A newly published book says the father of American billionaires Charles and David Koch helped to build an oil refinery in Germany that was approved by Adolf Hitler himself. “Dark Money” is a historical account of the Koch family fortune and its influence, among others, written by Jane Mayer. In it, the author illustrates the path of modern conservative activism as supported by a small group of rich donors. She digs back as far as the Koch family’s ties to the radical right-wing John Birch Society to show how rich conservatives built a foundation for anti-government (and often anti-environment and anti-people) strategies under the guise of philanthropy.
Although Mayer’s book traces the path of a movement, much of the details center around the Koch family and specifically the father, Fred Koch. It’s no secret that he was involved in many a lucrative business dealing overseas prior to World War II, but nobody seemed to know the extent of his connections to the unsavory political climate in Germany during that time. Mayer points to the most glaring of those endeavors, the third largest oil refinery commissioned during the Third Reich. The author’s research revealed that American Nazi sympathizer William Rhodes Davis hired the elder Koch to help build the facility.
The New York Times points out this part of the family history isn’t mentioned on the website for Koch Industries, which is the company founded by the eldest Koch and now run by his sons. Although the Koch family doesn’t have much of a reputation for being apologetic about their business or political dealings, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to guess why they might not want to have a spotlight shone on Nazi ties. Nonetheless, representatives of the Koch family refused to participate in the book’s writing and won’t comment directly on the news of the Nazi affiliation.
Mayer’s book attempts to illustrate how a handful of insanely rich and politically conservative families used their money and influence to back anti-government movements. The goal? Protecting their businesses and securing the family fortunes, of course—at any cost.