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The Billionaire's Party

On October 3 of last year, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott hotel in Arlington, Virginia, Koch spoke from a podium at the Defending the American Dream Summit, a convention put on by Americans for Prosperity Foundation. The convention had brought out 2,000 attendees and an impressive roster of speakers from the right, from Senator Jim DeMint to Newt Gingrich to the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund. There was little doubt as to Koch’s importance to the group. “Right from the beginning,” said AFP president Tim Phillips, “it was David’s vision that launched our organization.” Then Koch took the microphone. “When we founded this organization five years ago,” he said, “we envisioned a mass movement, a state-based one, but national in scope, of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life, standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that have made our nation the most prosperous society in history.” Though the words tea party did not escape his lips, the image he invoked sounded quite familiar as he discussed the vision he shares with his brother Charles. “Thankfully,” he says, “the stirrings from California to Virginia, and from Texas to Michigan, show that more and more of our fellow citizens are beginning to see the same truths as we do.”

After Koch’s speech, Phillips stood next to him for a roll call, during which each of AFP’s 25 state chapters reported on their activities over the past year. To great applause, New Hampshire’s AFP representative announced that thanks to his chapter, when President Obama had traveled to Concord, he was forced to change his motorcade route “to avoid the angry mob.” Many others noted among their accomplishments the size of their state’s tea-party rallies. “We’re proud not only to be the home of peaches and pine trees,” Georgia’s AFP representative bellowed, “but also the largest Tax Day tea party in the nation on April 15.” There seemed to be little mystery in the room what AFP was up to. Of course, it’s impossible to say what David Koch was thinking at that moment. This much can be said for sure: All six feet five inches of him was standing up and clapping.

Additional reporting by Elien Becque.