MURDOCK: Liberal critics of Koch brothers ignore their philanthropy

The Kansas industrialists fund hospitals, schools and the arts

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Do monsters get any meaner than Godzilla and King Kong? You bet. Charles and David Koch are ginormous and superbad. Just ask Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.

“These two brothers,” the Nevadan said Feb. 26 on the Senate floor, “are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine.”

Hedge fund billionaire and Democratic campaign contributor Tom Steyer told this month’s Men’s Journal that David Koch is “just a famously evil person.”

“They make up the heart and the thinking in the minds of those who would belong to the Ku Klux Klan,” singer-activist Harry Belafonte fumed last November. “They are white supremacists. They are men of evil. They have names the Koch brothers — that’s their name.”

The Kochs’ critics are free to disagree with the Kansas industrialists and their libertarian ideas. However, most who despise the Kochs would be shocked by what these “greedy capitalists” do with their profits, beyond campaign donations.

For starters, the Kochs support university programs and think tanks that try “to understand the nature of human freedom and how that freedom leads to prosperity,” as the Charles Koch Foundation explains. The foundation underwrites research and teaching at Brown, Mount Holyoke, Sarah Lawrence, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Vassar, and some 245 other colleges. This includes a speaker series, reading group and essay contest at the University of Nevada Las Vegas in Harry Reid’s home state. Koch Industries (which offers same-sex spousal benefits to its legally married employees) also donated $814,000 to the Kansas State University Office of Diversity to assist “historically under-represented students.”

The Kochs fund cures and treatments. David Koch survived a 1991 plane crash that killed 34 people, including everyone else in first class. He soon was diagnosed with, and then endured, prostate cancer. These challenges reinforced his passion for medical philanthropy.

Among $506 million in such gifts, his major grants include: $25 million to Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to eliminate genitourinary malignancies; $100 million for cancer research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; $100 million for a new ambulatory care center at New York Presbyterian Hospital. This donation actually triggered an outbreak of mental illness among leftists who decried Mr. Koch’s nine-digit check.

“Quality care, not Koch care!” unionized nurses screamed outside Koch’s Park Avenue apartment. Never mind that his contributions create work for unionized nurses.

The Kochs back the arts. Elizabeth B. Koch, Charles‘ wife, launched the Koch Cultural Trust. It has furnished $1.8 million in grants to artists and musicians with ties to Kansas.

David Koch supports PBS’ documentary series Nova. He also is a paleo-philanthropist, having given $15 million to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History for a Hall of Human Origins and another $35 million to update its fossil and dinosaur displays in Washington, D.C. New York’s American Museum of Natural History will enjoy a new Dinosaur Wing, thanks to David’s $20 million gift.

David also donated $100 million in 2008 to modernize the former New York State Theater at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center, home to the New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera.

The Kochs also steward the environment. “Koch Industries, Inc. takes a leadership role in the promotion of biodiversity, wildlife habitat enhancement, land restoration and conservation education,” according to Wildlife Habitat Council president Robert Johnson. “Koch and its subsidiaries maintain Council-certified programs at 10 facilities throughout the United States,” including Montana’s 300,000-acre Matador Cattle Company Beaverhead Ranch.

Flint Hills Resources (a Koch company) helps Ducks Unlimited maintain 36,000 acres of waterfowl habitat on 116 Minnesota lakes. Thus, Ducks Unlimited gave the company its Emerald Teal Award.

Love or loathe Charles and David Koch’s politics, only a liar could deny the tremendous social good that their money secures. Rather than quietly collect mansions and yachts, they spend billions to help school students, cure diseases, cultivate artists and clean the Earth.

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