David Koch, Billionaire Donor to Conservative Causes and Cancer Research, Dies

August 23, 2019 by Dan McCue
David H. Koch gives a thumbs-up to Herman Cain during the Defending the American Dream Summit at the Washington Convention Center in 2011. Koch, who along with his brother Charles ran Koch Industries for decades and became a household name in American politics, has died. Koch was 79. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Billionaire industrialist David H. Koch, who with his older brother, Charles, transformed American politics by pouring their riches into conservative causes, has died at age 79.

Charles Koch announced the death in a statement, which gave no cause but noted that David Koch had suffered from prostate cancer in the past.

According to published reports, David Koch’s fortune at his death was about $42.2 billion, almost all of it derived from his 42 percent stake in the global family business, Koch Industries.

A well-known philanthropist, Koch led the family into politics in 1980 when he ran as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for vice president.

In the decades since, the Koch brothers’ fortune helped fuel the rise of the Tea Party movement and a resurgence of the far-right wing of the Republican Party.

In the process, they played key roles in loosening limits on campaign contributions while continually promoting conservative candidacies, advocacy groups and think tanks like Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of conservative state legislators and corporate lobbyists.

The latter organization specializes in drafting model state legislation that members may customize for introduction as proposed laws to cut taxes, combat illegal immigration, loosen environmental regulations, weaken labor unions and oppose gun laws.

In a 2012 op-ed in the New York Post, David Koch wrote that he was taught from a young age that involvement in the public discourse is a civic duty.

“Each of us has a right — indeed, a responsibility, at times — to make his or her views known to the larger community in order to better form it as a whole. While we may not always get what we want, the exchange of ideas betters the nation in the process,” he said.

Although long a thorn in the side of Democrats, the Kochs refused to endorse Donald Trump in 2016, saying the then Republican presidential nominee was not sufficiently conservative.

But by then, David Koch, who had been battling prostate cancer for 18 years, was backing away from politics.

“I like to engage where my part makes a difference,” he told The Weekly Standard in 2012. “I have a point of view. When I pass on, I want people to say he did a lot of good things, he made a real difference, he saved a lot of lives in cancer research.”

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