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Another Oily Tie That Binds: Koch Industries

by Wayne MadsenSpecial to CorpWatch
February 14th, 2002

The oily links of the Bush presidency and the GOP do not end with energy and telecom giants like Williams Companies and Enron. On January 18, Williams named to its Board of Directors W. W. "Bill" Hanna, the former vice chairman of Koch Industries, an oil, gas and petrochemical company that was a major contributor to the Bush campaign. All told, Koch contributed some $325,000 to the national GOP with a sizeable chunk going to Bush.

Through the years, Koch Industries has had a close relationship with various right-wing causes. Fred Koch, the founder of the privately-owned company, helped to establish the John Birch Society. Koch Industries is also a major contributor to the right-wing "libertarian" Cato Institute, a Washington think tank.

In 1996, Koch brothers Charles and David, the current co-owners of the company, set up one of the first soft money organizations that ran "issue-oriented" commercials against Democratic candidates. They were thus able to funnel money to GOP candidates in order to get around campaign spending limits. This was a tactic that Bush used successfully against his primary opponent John McCain and presidential opponent Al Gore.

One of Koch's architects in the soft money scheme was a political advisor to Clayton Williams, the head of Clayton Williams Energy, a Midland, Texas bona fide "Friend of W," and a failed GOP candidate against former Texas Governor Ann Richards in 1990. Williams, a billionaire oilman and cattle rancher once told a reporter during the gubernatorial campaign that as a member of the Texas legislature he rarely read "minor" bills and followed his wife's advice on how to cast his vote. He included as "minor" a Texas constitutional amendment on the governor's appointment powers. Williams, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, and George W. Bush all hail from the same Midland fraternity of oil tycoons.

Bill Koch, a brother of Charles and David, told CBS's 60 Minutes II last year that Koch Industries is "engaged in "organized crime." The company has been fined for environmental spillages in Texas and has been accused of ripping off oil from native American tribal lands in Oklahoma.