President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have called them out by name. On the broadly defined left, they are accused of controlling every aspect of the country's politics and business climate. They have been lampooned in bad movies and worse songs.
They are David and Charles Koch, the libertarian-leaning billionaires who are the subject of the new book Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America's Most Powerful and Private Dynasty, by Daniel Schulman.
"I think the one misconception that people have about [the Kochs] is that they are merely out there to line their pockets," says Schulman, a senior editor at Mother Jones.
In an account that is even-handed and well-researched (though far from uncritical), Schulman charts the brothers' central role in creating the modern libertarian movement and their principled opposition to subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare. He also details their criticism of conservative stances regarding many lifestyle issues and interventionist foreign policy. (Disclosure: David Koch is a trustee of the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website.)
Schulman sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie to talk about Sons of Wichita, misconceptions about the Koch brothers, and whether American politics is gearing up for a showdown between the likes of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in 2016.
Cameras by Todd Krainin and Joshua Swain. Edited by Swain.
About 15 minutes.
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For a fuller discussion of the Koch brothers' role in libertarianism and contemporary politics, read Gillespie's "Libertarianism 3.0: Koch and a Smile."