NYT Visits Hometown of Koch Brothers, Surprised to Find Opposition to Them 'Dissipates Markedly'

An article appearing in the Wednesday print edition of the New York Times (“In Wichita, Koch Influence Is Revered and Reviled”), reporter Carl Hulse traveled to the hometown of businessmen and libertarian donors Charles and David Koch in Wichita, Kansas. 

Much to the dismay of the newspaper that has an obsession with peddling Democratic attacks on the Koch brothers, Hulse was unable to find anyone besides three progressive activists that had anything negative to say about them. Instead, he found that the Koch brothers are held in high regard in the community where, among many generous donations, the Wichita State University basketball arena was renamed the Charles Koch Arena in 2003 after he gave $6 million to have it completely renovated. Here’s more from Hulse:


Welcome to Kochville, where the family name conjures up something decidedly different from the specter raised by Democrats of secretive political operations funded by tens of millions of dollars in anonymous campaign money. For many living here in Wichita along the Arkansas River, it stands instead for well-paying jobs, extensive philanthropy like the $6 million for the arena renovation, and Kansas pride in being the headquarters of Koch Industries, the nation’s second-largest privately held company, which produces oil, fertilizer, and common household items.

After summarizing the brothers worth of more than $50 billion each and Senator Harry Reid’s recent attacks on the brothers (saying they are “un-American”), Huse reported that in Wichita,

But the charged atmosphere surrounding the Kochs elsewhere dissipates markedly in the city where their father, Fred Koch, started his business in 1925, even though the positive sentiment toward the Kochs is hardly universally shared. 

In addition to the basektball arena, Hulse found that the Koch name also is found at the local YMCA and the Sedgwick County Zoo as their annual donations stretch from those respective organizations to other examples that include Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Salvation Army. 

Their value in the state’s economy is immense and hard to argue the negatives of when “[t]he company estimated its direct payments in salary and benefits to Kansas workers, most of them in Wichita, at $410 million last year.”

As for the critics that are so often found dominating articles regarding the Kochs in the New York Times, the Times only included quotes from the president of the Wichita teachers’ union and two members of the Kansas People’s Action, “a progressive activist group in Wichita that is also battling the Koch agenda.”

Nonetheless, they did the best they could to smear the Koch brothers philanthropy as a Trojan horse for that they really want.

“That is all just bells and whistles, the shiny little things to distract you while they are proceeding to try to change our country into what they want it to be,” said Randy Mousley, president of the Wichita teachers’ union. He has clashed with Koch-backed groups and legislators over deep income and business tax cuts that reduced state aid for education and forced some districts to eliminate staff and raise property taxes. 

“The Kochs are using their money and influence to hold our community hostage,” said Louis Goseland, the campaign director for Kansas People’s Action, a progressive activist group in Wichita that is also battling the Koch political agenda. “Right now we are working under Koch rule.”

....

As for those living in Wichita, the Koch dominance distresses some.

“My daughter, who just graduated from W.S.U., was telling me: ‘Mom, what’s here? The biggest thing you can aspire to do is work for the Koch brothers, and I don’t want to do that’” said Sulma Arias, the executive director of Kansas People’s Action.  

Despite trying to create that narrative that the Kochs are holding their hometown hostage, the argument fails to hold up in comparison to their generous donations and positive impact they have on the community that came through in the article (despite any critics best efforts).

All the while the work of liberal billionaire and climate change activist Tom Steyer was portrayed in a story last month in the newspaper as an activist whose new super PAC, NextGen Climate, simply wants “to pave the way for climate change to become a major issue in the next presidential campaign, by elevating it in the minds of voters in states that will play crucial roles in nominating and electing the next president.” 

After a quick statement from a spokesman for the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, the conservative perspective was quickly dismissed.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is a news analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division