The death last week of billionaire industrialist David Koch has been met with a wide range of reactions.
Some liberals celebrate the end of an era in which the most formidable climate-change denier will have ceased being an obstacle to regulatory solutions to curb effects such as the historically unprecedented flooding we've been experiencing locally. Others regret losing the philanthropist who gave $150 million to a cancer center that, incidentally, happens to be where U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg got pancreatic cancer treatment this week.
David Koch himself fought prostate cancer for 27 years, attributing his long-lived survival to superb medical care and stubbornness. Koch's critics note that "GoFundMe" health care for the underclass of American citizens is due to wealth concentration and political meddling that has stood in the way of health care as a humane natural right. (About a third of GoFundMe sites are for medical care.) In addition to hospital gifts, Koch was a benefactor of galleries, museums, and theater.
Known more for political prowess than charity, Koch founded Americans for Prosperity, created the libertarian group The Tea Party out of conservative Republican whole cloth, and fronted campaigns for a small neutralizing group of Democratic conservatives. Rolling Stone called it a toxic empire - the $40 billion David Koch dynasty bankrolling 44,000 2014 GOP campaign ads and spending $290 million on political races. Another source says the decedent's biggest impact was giving America Donald Trump by funding battleground campaigns canvassing 30,000 doorstep visits and 1.5 million phone calls, largely to voters in swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, Koch spent $1.3 million - more than Clinton's entire state campaign. The Koch brothers and their AstroTurf groups spent over $115 million in 2017 to influence voters.
The Koch brothers funded Americans For Prosperity staffers who conveyed talking points to GOP loyalists for use against incumbents, and video recorded their rage to amplify, repeat and reinforce the message of discontent that went viral. This was 2009-2010, when the Tea Party was emerging. AFP bused, fed and housed thousands of citizen lobbyists who went to Washington, D.C., to flood lawmakers against the Affordable Care Act. AFP funded $10 million in often-fraudulent attack ads. Readers surely remember the fraudulent claim that a mosque would be built near Ground Zero of the World Trade Center. Fakery like this wasn't debunked until too late to affect voter decisions.
In 2012, the Koch brothers were instrumental in flipping 63 House seats - including congressional District 2 in Oklahoma, with the election of Markwayne Mullin, who is only the second Republican to have represented Eastern Oklahoma in U.S. Congress. The U.S. House of Representatives thus became a stalwart "no" vote, and obstructed the president America had elected, Barack Obama. If newspapers offered unlimited space, a diatribe on ALEC would go here. Instead, it must be reserved for a future column.
Now there is only David's brother, Charles. Time magazine speculates Charles, without his belligerent brother, will take a moderate tack, partnering on strategic but more moderate issues. Koch's alter ego, Americans for Prosperity, has a closet full of stealth groups and dark donors to further a self-serving version of economic opportunity, free speech, free trade and immigration reform. Regardless of where you sit on the Koch love-hate spectrum, all would agree a giant has fallen.
Kathy Tibbits is a Cherokee citizen, attorney and artist living at Lake Tenkiller.