After spending decades bankrolling causes and politicians that fueled America’s increasingly ugly and hostile national divide, billionaire mogul Charles Koch told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Friday that he now wants to focus on bridging the gap he helped create.
“Boy, did we screw up. What a mess,” is how the Donald Trump supporter characterizes his partisan battles in his soon-to-be-published book, “Believe in People: Bottom-Up Solutions for a Top-Down World,” the Journal noted.
Now Koch claims he wants to work across party lines to forge solutions to poverty, addiction, gang violence and homelessness, he told the newspaper.
In an email to the Journal, Koch also congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory. He said he looked forward to “finding ways to work with them to break down the barriers holding people back, whether in the economy, criminal justice, immigration, the COVID-19 pandemic, or anywhere else.”
He added: “I hope we all use this post-election period to find a better way forward. Because of partisanship, we’ve come to expect too much of politics and too little of ourselves and one another.”
Koch, 85, still runs the conglomerate Koch Industries, with some 130,000 employees, that was begun by his father as a refinery business. He has adamantly opposed climate change mitigation measures that would impact fossil-fuel industries.
Koch and his billionaire brother David, who died last year, helped bankroll and shape 2010′s conservative Tea Party movement and founded the hugely influential conservative organization Americans for Prosperity in 2004.
Koch is listed by Forbes as the 15th richest man in the U.S., and is worth some $45 billion. Koch Industries’ PAC and employees contributed $2.8 million to GOP candidates during the 2020 political cycle, noted the Journal.
The brothers were revealed as the powerful stealth engineers of a radical right movement in the U.S. in the ground-breaking 2016 book “Dark Money,” by New Yorker writer Jane Mayer. The Kochs funded ultra-conservative think tanks, peppered universities with hundreds of rightwing academics and used their wealth to boost an army of conservative politicians into office.
The family money also bankrolls the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which pens template bills for conservative politicians to introduce in state legislatures across the nation. ALEC plotted back in February to overturn a Trump loss at the polls before a single vote was cast.
Despite his stated intention to make peace, he railed to the Journal about the constant push to rob individuals of freedom with “top-down” control that stifles innovation. Koch complained about powerful interests lobbying the government, even though Koch Industries spent some $100 million on lobbying, the Journal pointed out.
To say critics are skeptical about Koch’s avowed change of heart would be an understatement. And few on Twitter were in a forgiving mood.