-- Joyce and Karen Koch aren’t related to each other. But that’s not important; they’re sisters “in spirit.” Besides, what they really want you to know is that they’re not related to the Koch brothers, the billionaire conservatives funding political candidates and causes nationwide.
Because of their famous surname, Karen, 51, a community college professor in Michigan, and Joyce, 71, a retired Iowa social worker now living in New jersey, were recruited by labor activists at the AFL-CIO to be the faces of the labor group’s “Koch Sisters” ad campaign attacking the reclusive oil and gas tycoons, who consistently oppose climate change legislation, and push for repeal of Obamacare and a balanced budget through Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group they helped start.
After a spate of lighthearted spots, including one in which they banter about establishing an exclusive “Koch lane” in the checkout line, the Koch sisters have filmed a new ad, hitting airwaves in battleground areas including Kentucky and Wisconsin this week, with a more serious tone.
“I think the Koch brothers are really expecting laws to go in their favor,” Karen says in the new 30-second ad, first obtained by ABC News.
“They’re saying, 'I’m going to change the rules, I’m going to change the politicians … It’s going to be my way,'” Joyce says. “I think they expect obedience.”
But in a recent interview, the Koch sisters showcased their more jovial side, dishing on the Koch bros, and their own new-found fame. Here are seven questions we asked them (the interview has been edited for clarity and length):
1. How did the AFL-CIO find you? Were either of you hesitant, or were you immediately on board?
JOYCE: I got a call from a gentleman named Bernie, who told me about this interesting proposition of the “Koch sisters.” I come from a theater and drama background and so I thought, “Well, this is right up my alley.” That’s how they hooked this fish. I was very upfront with the AFL-CIO and I said, “I’m not into politics.” And they were OK with that. I think I’m the sleeping beauty here. They came and gave me a kiss on the forehead and they woke me up, and now I am really interested in politics. And believe you me, I know who the Koch brothers are, and I do not care for them.
2. Do people ever mistakenly assume you’re related to the Koch brothers, or hold the same views?
KAREN: I get asked, “Are you related to the Koch brothers?” And I’m like, “Oh, not on a long shot. Not anything like them.”
3. How have your friends and family reacted to the ad campaign?
KAREN: My husband is not at all a person that divulges a lot of information, so at first he was really upset about [the idea], but since then, he’s like, “I’m really proud that you went ahead with it.” And both of my kids have been enthusiastic. My 20-year-old son, he plays guitar, so he wrote a song about it. He says something like, “a lot of people feel the way you do mom about politics, but I’m glad you went ahead and said it out loud and took the risk.”
JOYCE: I was pleasantly surprised to find out that 90 percent of my relatives are quite liberal and thrilled about this whole thing, getting in touch with me and becoming Koch sisters. But there was a comment; I think it might be on Facebook: I think this one gentleman totally missed the point. He said something along the lines of, “Who made these two women experts? What makes them experts?” I think that’s the point, we’re not experts. We just are regular people that have our opinions.
4. Still waiting for a reaction from the Koch brothers?
KAREN: I’m not really a conflict person, so I am thrilled that they didn’t do anything.
JOYCE: They’d probably send one of their minions out to shoot us down.
5. Why do you think people find these ads so appealing?
JOYCE: Everybody that sees it says we seem so natural, like everyday people, you know, not like hired actors, which we’re not. We’re not hired, we’re volunteers. And while in some of the ads, we’re reading from a teleprompter occasionally, others are us answering things the way we feel. We’re being totally ourselves.
KAREN: I think people can really identify, you know, that we’re not perfect, we’re not toothpick, we’re not, we’re not a lot of things. But what we are is, we’re regular people that have regular ideas for the common person, for the regular Joe that’s out there that wants a voice in the democracy.
6. If you got the chance to sit down with Charles and David Koch, what would you say to them?
JOYCE: [In the beginning, I thought] I’d like to take the Koch brothers on a field trip to a stream near one of their plants where people have been poisoned because of the waste from this plant. I’d lead these brothers to see, one-to-one, what has happened. Well, I’ve done more reading. If you think of what their policies would do if they cut Medicare, if they cut Social Security, if they do away with minimum wage, and on and on with all their policies, I think the field trip with the Koch brothers would go on and on for years and years. She giggles. I think we’d all be a hundred and ten years old, and I don’t know if I want to spend that much time with the Koch brothers.
KAREN: It’s not worth my time. There’s nothing that I could say that’s really going to make any difference to them. It would be a waste of my breath.
7. You wail on the Koch brothers for spending a lot of money on political ads. But don’t Democrats and liberal groups do the same thing?
KAREN: You know, people complain about the union money. Where’d the union money come from? Thousands and thousands of people all sharing the idea of benefiting society. You know, like, yeah, I donated to the election. But they knew my ideas were values that were for society as a whole. Versus an extremely wealthy individual planning an ad that they are placing specifically to get reductions in requirements for environmental causes. Yeah, there’s money coming from both, but it’s a different mindset.