Dark Money, a forthcoming book from New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, is causing quite the stir for its deep dive into the history of the Koch family. The book offers a look back at the political influence of a cadre of wealthy families, but its focus—and the subject of its most shocking revelations—is the Koch family and the relationship between the rise of Koch Industries and Charles's and David's political advocacy. The New York Times first reported details of Mayer's book, which pulls from interviews and previously unpublished sources to present a host of unsettling discoveries about the powerful family. Have a look for yourself:
1. The Koch Fortune Has Roots in Nazi Oil
Fred C. Koch, whose fortune the brothers inherited, made his money in oil, founding the refinery that would later become Koch Industries—currently the second-largest privately held company in the United States. According to Mayer, the Koch patriarch also forged a business relationship with the Third Reich, spearheading a project to build an oil refinery in Nazi Germany. Hitler personally approved the project, writes Mayer, and it would go on to become a "component of the Nazi war machine, supplying fuel for German warplanes.”
2. They Grew Up With a Nazi Nanny
Fred Koch's ties to the Nazi regime were not merely limited to business dealings, but actually played a major role in the family's personal life. According to Mayer, the Koch father had such admiration for German discipline that he hired an outspoken Nazi as an au pair for his eldest boys. The author goes on to suggest that the brothers' animosity toward the government may have been shaped by their formative years under the Nazi nanny.
3. Their Political Advocacy Has a Surprising Origin
Today, the Koch brothers are widely considered one of the most influential forces in American politics. Their plan to spend nearly $1 billion on the 2016 election cycle won't do much to dispel that perception. But, according to an associate of the two brothers who agreed to speak with Mayer, their initial political goals were far less ambitious. The Kochs' political network, writes Mayer, was “originally designed as a means of off-loading the costs of the Koch Industries environmental and regulatory fights onto others” by convincing wealthy business owners to contribute to Koch-run political organizations.
4. The Koch Empire is Even Less Law-Abiding Than Believed
It seems that the two brothers make news every few months for violating federal environmental law, so no one will be shocked to learn that the brothers run with some shady characters. Still, the book makes the case that their vast empire includes even more wealthy crooks than we'd previously thought. Per the New York Times, "One of the more startling revelations in Ms. Mayer’s book concerns the number of billionaires in the Koch network who have had 'serious past or ongoing legal problems' and whose companies have been fined for violations of the Clean Air and the Clean Water Acts."
5. Charles and David Threatened to Out The "Other" Koch
"In the annals of family feuds, the slugfest of the Koch family of Kansas is one of the biggest, meanest and longest-running," reads a 1998 article in the New York Times. The sibling "slugfest" stems from a decades-long legal battle that pitted Charles and David, who own nearly all of Koch Industries, against William (David's twin) and their eldest brother, Frederick. Mayer, who was able to access a sealed 1982 deposition from William, offers some particularly disturbing insight into the family feud: Apparently, Charles and David blackmailed Frederick into surrendering his shares in the company by threatening to tell their father that he was gay. Yikes.
Feature image via Flickr user DonkeyHotey