To learn what the top news stories are in Kansas, one merely needs to open his Google News app and type in “Kansas.” After scanning down past a series of cheerful “blue wave” stories one comes to this gem, “Opinion | The Koch brothers’ influence in Kansas.”
The headline is large as is the photo of the author, Maura Kate Mitchelson. In small print is the name of the publication, “The Panther.” Some Google “algorithm” somehow found this column and made it one of the top ten news stories out of Kansas for the day.
It turns out that the Panther is the student newspaper for Chapman University, a pricy private university in Southern California. Mitchelson, who hails from Kansas, is upset that the Koch brothers, in addition to donating to Chapman, are spending considerable money to re-elect Republicans this year.
“As a proud Kansan,” writes Mitchelson. “I see the Koch brothers as a bit of a stain on my lovely home state’s reputation.” In an impressive display of unearned condescension, Mitchelson endeavors to tell us why.
As she sees it, Charles and David simply inherited “their daddy’s oil money.” They use that money to support groups that “deny climate change” and that “adamantly” oppose public education and public transit. More troubling, they support Kris Kobach who “is even worse than our previous governor, Sam Brownback.” It bothers her that the Kochs prefer Kobach “over my queen . . . Laura Kelly.”
By student standards, Mitchelson’s article is no more ignorant than most, but the question remains: how did Google find it and elevate it?
Why not find an article that tells the true story of the Koch brothers. Charles and David did not just inherit family money. They both went to MIT, got masters degrees in chemical engineering, and worked their way up through the corporate ranks.
When Charles Koch entered the family business, it was doing about $70 million a year. Now they do in excess of $115 billion and employ more than 60,000 people. As a privately owned company, the second largest in America, the Kochs have not had to worry about meeting short-term shareholder expectations.
This has allowed them to plow their profits back into the business. They have run their company as a meritocracy, de-emphasizing job titles and emphasizing the creation of value.
Unlike most companies demonized by the left—Goldman Sachs comes to mind—Koch Industries made its mark doing real, gritty, sweaty, Kansas kind of work. They have processed and transported and traded in oil, coal, fertilizer, pulp, fibers, polymers, building products, paper, electronic components, pollution control equipment, and beef.
Until the 1990s, when they were targeted by the Clinton administration, the Kochs did not even have a lobbyist in Washington. The Kochs did not become evil until David was very nearly seventy-years old and Charles seventy-five.
On April 15, 2009, more than 750 “tea parties” exploded across America and rocked Washington. To counter their effect, propagandists on the left searched for someone to blame other than the millions of ordinary Americans angry with their government. They settled on the Koch Brothers. If anyone has inherited anything, it is left wing lightweights like Mitchelson, and what she inherited was a scapegoat.
As a result of this targeting by the Obama White House and the major media, the brothers each had to hire security details for themselves and their families. It got so bad, in fact, that David felt obliged to send his children to school in a bullet-proof car.
Unlike most of the very rich pouring money into Kansas, the Kochs are from Kansas and have made many Kansans wealthy. Their extraordinary generosity to liberal institutions, including Chapman University, has merited them very little, not security and not even a passing stab at the truth.