August 30th, 2012
09:16 PM ET
2 years ago

Billionaire Koch offers rare rebuttal to Dem attacks

Tampa, Florida (CNN) - Billionaire industrialist David Koch, who critics accuse of bankrolling a fierce and costly campaign against President Obama, offered a rare rebuttal to Democratic attacks against him on Thursday.

Koch rarely speaks to the press. But at an event near the site of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, he responded to a CNN question regarding the Obama campaign's targeting of him as a prime political opponent.

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"We live in a country that believes in free speech," he said. "I'm a Republican and I believe in fiscal responsibility and supporting American business. So I think I have a right to speak out."

"The president says what he wants to. But I believe in free speech," Koch added.

The event - a private reception - was sponsored by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, a prime supporter of the tea party movement. CNN was the only television network allowed to attend.

The event was titled, "A Salute to Entrepreneurs Building America." Besides Koch, also in attendance were AFP Chairman Art Pope and Republican lawmakers Jon Kyl, the Arizona senator, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, and Georgia Rep. Tom Price. Hundreds of grassroots activists also attended.

Koch is the chairman of the AFP Foundation, the group's 501 (c)(3) whose work aims at "educating citizens about the value of limited government and a free market economy." He, along with brother Charles Koch, are the titans behind Koch Industries - the second-largest privately held company in the U.S.

The pair are fierce promoters of free enterprise. At the event, Koch defended his ideals.

"I think what is one of the greatest concerns that I have, that AFP is working on, is the deficits that the federal government is running which has risen to gigantic levels," Koch said. "And I'm very concerned that if these deficits continue, for years to come, that it's going to cause runaway inflation, the debt service will become unaffordable of the federal debt. And this country will see a terrible collapse. And I don't want to see this country collapse like Greece is doing or become like Zimbabwe with runaway inflation."

Sen. Johnson said: "We are in a fight for freedom. And let's face it: from my standpoint, the greatest threat to freedom is ignorance. And what Americans for Prosperity bring to the table is information."

Koch is a supporter of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. In July, the corporate titan hosted a private fundraiser for Romney at his estate in Southampton.

The Kochs have also been accused of bankrolling political attacks against the president and their Democratic opponents.

AFP has spent tens of millions of dollars in a broadcast campaign critical of President Obama. But detractors accuse the brothers of trying to sway the election towards conservatives and, in turn, advance policies that would benefit their own corporate interests.

Supporters of the Kochs have long denied those claims.

The Obama campaign has previously targeted the Kochs.

In February, the president's campaign sent out a fundraising letter tying the Kochs to Romney and accusing the brothers of bankrolling "tea party extremism" and committing $200 million in an attempt "to destroy President Obama before Election Day."

In response, Koch Companies Public Sector wrote an open letter directly to the Obama campaign.

"It is both surprising and disappointing that the President would allow his re-election team to send such an irresponsible and misleading letter to his supporters," the letter stated. It went on to defend the brothers' free market principles and denied they had committed $200 million against the president.

At Thursday's event, Koch also answered a reporter's question about being vilified by his detractors.

"Well, that's massively inaccurate in my opinion," Koch said. "I try to do things in life that make the world a better place. I'm very philanthropic. I'm a major contributor to cancer research, medical research. I'm a big supporter of cultural institutions, educational institutions."

soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. Mike L

    According to Jesus, hatred toward anyone is as committing the act of murder in the heart.
    When one hates another human being because they may have more material wealth, then the act of murder has been committed in the heart.
    When one hates people because they may have more material wealth, in God's eyes, the acts of mass murder have been committed in the heart.
    Hatred toward other human beings for any reason is evil and wicked.

    August 30, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  2. Daniel in Texas

    Who cares how this guy chooses to spend his money? The outreach of his ads is a drop in the bucket compared to the misinformation spread on the internet by both the left and right. Everyday I go into work and hear about what someone "read" on blogs, comments, or random political sites. Oblivious to the fact almost everything written leans to an angle, generally 180* from reality.

    August 31, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  3. Bobo

    Buy an election ? I'm tired of waiting for my pony. Go Mitt!!!!!

    August 31, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  4. hotairwarrior

    The problem that the Republicans have with Obama is that he has been TOO successful, getting the healthcare act passed , balancing oil production and environmental issues, and keeping this country from another great depression.

    Let's face it.... the Republicans built the economic Wall Street/ realestate crash.

    August 31, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  5. MinemanUT

    One thing that Koch is absolutely correct about is that these deficits can not continue, regardless of who is President & who controls Congress. We need to cut spending in all government programs, create an atmosphere of private sector job creation & we do not need to do this by borrowing more money. We already did that the first time around, we should not do it again.

    August 31, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  6. Merryl Alpert

    Shame on Mitt! No mention of the hell and devastation to the Gulf Coast; New Orleans in particular, from the hurricane. What lies in store for the people who have no homes; no work; no schools? The government has spent trillions to assist in putting their lives together, 7 years ago and now....once again! Mother Nature, knows no Political Party.....the money wasted on this, free-for-all convention, should have been halted and better used for their assistance.

    August 31, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  7. hot air warrior

    The Republicans did build it....... They built the Wallstreet / Banking / real estate crash.

    August 31, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  8. Tammy lambert chandler az

    Krotch brothers dont want to see American go down the way of Zimbabwe....Where the heck were the Krotch bros when America hit rock bottom under Republican rule 2006 2007....funny, how they and Romney became wealthier during those times.

    August 31, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  9. ironman59

    Koch claims to be fiscally responsible but is spending record amounts to buy an election. It has nothing to do with policies or success, just a goal from Day 1 to get Obama out of office. This is why the gop does not want campaign reform. It is also what we get when coporations become people. There is nothing good that comes from the gop gaining control of POTUS or Congress. Just look at all of the assaults on personal liberties over the past decade including the Un-Patriot Act.

    Now the gop and far right go so far as to blame the policies of the Fed Chief who was picked by "W". The say TARP is a failure but it was "W" who pushed for TARP and at the same time let corporate America run wild.

    August 31, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  10. EP451

    Money = free speach.. I just don’t buy it…

    August 31, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  11. Small Fry

    Strongly advise restoring and beautifying America. If it is broken, repair it. If it is not right, make it right. Too much turmoil and extremes are not good long-term for anyone (including folks funding it). Time to advance America forward.

    August 31, 2012 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  12. paul46

    "My kind of people: the "haves" & the "have mores"–George W. Bush

    August 31, 2012 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  13. Obama/Biden - Dumb & Dumber

    Obama bought the 2008 election after refusing public campaign financing, his first lie. That is OK with the leftist Democrats though. The only way the Democrats can win is if they shut down all of their opponents and restrict what they say. They only support free speech that they agree with. All other opinions are to be attacked, demonized and destroyed. Thank God the USSC ruled in Citizens United that free speech must remain free FOR ALL. The Democrats crying about "buying an election" are fairy tales and I will point to the last California Governors race as an example. THE PEOPLE ultimately decide the election.

    August 31, 2012 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  14. janey33

    Buying an election??? What do you suppose George Soros is doing??? Liberals have no right to criticize when Soros is doing the same thing.

    August 31, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  15. Carl

    Where was his concern about the budget deficit while he was bankrolling Bush, who created 6 trillion dollars of of current deficit, partly because of huge tax cuts to people like Koch. And this was a a time when the economy looked very strong. What a hypocrite!

    August 31, 2012 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  16. scunnurt

    Comparing what Soros does to what the Kochs and Rove's PAC is doing is sort of like sending Darren McFadden out as the only offensive player for the Raiders. Your analogy holds no water.

    One versus a mob never works in favor of the mob.

    August 31, 2012 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  17. scunnurt

    One versus a mob never works in favor of the mob.

    Edit: One versus the Mob never works for the One.

    August 31, 2012 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  18. Vote for Seamus, elect Kolob's next dog catcher

    "I'm a Republican and I believe in fiscal responsibility and supporting American business"

    READ:"I am a citizen of Republistan. Fiscal responsibility is whatever Wall Street market forces say it is. I own a lot of them. Just like the presidents of Republistan, they know not to cross me, it is all business when when I cut off their head and feed it to their family dog. Government oversight of business annoys me. Government does what I pay for, so does business on Wall street, what I say goes. Government oversight second guesses my business decisions, which I will not stand for."

    August 31, 2012 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  19. normajean @ verizon ,com

    WHat a joke.....the heat { see publicity} has finally made the Koch Bros. uncomfortable so they have surfaced in denial of trying to buy every election including Wisconsin and now the presidency....sorry boys....to late....
    ....we aren't all stupid...."The cat's out of the bag"....andyou should look in a mirror and ask yourself...if there is anything you wouldn't buy..........You can't buy honesty and respectability.....it's too late!!!

    August 31, 2012 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  20. ValarMorghulis

    While Koch does give generously to various philanthropic causes he is still an evil man.

    August 31, 2012 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  21. ValarMorghulis

    While Koch does give generously to various philanthropic causes he is still an ev il man.

    August 31, 2012 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  22. Cathy

    Yes, Koch has the right of free speech, like every American. What he does not have is the right to buy elections or to deny other Americans the right to vote.

    August 31, 2012 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  23. Steve C.

    Obama's a failure, Obama hasn't gotten U/E down, blah, blah, blah. OK I get it, but just one question. Where the hell were all of you Obama haters when it was Bush that had the shovel in his hands and he just kept digging the USA deeper & deeper into this grande hole that we're in? I didn't hear a one of you b|tching about Bush while he was putting us into this mess, at least not until it was far too late that is. And now you try and make it sound as if it's all Obama's fault, unbelievable! I really don't think most of you realize the size of the hole Bush left the US in and probably never will. You're not coming out of something that big in 4yrs, it'll take 10yrs to repair the damage the last republican pres did and now you can't wait to get another one in the White House. Someone famous once said "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result". A note to republicans: TRICKLE DOWN ECONOMICS DOESN'T WORK, NEVER HAS- NEVER WILL!!! We've try it for decades and it doesn't work, mainly because the greedy few at the top never let it trickle down. BTW, I'm an independent that feels that I have no choice other than vote for Obama as I'm not voting for someone who's talking about taking away something that I've paid into for >35yrs now! And wasn't it a republican who said "deficits don't matter, well as long as a republican is in office they don't.

    August 31, 2012 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  24. jason

    If he is truly concerned then run for public office! Become a legislator and craft the laws and policys the correct way....don't stand in the shadows pulling strings. To borrow from the TeaParty...Is this what our founding fathers would have wanted?

    August 31, 2012 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  25. stephen hapke

    That nice he's concerned–he can donate all his income past $1M to charity,education and the government so we have fewer problems as a nation. He just wants to make more and more money and have more and more control–backing ALEC to suppress the vote, take away education,take away women's rights and generally ensure a perpetual serf class to work for him

    August 31, 2012 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
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