2014 is the Year of the Kochs, apparently.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats are working feverishly to cast billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch as the symbols of big money run amok in politics. And several new books are coming out that delve into the lives of the conservative donors and their compatriots.
The first, “Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty,” came out Tuesday. It was written by Daniel Schulman, a senior editor in the Washington bureau of the liberal publication Mother Jones, and centers on the fraught family dynamics that shaped the four Koch brothers.
So far, the Kochs are taking a cautious posture toward the book, which revisits a lot of painful family history.
“We have been aware of Mr. Schulman’s book project since January of 2012 and had minimal participation since that time, mostly involving some fact-checking,” Koch Industries spokesman Robert Tappan said in a statement. “Neither Charles Koch nor David Koch were interviewed for this book. We are in the process of reviewing Mr. Schulman’s book and are reserving judgment at this time.”
From an early copy of the book, here are some interesting tidbits and revelatory details.
“He put them to work milking cows, baling hay, digging ditches, mowing lawns and whatever else he could think of,” Schulman writes. “The never-ending routine of chores was especially torturous during the summer months, when other local kids from Wichita’s upper crust whiled away the afternoons at the country club, the sounds of their delight literally wafting across 13th Street to the Kochs’ property.”
Present at the birth of the John Birch Society, Fred Koch served as one of its national leaders and held chapter meetings in the basement of his family’s Wichita home. His antipathy to socialism was so intense that when an acquaintance visited the family home in the 1960s, Charles Koch asked him to leave on the doorstep a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” that he was carrying. Hemingway was “a communist,” Charles explained to the guest.
“I felt that the good Lord spared my life for a purpose,” he said later. “And since then, I’ve been busy doing all the good works I can think of.”