William I. Koch, the Osterville summer resident and fossil fuel magnate who helped bankroll the opposition to the Cape Wind energy project, has emerged as a key backer of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, donating $2 million to Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Romney’s drive for the White House.
The donations rank Koch’s privately held Oxbow Corp. third among companies that have donated the most to Restore Our Future, behind Perry Homes, the Texas home-building company, and Bain Capital, the Boston private equity firm that Romney cofounded in 1984.
Brad Goldstein, Koch’s spokesman, said Koch is supporting Romney because of a personal relationship that dates to the early 1980s, when Romney was running Bain Capital and Koch was living full time in Massachusetts, and also because of Koch’s disagreements with President Obama’s tax and energy policies.
“The personal relationship is the major reason, but Bill is also unhappy with the Obama administration’s attitude toward business,’’ Goldstein said. “He feels the president’s tax policy will harm this country.’’ In addition, Goldstein said, Koch “feels the administration’s energy policy is moribund,’’ and its permitting process for fossil fuel industries is flawed.
Goldstein noted that Koch did not coordinate his contributions to Restore Our Future with his better-known brothers, David and Charles, who are renowned for funding libertarian causes with funds derived from a separate company with petroleum revenue, Wichita-based Koch Industries. “They’re a separate house. They’re a separate deal,’’ Goldstein said.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Bill Koch waged a bitter legal battle against his brothers, contending that he was cheated when he sold his stake in the family company.
Koch (pronounced “coke’’) made his donations to Restore Our Future in three ways: through Oxbow Corp., a global coal and petroleum company with more than $4 billion in annual sales; through a subsidiary of the company; and with a personal donation of $250,000, in addition to $7,500 he and his family gave the Romney campaign.
Michael Czin, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, derided Koch’s donations to Restore Our Future, as well as Romney’s positions on taxes and energy.
“Mitt Romney and Bill Koch advocate for an economic scheme that is familiar and troubling: more budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, and fewer rules for Wall Street,’’ Czin said.
Campaign donations to independent super PACs, a new feature of presidential campaigns, are changing the face of American politics, as wealthy donors take advantage of a 2010 Supreme Court ruling, known as Citizens United, that allows super PACs to collect unrestricted contributions from corporations, labor unions, and individuals.
As of the end of April, Restore Our Future had raised about $56.5 million - much of it already spent on the contentious Republican primaries - while Priorities USA Action, the super PAC supporting President Obama, had raised about $10.5 million, according to preliminary estimates by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group that tracks campaign finances.
Koch lives in Florida and runs Oxbow from West Palm Beach. His energy company conducts business at 16 locations across the United States, and at more than 30 additional sites on five continents, according to the company’s website.
Oxbow’s primary businesses are mining and the sale of coal, natural gas, and petroleum. It is also the world’s largest distributor of petroleum coke, a solid fuel that is a byproduct of the oil refining process.
At the same time, Koch is a prodigious contributor to political campaigns. Last year, he hosted fund-raisers for Romney in Osterville and in Florida. And earlier this year, he and his wife, Bridget, cochaired a fund-raiser at the Palm Beach home of another couple where the Kochs each donated $2,500 to the Romney campaign. Koch’s son, Wyatt, also gave $2,500.
Meanwhile, Koch continues to serve as vice chairman of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which has spent a decade fighting the electric-power-generating wind turbines proposed for the waters off Cape Cod.
Cape Wind has received nearly all government approvals and about 75 percent of the financing to build a wind farm with 130 turbines, each 440 feet high, spread across 24 square miles of ocean.
Two years ago, the Globe reported that Koch made a $100,000 donation to the Republican Governors Association in part to support the gubernatorial campaign waged by Republican Charles D. Baker, who opposed the Cape Wind proposal.
The Globe also reported that Koch’s company, Oxbow, paid $1 million to a Washington lobbying firm that worked against the Cape Wind proposal from 2005 to 2007, when the project was seeking federal approval and the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy was trying to kill it.
Goldstein has said that Koch’s opposition to the wind farm has nothing to do with his fossil fuel business, which has no facilities in Massachusetts, and is based instead on his status as a summer homeowner on Cape Cod, his passion for sailing, and a belief that the proposal is bad for electric utility ratepayers.
In addition to his donations to Restore Our Future and the Romney campaign, Koch and his wife have given to Republican House Speaker John Boehner, and to Freedom Project, a political action committee that has Boehner as its honorary chairman, and that was set up to help Republican candidates for federal office.
Said Goldstein: “We’re big supporters of John Boehner for protecting our business interests.’’