David Koch, one of two billionaire brothers whose powerful conservative network transformed Republican politics, is retiring from business and political life because of declining health, potentially testing the staying power of an organization that was already changing in dramatic ways.
Charles Koch announced in a letter to employees of Koch Industries on Tuesday that his brother’s health had deteriorated since a hospitalization last summer. He was not specific about the illness, though his brother is a cancer survivor. David Koch will retire from his family’s conglomerate and step down as chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
According to an official bio, he has pledged or contributed more than $1.3 billion to assist various causes, including educational, arts and cultural institutions and public policy organizations. The money has come through personal gifts and the David H. Koch Foundation.
His representatives say he has provided more than $300 million in additional charitable support, beyond the $1.3 billion, for other causes — including help for victims of Hurricane Harvey last year.
But while the Koch name is on a lot of buildings, David Koch is best known for wading heavily into politics. In 1980, he was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for vice president. His ticket, with Ed Clark, received just 1 percent of the popular vote. Ronald Reagan won.
Several of the ideas Koch ran on that year, then seen as fringe, have subsequently become GOP orthodoxy. And the investments that the Kochs have made to build up think tanks, including the Cato Institute, and promote libertarian-leaning scholars at universities are an important part of the story of how the right moved their way.
Here is a Politico article on the think tanks tied to the Koch brothers.
Here is one of many previous Think Tank Watch posts about the Koch brothers' connection to think tanks.