Charles Koch — one-half of the notorious multibillionaire Koch brothers — says he gets daily death threats and is now on al-Qaida’s hit list.
“I get a lot of death threats,” Koch, 79, said in a rare television interview that aired on “CBS Sunday.” “I decided long ago, I’d rather live for something than die for nothing.”
Charles and his brother David own 84 percent of Koch Industries, the oil conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., and are worth an estimated $43 billion each — a fortune they’ve used to bankroll a complex network of conservative PACs and advocacy groups that are hard to track, much to the ire of Democratic lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
“They are trying to buy America,” Reid said on the Senate floor last year. “And it’s time that the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers who are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine.”
The Kochs and Koch-funded groups will spend an estimated $300 million on the 2016 election.
“American democracy is not about billionaires being able to buy candidates and elections,” Sanders said at the launch of his 2016 campaign. “The Koch brothers alone, one family, will spend more money in this election cycle than either the Democratic or Republican parties. This is not democracy. This is oligarchy.”
Koch called the charges lobbed by critics that he deals in “dark money” because donors to some of the Kochs’ tax-exempt advocacy groups don’t have to disclose their names “vicious” and “dishonest.”
Koch speaks in his office at Koch Industries in 2012. (Photo: The Wichita Eagle via AP)
“What I give politically, that’s all reported,” he said. “It’s either to PACs or to candidates. And what I give to my foundations is all public information. But a lot of our donors don’t want to take the kind of abuse that I do. They don’t want these attacks. They don’t want the death threats. So they aren’t going to participate if they have to have their names associated with it.”
Koch was asked if it’s healthy for democracy “that so much money is coming out of a relatively small group of people.”
“Listen, if I didn’t think it was healthy or fair, I wouldn’t do it,” he said. “Because what we’re after is to fight against special interests … My interest is, just as it’s been in business, is what will help people improve their lives and to get rid of these special interests. That’s the whole thing that drives me.”
Koch says it was during President George W. Bush’s administration that the brothers decided to get more politically active.
“I’m sure he meant well,” Koch said of Bush. “[But] then he grew government more than just about any president before him, and he got us into counterproductive wars. So that’s when I decided we needed to get into politics.”
Koch also says he does not consider himself a Republican.
“Not at all,” he said. “I consider myself a classical liberal. The way I look at it is the Democrats are taking us at about 100 miles an hour over the financial cliff and towards this two-tiered society. And the Republicans are taking us there at 70 miles an hour.”