Oddly enough, the fiercely capitalist Koch family owes part of its fortune to Joseph Stalin. Fred Koch was the son of a Dutch printer who settled in Texas and ran a weekly newspaper. Fred attended M.I.T., where he earned a degree in chemical engineering. In 1927, he invented a more efficient process for converting oil into gasoline, but, according to family lore, America’s major oil companies regarded him as a threat and shut him out of the industry. Unable to succeed at home, Koch found work in the Soviet Union. In the nineteen-thirties, his company trained Bolshevik engineers and helped Stalin’s regime set up fifteen modern oil refineries. Over time, however, Stalin brutally purged several of Koch’s Soviet colleagues. Koch was deeply affected by the experience, and regretted his collaboration. He returned to the U.S. In the headquarters of his company, Rock Island Oil & Refining, in Wichita, he kept photographs aimed at proving that some of those Soviet refineries had been destroyed in the Second World War. Gus diZerega, a former friend of Charles Koch, recalled, “As the Soviets became a stronger military power, Fred felt a certain amount of guilt at having helped build them up. I think it bothered him a lot.”
In 1958, Fred Koch became one of the original members of the John Birch Society, the arch-conservative group known, in part, for a highly skeptical view of governance and for spreading fears of a Communist takeover . . . .
At a time when Americans are watching with some horror contests between the Trump Administration and responsible mainstream media, also between the Trump Administration and Congress, also between the Trump Administration and America’s ill and vulnerable, and, finally, between (not the Trump Administration) absurdly polarized American political parties, the Koch Brothers as cultural philanthropists and political activators seem ever an indirect part of the American experience.
Since reading a Mother Jones piece on the brothers, BackChannels has been compiling Koch Brothers articles without comment, but may here share the list and let that suffice for the time being.
Note: where date of publication appears embedded in the article URL, BackChannels will not repeat it in listing.