David H. Koch





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David H. Koch was an industrialist and philanthropist who owned 42 percent of the shares of Koch Industries, a privately held conglomerate. Koch willed his shares to his widow, Julia Koch, and his three children. Forbes estimated in 2022 the shares were worth $60 billion, making Julia Koch the third-richest woman in the world.

During his lifetime David Koch, who ran for Vice President of the U.S. as a Libertarian in 1980, donated to right-of-center public-policy organizations, medical research institutions, and major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

He was the brother of Charles Koch, also a libertarian-aligned philanthropist and businessman.


David H. Koch earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1970, he joined his family’s company, Koch Industries, and rose to be executive vice president in charge of research until his retirement in 2018. 1

Koch owned 42 percent of the stock of Koch Industries, a privately held corporation. He willed his shares to his widow, Julia Koch, and his three children. Forbes estimated in April 2022 that these shares were worth $60 billion, making Julia Koch the third-richest woman in the world behind L’Oréal heiress Francoise Bettencourt Meyers and Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton. 2

Philosophy of Giving

Like his brother Charles, David Koch supported limited government through center-right public policy organizations. He was a trustee of the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation. In 2004, he created the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which he chaired until his 2018 retirement. 3

David Koch was primarily interested in supporting medical research and cultural organizations, with donations to center-right groups a secondary concern. Evan Sparks noted in Philanthropy that “cancer research is the core” of Koch’s philanthropy, “followed, in descending order, by arts and culture, education, and public policy.” Koch told Sparks that “probably the smallest amount of money I give is to public-policy institutions.” 4

“The vast bulk of Koch’s philanthropy was not political,” notes Brian Doherty, who interviewed Koch in 2005 for Radicals for Capitalism, a history of the libertarian movement. 5

In a 2014 interview with the National Public Radio show “Fresh Air,” Mother Jones senior editor Daniel Schulman, author of Sons of Wichita, a biography of Charles Koch and David Koch, said that “David is more of a philanthropist in the classic sense of the word: He funds medical research, science: he funds the arts. Charles’s lifelong mission has been to change the political culture and mainstream libertarian ideas and he’s been doing this for more than five decades.” 6

In a 2014 interview, David Koch said that one reason he liked putting his name on the projects he supported was “that the left-wing Democrats highly enjoy calling me an evil Koch brother, and the contributions I make in these many areas are tremendously worthy. It sends a message to the political groups in this country that don’t like the conservative Republican businessman.” 7

Cato Institute

In 1974, the Charles Koch Foundation, Inc. was founded in Wichita, Kansas as a non-profit corporation, which issued 64 shares. Charles Koch bought 16 of the shares and David Koch bought another 16. In 1976, the Charles Koch Foundation was renamed the Cato Institute, which opened for business in 1977. 8

Shortly after the Cato Institute began, it launched Inquiry, a political magazine. The New York Times noted that Koch was “the principal financier” behind the magazine, which ceased publication in 1984. 9

The remaining 32 shares eventually were acquired by Cato Institute president Edward Crane and chairman Willian Niskanen, who each owned 16 shares. In 2011, Niskanen died, and his widow, Kathryn Washburn, claimed control of the shares. Charles Koch and David Koch sued Washburn, Crane, and Cato, claiming that Niskanen did not leave Washburn his shares in his will, so Washburn would have to sell the shares to the Kochs, who would then own two-thirds of the shares and control the Cato Institute. 10

The dispute was settled three months later. The shareholder agreement was dissolved, Charles Koch resigned from the Cato board, and Edward Crane retired as president. David Koch remained on the Cato board and continued to donate to Cato until his death. 11

Vice-Presidential Campaign

In 1980, David Koch ran for Vice President of the United States on the Libertarian Party ticket, with Edward Clark as the presidential candidate. The Clark-Koch ticket received 921,000 votes over just over one percent. Koch contributed $2.1 million to the campaign, which was half the campaign budget. 12

In 2014 the New York Times investigated Koch’s 1980 campaign based by researching the Libertarian Party archive at the University of Virginia. “The Times was alerted to the existence of the archive by American Bridge, a liberal political organization that has been critical of the Kochs,” reporter Nicholas Confessore wrote. 13

In 1984, Koch told the New York Times that he did not endorse anyone for president in that year, saying “so many of the hard-core Libertarian ideas are unrealistic.” 14

Donations to Cancer Research

In 1991, David Koch was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In an interview with Philanthropy, Koch said that “discovering that I had cancer and the terrible fear that it generated in me turned me into a crusader, a crusader to provide financing to many different centers to develop cures—not only for prostate cancer but for other kinds of cancer as well.” 15

Koch told the Weekly Standard in 2012 that “when I pass on, I want people to say he did a lot of good things, he made a real difference he saved a lot of lives in cancer research.” 16

Philanthropy noted that Koch had given donations of over $10 million to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, and the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. 17 Koch told the New York Times in 2011 that he supported several cancer centers because “I bought a ticket on every horse in the race.” 18

A 2013 donation of $100 million to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for an outpatient center was met with protests from the labor unions 1199SEIU and the New York State Nurses Association, with banners denouncing Koch’s gift as “Quality Care, Not Koch Care.” A hospital spokeswoman would not comment on the protests. 19

Koch’s largest donations were to his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Koch donated $100 million to create the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research in 2007. In 2013 he donated $20 million for a childcare center. MIT calculated that he had donated $134 million to MIT for cancer research and endowed several professorships and a chair for the coach of the school basketball team. According to MIT, five current or former Koch Institute-affiliated professors were Nobel Laureates. 20

Support for Museums and the Arts

In 2008, David Koch donated $100 million to Lincoln Center, which renamed the New York State Theater, home of the New York City Opera and New York City Ballet, as the David H. Koch Theater. ”They seem to like me there, and I like them, so I think we’ve got a deal,” Koch told the New York Times. 21

Koch also donated to two natural history museums. In 2010, Koch donated $23 million to the American Museum of Natural History for a dinosaur exhibit. 22 In 2012, he donated $35 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History to renovate a dinosaur hall. The gift followed a $15 million gift to establish the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins. 23 In 2014, the David H. Koch Plaza opened in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art after a $65 million donation from Koch. 24

Controversy over Board Memberships

David Koch was a trustee of the Smithsonian Institution and the American Museum of Natural History. In 2015 15 advocacy groups led by the Sierra Club and Greenpeace circulated a petition asking the two museums to expel Koch from their boards of trustees because “he bankrolls groups opposed to climate science.” Nobel Laureate Eric Chivian declared that while he had no issue with Koch funding arts organizations, it was unacceptable for Koch “to support a science/natural history museum that has a role to play in doing research on, and helping educate the public about, climate change, the greatest threat ever to face humanity.” 25

The Smithsonian took no action, but in 2016 Koch left the American Museum of Natural Hstory board of trustees after 23 years. The museum said he left because his term had expired, and Koch spokeswoman Cristyne Nicholas said Koch was cutting down on the number of boards on which he sat to focus on cancer research. 26

Greenpeace said that Koch was guilty of “climate crimes” and noted a Greenpeace staff member had once personally given Koch a “wanted” flyer proclaiming him a “climate criminal.” 27


  1. “About David H. Koch,” David H. Koch Foundation, (accessed July 15, 2022)
  2. Rachel Sandler, “The Top Richest Women In The World 2022,” Forbes, April 25, 2022
  3. James Hohmann and Amy Gardner, “Ailing Koch Brother Exiting Business, Political Network,” Washington Post, June 6, 2018.
  4. Evan Sparks, “The Team Builder,” Philanthropy, Date TK  (accessed July 18, 2022)
  5. Brian Doherty, “David Koch, R.I.P.,”, August 23, 2019, (accessed July 15, 2022)
  6. “How The Koch Brothers Remade America’s Political Landscape,,” Fresh Air, April 26, 2014., (accessed July 15, 2022)
  7. Theresa Agovino, “Billionaire Conservative Offers Rare Look at His Giving, Politics,” Crain’s New York Business, September 8, 2014.
  8. Allen McDuffie and T.W. Farnam, “Koch Brothers Sue Cato Institute, President,” Washington Post, March 1, 2012, (accessed July 15, 2022).  The article links to court documents filed by the Koch brothers, which include a copy of William Niskanen’s will.
  9. Charlotte Curtis, “Man Without a Candidate,” New York Times, October 16, 1984.
  10.  Allen McDuffie and T.W. Farnam, “Koch Brothers Sue Cato Institute, President,” Washington Post, March 1, 2022, (accessed July 15, 2022).
  11. Kenneth P. Vogel, “Cato, Kochs Settle Ownership Fight,” Politico, June 25, 2012, (accessed Ju1y 15, 2022)
  12. Nicholas Confessore, “Quixotic ’80 Campaign Gave Birth to Kochs’ Powerful Network,” New York Times, May 15, 2014.
  13. Nicholas Confessore, “Quixotic ’80 Campaign Give Birth to Kochs’ Powerful Network,”: New York Times, May 15, 2014.
  14. Charlotte Curtis, “Man Without a Candidate,” New York Times, October 16, 1984.
  15. Evan Sparks, “The Team Builder,” Philanthropy, TK (accessed July 18, 2022)
  16. Michael Barone, “Citizen Koch Goes to Tampa,” Weekly Standard, September 3, 2012. Philanthropy, TK
  17.  Evan Sparks, “The Team Builder,” Philanthropy, TK (accessed July 18, 2022)
  18. [1] Michael Cooper, “Cancer Research Before Activism, Billionaire Conservative Donor Says,” New York Times, March 5, 2011.
  19. Melanie Grayce West, “When A Donation Divides,” Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2014.
  20.  [1] “David H. Koch, Prominent Supporter of Cancer Research, Dies at 79,” press release from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, August 23, 2019, (accessed July 15, 2022).  Koch also supported MIT’s School of Chemical Engineering Practice, which was renamed for him.
  21. Robin Pogrebin, “Billionaire pledges $100 Million to New York State Theater,” New York Times, July 10, 2008.
  22. “Hall of Ornithschian Dinosaurs,” (accessed July 18, 2022)
  23. Jacqueline Trescott, “Natural History Museum Gets $25 Million Gift,” Washington Post, May 4, 2012.
  24. Pia Catton, “for The Met, The Big Reveal of a Massive Makeover,” Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2014.
  25. Neela Banerjee, “Groups Want David Koch Unseated from Smithsonian, AMNH Boards,” Inside Climate News, March 24, 2015. July 18, 2022)
  26. Serge F. Kovaleski, “David Koch Leaves Museum Board,” New York Times, January 21, 2016.
  27. [1] Connor Gibson, Climate Denier David Koch Leaves New York’s Natural History Museum Board,” Greenpeace USA, January 21, 2016, (accessed July 18, 2022)
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