David Koch's political adversaries on Tuesday joined Republicans in praising the ailing, wealthy conservative for his philanthropy and wishing him well in retirement.
Koch is setting aside his responsibilities at Wichita-based Koch Industries and political organizations, his brother, Charles Koch, announced in a letter to employees. David, 78, is suffering from declining health, the letter said.
"His guidance and loyalty, especially in our most troubled times, has been unwavering," Charles Koch said. "David has never wanted anything for himself that he hasn't earned, as his sole desire has always been to contribute."
Charles Koch said his thoughts of his brother "will always be overflowing with the experiences, challenges, laughter and love of our life together." Over the past 40 years, they assembled a circuitry of influence through funding of foundations, policy-based organizations, academic programs and political action committees.
"His role on the board of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation has been vital in building a firm foundation for our organization’s success," said Jeff Glendening, director of the Kansas chapter of AFP. "We hope to build on that foundation and continue being Kansas' leading grassroots advocate for policies that advance a society of mutual benefit."
Gov. Jeff Colyer offered his best wishes to David Koch as he focuses on his health. Colyer served as the lieutenant to former Gov. Sam Brownback, whose campaigns benefited from Koch financing.
"The governor thanks David for his many contributions, including his generous philanthropy and commitment to the arts, as well as the many jobs he created right here in Kansas," said Kendall Marr, a spokesman for Colyer.
U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, a Republican representing Wichita and the 4th District, offered similar praise. Estes has received $15,100 from Koch Industries for the 2018 election cycle.
"Koch Industries employs more than 3,000 people in Wichita, and the philanthropy and advocacy of David Koch has had a lasting impact on our community," Estes said.
Democrats have vilified the brothers for their extraordinary political contributions and tax-deductible donations to nonprofits that promote their business and ideological interests. Journalist Jane Mayer highlighted their network, sometimes referred to as the Kochtopus, in her 2016 book "Dark Money," about the "rise of the radical right."
As her book chronicles, the brothers leveraged the network to peel back regulations that were costly to their business empire, which includes oil refining and other energy industries, while loosening restrictions on campaign financing. They are believed to be the primary sponsors of the Tea Party movement, which fought for reduced government spending during the early years of President Barack Obama's administration.
On Tuesday, Democrats refrained from criticism in light of David Koch's failing health.
"While we've certainly had our share of political disagreements, we wish David a long and happy retirement," said Ethan Corson, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party.
David Koch also is known for his contributions to cancer research and cultural institutions. His many gifts include $216 million to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where he also gave $100 million to a theater that now reflects his name and $65 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A $35 million gift allowed the Smithsonian to renovate its dinosaur hall.
Josh Svaty, a Democrat running for governor, said he appreciated David Koch's philanthropic efforts, "particularly the Hall of Dinosaurs in the American Museum of Natural History that puts on display for the world some of the very best of Kansas' fossil beds."
"While we sometimes disagreed politically, civic engagement is important at any level," Svaty said, "and I respect David's deep interest in the process."