cover image Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America

Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America

Christopher Leonard. Simon and Schuster, $35 (704p) ISBN 978-1-4767-7538-8

American capitalism at its most successful and domineering is at the center of this sweeping history of a much-vilified company. Business journalist Leonard (The Meat Racket) recounts the 50-year growth of Koch Industries, a privately held, infamously secretive conglomerate—with interests in oil refineries, pipelines, lumber, commodities trading, fertilizer, and greeting cards—under CEO Charles Koch, whose libertarian ideology and political donations make him a godfather of the Republican right. Leonard paints Koch as a brilliant businessman whose fanatically entrepreneurial company—employees fervidly embrace his “market-based management” philosophy—thrives on turning underperforming assets into moneymakers. He also probes a very seamy underbelly: an oil-theft scandal and illegal dumping of toxins (the company has since cleaned up its act, Leonard notes), a penchant for gaming government regulations while denouncing the regulatory state, and heavy-handed lobbying and political organizing to stymie climate change legislation. The company’s ruthlessness is spotlighted in his accounts of Koch’s sometimes violent battles with unions; Leonard profiles workers whose wages and security dwindled while computerized regimentation and staffing cuts made their jobs grueling and unsafe. Leonard’s superb investigations and even-handed, clear-eyed reportage stand out. Agent: Lauren Sharp, Aevitas Creative Management. (Aug.)