David Koch: Prank call ‘a case of identity theft’

By Sahil Kapur
Saturday, March 5, 2011 12:32 EDT
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Billionaire donates $100 million for MIT cancer center

Conservative billionaire David Koch says the Gonzo journalist who impersonated him in a recent prank call heard across the nation may be guilty of identity theft.

“It’s a case of identity theft,” Koch told the New York Times in a rare interview Friday. “I didn’t even know his name before this brouhaha erupted.”

Identity theft is a serious crime, but it’s unclear whether a prank call falls under the category — the concept typically refers to assuming someone’s identity to make purchases or commit crimes, according to the Justice Department.

In the widely-publicized call whose audio was published, Buffalo Beast editor Ian Murphy spoke to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) for 20 minutes while pretending to be Koch, discussing the high-profile clash with public employee unions and offering to help the governor.

The real Koch joked that the call may imperil his chances of speaking to a lawmaker in the future.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘My God, if I called up a senator or a congressman to discuss something with them, and they heard ‘David Koch is on the line,’ they’d immediately say, ‘That’s that fraud again — tell him to get lost!’” he said.

Koch appeared Friday in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the opening of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which he donated $100 million to open.

He and his brother, Charles Koch, co-owners of the energy conglomerate Koch Industries, have long been financially involved with conservative causes. But they mostly operated behind the scenes, and have in recent years come under the microscope for bankrolling tea party activism that advances their financial interests.

Koch was greeted with “a standing ovation from scientists, Nobel laureates and politicians of various political stripes,” according to the Times. He spoke about his battle with prostate cancer and his goals for the new center.

“I read stuff about me and I say, ‘God, I’m a terrible guy,’” Koch told the paper. And then I come here and everybody treats me like I’m a wonderful fellow, and I say, ‘Well, maybe I’m not so bad after all.’”

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