The effort to salvage David Koch’s reputation is underway — usually by praising him for his donations to charity. Jeet Heer is having none of that.
Such encomiums are premised on the idea that Koch’s charitable giving was so commendable that questions about where his money came from or the general impact of the super-rich on society would be impertinent. This willful lack of curiosity was sharply critiqued as long ago as 1909 by then-President Theodore Roosevelt, who wasn’t impressed by John D. Rockefeller’s setting up a foundation to help disperse his mountain of money. “No amount of charities in spending such fortunes can compensate in any way for the misconduct in acquiring them,” Roosevelt curtly but accurately noted. In the case of the Koch family, there’s plenty of misconduct to investigate.
Then he explains how the Koch money was earned by their father, a fanatical John Bircher, who built oil refineries for Nazi Germany, and how they were despicable in their treatment of their employees. How much would they have to give away in order to compensate for the evil they’ve done? More than they have.
Must we celebrate David Koch’s bountiful donations to public institutions, even if we dislike how the duo have pushed the Republican Party (and America as a whole) to the right? Not at all. The Koch brothers’ bad deeds outweigh their public service. Besides, plutocratic philanthropy is a wretched social model.
I would also add that even their good donations were tainted by an agenda. They funded a major exhibit on human evolution at the Smithsonian, but one of their goals was to play up how climate change affected human evolution. Why, we wouldn’t be here if not for climate change! Therefore, it’s all good for you.
At least that was one step beyond outright denial.
Fair warning. I am about to speak very ill of the dead. David Koch went to his eternal barbecue spit on Friday. Except for his surviving brother, Charles, no man had a worse effect on American politics since the death of John C. Calhoun. Every malignancy currently afflicting us can be traced in one way or another into their wallets, and that’s not even to mention the lasting damage they’ve done to the planet as a whole. Sorry, Morning Joe gang, I wouldn’t care if they opened branches of the National Museum of Puppies and Rainbows in every congressional district in the United States. The Koch brothers financed the wrecking ball that is still doing damage, and now one of them is dead, and, if I am not rejoicing, I am breathing deep sighs of relief and praying deep prayers of thanksgiving.
Well, I’m rejoicing, at least. Let the whole family rot.