By Joan McCarter
Tuesday Jan 19, 2016 11:16 AM EST
Charles Koch's public persona is that of a businessman who has only recently been forced into a political role by an out-of-control government. A new book by investigative reporter Jane Mayer blows the lid off that claim, as Politico Magazine reports. It turns out Koch has been constructing his political movement for four decades, drawing from some of the most extreme anti-government thinkers and organizations.
Mayer unearthed two previously secret documents, including a paper that Charles Koch wrote in 1976 for a conference of the new Center for Libertarian Studies, which was opened with $65,000 in seed money from—of course—Charles Koch. The second is an unpublished private history of David and Charles Koch commissioned by their other estranged brother, Bill. He hired Clayton A. Coppin, an historian at George Mason University, who had previously written a company history for Koch Industries which had given him "access to many of the family’s private letters and papers, as well as license to interview the Kochs and their intimates as few outsiders could." Between the two documents, Mayer was able to construct Charles Koch's movement away from the radical, conspiracy-theory laden John Birch Society his father helped found.
In contrast, Charles had been drawn to a radical libertarian thinker with a checkered past named Robert LeFevre, who opened what he called the Freedom School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, offering immersion courses in "the philosophy of freedom and free-enterprise." The school had numerous ties to the John Birch Society, but its preoccupations were slightly different. LeFevre, who called himself an "autarchist" because he didn’t like the label "anarchist," was almost as adamantly opposed to the modern American government as he was to communism. Charles Koch was a major funder and trustee of the school by 1966. Brian Doherty, who chronicled the rise of American libertarianism in his book Radicals for Capitalism, described the school as "a tiny world of people who thought the New Deal was a horrible mistake." The school taught a revisionist version of American history in which the robber barons were heroes, the Gilded Age actually was the country's golden age and the Civil War shouldn’t have been fought. In 1965, the New York Times described the school as so implacably opposed to the U.S. government, it was proposing that the Constitution be scrapped in favor of one that limited the government's authority to impose "compulsory taxation."
Eventually, as his fortune grew, Charles began to move beyond funding schools and other intellectual endeavors to launching a political movement. Charles' aim, according to Doherty, who interviewed Charles for his book, was to tear the government out "at the root." […]
Had Charles wanted merely to promote free-market economic theories, he could have supported several established organizations, but instead he was attracted to fringe groups that bordered on anarchism. Coppin suggests, "He was driven by some deeper urge to smash the one thing left in the world that could discipline him: the government."
Charles, Coppin suggests, had "daddy issues" and "harbored a hatred of the government so intense it could only be truly understood as an extension of his childhood conflicts with authority." By the late 1970s, though, Koch wanted not just to grow an extreme libertarian theoretical movement, but to actually get political power and create a movement which, in his own words, would "destroy the prevalent statist paradigm."
That movement would have to be secret, and to entice adherents, "they needed to organize synthetic 'grassroots' groups and issue meaningless titles to volunteers, without yielding any real control." They also needed a good marketing plan that included making use of "all modern sales and motivational techniques to raise money and attract donors … including meeting in a home or other place the prospect enjoys being." Hence their secretive, insidery "summits" at fancy resorts. Even David Koch's much-vaunted contributions to the arts and appearances in the society pages was scripted by Charles, who argued that they needed to "work with, rather than combat, the people in the media and arts."
Then it gets really creepy.