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Koch Industries: Still Fueling Climate Denial [REPORT]

  • Posted on: 9 May 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Photo Credit: The Green Market

Crossposted from Greenpeace USA

Just over a year ago, oil billionaire David Koch used to joke that the company he owns with his brother Charles, Koch Industries, was “the biggest company you’ve never heard of.”

Then Greenpeace released our March, 2010 report, “Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine,” that documented the Kochs’ systematic funding of the political system in order to stop action on climate change, including funding campaigns on climate denial. We have now updated this report; Koch Industries: Still Fueling Climate Denial.

Over the last year, the publicity-averse brothers have found themselves and their company, Koch Industries, under increased scrutiny from the public and the press. But the Koch Brothers continue to use their oil wealth to fund campaigns, front groups, think tanks, and politicians to sabotage climate and clean energy policies.

Greenpeace’s new research throws a focus on some of the information that has come to light over the last year, not least the Kochs’ previously-secret twice-annual gatherings of their rich and powerful allies to plot their strategy. In one of our three new case studies, we present a dossier showing that the media magnates invited to their summer 2010 meeting in Colorado have provided a convenient echo chamber for the Kochs' media network, thrown into overdrive as more people become aware of the Koch Brothers and how they use their oil money.

Our next two case studies demonstrate how Koch’s network of climate denier front groups have attacked state policies that were developed to curb climate change. One of these new case studies documents how the Kochtopus is currently attacking the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state effort in the Northeast to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions. Ironically, Koch Supply and Trading, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, has participated in RGGI carbon trading even as Americans for Prosperity has campaigned to get states to pull out of RGGI.

Our third new case study offers a full overview of a similar multi-pronged attack on California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, which took place during the 2010 election cycle when Koch financed ballot Proposition 23. This effort was supported by Koch funded groups Americans for Prosperity and the Pacific Research Institute.

The Kochs’ funding of the climate denial machine continued apace in 2009 (the most recent year that Koch foundation tax forms are available), when they contributed over $6.4 million dollars to some 40 organizations that continue to deny the scientific consensus on global warming while attempting to slow or block policies to solve the climate crisis.

The Kochs have now given a total of $55.2 million to these groups since 1997, $31.6 million of which they spent between 2005 and 2009. Favorite Koch Foundation organizations like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, the Mercatus Center and the Institute for Humane Studies continued to be top beneficiaries. Americans for Prosperity, a front group founded by David Koch, has now received over $5.6 million in documented donations from the Koch foundations.

It doesn’t stop there. Where our 2010 report found that Koch Industries lobbying expenditures totaled $37.9 million dollars since 2006, that figure has now risen to over $49.5 million, an increase of $11.6 million over the last year. In 2010, Koch Industries was the largest political spender of the entire energy sector, dumping $2,645,589 in campaign contributions from their political action committee. Koch currently outspends heavyweights ExxonMobil, Southern Company, American Electric Power and Chevron. In addition, the Koch Brothers and their spouses directly contributed over $360,000 to federal politicians in 2010.

There’s more. Plenty more. Visit our updated Koch Industries web page for the full deal.

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DeSmogBlog: Valero's Ties to Tar Sands Fueled Prop 23 Funding

  • Posted on: 12 November 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

The tar sands of northern Alberta, Canada can be seen from space.  Photo credit.

DeSmogBlog's Emma Pullman recently took a look at how Valero Energy's investments in the devastating tar sands of Alberta, Canada motivated their funding of Proposition 23. 

Tar sands mining has been credited as the largest industrial project on the planet, and comes with extreme costs to the region's people, forests, waterways, animal species, and the broader specter of global warming.  If you missed it, National Geographic published a great piece on the controversies of tar sand operations.

As noted by DeSmog, Valero faces declining oil sources from Mexico and a shifty political scene in Venezuela, turning to the tar sands craze in Canada to secure more access to oil.  The rapid development of tar sands extraction has helped secure Canada as the United States' top supplier of oil--we import almost twice as much oil from Canada as from Saudi Arabia, and half of Canada's oil is sourced from tar sands mining.

As the refining of bitumen from tar sands mines creates particularly dirty fuel, Valero and the other oil companies crawling around northern Alberta aren't happy to see California's Global Warming Solutions Act survive Proposition 23.  Pullman notes:

As tar sands oil has a much larger carbon footprint than conventional oil, climate change legislation targeted by Prop 23 would limit California's imports of high-carbon fuels -- fuels that would likely include toxic tar sands oil from Alberta.  Valero's Texas refineries may be halfway across the United States, but industry worries about the 'domino effect' of climate change legislative efforts and how they may be adopted elsewhere.

While Prop 23 flopped, Proposition 26 did pass, to the delight of some of its most philanthropic financiers.  Chevron spent almost $4 million on the initiative, and ConocoPhillips, Exxon, Shell, and Occidental Petroleum added another $1,125,000.  

All of these giants are involved in tar sands production, and have just as much motivation as Valero to roadblock a low carbon fuel standard.

Be sure to check out Pullman's full article on Valero's mischief.

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Charles Koch Gives Concerned Student the Cold, Oily Shoulder

  • Posted on: 29 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Charles Koch Refuses to Accept Debate Challenge In-Person, Responds with Security Team

Making good his promise to visit Charles Koch, Cal State LA Senior Joel Francis flew to Wichita, Kansas to the headquarters of Koch Industries and personally delivered a letter re-challenging the oil CEO to a public debate on the future of California's economy. 

Of particular concern for Francis is the $1 million that Koch funneled to support Proposition 23, the ballot measure to undermine California's greenhouse gas reduction targets and clean energy implementation.  The role of wholly-owned Koch subsidiary Flint Hills in funding Prop 23, as well as Texas refiners Valero and Tesoro, has tuned California voters in to the reality of what the ballot measure truly exists to do: protect the profits of fossil fools and prevent a rapidly growing clean energy sector from ever being able to compete with dirty energy providers.

Francis certainly caught the CEO's attention with his initial challenge, as security guards and a Koch representative were ready to meet Francis once he arrived at the corporate campus.

Francis was promised--on camera--that his letter would be delivered to Charles Koch, but has not received a response, even under the condition that Charles himself could set the terms and location of the debate.  Apparently Charles doesn't feel the need to have any public accountability as he continues to work behind the scenes, pulling the strings of the tea party to upend the political system in favor of private corporate profit at the expense of human health, economic diversification and ecological integrity.

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Servants of Oil Increase Funding and Misinformation in Prop 23 Battle

  • Posted on: 25 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Following voter opposition to Proposition 23 and the recent surge in funding to counter the oily measure, Texas refiners Valero and Tesoro (who "are not oil companies," by the way)  have respectively added $1 million and $500,000 to the fight.  The dirty energy proposition would victimize clean energy jobs and development, not to mention legislative innovation and an already struggling climate.

There has been a lot of confusion about how Prop 23 relates to jobs, as the oil industry has cultivated fears of job loss through some questionable studies.  The Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, which is funded by the likes of Art Pope and the Koch brothers, has crafted a report designed to create hysteria among economically-wary Californians (read: most Californians), claiming formidable implications on jobs and state economic output. 

The funny thing, and by funny I mean dishonest, is that this report conveniently avoids looking at the economic benefits of the climate law that Prop 23 would cripple.  It also fails to mention that by the end of the decade, Proposition 23 will make California electricity cost 33% more.  And it also doesn't note that the report's author has worked for the Cato Institute, which Charles Koch founded and David Koch remains a Board member, and the Manhattan Institute, yet another think tank funded by the likes of Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.  For a deeper look, check out what Rebecca Lefton has to say about the Pacific Research Institute's selective look at California's climate law.

Beyond publishing their own flawed report, the Pacific Research Institute is also promoting another attack-study to help sell Prop 23.  This publication has been heavily scrutinized--to the point of invalidity--by California's Legislative Analyst's Office, the Business Alliance for a Green Economy, and two professors from Standford University and UCLA.

This is not the first time that the Pacific Research Institute has used flawed studies to attack clean energy progress, as they continue to do with the heavily-touted, heavily-debunked "Spanish study."  Pretty typical for one of the Kochtopus' many tentacles.

For an excellent map of the oil money fueling Proposition 23, refer to Dirty Energy Money.

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As Koch Orchestrates Political Strategy Session, Student Demands Debate

  • Posted on: 21 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Student leader, Joel Francis, challenges Charles Koch to debate Prop 23 and CA's economic future

A challenge released today from Cal State LA senior Joel Francis directly confronts Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, to a debate on Proposition 23 and the future of California's economy.

Francis calls it like it is, noting that Prop 23 is backed by dirty industry, namely Koch Industries subsidiary Flint Hills and Texas refiners Valero and Tesoro.

The student also told Mr. Koch that he could choose the terms of debate, and warned that he would not allow Charles to ignore his request:

"Please know that silence isn't an option.  I'm not going to let you hide behind your billions of dollars in Wichita, Kansas.  If I don't hear back from you by Tuesday, I will be at the front door of your office to issue this challenge again, in person.  As the CEO of one of the largest privately-owned companies in the country, I know you couldn't possibly be afraid of just one college student."

Joel Francis is calling Charles Koch out

This video comes out at a time where the Koch brothers are receiving increased scrutiny for their role in funding and orchestrating the climate denial movement and other efforts to block societal progress.  Most recently, the New York Times and ThinkProgress drew national attention to a memo sent by Charles Koch to major "titans of industry," inviting wealthy and politically influential elites to a January meeting in Palm Springs, California.  Supplemental material in the memo warns that "the proceedings of this meeting are confidential," asking guests not to leave materials laying around and noting that the media will not be allowed in (check out the full memo, signed by Charles Koch).

This meeting is the next step in a series of biannual strategy sessions that the billionaires have been running for years.  The meetings that the Koch's orchestrated in the past have included some notable public figures, including Fred Malek (Karl Rove's top attack-ad fundraiser and former Nixon campaigner), Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips, and Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and Glenn Beck, who just days later thanked Charles Koch on his show for "information" that he used to attack climate change science.

As more and more of the Kochtopus is revealed to the public eye, it is going to be increasingly difficult for David Koch to continue to act as the benevolent billionaire and for Charles to hide behind the curtain, pulling strings of influence from his Wichita headquarters.  Maybe it's time for Charles to start opening up to the world - he can begin by accepting Joel Francis' debate challenge.

 

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Koch and Fiorina: Champion Climate Obstructionists and Employment Outsourcers

  • Posted on: 28 September 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Check out the L.A. Times' comparison of the business practices of Senate-hopeful Carly Fiorina, Barbara Boxer's challenger, and Koch Industries, whose PAC donated to Fiorina at a fundraiser last week.  Koch, Valero and Tesoro are heavily invested in Proposition 23, the effort to suspend California's climate law, desperate to stall the  transition away from polluting fossil fuels to clean energy.

Fiorina has also come out in support of Proposition 23, which would freeze the state's legal power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement clean energy until the state's unemployment rate drops drastically and remains so for a full year.  Such low and prolonged unemployment has only been seen three times in the last 40 years.

Perhaps if Fiorina hadn't fired 30,000 people and outsourced thousands of more jobs as the CEO of HP, the unemployment rate is California wouldn't be so high.

Be sure to also check out the video footage of Greenpeace (and a few other protestors) at the National Republican Senatorial Committee Headquarters last week, asking Fiorina if she will stop accepting campaign donations from major polluters.

 

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The Koch brothers' dirty money in California

  • Posted on: 23 September 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

The New York Times editorial "The Brothers Koch and AB 32" takes on efforts by oil billionaires Charles and David Koch to block California's signature climate law by pouring money into Proposition 23:

Four years ago, bipartisan majorities in the California Legislature approved a landmark clean energy bill that many hoped would serve as a template for a national effort to reduce dependence on foreign oil and mitigate the threat of climate change.

Now a well-financed coalition of right-wing ideologues, out-of-state oil and gas companies and climate-change skeptics is seeking to effectively kill that law with an initiative on the November state ballot. The money men include Charles and David Koch, the Kansas oil and gas billionaires who have played a prominent role in financing the Tea Party movement.

Flint Hills, a wholly-owned subsidiary of oil giant Koch Industries based in Kansas, has joined with Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro in trying to block California's landmark climate legislation by funding the campaign to pass Proposition 23. As the second largest private company in the US, Koch Industries has plenty of money to pour into this fight. Greenpeace: Koch Industries: Secretly funding the climate denial machine

In fact, the $1 million from the oil billionaires is only one tentacle of the oily Kochtopus. As we detailed in our report "Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine," oil billionaires David and Charles Koch have become kingpins of climate denial, funneling tens of millions of dollars to front groups and think tanks that oppose climate and clean energy policies. In recent years, they have even surpassed ExxonMobil in contributions to climate denial organizations.

Those front-group-tentacles have also reached California. David Koch's favorite front group, "Americans for Prosperity," is running TV ads promoting Proposition 23, and AFP's California director has said that the Prop 23 is the group's "top priority." Although AFP purports to be a 'grassroots' organization, in fact it was founded and is co-chaired by David Koch, and, as our report shows, Koch Foundations have poured more than $5 million into this front group. As David Axelrod told Jane Mayer of The New Yorker in her extraordinary investigative article exposing the Koch brothers, "What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”

The Kochs are also directly funding political candidates who will support their agenda — including California senate candidate Carly Fiorina, who supports Proposition 23. KochPAC gave her $5,000 earlier this year, and is even co-hosting a fundraiser for her in Washington DC to give thousands more.

The fight over clean energy and climate policy in California is dripping with out-of-state oil money because the oil billionaires want to stamp out the progress that has been made to move toward clean energy and energy efficiency, and keep us addicted to their fossil fuels. That's how they became oil billionaires, after all. The NYT editorial concludes:

Who wins if this law is repudiated? The Koch brothers, maybe, but the biggest winners will be the Chinese, who are already moving briskly ahead in the clean technology race. And the losers? The people of California, surely. But the biggest loser will be the planet.

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Rachel Maddow: “Oil companies bus in workers for pathetic PR stunt in Ohio.”

  • Posted on: 20 September 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

090910 Koch Brothers.m4v

Rachel Maddow recently revisited two of her favorite targets: Charles and David Koch.  Maddow discusses David Koch's attempt to run for office (and the gold coins he minted featuring his own face), the funding of Proposition 23 by Koch subsidiary Flint Hills Resources, and the efforts to organize "Rally for Jobs" events by groups receiving Koch money. 

The 2010 Rally for Jobs is this years version of the American Petroleum Institute "Energy Citizens" rallies held last summer, which a leaked letter written by CEO Jack Gerard revealed to be covered in oil money.  Like last summer, oil companies actually bussed employees to attend the rallies, as Maddow reports.

Rachel Maddow has done several previous spotlights on the Koch brothers, including this look at how the Kochs fund the climate denial machine, and a close investigation of Koch Industries' ties to the tea party.

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After Valero and Koch donate millions, NPRA president begs for more money to fight Prop 23

  • Posted on: 17 September 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Despite obtaining over $4 million from Valero, $1.5 million from Tesoro and $1 million from Koch Industries subsidiary Flint Hills Resources, the president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association sent out a plea, literally, for more money to undermine California's legislative effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions and implement more clean energy.

In an email to members of the NPRA, president Charles Drevna wrote, "I am pleading with each of you—for our nation's best interest and for your company's own self-interest."

More can be found at the Wall Street Journal online.

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