New Book Exposes How The Koch Brothers’ Political Machine Manipulates The Media

Sons-of-Wichita-Koch-Family

A writer has put a magnifying glass on The Koch brothers, whose extensive political empire has become a powerful machine working the right-wing movement. In this biography, now available, we get to witness the economic muscle behind the family’s momentous rise to political power. (For related story, “New Book Reveals Koch Brothers’ Abusive Father And More, click here.) Rising up from Wichita, Kansas, the brothers wrenched themselves into one of the most supremely influential dynasties of this time. But surprisingly this is the first time anyone has managed to walk unscathed so far into their world. The book’s author, Daniel Schulman, is a brave man to take on such imposing and power-wielding brothers. Schulman is also a senior editor at the progressive Mother Jones Magazine.

I had a senior person at [Koch Industries] basically tell me, ‘Yeah, that is our strategy, we hit back and over time because of doing this the mainstream press has sort of learned a lesson to be careful about what they say about us. I would describe it as pugilistic, [which] is often their style in general.’

In the beginning, Koch Industries, the wellspring of their vast wealth and run by brothers David and Charles, reacted to Schulman’s book with curiosity and to a certain extent, cooperation. At one point the two executives flew out to visit with the publisher in a weighty move to ascertain their interests were protected. Schulman spoke to Koch’s people all throughout the effort of writing his book, but never gained access to either brother. The team Koch stood behind a moated castle of impenetration.

I definitely got the sense that the Koch Industries folks were tracking what I was doing fairly closely. In one instance, I interviewed a friend of theirs out in Wichita and … I asked if I could record this interview and he said, ‘sure, but I would like a copy of it if you wouldn’t mind.’ To which I said, ‘okay, sure, fair deal.’

When the author returned from Wichita, he sent the interviewee a copy of the interview as promised.

I followed up a couple of days later to make sure he had received it and I got his secretary on the line and she said, ‘oh, so-and-so from Koch just stopped by to pick it up'”

Koch and company had begun to wind their tentacles all around Schulman. During his research Schulman spoke to people who were less than cooperative,

…yeah, I spoke to Charles and he said he would prefer that I don’t speak to you.

Schulman filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the federal government once. He was searching for some Koch Industries documents. He was startled when the Justice Department told him that Koch Industries had filed its own FOIA about his FOIA. In his book Schulman tells how the Kochs use their power to manipulate unfavorable media. Their empire has created a site, KochFacts, from which to launch criticism-killing missiles. Any email critics write can end up in KochFacts. The site counters negative coverage, but also makes personal attacks on reporters’ credibility, such as Politico’s Ken Vogel and The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer.

This was their way of sort of bypassing the media to get their story out there (the site). But at the same time, they’ve used this as a place to basically dump the correspondence of reporters and that sort of thing in order to sort of make journalists look dishonest and things of that nature. It’s a place where they rebut media articles.

The famous brothers have a history of intimidation by attack ads. So far Mayer is the Kochs’ primary target. In 2010 she wrote a piece for the New Yorker, “Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.” Mayer’s article explained that David and Charles have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to back conservative political organizations. In a letter to the American Society of Magazine Editors the Kochs urged the group to make sure Mayer’s nominated piece did not receive its annual reporting award. The Kochs also took on the Pulitzer Prize-winning InsideClimateNews.com website and its editor, David Sassoon. The impetus for their blitz was Sassoon’s article about Koch’s Canadian oil interests. The online response ad was reported to state:

Activist/owner of InsideClimate News misleads readers and asserts outright falsehoods about Koch. Get the full facts on KochFacts.com.

But Powerlineblog.com is pro-Koch and somehow get its hands on many internal Koch Industry documents and much information unavailable to other journalists. Schulman cited a Washington Post story about the link between Koch Industries and the Keystone pipeline.

John Hinderaker [Powerline’s editor] is quite frequently coming to their defense and sort of rebutting stories about the Kochs. He frequently quotes Mark Holden, the general counsel of Koch Industries and has in the past received internal documents from Koch Industries to push back.

In an interview with Media Matters, Schulman said,

They have a very aggressive P.R. operation. I should also say that I like a lot of people I was in communication with over there, they were nice people. But they were aggressive.

Even though Koch Industries blocked contact with the two brothers, Schulman finds the men interesting and believes their stories should be told. His recently-published book is a portrait of the acidic relationship among all four brothers: Charles, David, Bill and Frederick. At the beginning of his research, the author wrote a formal letter of inquiry to each of the four Koch’s, but only Frederick agreed to meet with him. Even then the brother least involved in the company demanded veto-power over any third-party source material in trade for discussing his family. Schulman declined. But in spite of all the blowback on other journalists, thus far Schulman’s book hasn’t made it to KochFacts,

 I haven’t seen anything. I think they view the book as more or less fair, the only thing they said was that they are withholding their judgment and reviewing the book.

Uh oh, Schulman, you better check out the Koch’s friend, powerlineblog.com, today. The Koch brothers are onto you!