A year and a half in the past I found that the Koch brothers are my brothers.

I learned about our extraordinary kinship via a short article in the new Republic, which mentioned that Charles Koch, and his youthful twin brothers David and William, had been members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at MIT. I used to be a Beta at Syracuse University (Class of 1970). And it’s well-known that all Betas are brothers, ceaselessly.

I admit that I haven’t stayed in contact with my Syracuse frat brothers or paid a lot attention to Beta happenings, but learning about my kinship with the Koch brothers has reawakened my fraternal feelings.

I hoped to run into Charles (MIT 1957) or David (MIT 1962) at their Palm Springs get-collectively two weeks ago for the ultra-conservative wing of the .001 percent. I solely dwell two hours away and I was prepared to pay for my own resort room. Alas, they didn’t invite me, but I came upon what happened anyway.

The Kochs introduced that they — and their network of conservative organizations — could be spending $889 million within the 2016 elections to help elect right wing Republicans to the White Home and Congress. No wonder four of essentially the most conservative GOP presidential hopefuls — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — showed up in Palm Springs to kiss the Koch brothers’ rings (or perhaps another a part of their anatomy) to win their help.

Had I been invited, I would have made sure to provide Charles and David the key Beta handshake, quietly mutter “Phi Kai Phi” (Beta’s secret slogan, though I am unable to remember what it means), and sing a few refrains of one of the fraternity’s drinking songs, “I am a Master Beta.” I used to be also hoping to see if these Beta billionaires could nonetheless recite the official historical past of the founding of the fraternity while holding a lighted match, which I and different Beta pledges needed to do throughout hell week. It begins: “At 9 o’clock on the evening of the eighth day of the eighth month of the 12 months 1839, eight earnest young males, all college students at Miami University, held the first meeting of Beta Theta Pi in the Hall of the outdated Union Chapel at Miami University. The eight founders within the order by which their names appear in the minutes, have been….” We then needed to recite the complete names of all eight founders, while the match flame was getting closer and closer to our fingers.

Beta Theta Pi has a long and illustrious history. It one of the oldest and largest fraternities within the country. At its peak it had over 220 chapters in the United States and Canada, but that quantity has plunged to about 95 chapters “in good standing,” another 19 chapters-in-ready referred to as “colonies, eleven chapters which are both on probation or on “warning,” two chapters which can be under “reorganization” and one chapter (Georgia Tech) that has been suspended. Over 190,000 Beta Theta Pi members have been initiated because the fraternity was based and approximately 127,000 of them are still dwelling. Wikipedia’s checklist of famous Betas is very impressive.

Charles and David Koch, who’re each value over $41 billion, are well-known for his or her zealous right-wing views and donations to conservative causes and politicians. William, who years ago led an unsuccessful takeover of the family business and is thus worth only $2.9 billion, is also a conservative donor, however does not be part of forces together with his brothers.

In 2012 Koch Industries donated $2.2 million to candidates for president, Congress, and Senate, in keeping with the middle for Responsive Politics. But that is just the tip of the iceberg of the Kochs’ warchest. Charles Koch and his spouse Elizabeth gave $919,000, and David Koch and wife Julia gave $2.Four million to candidates — none of it to Democrats. In addition they give huge bucks to Americans for Prosperity, their conservative political action committee, which makes enormous marketing campaign contributions but which is not required to reveal its donors’ names.

The Kochs give some candidates the Beta enhance. In 2010, for example, Joe Heck, a conservative Nevada legislator and Penn State Beta (1984), ran for the state’s 3rd congressional district, defeated incumbent Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Dina Titus by 1,748 votes, and was re-elected in 2012 and 2014. Koch Industries had been Beta benefactors each time, contributing $10,000 to Heck in each election.

But a lot to my chagrin, I discovered that relating to politics, the Kochs’ ideology and self-interest trumps their loyalty to their Beta brothers.

In 2010, the Koch brothers turned their again on fellow Beta Sen. Michael Bennet (Wesleyan 1987), a Democrat from Colorado. Koch Industries contributed $23,000 to Ken Buck, a Tea Party Republican, hoping to unseat Bennet. Charles Koch and David Koch each wrote a check for $2,four hundred. The Club for Growth, a conservative PAC with many overlapping ties to the Koch brothers, gave Buck $153,053. Bennet defeated Buck, despite the latter’s Koch cash.

In 2012, Beta Senator Invoice Nelson (Yale 1965), a Florida Democrat, ran for reelection for a third term. However Koch Industries gave $33,500 to Nelson’s opponent, Republican Connie Mack. Both Koch brothers contributed one other $5,000 out of their own pockets. This act of frat-ricide was particularly outrageous because Mack was a member of College of Florida chapter Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a major Beta rival. It was based 17 years after Beta however now is much bigger, with 246 lively chapters.

Ok. I can understand why the Kochs would support a SAE Republican over a Beta Democrat. But it gets even worse. That same 12 months, Beta David Dewhurst (Arizona 1967), Texas’ conservative Lieutenant Governor and a detailed ally of Gov. Rick Perry, was thought of a shoo-in to win the GOP nomination for the Senate being vacated by the retiring Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison. But Dewhurst lost his celebration’s major to former Texas Solicitor Common Ted Cruz, a favourite of the Tea Party, who went on to vanquish his Democratic opponent. Koch Industries gave Cruz $27,500. Charles Koch and his spouse contributed $5,000. The Club for Growth, a conservative PAC with many overlapping ties to the Koch brothers, gave Cruz over $5 million to assist him beat Dewhurst.

And here’s another example of the Kochs betraying their Beta brothers. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, who was a Beta at Denison College (1954), served in the Senate for 36 years till he was defeated within the GOP main in 2012 by Tea Party wing-nut Richard Mourdock, who went on to lose to a Democrat. The Koch-funded Freedom Works PAC endorsed Mourdock and Koch Industries contributed $38,500 to his marketing campaign.

My brothers Charles and David Koch are tied for fifth on Forbes ranking of the wealthiest Americans, behind Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, and Christy Walton. Right behind the Koch brothers are different Walton siblings, who inherited their fortune from Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, who was also a Beta (Missouri 1940).

Just like the Waltons, the Koch brothers made their wealth the previous fashion method. They inherited it.

Their father, Fred C. Koch, founded the corporate in 1940 and developed an progressive crude oil refining process. His sons, Charles and David, purchased out their brothers Frederick and William in 1983 and diversified their holdings. At present Koch Industries is the second-largest private company within the United States, with annual revenues of $a hundred and fifteen billion.

Koch Industries’ core enterprise is petroleum refining. Its subsidiaries also commerce and transport petroleum coke, coal, cement, pulp and paper, sulfur and different commodities; they own refineries, ethanol plants, and petrochemical plants in lots of states in addition to hundreds of miles of pipelines. Koch Fertilizer is the world’s third-largest maker of nitrogen fertilizer.

Koch Industries also owns Georgia-Pacific, which has roughly 300 manufacturing facilities across North America, South America and Europe. Subsidiaries of Koch Agriculture Company have cattle ranching companies in Montana, Kansas, Texas, and South America.

All of those industries are regulated by government when it comes to health, safety, and environmental hazards. A 2010 examine by researchers on the University of Massachusetts named Koch Industries one of the United States’ prime 10 air polluters. Not surprisingly, the Koch brothers oppose government regulation and make investments much of their fortune in marketing campaign contributions, lobbying, and donations to proper-wing suppose tanks that attack government regulation of enterprise.

The Koch brothers didn’t just inherit their father’s fortune. Additionally they inherited his politics. In 1958, Fred Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society, the appropriate-wing extremist group that opposed civil rights and claimed that both the Democratic and Republican Events were infiltrated by the Communist Party. In his 1960 self-published e-book, A Enterprise Man Seems at Communism, Fred Koch wrote that “The coloured man looms massive in the Communist plan to take over America,” and that welfare was a secret plot to draw rural blacks and Puerto Ricans to Eastern cities to vote for Communist causes and “getting a vicious race struggle started.” The John Birch Society helped gas a wave of hysteria in opposition to unions, civil rights teams, intellectuals, public faculties, liberal clergy and others whom they thought-about a menace to America.

Following of their father’s footsteps, Charles and David Koch have for 3 many years been by far the largest funders of proper-wing politicians, causes, and organizations. Their political activities are primarily dedicated to eliminating government regulation of business and reducing taxes on the rich.

Their cash helped fuel the Tea Party when it emerged in 2009 to attack President Obama. However the Koch brothers take the long view. They make investments their fortune to build a conservative movement with staying energy. They’ve supported the Heritage Basis, the Cato Institute, the Institute for Humane Research, Residents for a Sound Financial system, the Mercatus Heart, the reason Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, and People for Prosperity, their right-wing political motion committee. David Koch ran for Vice President on the Libertarian Social gathering ticket in 1980 as a result of Ronald Reagan wasn’t conservative sufficient to swimsuit his taste.

Politically, the Kochs are in the good firm of different conservative Betas.

Besides Sam Walton, the Beta enterprise brotherhood also consists of Justin Dart (Northwestern 1929), founding father of Dart Industries, which owned the nation’s largest chain of drug stores. Just like the Koch brothers and now the Walton family, Dart was an enormous backer of conservative causes and politicians. Dart helped persuade his shut good friend Ronald Reagan to run for president in 1980.

Two well-identified Betas are Watergate conspiracist Charles Colson (Brown 1953) and H.R. Haldeman (UCLA 1948), Nixon’s chief-of-chief who additionally went to jail his position in the Watergate cover-up. However to steadiness the scales, I ought to notice that another Beta is Mark Felt (Idaho 1935), the associate director of the FBI who turned out to be “Deep Throat,” the whistleblower who was the key supply for the Washington Publish reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal.

Two of Orifice ripple George W. Bush’s closest enterprise cronies have been Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, whom I name the Enron Betas. Lay (Missouri 1967) was the CEO of Enron who performed a number one role within the corruption scandal that led to the corporate’s downfall and who was founded responsible in 2006 of 10 counts of securities fraud and related costs. Skilling (Southern Methodist 1975) was his companion in crime as well as his Beta brother. In 2006, Skilling, who was additionally served as Enron’s CEO, was convicted of multiple federal felony prices relating to Enron’s monetary collapse, and is presently serving 14 years of a 24-yr, 4-month sentence in a federal prison in Colorado.

There are many other prominent business leaders in the Beta Theta Pi pantheon. Indeed, the company world is full of successful Betas. A decade in the past, in accordance with Forbes, Beta had more CEOs among at this time’s 500 largest companies (eleven) than any other fraternity.

The record of Beta-bred enterprise leaders additionally consists of Frank Shrontz (Idaho 1954), one time CEO of Boeing, Charles Erwin Wilson (Carnegie 1909), CEO of Common Motors and Defense Secretary under President Eisenhower, Stephen Bechtel Sr. (California 1923), ex-CEO of Bechtel, the global development and engineering agency based by his father; William “Bill” Bowerman (Oregon 1933), famous monitor coach and founder of Nike; and Hank Barnette (West Virginia 1956), former CEO of Bethlehem Steel. Current CEOs embrace Sam Palmisano (Johns Hopkins 1973), who was CEO of IBM till last yr and David Coulter (Carnegie Mellon 1971), one-time chairman of the Bank of America and vice chairman of J.P. Morgan Chase.

Everett Nordstrom (Washington 1923), Bruce A. Nordstrom (Washington 1955), John N. Nordstrom (Washington 1958), Blake Nordstrom (Washington 1982), Peter E. Nordstrom (Washington 1984), and Erik B. Nordstrom (Washington 1985) all discovered the worth of tradition and loyalty. They all attended the College of Washington, all pledged Beta Theta Pi, and all served as CEOs of the Seattle-based division retailer founded by John W. Nordstrom in 1901.

When I was in college, Beta Theta Pi boasted that over its history it had extra school presidents, Olympic medal winners, and elected officials, than any other fraternity. I counted 123 members of the Home, 38 Senators, 48 governors, and 9 Supreme Court docket justices.

Amongst the various Betas who’ve served in public office was Schuyler Colfax, Jr. who served as Speaker of the House (1863-1869), and the Vice President of the United States (1869-1873). Clearly recognizing the significance of what today we’d name “networking,” Colfax was initiated into the Beta chapter at DePauw University without ever having attended the school.

Other Beta politicians embody Joseph Byrns (Vanderbilt 1890), a Congressman from Tennessee, who was Home Speaker in the 1930s; Senator and Governor of Oregon Mark Hatfield (Willamette 1943); former House minority Richard Gephardt, a Beta at Northwestern (1962); and John Warner (Washington and Lee 1950), who was a U.S. senator from Virginia for 30 years but is extra well-known for being one among Elizabeth Taylor’s many husbands. Wendell Willkie (Indiana 1916) was the GOP’s presidential candidate in 1940 who misplaced to FDR in a landslide.

Two Betas — Robert Engle (Williams 1964) and Dale Mortensen (Willamette 1961) — obtained the Nobel Prize for economics. Fairly a few Betas have made the mark in show enterprise. That record includes William Anderson (Whitman 1951), who beneath the state identify Adam West performed “Batman” on the popular Tv series, James Arness (Beloit 1946), who portrayed Sheriff Marshall Dillon on “Gunsmoke,” and Robert Reed (Northwestern 1954), who’s most famous for taking part in the father within the Television sequence “The Brady Bunch.” Many Betas have risen to prominence in journalism, together with Howard Fineman (Colgate 1970), longtime chief political writer for Newsweek and now editorial director of AOL Huffington Submit Media Group.

Did you ever discover the shut fraternal bonds among the many “Sharks” and “Jets” gang members within the musical West Side Story? Maybe that is linked to the truth that composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim was a Beta at Williams School (class of 1950).

Beta Theta Pi has produced many great athletes, together with a minimum of 22 Olympic Gold Medal winners in wrestling, swimming, pole vault, hurdles, diving, basketball, rowing, rugby, boxing, lengthy jump, relay, yachting, volleyball, and bobsledding. At the least thirteen Betas have performed in the NFL. Beta ball players include Mike Schmidt (Ohio 1971), the Hall of Fame third baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies. NBA Betas include Jerry Lucas (Ohio State 1962), an NBA Corridor of Famer; Gail Goodrich (UCLA 1965), a star for the Los Angeles Lakers; and Mel Counts (Oregon 1964), who played 12 years in the NBA. Earl “Purple” Blaik (Miami 1918), the pioneering Army football coach, Invoice Veeck (Kenyon 1936) the colorful and politically progressive proprietor of baseball’s Browns, White Sox, and Indians, and John Picket (Purdue 1932), the legendary UCLA basketball coach, have been Betas, too.

I found a handful of kindred progressive spirits among the listing of well-known Betas. One is Samuel McCune Lindsay (Pennsylvania 1889), a left-wing sociologist at Columbia University and chairman of the National Baby Labor Committee, which efficiently advocated for laws to regulate sweatshops and to protect children from exploitation at work. Like his father Senator Robert “Preventing Bob” La Follette, Robert “Younger Bob” La Follette Jr. (Wisconsin 1917) was a progressive Senator from Wisconsin (from 1925-1947) and a robust ally of the labor movement. William O. Douglas (Whitman 1920) was most likely the most liberal Justice within the history of the U.S. Supreme Courtroom. H. Richard Hornberger (Bowdoin 1945) wrote the novel “MASH” in 1968, primarily based on his experiences as a surgeon through the Korean Battle, which was the premise for the favored film and Television collection. One other off-beat Beta was Ken Kesey (Oregon 1957), the counter-cultural guru whose important affect on 1960s popular tradition is primarily based on his novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Apparently the Kochs’ outdated stomping grounds at MIT has come upon exhausting instances. The MIT chapter was disbanded in 2011 however is now a “colony” hoping to make a comeback to full-fledged chapter status. This yr the MIT affiliate, which lately celebrated its a hundred anniversary, has 16 members.

I might love to get along with my brothers Charles and David Koch to debate Beta lore or politics. Unfortunately, we can’t do it on the Syracuse Beta house, which was shuttered years ago. But we might meet at the MIT Beta home. Or we may share a meal at the Koch Cafe on the MIT campus. My deal with.

Peter Dreier teaches politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental Faculty. His most current e book is The one hundred Best Individuals of the twentieth Century: A Social Justice Hal of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).