Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America's Most Powerful and Private Dynasty takes a look into the lives of Charles and David Kochthe Koch Brothersas they embark on purchasing political campaigns and creating their own version of America. Along the way, the book provides a gay brother reveal and some stories that will make your skin crawl backward.
Written by Mother Jones senior editor Daniel Schulman, the in-depth biography spirals through hundreds of interviews with family members, friends and supporters in an effort to paint a picture of what life most certainly resembled from inside the Koch clan at the beginning of their reign. Legal documents and public records are scattered between the covers in an effort to unveil whatever indignities are left behind.
At the center of the story is the unwavering Fred Kochthe aggravated father to Charles, David, Frederick and David's twin brother, Bill; and husband to Mary. A myriad of appalling scenarios ensueone in which Fred uses his religious and social beliefs to pit the children against one another. Being a former boxer himself, Fred encourages his sons to "fight like men" and put their fists up proudly. Schulman writes that "during one bout, Bill bashed his twin over the head with a polo mallet," adding that "David still bears a scar from the time Bill pierced him in the back with a ceremonial sword."
The event appeared to leave no tangible mark on Bill, however. A collector of fine wines and women, Bill's competitive sportsmanship earned him the America's Cup in 1992 for yachting. He equated this historical moment to resembling "10,000 orgasms."
But perhaps most notable in the entire tome is what happened to Frederick. Simply stated, he was gay … and homosexuality was not a family value in the Koch household.
A family friend remarks in Sons of Wichita that Fred feared he had been too kind to Freddie, and that's why he turned out to be so effeminate.
"I think Fred Koch went through this kind of thing that 'I must have been too affectionate; I must have been too loving, too kind to Freddie, and that's why he turned out to be so effeminate,'" said John Damgard, who went to high school with David and remains close with David and Charles. "So he was really, really tough on Charles."
Schulman writes: "Fred and Mary Koch's oldest son, Frederick, a lover of theater and literature, left Wichita for boarding school after 7th grade and barely looked back. Charles, the rebellious number two, was molded from an early age as Fred's successor."
Frederick currently preserves a plethora of historic homes around the world, boasting priceless art collections and fanciful remedies that only he knows about. His alignment with the other Koch brothers is a severed connection, to put it mildly, and his personal whereabouts are not for public consumption.
What happened to Charles in his early adulthood served to mold the entire Koch legacy as we see it today.
"After eight years at MIT and a consulting firm, Charles returned to Wichita to learn the intricacies of the family business. Together, he and David would build their father's Midwestern company which as of 1967 had $250 million in yearly sales and 650 employees, into a corporate Goliath with $115 billion in annual revenue and a presence in 60 countries. Under their leadership, Koch Industries grew into the second-largest private corporation in the United States ( only the Minneapolis-based agribusiness giant Cargill is bigger )," Schulman writes.
The money kept on rolling in.
The book states, "David and Charles amassed fortunes estimated at $41 billion apiece, tying them for sixth place among the wealthiest people on the planet. ( Bill ranks 377th on Forbes' list of the world's billionaires. ) The company's products would come to touch everyone's lives, from the gas in our tanks and the steak on our forks to the paper towels in our pantries. But it preferred to operate quietlyin David's words, to be 'the biggest company you've never heard of.'"
Flying under the radar appeared to catapult the Tea Party movement and sink the GOP simultaneously, and members could ( quietly ) thank David and Charles for that. One thing they could not solidify, though: the U.S. presidency.
Schulman writes, "After backing a constellation of conservatives, from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to South Carolina's Jim DeMint, Charles and David mounted their most audacious political effort to date in the 2012 presidential campaign, when their fundraising network unleashed an estimated $400 million via a web of conservative advocacy groups."
"Just as their father, a founding member of the John Birch Society, had once decried the country's descent toward communism during the Kennedy era, the brothers saw America veering toward socialism under President Obama. Charles, entering his late 70s, had not only failed to see American society transformed into his libertarian ideal; with this new administration, things seemed to be moving in the exact opposite direction," Schulman writes. "Now he and David, along with other allies, would wage what he described as the "mother of all wars" to defeat Obama and hand Republicans ironclad congressional majorities."
Still, try as they might, David and Charles could not sink the Black man from Chicago as he raced for the top political spot in the United States.
But would their distaste come as any surprise? Racial injustice was ingrained into the Koch household from the beginning. The book recalls Fred's warning of a "vicious race war" in which communists would pit Black Americans against white.
Infighting and outfighting seemed to be the Koch Brothers' way.
Schulman recalls in the book that Bill hired a private investigator to bug his brothers' offices and pick through the garbage cans at their homes. He planted false memos aimed at rooting out spies in his own company, Oxbow, who he suspected were secretly working for his brothers.
Regardless of how the Koch brothers' activities have imploded on those around them, one thing's for sure: It's been anything but boring in the ring of terror they've so diligently created for the rest of us.