In a rare interview published Friday, US businessman Charles Koch spoke candidly about his role as a power broker for Republicans and his disappointment with the candidates for the 2016 election.
Speaking to the Financial Times at the headquarters of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company by revenue in the US, Koch – who has been vilified by both Democrats and the press – explained why he felt he had agreed to the interview.
“We’re being attacked every day by blogs, other newspapers, media, people in government, and they were totally perverting what we do and why we do it. We have had other people answering it,” Koch said. “But I’m the evil guy, so I need to come out and show who I am, like it or not.”
The businessman and philanthropist claimed he was a “classical liberal” and said he considered William Gladstone, the 19th century British politician who was against Corn Law trade tariffs and political patronage, as a political hero.
Koch said he was “disappointed” with the selection of Republican candidates this year, but nevertheless expected to spend approximately $900m during the 2016 election and would eventually endorse a candidate.
“It is hard for me to get a high level of enthusiasm because the things I’m passionate about and I think this country urgently needs aren’t being addressed,” Koch said.
He criticized Republican candidate Donald Trump when asked about Trump’s insistence to require Muslims to register with the government. Koch claimed that would “destroy our free society”. He went on to criticize the US military’s presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“We have been doing this for a dozen years. We invaded Afghanistan. We invaded Iraq. Has that made us safer?” he asked. “Has that made the world safer? It seems like we’re more worried about it now than we were then, so we need to examine these strategies.”
His views also set him apart from another leading Republican candidate, Ted Cruz, who has called for “carpet bombing” against Isis until the “sand glows in the dark”.
“I’ve studied revolutionaries a lot,” Koch said. “Mao said that the people are the sea in which the revolutionary swims. Not that we don’t need to defend ourselves and have better intelligence and all that, but how do we create an unfriendly sea for the terrorists in the Muslim communities? We haven’t done a good job of that.
“What are we going to do: go bomb each one of them?” Koch asked of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.
The candidates have been given a list of issues Koch wants addressed, despite their opposing opinions on some topics. But even with his considerable financial power, he has not seen many results, he said.
“It doesn’t seem to faze them much. You’d think we could have more influence,” he said. “I’m pleased that I can still speak and I’m pleased that it isn’t worse. They haven’t nationalised all the industries like happened in the UK when the Fabians took over.”
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