[Marxism] Capitalist pig department

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 26 07:13:19 MDT 2010

New York Magazine
The Billionaire's Party
David Koch is New York’s second-richest man, a celebrated patron of the 
arts, and the tea party’s wallet.

By Andrew Goldman

Billionaire philanthropist David Koch is in his Madison Avenue office 
showing me one of his more unusual possessions, a mechanical-looking 
doodad on the coffee table next to the couch. “This is a plastic version 
of my artificial knees,” he says. “If you spent as many years as I did 
begging girls for favors, you’d have bad knees, too.” The 70-year-old 
Koch actually wore out his knees playing basketball. Until recently, he 
held the record for most points scored in a single game at M.I.T.: 41. 
“I played basketball when you could be white and be good,” he says. Koch 
has a seemingly limitless storehouse of such Elks club–inflected jokes, 
which are often followed by his loud, wheezy honk of a laugh. Koch is 
six foot five, with unusually long arms to match. Although the shirt 
he’s wearing is custom-made and his tie is Hermès (a gift from his late 
friend Winston Churchill Jr.), he could readily be mistaken for a 
mid-level executive at a large company in his native Kansas.

With an estimated net worth of $17.5 billion, Koch is the second-richest 
man in New York City, behind Michael Bloomberg. Across the room on the 
floor of his office sits a scale model of El Sarmiento, the sprawling 
yellow Addison Mizner–designed mansion he owns in Palm Beach (the 
matching yellow “biography” of the house he commissioned rests nearby). 
Sitting on a shelf is a replica of a Paranthropus boisei skull presented 
to him by the Smithsonian in recognition of the $15 million he gave in 
2009 to build the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the National 
Museum of Natural History. “You ever been up to Boston?” he asks. He 
asks if I know about “the cancer building at M.I.T.” The building in 
question—the one right in front of the Koch Biology Building, and a few 
minutes’ walk from the David H. Koch School of Chemical Engineering 
Practice—is the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, 
funded with an anchor gift of $100 million from its eponymous donor in 
2007 and set to open in December. “Isn’t that a marvelous Steuben?” he 
asks, beaming. He’s pointing at a glass brontosaurus, depicted with a 
little smile. “It has a sense of humor.” The sculpture was a gift from 
the American Museum of Natural History, presented to Koch after he 
donated $20 million to establish the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing. Koch 
remembers taking a trip to the museum with his workaholic father. “I was 
gaga about dinosaurs as a kid,” he says. “When we were 14, Father took 
my twin, William, and I. We’d come to town from Kansas to look at 
boarding schools. I was blown away. It’s my favorite museum in the city. 
So when they asked if I wanted to contribute, I said, ‘God! Me? What a 
thrill!’ ” His sense of wonder could easily read as a put-on, but people 
who know him say his childlike quality is genuine. “He’s almost 
guileless,” says his friend Sherry Lansing, the former CEO of Paramount. 
“He’s constantly surprised when he gets attention.”

Koch and I first met in 2008, just weeks after he’d pledged $100 million 
to renovate Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater, the longtime home 
of the New York City Ballet and New York City Opera. Koch (his name is 
pronounced like the soft drink) was in a buoyant mood. The Times had run 
a glowing portrait of him; an act of the State Legislature had been 
undertaken to change the venue’s name to the David H. Koch Theater. That 
donation marked the capstone of a $500 million philanthropic spending 
spree Koch had been on since 2000, and he seemed to revel in the 
attention he was enjoying, especially from the leaders of the city’s 
great cultural institutions. “Sometimes I feel like a beautiful girl, 
saying, ‘God! Does every guy that goes out with me just want to sleep 
with me?’ ” he said. “ ‘Don’t they like me for my personality?’ ” He 
brayed with laughter.

But several months ago, when we reconnected, Koch’s outlook had 
darkened. Koch has seen his share of misfortune: He and his brother, 
William, lived through a protracted falling out; David survived a plane 
crash in which 34 people were killed; and he was diagnosed with prostate 
cancer in 1992 and is still fighting the disease. But his bleak mood had 
other origins. Earlier this year, he found himself attacked for being 
the financial engine of the largely white, largely male, very angry 
crowds that were gathering in towns across the country—a few waving 
overtly racist or menacing anti-Obama signs—to protest the president’s 
proposed health-care bill and other issues. Koch denies being directly 
involved with the tea party—“I’ve never been to a tea-party event. No 
one representing the tea party has ever even approached me”—but he and 
his brother Charles were being accused of supporting the group through 
an affiliated conservative organization. Rachel Maddow had effectively 
called Koch the tea party’s puppet master. “The radical press is coming 
after me and Charles,” he said. “They’re using us as whipping boys.” 
Burnishing his reputation was no longer his concern; now, it seemed, he 
needed to save it.

Fred Koch, a native of North Texas and son of a Dutch immigrant, liked 
to say that he didn’t want his sons “to turn into country-club bums.” 
Fred graduated from M.I.T. in 1922 with a degree in chemical engineering 
and, like David, excelled in sports, in Fred’s case as a boxer. Fred 
moved to Wichita, where he became a partner in an engineering company 
called Winkler-Koch, made a fortune building oil refineries around the 
world, and bought a 160-acre horse farm outside of town, across the 
street from the Wichita Country Club.

Early on, Fred’s company was nearly destroyed by litigious competitors. 
He and his partners had developed a new method for thermal cracking, a 
process that helps convert oil into gasoline; major oil companies tried 
to block him in court for years. Koch developed a fierce independent 
streak, and advised his sons never to sue: “The lawyers get a third, the 
government gets a third, and you get your business destroyed,” he told them.

Between 1929 and 1931, Fred Koch built fifteen oil plants in the Soviet 
Union, where he bore witness to the lead-up to Stalin’s Great Purge. 
Thirty years later, Koch published a pamphlet called A Business Man 
Looks at Communism. His list of “potential methods of communist 
take-over in U.S.A. by internal subversion” begins: “Infiltration of 
high offices of government and political parties until the President of 
the U.S. is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us of course, when as 
Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy he could control us. Even the 
Vice Presidency would do as it could be easily arranged for the 
President to commit suicide.” Koch became a founding member of the John 
Birch Society. “Father was paranoid about communism, let’s put it that 
way,” says David.

full: http://nymag.com/news/features/67285/

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