RIP David Koch, Businessman and Philanthropist, 1940-2019
On Friday, businessman and philanthropist David Koch passed away at the age of 79. One half of the notorious "Koch Brothers," the 11th-richest man in the world founded a libertarian nonprofit network with his brother Charles and ran for vice president in the Libertarian Party in 1980.
"It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of my brother David," Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, said in a statement confirming rumors on Friday. "Anyone who worked with David surely experienced his great personality and passion for life. Twenty-seven years ago, David was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and given a grim prognosis of a few years to live. David liked to say that a combination of brilliant doctors, state-of-the-art medications and his own stubbornness kept the cancer at bay."
"We can all be grateful that it did, because he was able to touch so many more lives as a result. In his bountiful years, he married the lovely Julia Flesher, had three exceptional children, while remaining dedicated to the long-term success of Koch Industries," Charles Koch continued.
"David also made institution changing philanthropic commitments to hospitals, cancer research, education and the arts. The significance of David's generosity is best captured in the words of Adam Smith, who wrote, 'to indulge our benevolent affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature.'"
David Koch became a co-owner of Koch Industries with Charles in 1983. He served as executive vice president until 2018. He founded Citizens for a Sound Economy and helped his brother create a network of libertarian-minded conservative organizations that spearhead small-government goals, such as Americans for Prosperity.
In his statement, Charles remarked that David's "endless knowledge rendered him our 'walking Google.'"
"We wish for all to celebrate the life and impact of this most generous and kind man," the Koch Industries CEO concluded.
Yet not everyone is celebrating the life of this billionaire philanthropist. His libertarian activism and support for some Republican politicians have inspired a great deal of anger and hatred on the left. Even many conservatives have turned against the Koch brothers in recent years, due to their disagreements with President Trump.
"David Koch was a villain who devoted his wealth to further enriching himself and his fellow plutocrats, while spinning us all toward environmental doom. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but if there is one, I hope his soul suffers for eternity," Slate's Jordan Weissmann tweeted.
"Good riddance David Koch, you absolutely evil sack of as*. I hope you suffered," comics artist Rob Sheridan tweeted.
Conservative writer Erick Erickson powerfully shot down these disgusting messages. "David Koch has done more for this nation than the people who will celebrate his passing. He gave thousands jobs; helped save the lives of many, many more through his philanthropy to hospitals; elevated the arts; and fought to lift millions out of poverty. He is a great a man," he tweeted.
As liberals rush to condemn David Koch as "right wing," the truth is, he was a principled small-l liberal, willing to buck Donald Trump on issues like trade and the deficit. His brother Charles continues to push libertarian values before partisan politics. The Kochs may make some missteps, but they are true believers, not the cynical money-obsessed villains the left makes them out to be.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.