The Koch Brothers: Drinking Your Milkshake

Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of oil tycoon Daniel Plainview was six years in the future when real-life tycoons, the Koch brothers Charles and David, were found guilty of drinking their milkshake from federal government and Indian reserve lands. To call them “oilmen” is to bring them down somewhat: the Koch (Coke, not Kotch) brothers have business dealings in chemicals, lumber, minerals, ranching, pulp and paper, fertilizers, polymers, finance, investments, and commodity trading, as well as in the refinement and distribution of petroleum products. Among the five wealthiest Americans, the Kochs control America’s second-largest privately-held company. It was Koch brother Bill who issued the charge of stealing against Koch Industries, for which service he was awarded one-third of the 2001 $25 million settlement. Well, as they say, money goes where money is. David and Charles in 1983 had bought out the shares of brothers Bill and Frederick for $1.1 billion, so a windfall probably wasn’t the issue. Other considerations appear to make the Koch family tick as well.

I was reminded of all of this, and good lord so much more than even this, when I read in the news today that another Koch affair was taking place, this time at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, in Southern California’s Coachella Valley. Where to begin. Perhaps with the Greenpeace airship and the mass of protestors arriving to the gates of the event, both of these firsts in the history of Koch hospitality. Although Charles and David have been scheming since the 1970s, trying all this time to find the magic spell that will cast America into a permanent Libertarian coma, their efforts had gone mostly undetected by the public. The failure of their spells was not part of the plan, but the obscurity of their design was.

Then an August 2010 piece written by Jane Meyer for The New Yorker brought the Kochs into plain view. Google “Koch Brothers” or “Koch Industries,” and most if not all of what you’ll find concerning the figures at the centre of this weekend’s Rancho Mirage retreat will be derived from Meyer’s work. What a grand thing it is that these perennial backroom meddlers and astroturf frauds, these dark-crevice system and procedure corrupters who may have played a decisive role in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, are now and for the first time ever precisely what they never wanted to be, but what they justly have become: front page material. I say, let’s raise our glasses to that.

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