Confessions of a Former Koch Fellow

Union supporters protested the Koch Industries offices today, as David Weigel noted on Twitter. A couple of days ago numerous union supporters in Denver sported signage demonizing the Kochs. So what’s this all about?

Charles Koch helped build Koch Industries into a hugely successful company. Koch also funds various liberty-oriented groups. Back in the summer of 1995 I worked as a Koch Fellow in Washington, DC. (The program was incorporated into the Institute for Humane Studies not long after that, if memory serves.)

When I became a Koch Fellow, I knew practically nothing about Charles Koch. I’ve never met him (though I’d very much like to). I knew he was a successful businessman. Later I learned that “Mr. Libertarian” Murray Rothbard called him the “Kochtopus,” though I never found that dispute very interesting.

I was already a hard-core free market advocate by the time I became a Koch Fellow; that’s why a became a Koch Fellow. Contrary to the left’s anti-intellectualism, typically the money follows the ideas. It does not determine them. (I’ve also worked for the left-leaning and excellent Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition back when we reformed Colorado’s asset forfeiture laws; I’m even featured in The Progress Report.)

So what did I do that summer when I earned my living from Koch money? For one thing, all of us fellows split into research topics; mine was Social Security. I learned quite a lot about the background of the program. But there was no demand that our findings match any predetermined course. Indeed, I disagreed with everybody else in my group, and I continue to disagree with the proposals put out by such groups as the Cato Institute,another beneficiary of Koch’s money.

But mostly that summer I worked as an intern for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a group dedicated to criminal sentencing reform. (The Koch program farmed out fellows to think-tanks around D.C.) My big project there was researching the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. I even wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post on the subject. Here’s what the summary says: “Ari Armstrong, a research associate with Families Against Mandatory Minimums, discusses efforts to get criminal sentencing for crack cocaine brought down to the same level as powder cocaine due to the disparity between blacks and whites sent to prison.”

So, as you can see, Charles Koch is a very evil man. How dare he fund my efforts to achieve criminal justice equity for African Americans!

Over at Reason, Nick Gillespie points out a number of other reasons why the left should absolutely detest Charles Koch: “Why the Evil Koch Bros. Must be Stopped: They Support Drug Legalization, Gay Marriage, Reduced Defense Spending.”

Vicious, detestable man, that Charles Koch.

And, my dear Mr. Koch, if you happen to read this, please accept my sincere gratitude for all the amazing work you’ve done not only to improve our quality of life through your business activities, but to expand liberty for each individual. You are a hero of our age, and I am honored to have had some association with you within my life, however distant.