Web Letters | The Nation

Koch Brothers Exposed

“The Fourth Reich

I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’m pretty certain it understates the malice inherent in the Kochs’ manipulations. I spent eighteen years in Wichita, and one year of that was spent working at the Fourth Reich, as I refer to Koch Industries. On alternate days, I call it the Black Tower. Within four months of my employment, I was looking for another job. I was told that having bronchitis was letting my team down. My manager didn’t know what the word prerogative meant and when I sent an e-mail saying words to the effect that I wasn’t trying to usurp her prerogative, yadda, she also asked me what “usurp” meant.

Because Charles and David are involved in ongoing enmity with their flaky brother, Bill, the entire city has to walk on eggshells. God forbid you attend an event at the art museum, which receives sponsorship from Bill; Charles and David will find out, and if you’ve so much as greeted Bill, you could be fired. Naturally, in this postmodern world, employee entry and egress is recorded with ‘keys’. Since the unwritten law is to be in your desk chair fifteen to twenty minutes early, if you arrive any time later than that, you may very well be fired.

When I started working there, I worked for a nice, intelligent woman who was the new division manager. By the time I left, she’d gone from there to gaslighting her own administration. They transferred her to Singapore, failing her upward; while she was gone, I gave my notice to her replacement. When she returned, she called me on the carpet, or attempted to, for giving notice. I remained bland and courteous and simply told her it was an opportunity that I could not refuse.

There was a business philosophy called market-based management. Now, my father didn’t raise any idiots, so I was aware it was a lot of flimflam when it came to customers; I did believe the ‘rules’ set up for peer reviews, however, and when I was invited to one, I had genuinely created a list of positives for the party in question, as well as some areas where improvement could be made. Instead, when I sat down with everyone, I swiftly realized that it wasn’t a peer review, but an exercise in character assassination.

A recruiter from Houston once said to me, “You worked at Koch? Isn’t that kind of like a cult?” I laughed so hard it was impolite.

Bear in mind, the only people responsible for creating this poisonous corporate culture are Charles and David Koch. Wichita has become their little fief and no one actually does much to defy to them or criticize them. When I left Koch, several of my friends took me to dinner to celebrate.

It was such a toxic atmosphere that for literally a decade, everytime I was feeling stressed at work, I would dream that I was still working at Koch and late for work and about to get fired.

These, I realize, are all small things, hardly equal to their larger enterprises, such as illegally dealing with Iran, attempting to subvert voters’ rights, and reshape this country in their image. But I find, as time has gone by, that these little things are evocative of those greater evils. I applaud Greenwald for this work, although now the Koch machine will be likely to attack in overt and covert ways.

Sheare Bliss

Birmingham, AL

Apr 27 2012 - 3:42pm