Fact Check

Koch Pays George Zimmerman's Legal Fees?

Did Koch Industries pay the legal fees of George Zimmerman?

Published April 19, 2012


Claim:   Koch Industries paid the legal fees of George Zimmerman.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, April 2012]

Was posted on my facebook page today. Is this true?

"In the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin ... The company Koch which manufactures paper products is paying for Zimmerman's legal fees because they feel he had legal right to bear arms and shoot Trayvon. We are asking that people everywhere band together with us and pass this information on and not purchase any of the following items because your money will be paying for Zimmermans lawyer fees!!! Please do not purchase any of the following items : Angel soft toilet paper, Brawny paper towels, Dixie plates, bowls, napkins or cups, Mardi Gras napkins and towels, Quilted Northern toilet paper, Soft and gentile toilet paper, Sparkle napkins, Vanity fair napkins, Zero napkins, PASS IT ON"


Origins:   Koch Industries is a multinational conglomerate based in Wichita, Kansas, which owns companies in a variety of industries, including pulp and paper. A rumor claiming that Koch was paying the legal fees of George Zimmerman, the defendant in the Trayvon Martin shooting case, and calling for a boycott of Koch-owned paper companies began to spread in mid-April 2012. This rumor appeared to be tied to a combination of George Zimmerman's launching a web site soliciting donations for his lawyers and living expenses and news reports linking Koch to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative policy group "that came under attack after the Trayvon Martin shooting for pushing Stand Your Ground gun laws nationwide":

Few people know the American Legislative Exchange Council by name, but they may know the laws the organization develops.

For decades, the group of lawmakers and private sector officials has worked closely to draft legislation that focuses on everything from the fairly mundane, like tax

policy and cable TV regulations, to the controversial, such as voter ID laws and Florida's "Stand Your Ground" statute.

That last one pulled it into the spotlight in recent weeks after the death of teen Trayvon Martin. The law gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight, and ALEC — as the group is known — has worked in recent years to spread it to other states.

ALEC announced that it was eliminating its public safety task force that had dealt with the "Stand Your Ground" law and said it was refocusing those resources on economic matters. The group said liberal foes are simply trying to score political points by taking advantage of the Martin tragedy.

Koch denied having any connection to the passage of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law:

Koch has had no involvement in this legislation whatsoever. We have had no discussions with anyone at ALEC, the legislative policy group at issue, about the matter either. In fact, the only lobbying on firearms issues we have ever undertaken in Florida was in opposition to the National Rifle Association's support for a bill that mandated employers must allow employees to bring firearms onto company property.

As for the rumor of Koch's paying George Zimmerman's legal fees, we found nothing (outside of mere repetition of the rumor) to support it, and Koch itself maintained there was nothing to it:

Contrary to an irresponsible rumor that began circulating online on April 18, Koch has no involvement whatsoever with the defense of George Zimmerman, the defendant in the Trayvon Martin case.

As well, Melissa Cohlmia, Koch's Director of Corporate Communications, told us that the rumor is "entirely and unequivocally false."

According to Mark O'Mara, one of two defense attorneys (along with Don West) for George Zimmerman, money to cover the costs of Zimmerman's defense was provided through private donations to the George Zimmerman Defense Fund established by the two attorneys in the summer of 2012 (with O'Mara paying out of his own pocket to keep matters going when funds were not available):

SAVIDGE: Money, money in this case, and there was public appeals, and there was a number of them, were made to raise funds. How much money did you think was needed to defend him?

O'MARA: I think I said at one point $500,000 and then I said $1 million for a defense. That turned out to be a little shy of what we need.

SAVIDGE: And how often were you sort of right there at almost a zero bank account?

O'MARA: Oh, we were at the zero bank account numerous times, and we were — I have funded this case, and a lot of money I have put into this case, because you can't stop, and people still need to be paid or depositions need to be ordered or depositions need to be taken.

SAVIDGE: You fill the gaps?

O'MARA: Yes. I had to. I mean, you don't just stop. And at that point, my commitment was such that we're going to see this case through trial.

SAVIDGE: Who gave? Who were the people that gave?

O'MARA: It's funny, because we got a lot of $5 contributions, a lot of $100 contributions, a few $1,000 contributions. But if you looked at the range, I would say it was $10 to $100 [from] people all over America, a lot of people who are on fixed incomes. I was amazed that people would send $5 or $10 to us. And they would write letters and say, "I'm on Social Security. I wish I could do more. I'll try to do more next month, but we really feel George deserves a fair trial."

Last updated:   18 July 2013


    Baker, Mike.   "Martin's Death Spurs Scrutiny of Legislative Group."

    Associated Press.   18 April 2012.

    Graves, Lisa.   "ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection."

    The Nation.   1 August 2011.

    Lichtblau, Eric.   "Martin Death Spurs Group to Readjust Policy Focus."

    The New York Times.   17 April 2012.

    Mahapatra, Lisa.   "George Zimmerman’s Defense Cost $500,000, Not Including Lawyer's Fees."

    International Business Times.   16 July 2013.

    CNN.   "George Zimmerman's Attorney Speaks About Trial."

    13 July 2013.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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