A new book on the Koch brothers released today, Sons of Wichita, details the Kochs’ history and the rise of their empire. The book further reveals what is becoming a clear portrait of these powerful tycoons: two billionaire brothers who have always put their personal fortune and oil empire first.
The stories recounted about the Kochs’ business practices are both astounding and yet utterly predictable. According to the book, in 1995, Koch Industries was sued by the federal government under the allegation that it had spilled millions of gallons of oil into US water, with the Department of Justice (DoJ) having identified 300 separate spills between 1990 and 1995. Worse, the DoJ prosecutor reportedly said that Koch Industries had “repeatedly lied about the amount to avoid penalties” and that the company “would call in two barrels when they had something that was a shocking amount of oil.”
It was an allegation that was reinforced by former Koch workers themselves. According to the book, the Kochs “had taken a shockingly cavalier approach to pipeline safety” as reflected by the testimony of former employees. One employee explained the technique they utilized called “wheel washing” to mask oil spills and cover up the extent of them. The same employee reportedly said that “crews often did so on their own initiative, since they wanted to protect their jobs.” According to Schulman, when several Koch officials were asked by prosecutors if they “had ever knowingly downplayed the size of spills,” they pleaded the Fifth Amendment.
But it wasn’t just the environment or the law that the Kochs were willing to disregard in their pursuit of greater riches. Former Pipeline Manager Kenoth Whitstine reportedly recalled warning a supervisor about a hazardous, even potentially fatal situation. According to Schulman’s recounting of Whitstine’s testimony:
The supervisor’s callous response chilled him. He said “that I needed to understand that money spent on certain projects could make a lot more money than on other projects and that they could come back and pay off a lawsuit from an incident and still be money ahead.” The message was that it was more profitable “to take a gamble of something happening later and handle that situation when it arose,” even when human lives might be at stake.
The evidence just keeps mounting: There is nothing the Kochs won’t do for another dollar.
View accompanying research after the jump.