Note: Before we say goodbye to our countdown with the “Biggest Asshole in American History,” make sure to check back on the 20th through 3rd place finishers. Lots of the things you may dislike about modern America can be traced back to those individuals. Not unlike our second place holder…
Fred C. Koch…Those that have heard of Fred Koch probably know him best as the father of the notorious Koch Brothers and may wonder why I would single him out over his infamous off-spring, and it’s because Fred Koch is so much more than just the literal father of two metaphorical bastards.
5. Although a fervent anti-Communist, he built oil refineries for the Soviet Union and never supported Eisenhower, the creation of NATO, or U.S. joining the U.N. What do you call a man who directly does business with Joseph Stalin, opposes the U.S. creating international alliances that box out the USSR, and helps the Soviet Union’s economy grow (15 modern oil refineries is no small thing) large enough to rival the U.S. in the first damn place, but is supposedly so “Anti-Communist” all of his domestic activities were focused on hurting “collectivism” (labor unions), any progressive program ever, and even a moderate Republican President like Eisenhower? Oh yeah, a huge flaming asshole…or monster hypocrite.
4. In addition to helping Joseph Stalin, he did robust business with Hitler. Jane Mayer discovered that Fred Koch built the 3rd-largest oil refinery supplying the fascist Third Reich at roughly the same time he was doing business with the communists in Soviet Russia. Bill Maher joked “so he was bi-partisan,” but that’s exactly right: while working to stifle any and all rights domestically, he would do business with any villain internationally. He also built major, modern oil refineries in the Middle East and Asia so I guess we can also “thank” him for helping the Middle East become economically powerful enough to finance many of America’s miseries in the last half century that aren’t coming from Russia.
3. He helped amend the constitution of the state of Kansas to make Kansas a right-to-work state. Although one of the major instances of his political activism on behalf of big business, it’s by no means his only endeavor also fighting the decision to integrate public schools, “collectivism” (Medicare, Medicaid, the usual social programs), and any bills to address income inequality or making African-American lives easier at a time when Koch’s Republican party was a little more receptive to doing that. [He helped make that not true anymore.] Setting the stage for…
2. His sons control the 2nd largest private corporation in America and have used their money to attempt to ruin American democracy. What makes Charles and David Koch more dangerous than, say, Shelden Adelson or any other billionaire asshole is that their company is private, meaning they don’t answer to shareholders or a board of directors that might eventually say “hey, cool it with the political stuff okay?” Charles and David Koch are the two biggest villains in modern politics.
As the Libertarian Party’s vice-Presidential candidate in 1980, David Koch advocated the abolition of Social Security, the FBI, the CIA, and public schools. Trying to replace the FBI with a modern-day “Allan Pinkerton Agency” (our 6th biggest asshole) and abolish public schools in the modern-era are textbook examples of Republicans yearning for “a simpler era” that doesn’t currently exist in any industrialized country on Earth. You can feel the seeds of that “pioneer” bullshit—which only rich people or their bootlickers really mythologize—in Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords, making America the lone country among the civilized world not to be in it. And you know who was a big fan of pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords? The Koch Brothers.
The brothers have founded or funded a web of radical conservative think tanks (the CATO Institute, The Heritage Foundation), advocacy groups (Americans for Prosperity), Super-PACs (Freedom Partners), or candidacies (Scott Walker’s union-busting mission received $700,000 in ads from Americans for Prosperity). The shadow-web of their groups is so murky and pervasive it’s usually called the “Kochtopus” because it has tentacles in nearly every aspect of politics. They prefer giving to groups that don’t disclose their donors, so it’s hard to estimate exactly how much they’ve spent on politics, but they reportedly spent over 50 million dollars to defeat Barack Obama in 2012 and tried to raise almost 900 million dollars to spend in the 2016 elections. Their money distributed on congressional and state races, may be the reason the Democrats failed to flip the senate or pick up any real gains in state legislatures despite an unpopular Republican candidate.
The Koch Brothers have majorly invested in stopping healthcare reform, school integrations, and especially climate change denial, and they’ve even spent more money than Exxon-Mobile on stopping any and all changes to fossil fuel use or awareness of global warming. And who taught them their political philosophy, gave them their fortune to finance propaganda, and handed this massive company over to Charles Koch? Their dear daddy Fred C. Koch. It can be argued that there is not a thing they’re doing now their dad wouldn’t approve of, and we know that because…
1. Fred co-founded the John Birch Society. In my view, the John Birch Society is just a white collar Ku Klux Klan and even if they haven’t directly killed anyone like 3rd place asshole General George Gordon’s organization, they laid the seeds for every modern problem we’re having today. Without the JBS’s radical anti-communist paranoia making far right nutbaggery seem normal, would we really have Fox News, the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, the rise of a heartless evangelical right, voter suppression presented as a good thing (the group vehementaly opposed any Civil Rights legislation), and Trump’s very Birch-like positions of withdrawing from the U.N. (which they supported), limiting immigration (which they supported), hurting or resegregating public schools (which they supported), or pulling out of a world-wide agreement to stop climate crisis (which I’m sure they do support)?
Bonus Assholery: Fred Koch is everything that’s wrong with American business. 1. He made a product that is poison to the planet and the people on it (fossil fuels). 2. He would do business with any international tyrant that would pay him. 3. And he used the subsequent fortune not to help the “little guy” make his way up, but to crush competition, and spread a view that the very idea of a “helping hand” is dangerously unAmerican and proof of vaguely communist infiltration.
Asshole Adjacent: To be sure, Fred Koch didn’t do it alone, and other important John Birchers need to be mentioned like Robert W. Welch Jr. the group’s first leader and face for decades. Then there’s all the people that currently benefit from Koch money or influence like any employee of the Cato Institute, Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners, Federalist Society, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots, Mercatus Center, Institute for Energy Research, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation. The Kochs have also been suspiciously large donors to the United Negro College Fund a fund for Historically Black College or Univerities, which perhaps speaks to their desire to have black students segregated at HBCUs rather than “mixing” with other universities like Florida State University where they gave a “donation” of 1.5 million dollars that very much had strings attached to it: the Kochs wanted to be able to approve the hiring of new professors in FSU’s economics department as part of a university propaganda program to promote ultra-right wing economics.