Chemical engineer, philanthropist, and GOP mega donor David Koch passed away this week at age 79. He had been suffering from prostate cancer since 1992.
“It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of my brother David,” said his older brother Charles. “Anyone who worked with David surely experienced his giant personality and passion for life.”
David is survived by his brothers Charles, William, and Frederick, his wife Julia, and his three children. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, David was the seventh-richest person in the world with a net worth of $59 billion.
David Koch earned his master’s degree in chemical engineering at MIT before joining his family’s oil-refining business in 1970.
Following the death of their father, Charles and David took their other two brothers to court for control of the company and won. Together, they transformed Koch Industries into an industrial behemoth with interests ranging from oil pipelines to home goods like paper towels.
David utilized his fortune for philanthropy, donating more than $1 billion to educational institutions, medical centers, arts and cultural institutions, and public-policy organizations. He contributed $134 million to MIT for cancer research there.
The political network he built with Charles includes more than 700 donors who give at least $100,000 each year and a group called Americans for Prosperity that is rivaled only by the Republican Party itself in its influence on the conservative agenda.
The Koch network also spent a considerable amount of money supporting causes such as healthcare, education, tax law, immigration policy, government regulations, and criminal justice reform.
“By lavishly underwriting candidates, policy organizations, and advocacy groups – often through untraceable donations – they have pulled American politics towards their own arch-conservative, pro-business, anti-tax, and anti-regulatory agenda,” says Jane Mayer, a writer for the New Yorker.
Despite his support for conservative candidates, David was a social liberal who supported same-sex marriage and a woman’s right to have an abortion. He opposed the Affordable Care Act and was not convinced the government needed to address climate change.
The Koch brothers did not endorse President Trump in 2016 and have criticized him over his failure to repeal Obamacare, inaction on immigration, and use of tariffs as a negotiating tactic.
The network has continued to shift away from the Republican Party under the leadership of Charles, who took control of the network in 2018 after David bowed out due to health problems.
This summer, the Koch network launched four new PACs and said it was ready to endorse candidates from any political party. The PACs will focus on immigration, free expression, free trade, and economic opportunity.
Editor’s note: We may soon have to live in a world without the support of the Koch brothers for conservative causes. Older brother Charles is 83, and it is rumored that the children are not so interested in supporting conservative causes.
I’m sure someone else will takeover Americans for Prosperity and perhaps it will still have the same benficial effect.