Why does the Los Angeles Times fear the Koch brothers?

The Koch brothers back the Tea Party, oppose the green movement – and may soon have a new paper to promote their views

At a recent gathering of the staff of the Los Angeles Times, journalists were invited to participate in a straw poll regarding the paper’s future ownership.

How many, they were asked, would quit their jobs if Rupert Murdoch were to purchase the Times? According to a report in The Huffington Post, several people raised their hands. And what if, the poll went on, the paper went instead to the Koch brothers: right-wing owners of the controversial manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries, and the world’s sixth- and seventh-richest men? Around half the hands in the room shot up.

The fourth-largest newspaper in the US is also the largest in the Tribune Company, which includes the Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun, and which recently emerged from a four-year bankruptcy under the ownership of a bank and two hedge funds, which are now in search of a buyer. Murdoch is believed to be interested in buying the Los Angeles Times, though not the other seven titles in the group. The Times staff’s preferred proprietors, meanwhile, would be a proposed alliance of local, Democrat-leaning billionaires, who have offered to run the paper as a non-profit enterprise.

But 77-year-old Charles Koch, and his brother David, 73, with a combined personal worth of almost $70bn (£45bn), may be the only figures with the will and the wherewithal to purchase all the Tribune papers – valued collectively at around $623m. Their only prior media properties have been niche, libertarian publications. In a 30 April article, Los Angeles Times cartoonist David Horsey warned that the Kochs want to use the titles “to create print versions of Fox News”.

Before now, the brothers have advanced their agenda by backing the Tea Party; donating to Republican electoral candidates; and funding research to rebut evidence of climate change. Dr Lawrence Rosenthal, executive director of the Centre for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, says their potential move into mainstream media should be viewed in the context of President Obama’s recent re-election.

“The right’s existing means of influencing national elections proved inadequate in 2012,” Rosenthal says. “The money that people like the Kochs gave to people like Karl Rove didn’t do the trick. So now they have entered a period of experimentation, and are looking at ways to repackage the Republican Party.” Several major political figures have floated ideas for the GOP’s future, says Rosenthal, “but you also have experimentation from the money people. The Kochs are thinking: ‘What we did in 2012 didn’t work; we have to do something. What if we bought newspapers?’”

The recession and the rise of the internet have caused a major shift in the US regional newspaper market, explains Ken Doctor, media analyst and author of Newsonomics. “The companies that used to buy papers were other newspaper companies,” he says. “But the traditional buyers aren’t buying any more. And because papers are so cheap now, the market is open to people who would never have thought of buying a newspaper previously.”

Some new-style buyers are welcome: in 2011 billionaire investor Warren Buffett bought his home town’s struggling Omaha World-Herald – a deal seen as uncharacteristically sentimental. But other non-traditional newspaper buyers have been less popular: also in 2011, developer and hotelier Doug Manchester acquired The San Diego U-T with the explicit intention of making it a platform for his business interests, conservative views and preferred political candidates.

The Kochs’ politics would appear to be at odds with those of The Los Angeles Times newsroom, not to mention readers in all of the broadly Democrat cities served by the Tribune titles, though Reuters media columnist Jack Shafer says the brothers’ views have been somewhat misrepresented.

“The Kochs are strongly libertarian,” Shafer explains. “They’re extremely fiscally conservative, they want a much smaller government and they’re anti-regulation. But they’re also socially liberal. They’re for gay rights. If you pushed them on drugs, I suspect they would be for, if not legalisation, then liberalisation. [California liberals] would find many areas of common ground with them. ”

Resistance to the Kochs’ mooted purchase has reached City Hall, where last week three Los Angeles City Council members signed a motion to withdraw the city’s pension funds from the firms that presently own the paper if they choose to sell to buyers who don’t support “objective journalism”. Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who introduced the motion, told the LA Times: “Frankly, what I hear about the Koch brothers, if it’s true, it’s the end of journalism.”

Profile: The Koch brothers

David Koch

David runs the chemical equipment side of Koch Industries and boasts a $34bn fortune, according to Forbes. David is the more politically active of the two brothers, and was a major funder for the 2012 Republican presidential campaign.

He is  6ft 5in, married with three children, and a basketball fan. He is also a high-profile philanthropist, having donated $15m to build the David H Koch  Hall of Human Origins at the National Museum  of Natural History and $100m for the David H Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT.

Charles Koch

Older brother Charles is also said to be worth $34bn, having built his fortune around refining and chemicals.

Described by Forbes as “a diehard libertarian”, Charles is also a notable philanthropist, co-founder of the Washington-based libertarian think-tank Cato Institute, and author of The Science of Success, published in 2007. He is married with two children.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Field Based Sales Surveyor - OTE £40,000

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Field Based Sales Surveyor is...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: UI Designer/ User Interface Designer (UI, User Flow, Design)

£6000 - £60000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: UI De...

Investigo: International Finance Analyst

£270 - £300 per annum: Investigo: An exciting opportunity to join an internati...

Recruitment Genius: CAD / CAM Ladies Cocktail & Eveningwear Gerber Grader

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?