Billionaire Charles Koch told a gathering of conservative donors Saturday that politicians must end taxpayer-funded subsidies and preferential treatment for corporations. That message, though, came from an industrialist whose company and corporate subsidiaries have raked in tens of millions of dollars worth of such largesse.
The Koch-organized conference at a luxury resort in Southern California reportedly attracted roughly 450 conservative donors who have committed to spending nearly $900 million on the 2016 presidential election. The event also is scheduled to include Republican presidential candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
“Where I believe we need to start in reforming welfare is eliminating welfare for the wealthy," said Koch, who along with his brother David are among the biggest financiers of conservative political causes. "This means stopping the subsidies, mandates and preferences for business that enrich the haves at the expense of the have nots."
Yet, in the last 15 years, Koch's firm Koch Industries and its subsidiaries have secured government subsidies worth more than $166 million, according to data compiled by the watchdog group Good Jobs First. The group says since 1990, Koch-owned properties have received more 191 separate subsidies worth a total of $195 million.
Koch Industries and its subsidiaries, which are a privately held, are involved in everything from oil refining to manufacturing to high finance. In 2012, Charles Koch issued a similar jeremiad against government-sponsored subsidies for corporations. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, he said, “We are on dangerous terrain when government picks winners and losers in the economy by subsidizing favored products and industries.” He specifically derided tax credits -- yet even after the op-ed, Koch-owned properties accepted more than $77 million worth of such taxpayer-funded preferences from governments, according to Good Jobs First.
Among the biggest subsidies Koch-owned properties has received is a $62 million property tax abatement from Louisiana for Georgia Pacific -- a paper and chemical conglomerate that was acquired by Koch Industries in 2005. Georgia Pacific also received a separate $11 million tax credit from Louisiana in 2014 to upgrade its facilities.
Since 2007, Good Jobs First says Koch Industries itself has received more than $20 million in subsidies through an Oklahoma program designed to incentivize investment and job creation. Oklahoma’s government website lists more than $28 million in such tax credits to the firm and its subsidiaries.
The Washington Post reports that in his speech deriding government subsidies, Koch said these prescriptions "will not be an easy pill for many business people to swallow.”