WICHITA, Kansas -- Charles Kochs wife says there is much endearingly quaint about the man so many now vilify.
He doesnt know how to dress like a sophisticated grown-up, she said. Shes given him every haircut hes had in their 44-year marriage.
Yet even Liz Kochs stories about him show a drive and a relentlessness that sometimes scare her.
Until his knees gave out, Charles Koch took his wife skiing.
On the ski slopes, he made it clear that she should ski with him even though the slopes he took were two levels beyond her competence.
She spent 25 years flying down mountains, staring at the back of his head, feeling terrified.
You want to be a part of something, be a part of it, he told her. If you dont want to, thats fine.
He pushes and he pushes and he pushes, Liz Koch said. But with 20/20 hindsight, it was all good for me, Im still alive, I never broke a limb.
But man, I hated it.
And shes suffered for some of his decisions that have demonized Charles and David Koch in American popular culture.
Forbes reported in June that a proposed smartphone app would help people find Koch products, so they could boycott them.
David Letterman has lampooned them; so has Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. The Kochs are villains in HBOs The Newsroom and in the movie The Campaign. Cable news mentions the Kochs almost nightly, implying that they are greedy billionaires trying to buy an election.
Im so hopeful that there will be something, SOMETHING in the world out there besides Evil Koch Brothers, Liz Koch said. Jesus H., Im sick of it.
The family now lives night and day with bodyguards.
We get a lot of death threats, said Charles Koch, 76. We get threats to fire-bomb our facilities. We get attacks by Anonymous, trying to break in, destroy our communications, computer systems cyberattacks.
David Koch, 72, who lives in New York, told his three children, ages 6 to 14, that their bodyguards are like nannies, hired to help the family.
What drives Charles Koch most, Liz Koch said, is a conviction that free markets are the only way to create prosperity. Even those who live in poverty, he believes, have more money and more opportunities for jobs if they live in a free-market economy rather than one controlled by dictators or socialists intent on redistributing wealth.
He is a family man, hes a human being, hes kind and hes generous, and I just dont know where this picture (comes from) of this person whos greedy, Liz Koch said. Do you honestly believe that he works for money?
Whats ironic about accusations, Liz said, is that both Koch brothers have given millions to charities. Charles and David Koch, their foundations and companies, have given about $1 billion in the past 12 years, more than $46 million to charities in Kansas.
One other significant irony about her husband, Liz Koch said, is that even his political allies dont know or understand how wonderfully independent-minded he is. Many conservatives have adopted Charles Kochs ideas, uttering his pet phrases about liberty and economic freedom and cronyism and advocating for low taxes, little regulation and a government kept as small as possible. But he also says things many conservatives would never dare say: Cut subsidies. Cut defense spending substantially. He also never says anything about religion, abortion, immigration or gun rights. And while political conservatives paint themselves as advocates for business, Charles Koch has accused corporate CEOs of cowardice for not speaking out for economic freedom.