Conservative billionaire David Koch is stepping down from a key role in the political and policy empire that made him and his older brother two of the most powerful men in American politics and among the most vilified figures in Democratic circles.
Koch, 78, is leaving the board of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Koch officials announced Tuesday. He also is retiring from his roles at Koch Industries, the Kansas-based industrial conglomerate run by his brother Charles Koch. David Koch has served as executive vice president of the company and a member of its board. He also was chairman and CEO of one its subsidiaries, Koch Chemical Technology Group.
Koch officials cited health reasons for the departure but declined to provide details on the nature of his illness. David Koch is a prostate cancer survivor and has donated more than hundreds of millions to cancer research and medical facilities over the years.
In a letter sent Tuesday morning to Koch Industries’ employees, Charles Koch said his brother first announced his “declining health” in October 2016.
“Unfortunately, these issues have not been resolved, and his health has continued to deteriorate,” Charles Koch wrote. “As a result, he is unable to be involved in business and other organizational activities.”
“His guidance and loyalty, especially in our most troubling times, has been unwavering,” Charles Koch wrote. He said David Koch would be named a director emeritus of the company.
Charles Koch, 82, remains at the helm of the family’s oil, chemical and textile conglomerate. Koch Industries is the country’s second-largest private company after Cargill and makes everything from components in iPhones to Brawny paper towels. The company has made the brothers among the planet’s richest men. Forbes estimates they are worth $60 billion each.
But they are best known for their role in politics and using their fortune to inject millions into an array of foundations, think tanks and political groups to spread their small-government, free-market messages, which their critics argue serve their economic interests.
Americans for Prosperity, for instance, now has operations in 36 states and a standing army of some three million activists the Kochs mobilize for political and policy battles.
The network, which includes some 700 like-minded donors who commit to giving at least $100,000 a year, has previously announced plans to spend $400 million in policy and politics ahead of the 2018 elections, the group’s largest midterm political investment. And big-name Republican politicians seek their support in elections and policy fights. Last fall, for instance, Vice President Pence traveled to New York to rally David Koch and a group of about 100 other donors to back a Republican tax-cut plan.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Fredreka Schouten