The Other Koch Brother

In the shadow of his brothers' Tea Party fame, Bill Koch seems almost like a normal billionaire.

After their father died, in 1967, Charles took over the family business, and the strain between him and Bill increased. Bill came to work for Koch Industries as a consultant in the early '70s, but Charles wasn't happy with his job performance. "He never seemed to get any self-respect out of what he was doing, and always wanted to be doing something else," Charles told the Times. (Through a spokesperson, Charles and David Koch declined to be interviewed for this article.)

Bill was angry that company money was spent on his brothers' political causes. "Why should I donate all my money to the Libertarian Party?" he said. "Pretty soon we would get the reputation that the company and the Kochs were crazy."

But under Charles Koch's leadership, Koch Industries became the second-largest privately held company in America. In addition to its oil refineries, it owns Brawny paper towels, Lycra, and Georgia-Pacific lumber.

PRNewsFoto/Palm Beach High School Foundation, Kim Sargent; © Sargent Photography
Bill Koch celebrates the America’s Cup victory in San Diego.
Portofsandiego.org
Bill Koch celebrates the America’s Cup victory in San Diego.

In 1979, the Koch brothers celebrated their last Christmas together. The next year, Bill tried unsuccessfully to seize control of the board of Koch Industries. An epic legal battle followed. Bill sued Charles and David for corporate mismanagement. They fired back with a libel suit. In 1983, Bill and Frederick Koch sold their shares of the company to Charles and David, and Bill walked away with $470 million. But two years later, after his bankers crunched the numbers, Bill decided he'd gotten a raw deal. He sued again, demanding more money. For nearly two decades, his lawsuits against his brothers piled up. Things got ugly. At one point, Bill subpoenaed his elderly mother to testify a few months after she had a stroke. He also filed a whistle-blower suit accusing Koch Industries of stealing crude oil from Native American lands; it would drag on for years.

Bill stopped speaking to Charles and David. "I don't want to see my brothers in jail," Bill told Fortune in 1997. "But I'm at war."

Through all these spats and scandals, Bill Koch's more prosperous brothers retained a low public profile. Unless they were suing one another, the press had little interest in the oil, coal, and gas barons from Kansas.

Until last August. As the Tea Party movement gained steam, gearing up to send a wave of right-wing, anti-government candidates to Congress, a few muckraking reporters finally noticed the Kochs. The New Yorker published a scathing exposé calling Charles and David "the billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama." They founded the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which educates and trains Tea Party activists. In Washington, D.C., their support of conservative causes is so widespread that their web of influence is known as the "Kochtopus."

Charles and David Koch were vilified by Democrats as the Big Oil moneybags behind the Tea Party. By contrast, Bill Koch's business and political activities seemed tame.

When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, Bill Koch bundled at least $100,000 in campaign contributions for John McCain, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Since last year, with Republicans preparing for big wins in Congress, Koch has personally given at least $165,400 to GOP candidates throughout the country. The largest chunks of cash—$126,200—went to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee. Koch is now on the Florida fundraising team for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

"He does not agree with the president's economic policies," Goldstein says of his boss. "This administration has made it extremely difficult for businesses to operate."

Specifically, Koch doesn't appreciate the way Obama officials treat coal mining, and calls the Environmental Protection Agency "hyper-aggressive."

"It's far easier to get permits to mine for natural resources outside the United States than inside," Goldstein says. Not surprisingly, Goldstein adds, "He thinks Mitt Romney would be much more pro-business than Barack Obama."

Men arrived at the Four Seasons hotel in Palm Beach wearing tuxedos, the women in long, shimmering dresses. This was not just another corporate Christmas party. Plates were piled high with filet mignon, and at least 200 guests gleefully descended on an open bar. "This was hands-down the greatest company event that I've ever been to in my life," recalls employee Ron Brosh. "You thought you'd won an award."

It was the late '90s, and Bill Koch's company could afford to lavish such extravagance on its employees. In 1983, he used the initial millions he got from selling his shares of Koch Industries to start his own energy company, Oxbow Corp. He founded the company in Massachusetts, but after battling the state over taxes on a stock purchase, he got fed up and moved Oxbow to West Palm Beach in 1989. Oxbow, like individuals and many other large corporations in Florida, does not have to pay state income taxes. "That's the reason I came here—it's tax-friendly," he told the St. Petersburg Times in 2003.

Initially, Oxbow made its mark as a more environmentally friendly energy company than Koch Industries. Oxbow built and financed geothermal power plants in the U.S., Costa Rica, and the Philippines in the '90s, when the federal government was providing subsidies for green power.

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20 comments
tcatjohnson
tcatjohnson

Sounds like all three Koch brothers need a visit from the Red Brigades. 

tcatjohnson
tcatjohnson

Sounds like pretty much the same flavor of asshole to me...

Rich
Rich

"he's not his brother's keeper" says his spokesman. pretty much sums up the koch brothers' philosophy of life.

Rhonda Mike
Rhonda Mike

I personally do not think it told of the bad things they all do, but they all DO have good points too.... I seem to like the "black sheep" of the family Bill best..(perhaps I can relate) They are an interesting family..... I pray that their eyes will be opened and see the need to pay tax ......Everyone needs health care... everyone needs a job that pays enough to go back and forth. The unions are needed, as they help to make things better for employees etc....We do need free schools and colleges for ALL who chose to go...

Emilio Lizardo
Emilio Lizardo

You want to know how 400 families own as much of American assets as the poorest 150 million Americans, they manipulated the government to help transfer that wealth.

The direct consequence is that overall demand has dropped through the floor. We've just recreated the great depression.

LadyKisha
LadyKisha

I just paíd $20.87 for an íPad 2.64GB and my girl-friend loves her Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, BidsBit.com

keiraKnightly
keiraKnightly

I just paíd $20.87 for an íPad 2.64GB and my girl-friend loves her Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, BidsBit.com

Tommy Tank
Tommy Tank

Perhaps the reporter might have contacted some of the actual people who opposed the sweetheart land deal, that would close public access and which was specifically kept public to provide such.

Or looked into the lies and slander being published in ads weekly by an astroturf group run out of a Denver law firm?

One-sided fluff piece. Disappointing

Barack
Barack

"know that your most worthy of efforts will be scorned by your peers for it is they who suffer when you excel. Should your actions and ambitions threaten them not, you are simply striving towards the insignificant."

We are all born into this world and must make tough decisions. I think protesting Sci-Fi wind farms off the coast of Mass. is a good protest. Too often we here of these grand ideas to save the planet. I would like to track how much the public will pay for these fans and how much the government will receive as their kick back. Fans off the coast of Mass. saving the planet is like building a sling shot on the coast of California to fly people to China without burning fuel. What a joke.

And how many people die every year in Massachusetts building Large Fans? I hope no more than two. This just in: Digging for coal is dangerous. It's not for everyone. Maybe we should stop using coal as a society for a year and see how many lives are saved. From my understanding, coal miners continue showing up for work every morning knowing what the dangers are.

Why do media outlets and activists want to make the public feel as though they are victims and Billionaire's responsible for a sliver of American independence from foreign energy suppliers are the villains? I'm lost. The facts are in and our neighbors to the South are prospering because of the tax cuts given to big businesses choosing to relocate and this is how we speak of the ones trying to keep their business here in our Country? So strange.

jenniferLy
jenniferLy

I just paíd $20.87 for an íPad 2.64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.Here is the website we use to get it all from : http://BidsBit.com

orwellsworstnightmare
orwellsworstnightmare

He is much less offensive than his brothers, David H. and Charles T. Koch. Compared to them, he is almost a class act. He is, however, still a Koch.

Nancy Bulger
Nancy Bulger

It's unfortunate that Bill Koch had a difficult childhood. Many of us would also like to discuss ours, but moreso, we are trying to live well now, and not at the expense of polluters who would sacrifice our best interest to their fortune. Cape Wind is not the toy protest of Bill Koch, nor should their spokesman or the goal of their renewable energy project receive any less credit than Bill's donations to various causes, which in no way make up for the deaths by coal emissions that his huge industry causes. Bill should turn his various donations and do-good philanthopy into investment in technologies like offshore wind. This would be a great way to make up for a past. Maybe all his ex-wives and girlfriends would like him better too.

Zero Emissions
Zero Emissions

Why doesn't Bill Koch fund some pump out stations in every Nantucket Sound port to stop the raw sewerage from ferry boats and recreational boaters from fouling it? There are 3 million ferry passengers using the Sound yearly and 5 million private boaters. I live on Nantucket Island and think about pollution every time I jump in the water. Yuk! Wind turbines are pollution free and don't use water or any fossil fuels during operation. Just think of all the fish larve that are killed every year at the Mirant Power Station on the Cape Cod Canal by the plant's cooling system. Cape Wind is going to happen: it is just a question of time. No power plant in our nation's history has ever been more closely reviewed. The stack of paper is literally about 9 feet tall! I can't wait to sail amongst those graceful giants on a boat and marvel at them.

Clean Air Lover
Clean Air Lover

Koch has donated far more than the 1.5 million to the opposition group to Cape Wind reported in this article and he used his dirty energy company, Oxbow, to funnel nearly one million in lobbying expenses against Cape Wind, he also directly pays the salary of the opposition group's CEO according to their Form 990 filed with the IRS.

tomdurk
tomdurk

So is it good that he is not quite as slimy as his brothers? It is good that his astroturf party is not the Tea Party. But a 42,000 foot house? Taking 18,999 acres of federal property for a private ranch? He also inherited billions, continues to pollute in his oil & coke industries (with huge externalities), and has thrown significant money into starting a highly litigious astroturf group (The Alliance to Protect Our View) fighting against Cape Wind.

Womanphoenix
Womanphoenix

"One-sided fluff piece"? You must think that domestic-abuse allegations (or dumping renewables for coal) reflect well on a man.

Palin
Palin

Sorry, dude, but Cape Wind's going to do just.fine: http://www.renewableenergyworl...

In fact, the only thing its well-heeled NIMBY foes can say about it now is that it won't be the first US offshore wind project -- that honor may well go to a Texas project that is being pushed to completion, spurred on by Cape Wind's success over the billionaire oil trustafarians and old-money dynasties that opposed it.

Emilio Lizardo
Emilio Lizardo

Domestic abuse allegations are a staple of divorce. In this case worth 16 mil. 70% of domestic abuse is initiated by the woman. And it's mom that's most likely to harm the kids. DV is a scam issue.

Yea, it's a fluff piece, but hey, it's the 'Voice'.

 
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