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1. Charles and David Koch ($68 billion jointly)
The bogeymen of the Democratic Party inherited their fortunes, along with the family business, from their father, Fred. But they’ve since shown a keen entrepreneurial spirit. Koch Industries’ claim to fame initially was a proprietary oil refining technique, but the brothers soon diversified the product portfolio to encompass refineries, pipelines, and the manufacturing of chemicals, polymers and fibers. This wide swathe of business interests is still focused on oil, but Koch Industries has now become America’s second largest private company, behind Cargill.
Its main oil and gas subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources, processes well over 300 million barrels of oil a year. That figure is one reason the Kochs are vilified by environmentalists: Combined, their companies emit more than 300 million tons of greenhouse gasses a year, the equivalent of over 5 percent of the U.S. carbon footprint. But the reputations of Charles and David Koch are less based on their business success than on their staunch support of the Republican Party. The Koch’s political action committee is consistently the largest oil- and gas-money contributor to the Republican Party.