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Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America's Most Powerful and Private Dynasty

de Daniel Schulman

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1817153,588 (3.36)2
"Like the Rockefellers and the Kennedys, the Kochs are one of the most influential dynasties of the modern age, but they have never been the subject of a major biography... until now. Not long after the death of his father, Charles Koch, then in his early 30s, discovered a letter the family patriarch had written to his sons. "You will receive what now seems to be a large sum of money," Fred Koch cautioned. "It may either be a blessing or a curse." Fred's legacy would become a blessing and a curse to his four sons-Frederick, Charles, and fraternal twins David and Bill-who in the ensuing decades fought bitterly over their birthright, the oil and cattle-ranching empire their father left behind in 1967. Against a backdrop of scorched-earth legal skirmishes, Charles and David built Koch Industries into one of the largest private corporations in the world-bigger than Boeing and Disney-and they rose to become two of the wealthiest men on the planet. Influenced by the sentiments of their father, who was present at the birth of the John Birch Society, Charles and David have spent decades trying to remake the American political landscape and mainline their libertarian views into the national bloodstream. They now control a machine that is a center of gravity within the Republican Party. To their supporters, they are liberating America from the scourge of Big Government. To their detractors, they are political "contract killers," as David Axelrod, President Barack Obama's chief strategist, put it during the 2012 campaign. Bill, meanwhile, built a multi-billion dollar energy empire all his own, and earned notoriety as an America's Cup-winning yachtsman, a flamboyant playboy, and as a litigious collector of fine wine and Western memorabilia. Frederick lived an intensely private life as an arts patron, refurbishing a series of historic homes and estates. SONS OF WICHITA traces the complicated lives and legacies of these four tycoons, as well as their business, social, and political ambitions. No matter where you fall on the ideological spectrum, the Kochs are one of the most influential dynasties of our era, but so little is publicly known about this family, their origins, how they make their money, and how they live their lives. Based on hundreds of interviews with friends, relatives, business associates, and many others, SONS OF WICHITA is the first major biography about this wealthy and powerful family-warts and all"--… (més)
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The book does a fine job of recounting the lives and fortunes of the Koch family. But I came away feeling repulsed by the family itself and what they've done over the years. I should note that this was not a byproduct of any political disagreement with the well-explained and extensive political activities and financial support provided by some of the Koch family. Instead, I was pretty shocked at the amount of in-fighting, waste of time, energy, and money by the Koch brothers as they conduct legal battles against each other. Along the way, they basically destroy their own family. With all that the family had been given--a fortune beyond comprehension to most people, clearly superior intellectual capabilities, and rich opportunity afforded by living in the United States during their time--so much of their lives seems wasted for no good reason. Overall, definitely a downer, but my rating tries not to fault the author for recording a pathetic story. ( )
  Joe24 | Jul 22, 2016 |
Schulman's book is a very readable introduction to understanding the highly influential Koch family. Although the Koch family probably found the book offensive, I actually found it sympathetic to the family.

The most useful aspect of the book is its clear explanation of the philosophy of Charles Koch and where he agrees and disagrees with the Tea Party and Republican Party. The book is highly recommended ( )
  M_Clark | Feb 28, 2016 |
The book takes a perspective on these ultra-rich brothers from a political perspective from the left of where they reside yet it does manage to reveal interesting aspects of their lives and motivations. There is no question the rich are quite different in many ways and these brothers are certainly no exception.

Along with the larger then life wealth they managed to acquire with birth and to expand greatly upon we get a heavy dose of the squabbles that surfaced between them and the political motivations. Large sums of money equated to political muscle and power are devoted to libertarian cause and in a sense social engineering. Though we see some impact from these efforts we also see that even the deepest pockets are not always enough, other than buying politicians along the way. The Koch brothers themselves will soon enough fade away but their money and political legacy will live on to some extent as part of the political process that is fueled by it. ( )
  knightlight777 | Oct 15, 2014 |
Those guys from Kansas

Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty by Daniel Schulman (Grand Central Publishing, $30).

These are the guys who built the Tea Party and who, according to the groundbreaking piece in the New Yorker by Jane Mayer, were out to bring President Barack Obama down from the moment he was elected.

Daniel Schuman, a Washington bureau editor for Mother Jones magazine, started working on this book in 2012, when the Koch Brothers were big players in the presidential election. What he’s written is a family history—and an important one, considering how fully enmeshed in energy and industry this particular family has become.

The family’s patriarch, Fred, was born with the 20th century. An engineer who made a fortune in oil by the time he was 30, he also established the family in Wichita. His sons, Frederick, Charles, David and William, are not all equally involved in what we’ve come to think of as “the Koch Brothers”—at least, not in the political activism. It’s Charles and David who are the most active in right-wing politics—and, as Schulman notes, they don’t have quite the clout that many on the left think they do.

What they do have a lot of is money, and in close political races, that can make all the differences.

Schulman has been forced to work with public documents and existing information here, since the Kochs themselves weren’t interested in talking to him. He’s done a fantastic job, and one that is nothing if not measured, even-handed, and fair.

One of the most interesting things that comes out of Schulman’s work is a fuller understanding of where the activist Koch brothers’ politics lie: firmly in their own self-interest, as industrialists. They want low corporate taxes and low income taxes on the wealthy, cheap labor without protections, and minimal government regulation on business and industry.

They really don’t much care about social issues; David Koch even supports marriage equality.

In short, they’re libertarians. That doesn’t make them any less dangerous to representative democracy in this “money is speech and corporations are people” post-Citizens United era, but it does make them par for the course among the one percent.

Schulman’s readable, well-researched and fair family biography is imminently worth the time of readers who are interested in American politics and economics. ( )
1 vota KelMunger | Aug 19, 2014 |
Not bad and a good insight into the minds of these lunatics.
Clearly the Kochs cheat like crazy, but since they are so successful, no one cares. ( )
1 vota annbury | Jul 23, 2014 |
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Wikipedia en anglès (5)

"Like the Rockefellers and the Kennedys, the Kochs are one of the most influential dynasties of the modern age, but they have never been the subject of a major biography... until now. Not long after the death of his father, Charles Koch, then in his early 30s, discovered a letter the family patriarch had written to his sons. "You will receive what now seems to be a large sum of money," Fred Koch cautioned. "It may either be a blessing or a curse." Fred's legacy would become a blessing and a curse to his four sons-Frederick, Charles, and fraternal twins David and Bill-who in the ensuing decades fought bitterly over their birthright, the oil and cattle-ranching empire their father left behind in 1967. Against a backdrop of scorched-earth legal skirmishes, Charles and David built Koch Industries into one of the largest private corporations in the world-bigger than Boeing and Disney-and they rose to become two of the wealthiest men on the planet. Influenced by the sentiments of their father, who was present at the birth of the John Birch Society, Charles and David have spent decades trying to remake the American political landscape and mainline their libertarian views into the national bloodstream. They now control a machine that is a center of gravity within the Republican Party. To their supporters, they are liberating America from the scourge of Big Government. To their detractors, they are political "contract killers," as David Axelrod, President Barack Obama's chief strategist, put it during the 2012 campaign. Bill, meanwhile, built a multi-billion dollar energy empire all his own, and earned notoriety as an America's Cup-winning yachtsman, a flamboyant playboy, and as a litigious collector of fine wine and Western memorabilia. Frederick lived an intensely private life as an arts patron, refurbishing a series of historic homes and estates. SONS OF WICHITA traces the complicated lives and legacies of these four tycoons, as well as their business, social, and political ambitions. No matter where you fall on the ideological spectrum, the Kochs are one of the most influential dynasties of our era, but so little is publicly known about this family, their origins, how they make their money, and how they live their lives. Based on hundreds of interviews with friends, relatives, business associates, and many others, SONS OF WICHITA is the first major biography about this wealthy and powerful family-warts and all"--

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