Despite PR, Koch Policies Crush the Middle Class

By Lee Saunders, President of AFSCME

3 min readApr 22, 2015

During the course of the past month, the nation’s newspapers have been dotted with letters applauding the billionaire Koch brothers. Even the Presidential candidate and member of Congress, Sen. Rand Paul sang their praises in TIME magazine. It’s a clever public relations tactic from Charles and David Koch, who also announced they intend to spend $900 million to elect their preferred candidates in 2016.

And who are these supporters? Make no mistake, they aren’t speaking for everyday, middle-class workers. They are the wealthy elite, writing from the enclaves of money and power that are a deep fundraising well for the pet political candidates and causes of the Koch brothers, Wall Street and other corporate interests aligned against working people.

Op-ed signers Mike and Suzy Leprino of Leprino Foods, for example, were sued multiple times over workplace and wage violations, including hiring discrimination, and had to settle the cases with the U.S. Department of Labor.

These are people who, despite their vast wealth, benefit from mind-boggling tax breaks thanks to the policy machinations of the Koch brothers. Their claims are the definition of hypocrisy and self-interest. That’s no surprise given the record of the two men they are defending.

The Koch brothers decry government spending and fund efforts to get rid of the minimum wage, yet they benefit from enormous tax breaks and corporate tax loopholes, such as the federal subsidies they receive to operate their 300,000-acre cattle ranch in Motley County, Texas.

The Kochs’ supporters similarly speak with forked tongues. They decry cronyism while buying influence in Congress. They profess to want to help America’s economy while profiting from moving good jobs overseas. They claim to stand with taxpayers while paying high-priced lawyers to find them every outrageous loophole available. Meanwhile everyday Americans are playing by the rules and giving a greater percentage of their income in taxes.

The Koch brothers have created foundations and think tanks promoting their anti-worker agenda at the local and state government levels. This includes organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts “model” legislation copied in state after state to further the corporate agenda at the expense of the middle class.

If the Koch brothers and their supporters were serious about economic mobility in America, and boosting the middle class, they would advocate for workers’ rights, a living wage and improving the public services we all rely on. They would defend programs like Social Security and demand retirement security for all.

That is what the American labor movement does. The Koch brothers and their supporters attack these ideas at their very core.

Today, the Kochs have made it their priority to spend as much money as possible to prop up candidates who support their extreme views and dismantle organizations such as labor unions that contradict their viewpoints and advocate for working families. Hence that hefty financial commitment intended to affect the outcome of 2016.

We hope Congress addresses the Citizens United decision that has poisoned our democracy by opening the floodgates for the Kochs to try and buy our government. Additionally, we hope Congress works to end these tax cuts for the rich and oppose budget cuts to vital services the middle class depends on.

Koch sympathizers are out of touch with American values and the very real economic concerns of most Americans. No amount of public relations can paper over these facts. We would hope that members of Congress and the media would call them on their duplicity, not give it more traction.




AFSCME’s members provide the vital services that make America happen. We advocate for prosperity and opportunity for all working families.