits (which he won), he was broke. Thus he went to work in the Soviet Union setting up oil refineries. He also built refineries in Europe. Notably, he built the third largest refinery for the Third Reich, project personally approved by Adolf Hitler.
After the war, Fred returned to Wichita and created Koch industries, which he turned over to Charles Koch in 1966.
In 1958, Fred became a founding member of the John Birch Society, and also worked to make Kansas a Right to Work state. These two items are important to recognize in the thought processes of the to favorite sons, Charles and David.
One of the tenets of the John Birch Society is that “Their (liberal conspirators against the United States) tactics include bribing the people with their own money, employing the use of force, deception and fear, and using every other trick they can think of to acquire total government power over the lives and well-being of the American people….Totalitarian government was to be established in this nation, claimed Robert Welch, not as a result of lightning quick leaps, but through a campaign of patient gradualism designed to persuade a once-free people to vote themselves into tyranny and their nation into an all-powerful world government. The goal of the conspirators has always called for the eventual merger of all peoples and all nations into a diabolically conceived “new world order.” source: own Birch Blue Book This group opposed such things as membership in the United Nations. Sound familiar?
It is important to note that this was their basis for opposing any transfer payments to the poor, through anti-poverty programs, social security, medicare/medicaid, etc. Some was a reaction to the New Deal put forward by FDR. It was all based on a conspiracy theory that there were “insiders” in the seats of power. These programs were, they claimed, instituted to obtain control over all the people, strip them of their freedom by making them dependent on the government, and result in a totalitarian world order.
By the 60’s, the John Birch Society had between 60,000-100,000 members and had been condemned by both William F. Buckley Jr, and Barry Goldwater as a fringe group “removed from common sense.” However, their tenets remained with David and Charles Koch. The John Birch Society was a co-sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference.
David and Charles Koch remained active in politics. In 1980, he ran as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Libertarian party, thinking that their party could be molded into his views. When that ticket failed to catch on, the brothers began working with the power structure in the Republican party. They provided significant funding to a number of right wing think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation. They sponsored political donor meetings at high end resorts, such as the Freedom Partners seminars. They provided much of the funding for PACs, like American Crossroads. In addition, they recruited other business moguls to join their efforts. They also supported a number of political candidates, from the school board races in Douglas County, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, to commissioners, to state legislatures, to national offices. Among their favored political figures are Scott Walker, Mike Pence, Sam Brownbeck, Snyder, Rauner, and at one time, Kasich. Newt Gingrich was one of their golden boys until his resignation. More interesting is that they also blocked or blackballed potential candidates who would not support their agenda. They also invested in Chris Jankowski’s REDMAP, to take over state legislators in time for the post 2010 redistricting. They also developed a significant voter database that they would share with their selected candidates that could target communities and even individuals with pleas that appealed to specific voters. The information in that database is coincidentally similar to information known to be in the Cambridge Analytica database that was used by the Trump campaign after Trump won the primaries.
When the Soviet Union fell in 1991 after Desert Storm and Boris Yeltsin replaced Mikhail Gorbachev as President, the Kochs decided that with that event the Soviet Union was no longer Communist and they could do business with the new administration. In 1996, Yeltsin was reelected democratically as the head of what was now Russia, and commenced on democratic reforms. His administration was a disaster. Under his watch, many former KGB agents looted the Russian economy and cornered the assets. By 1999, Yeltsin was extremely unpopular and unwell. He resigned and personally appointed Vladimir Putin as his successor. Putin, over a short time, took control of all of the Russian assets, or gave them to his oligarch friends. One of those assets was the fossil fuel industry. Both Exxon and the Kochs began discussions of worldwide control of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels became their shared interest.
The Koch brothers, through the think tanks they support and through donations, have continued to work on down ticket issues and races. We have seen legislation in many states that restricts or makes more expensive any investment by the state or individuals in fossil fuels. We have seen the whole Koch agenda enacted in Kansas and significant parts of it in Michigan and Wisconsin, and select issues in Colorado, Arizona, Florida, and Illinois. At all levels of government from county commissioner and school board up to US Congress, candidates are beholden to Koch donations and support. The Republican Party is, to a large extent, a reflection of the Koch Brothers. However, not entirely, as I investigate in my next article, The Evangelicals.
I have seen so many pundits on both the right and the left calling on the Republican congresspersons to put country before party. In fact, there is a fine article about it here. I can understand those on the left saying that. But those on the right should know, the phrase country before party makes no sense to Republicans. To them, country and party are one. What is good for the country is good for the party, and what is good for the party is good for the country.
We talk about the Republicans who put country ahead of party during the Watergate hearings. But that was a different generation. After World War II, regardless of the friction between Republicans and Democrats, we were fairly well united as a country. During the war, Republicans and Democrats fought side by side, and the German bullets and Japanese kamikaze pilots did not ask for party affiliation before killing or maiming. The person who saved your butt didn’t either. Many of those congresspersons had served in some capacity in WWII.
There are no more WWII veterans in Congress. There is little understanding of what it means to fight for the survival of your country. And much has changed. I don’t think it began with Ronald Reagan. I am not sure it began with Richard Nixon. It might have begun with Barry Goldwater. (Certainly the purging of the moderates began then, as Prescott Bush pushed out Nelson Rockefeller in favor of Goldwater using the Rockefeller divorce as an excuse.) But I know as I was becoming an activist in the Republican Party during and after college, I was hearing an odd refrain. It was odd to me, because my parents, Republican activists, would have never have said it or even thought it. But here it was, “The Republican Party represents the true America.” They were in the business of delegitimizing any ideas but those offered by the party.
I have told before of a conversation I had with the county chairwoman in the 90s. She said, “You always vote for the person with an R beside his name. Always.” I said to her, “but what if that person is a Hitler type person?” Not that I thought that could happen in America, but it would, in my mind, justify voting other than R. She said, “The party knows what it is doing. They would weed out any Hitler. You have to trust the wisdom of the party.” (I should state, this conversation occurred shortly after I expressed concern that we were more concerned with fundraising from corporate donors than ordinary people, but I digress.)
After that conversation, I began noticing things in campaign speeches and ordinary conversation. Things that marginalized non-republican ideas. Things like, “They don’t really belong here.” Or, “They just don’t understand these things.” (Implying an intellectual or a moral superiority.) I started hearing about “The Real America,” which we heard ad infinitum a decade later from the beloved half term governor from Alaska. The Real America. Rural America, Southern States America, Factory America, Gun slinging America. And, interesting enough, Corporate America, who are as removed from the other Real Americas as I can imagine being. Real America was not the city people, even though they now outnumbered the Real America. Nor our vibrant minority communities who were rapidly becoming the economic engines.
I also found it jarring that the policies put forth for Real America didn’t benefit Rural America, Southern States America, or Factory America. Their policies were real hard on them. Sure, they had farm bills, but those only seemed to benefit corporate farms, not the hard working family farmer. And how could gutting the unions benefit Factory America? It couldn’t. It was merely a lip service, a ploy, an appeal to the emotions without passing through the brain. We all know what they were offering Southern States America. The only Real America that their policies helped were Corporate America.
But here it was. The Republican Party was equated to The Real America. It was the country. Everybody else is either an interloper or an agitator or not very bright. Party and country were one. You can’t ask people to put party before country if, in their minds, they are the same thing. The Republican Congresspersons will think they are putting country first, because to them, the party is the country. We are so screwed!
Continuing my hiatus on writing about corporate feudalism (research is hard), I write this to prepare you for what the Republican Party will do when the members are returning from their break. Those congresspersons who received heavy pushback from their constituents will be given permission to decry what is happening in the Trump administration, and to vote against bills when their votes aren’t needed to pass the Republican agenda. We must not allow them to get away with this. Trump is now the Republican standard bearer. If these congresspersons truly disapprove of the Republican agenda, they must repudiate being a republican. Otherwise, they own it.
As I have said before, I used to be an active Republican. I came by it honestly. My parents were active Republicans. I was in the mold of the Rockefeller Republicans. We were pro choice, pro women rights, pro civil rights, but we were Republicans. I served as treasurer of Republican Women in three states and worked on numerous campaigns. As the party became more anti choice, I was looked at funny, but they claimed they were a big tent, so I stayed. As the party became more anti women, it got more uncomfortable, but I hoped to move the party more to center, so I stayed. As the party got more evangelical christian, I was uneasy on behalf of my Jewish friends, but I stayed.
These views I held were not looked on kindly, however, and I found myself being edged out. We had arguments and long discussions. My own experiences were beginning to create conflicts with my party affiliation as well. I became a speaker for Planned Parenthood, and found myself talking with battered women. I volunteered for a program that helped K-6 homeless children. I learned about domestic violence, and I learned about what it was to be poor. I learned how people wound up homeless. I learned what the lives of homeless children were like. I found this knew knowledge contrasted with the slogans I had heard from the party. I tried to speak to my state legislators about the issue, and found no compassion or interest in helping.
At the time, I considered myself a strong Christian. But the more I read my Bible, the less I could reconcile the positions of the party with what I was reading. I read that taking care of the homeless was our responsibility. I read that feeding the hungry was our responsibility. I read that our job was to heal the sick. Since I had no talent in healing, it was my job to make sure the sick could access those with that talent. I pointed out these things to my Republican associates, but they always had an “answer.” It was interesting, the answer always began with “Yeah, but ….” I found that to be a Republican was to live by the Yeahbut.
Then Tancredo and Musgrave started saying horrible things about gays, and wanting to essentially persecute them. I had good friends who were gay. I knew these things were false. These things were horrid lies. There was no yeahbut that would work. I spoke up against these lies and implored my fellow Republicans to stop. One of my associates said to me, “I know you have been a Republican all your life. But if you are going to be a Republican now, this is our platform and you have to endorse it. Our standard bearers endorse it and you have to support them.” She was right. If I retained the title Republican, that meant I endorsed what they stand for, and I had to own it. It defined me. I could not endorse it. I refused to own it. It would not define me. I changed parties.
It was amazing how much easier it became once I left that party. I no longer had to twist myself into an intellectual pretzel. I no longer had to live on a diet of yeahbuts. I could look myself in the mirror.
Today, the party stands for a number of things I could never endorse. Their standard bearer is Donald Trump, and the rest of the establishment support him. If one is to be a Republican today, one is endorsing and supporting Trump and all he and the party stand for. Not just in the platform, but in their words and deeds since January 20. They endorse it. They own it. Because it reflects their value system, it defines them.
So what is it that they endorse? What do they own? What defines them?
- The Republicans call themselves the party of patriotism. Yet there is the distinct smell of Russian interference in our elections, where our President might be compromised, and our nation is at risk of becoming a Russian puppet government. The Republican congress killed a letter of inquiry into that connection. As a Republican, you don’t want to ensure that our election was fair, honest and open as long as your party wound up with maximum power. Foreign interference, from an adversary no less, is acceptable. Now Trump accuses, with no attribution, the former President of the U.S. of spying on him during the election. Trump is the Republican standard bearer. This is the Republican position. If you remain a Republican, you endorse it. You own it. It defines you.
- Republicans call themselves a Christian party. Jesus said to heal the sick. Republicans claim to support access to health care for all, but oppose coverage. Access means it is there, but not necessarily affordable. In many cases, a person has to choose between life saving medications (i.e. insulin) and eating. They may be allowed to get the medications, but they can’t afford them. In other words, choose the way you will die, just get on with it. This is not affordable health care, and it will kick some 30 million people off of any coverage. It will also make health care incredibly hard to afford for many millions more. Seniors will be especially hard hit. People will get sick, and people will die. However, it will mean inflated profits for health insurance companies, allowing them some of the highest profit margins on the planet. The new Republican health care plan not only kicks 20 million people off insurance roles currently covered by ACA, it also allows companies to stop providing health care to their employees. This amounts to around 30 million FAMILIES losing their health care. At an average of 2 children per family, this means 120 million more without health care. This is the Republican position. If you remain a Republican, you endorse it. You own it. It defines you.
- The Republicans call themselves to be the party of open doors. Donald Trump wants to ban Muslims from our country. He wants to deport millions of undocumented people, many of whom came here as children. He is deporting an Afghanistan veteran who served two tours of duty. Imagine a U.S. military trained soldier in another country and mad at the U.S. He says this is a Christian nation. He isn’t particularly happy with the words of Jesus, “For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in … Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” He is prepared to rip families apart, remove people from their jobs, destroy communities to fulfill his wish. His travel ban had people stuck in airports for days with no direct access to their families or legal help. He is willing to leave refugees suffering as they flee oppression. He is willing to remove people who grew up in this country to places they have never seen (it is also likely they are actually deporting U.S. citizens under the pretense that they look undocumented). The only crime committed by Dreamers is that they stayed with their parents who were seeking a better life for their children. He has enabled the harassment of Muslims and the vandalism of mosques. He has enabled the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and terrorizing of Jewish centers. He has enabled the bullying of Latino U.S. citizens. This is now the Republican position. If you remain a Republican, you endorse it. You own it. It defines you.
- Republicans call themselves the family values party. This is the party that wants to obliterate Planned Parenthood and all the health care services it offers to low income men and women (no, not just women). It is the party that wants an employer to have a say in whether a woman takes birth control. It is the party that demands that every egg be fertilized, but would deny pre natal coverage, coverage for a hospital birth, post natal coverage, assistance in paying for feeding or caring for the child, and should the mother not live up to their standards of raising the child, would jail the mother. This is the party trying to redefine rape to its narrowest possible definition, letting rapists off the hook so as not to “ruin the lives of fine young men.” This is the party whose standard bearer boasts about groping women, walking into dressing rooms of naked adolescent women, insulting women’s appearance, has been accused of physical abuse, and has walked through 3 marriages, two ending because of his infidelity. Rape, groping, domestic violence, insults and demeaning of women is not only ok, it is encouraged. This is now the Republican position. If you remain a Republican, you endorse it. You own it. It defines you.
- There are many other contradictions between how the Republican Party labels itself and the policies they support. But there are also many other positions they take that are harmful to Americans. Betsy DeVos’s education office is mandating that states accept vouchers and relax accountability in the quality of the education provided. While this would divert funds from public schools to private, it will not make them more accessible to the people. Rather, it will raise the rates charged by private providers (demand/supply) while not ensuring that the students are receiving the education they are paying for. At the same time, it will divert funds away from public schools, eroding the quality of education they are able to provide. Special needs students will be especially hard hit, as the private institutions will not be required to accommodate them, but the public schools will not be able to afford quality services. On a different subject, both members of Congress and the president have voiced support to violating or ignoring provisions of our treaties. There are too many treaties to name here (you can find lists of those treaties here and here.) These include both international treaties and treaties within our borders with Native American ties. The international treaties at risk include trade agreements, agreements for mutual support, treaties protecting the environment, and (can you believe it?) the Geneva convention. The number of treaties threatened with Native American tribes is in the hundreds, and all are RIGHT NOW being violated by U.S. corporations and the U.S. government. In addition, members of congress and the President have indicated a predilection to defaulting on U.S. debt. A default on this debt not only affects foreign investors, but every person who holds a U. S. savings bond. The violation of treaties and default on U.S. debt reduces the word and honor of the United States to zero. The Republican members of Congress and their standard bearer support these actions. This is now the Republican position. If you remain a Republican, you endorse it. You own it. It defines you.
All this and more is what it now means to be a Republican. You cannot bring the party back. You cannot urge its members away from it. It is the substance of who they are and what they believe. This is now the Republican position. If you remain a Republican, you endorse it. You own it. It defines you. And when the next elections come up, we will remind the voters of that.