August 30th, 2012
09:16 PM ET
11 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.

Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker, catch the latest updates from the GOP convention on CNN's 2012 Conventions Live Blog, and check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator to game out your own strategy for November.

"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. enzie

    This guy can say whatever he wants, but – to put his money where his mouth is and create a better country, shouldn't he be using all of that money he's put toward destroying Obama for creating jobs? The ultra-rich had their chance for eight lousy Bush years to 'make things right' and set up their beloved 'trickle-down' economics. But THIS is the sort of thing they do with all of their money: use it to buy power and more influence that will only make them richer -NOT create jobs to 'help the middle class', as the Republicans claim the 1% will surely do when given the chance..

    August 31, 2012 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  2. Uhmerican

    Nobody cares that these guys have a ton of money, they just care that they use it to sway votes and manipulate our government. Yes, it happens on both sides of the aisle and it's what's wrong with government. The voice of the common man is drowned out by the sound of money. Get the money out of politics and let the people feel like their voices make a difference again.

    August 31, 2012 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  3. Independent

    Dems keep flinging dirt at honest men, expecting it sticks. No other argument. Keep it up, way to go (out of the door).

    August 31, 2012 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  4. jo

    Kotch you do not pay your fair share tax, but you seems you are for the country. .....You are for yourself protecting your tax rate to futher go down

    August 31, 2012 02:56 am at 2:56 am |
  5. Objectively Moderate

    The Kochs and Soroses of this country are destroying the nation. Their money buys them 1,000,000,000 times more "free speech" than any average citizen. Worse, they use their billions to lie about the other party in order to win more elections and push their own agendas. The Kochs want lower taxes in order to make more billions, most likely at the expense of lower and middle class citizens (how many US jobs have been shipped overseas so that corporate execs could make outrageous bonuses). . That is truly pathetic. The Supreme Court set this country back 100 years with their deplorable Citizens United decision (along with Roe V Wade, one of the worst non-race related decision in history). This country needs people that will sacrifice for the betterment of this country. People that want to take on the deficit not just cut already low income tax rates or increase already insanely high government spending. We need people and politicians that stop asking the other poltical party (and its supporters) to sacrifice so that their own political party (and supporters) can reap the benefits. Cut spending, increase taxes, and stop the constant whining and crying. Step up and sacrifice!

    August 31, 2012 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  6. Darrin

    I think it should be clear where the money is coming from and who its coming from. Its also fair to have some form of limit but it should also apply to unions. Unions have a long history of being controlled by organized crime and if someone is going to buy our elections it shouldn't be organized crime.

    But the concept of buying elections implies that the voters are stupid.
    If you really think the voters are stupid then maybe you shouldn't be involved in setting policy.
    The people who think spin wins elections may be right one time in a generation but usually spin doesn't win the election and elect a complete incompetent to the highest office in the nation.


    August 31, 2012 04:24 am at 4:24 am |
  7. kansastan

    The Koch brothers concern for deficits is just a smoke screen, what they really want is power. They already own Kansas' one-party state government and getting more is what they're all about. Their guiding principal 'with wealth comes wisdom' isn't exactly biblical.

    August 31, 2012 05:17 am at 5:17 am |
  8. stars

    They want be around much longer Another year they will be meeting their maker satan.

    August 31, 2012 05:17 am at 5:17 am |
  9. McCain-in-4

    It would be interesting how much lower the Koch's products would be if they didn't have to "inflate" those prices to fund their political/educational agents.

    August 31, 2012 05:18 am at 5:18 am |
  10. MAC

    The democrats have George Soro's and the Hollywood Liberal Elitist.

    August 31, 2012 05:58 am at 5:58 am |
  11. joe smith

    all the while, the AFL/CIO, and the teachers unions/teamsters union, hold little meetings in their shops so a union executive can come in, with a bag man, give a pep talk, then leave with thousands of $$, and this goes on every day, under the radar, and the $$ gets handed to a sitting senetor/congressman, with the understanding his or her vote on certain issues will reflect the $$ in the this a great country or what..

    August 31, 2012 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  12. Armyvet129

    You are right that rich people can bomb the airways with their point of view. Both sides do it. At the end of the day everyone get's one vote. That is your say and it doesn't matter how rich or poor you are in that moment you are an American that is equal in liberty to every other American. To gripe about the money and the Super PACs on each side isn't productive, smart people weed all that out. There are so many sources for information that TV adds are mostly targeted for the elderly and poor. That isn't me being bigoted, that's just a fact. Money does play a role in elections where things are pretty even, our economy is good, and all we have to look at are the fine details of our candidates. I don't think it will this time because we are in serious trouble with two very different ideas on how we fix it. Adds won't matter as much as ideas, I will give my fellow American's that much credit even if some of you don't.

    August 31, 2012 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  13. FedUp

    Mr. Koch can do whatever he wants to do with his money. What's wrong? Doesn't Obama have all the little movie stars in his back pocket? Won't they get together the kind of money Mr. Koch has donated? Come on guys. Dig deep into your pockets. If Obama gets reelcted he might come to all of your movies.

    August 31, 2012 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  14. Marie MD

    Now we all now what you really look like. Another rich spoiled anti everything but what he and the flip flopper are.

    August 31, 2012 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  15. joe smith

    question; how many people are gainfully employed by the koch owned businesses through out this nation, the contrbutions to the health of the nation are incalcutable, and they achieved that status by working within the framework already established..

    August 31, 2012 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  16. rrd

    GOP SuperPAC = bad
    Dems SuperPAC = ok


    August 31, 2012 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  17. bks

    How about raising the taxes to balance the budget Mr Koch ? They just want small governemnet so that they can do whatever they want. It has nothing to do with free speech. It has to do with taxes and regulations.

    August 31, 2012 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  18. Crewmax42

    RichS- Don't waste your time with facts. It just confuses them. They are like crows and shiny objects.

    August 31, 2012 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  19. Vincent Carter

    I believe in free speech too. So why is that only Billionaires get heard if it is so FREE.

    August 31, 2012 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  20. tom

    Most of you all need to lay off the Democratic Koolaid. George Soros is much worse, but since it fits your narrative you turn a blind eye to his buying of Obama's 2008 election. The limosine liberals make gobs of cash on Obama's policies but you do not rail against them, why? I am so sick of the we versus them BS. Why can't you face the fact that Obama has increased the deficit by almost 6 trillion dollars and has nothing to show for it. But hey Soros and his pals are still making money on all of our backs.

    August 31, 2012 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  21. Gurgyl

    Are these idiots backing Mitt Robme??? Nonsense. That idiot loses mercilessly. GOP is dead.

    August 31, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  22. TommytheT

    nicely done...time for more folks to stand up and call out Mr Obama on his false claims and speeches. Use to be the Press that did it but no more, so now We The People need to voice our objections loudly and strongly each time Mr Obama attempts to use the media to intentional mislead the public.

    August 31, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  23. Ronnie

    2012 will prove that money cannot buy a President...

    August 31, 2012 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  24. jd

    so when george soros bought the election for obama where were you haters?

    yeah thats what I thought.

    August 31, 2012 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  25. Michael Martinez

    Obama bought the election in 2008 so I’m not sure what all the complaining is about..Let’s get real.

    August 31, 2012 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
1 2 3