Koch carbon takes over downtown Green Bay

A Koch Industries subsidiary, C. Reiss Coal, is wreaking havoc in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The mineral transport company produces enormous coal piles that have monopolized part of the downtown waterfront for over ten years. A Wisconsin county commissioner is pushing for a study to measure the potentially deleterious health effects of the dust buildup that has become menace to the facility’s neighbors.

Green Bay Mayor, Jim Schmitt, said, “We thought maybe they’d get out of this business, but they’re committed to (it) … I would like nothing more for them to self-relocate (but at a cost of) of at least $20 million, it’s not going to happen in the next four years.”

Unsurprisingly, a spokesman for the facility said they have no plans to move the piles.

This is not the first time Koch Industries has jeopardized the health of it’s neighbors. Over the last few years, a Koch carbon facility came under serious scrutiny for their storage of hazardous petroleum coke, a waste byproduct of oil refining, in turn producing large clouds of dark dust over Detroit.

This has become a predictable narrative for Koch Industries whose mishandling of hazardous materials and disregard for environmental safety has been well documented.

It’s clear the Kochs care a hell of a lot more about their bottom line than about the health of Wisconsinites. 

P.S. 
Thank you, Senator Reid, for your call to action to expose the self serving agenda of the Koch brothers. Senator Reid was one of the first to recognize that the shadowy billionaires’ ability to use their money to co-opt the Republicans Party is a solemn threat to our democracy. The Senator’s leadership has driven American Bridge’s communications, research and rapid response operations. We will continue to fight to hold the Koch brothers accountable. Thank you for your service, Senator Reid.

Masking the Real Koch Agenda with Criminal Justice Reform

In a recent profile, Koch Industries’ marketing exec, Steve Lombardo, admitted what everyone had already assumed: The Koch’s recent effort to push criminal justice system reform is a facade to advance their financial interests. Lombardo went as far as saying the initiative was part of a larger public relations campaign to combat Koch Industries’ negative image.

“‘Emphasizing criminal justice reform is a key part of the strategy to deflate the negative narrative around the Kochs,’ Lombardo said.”

Even with their newly-found interest in criminal justice, it’s worth looking at their true motives. The Kochs are candid about carving a “do gooder” image that helps their bottom line. It just so happens that the Koch brothers became interested in criminal justice reform after a grand jury’s indictment of employees at a Texas Koch refinery for violations of the Clean Air Act and other crimes. Koch Industries spent six years fighting the charges and eventually settled with the government for $10 million.

This initiative is just a PR stunt to mask the Koch political agenda that hurts small businesses and pollutes the environment. After all, the investment in criminal justice reform pales in comparison to the multi-millions the Kochs have poured into electing Republicans who are rubber stamps for their efforts. But then again, making over the Koch image is no easy job.

Scientists and National Coalition Urge Museums to Break Koch Ties

Scientists are calling for an end to the controversial relationship between the Kochs and the world-renowned science museums they have a hand in funding, including the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

In an open letter, the scientists wrote:

We are concerned that the integrity of these institutions is compromised by association with special interests who obfuscate climate science, fight environmental regulation, oppose clean energy legislation, and seek to ease limits on industrial pollution.

When some of the biggest contributors to climate change and funders of misinformation on climate science sponsor exhibitions in museums of science and natural history, they undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions responsible for transmitting scientific knowledge. This corporate philanthropy comes at too high a cost.

While the public affairs director for the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History insists that David Koch only sits on an advisory board that is “not a governing board,” there is ample evidence of the climate change denier’s influence throughout the museum.

One particularly damning display promotes the baseless idea that humans will evolve to survive global warming,

Smithsonian visitors are asked to “imagine” a time (“Era 3″) that is “far into the future” when “Earth’s temperature has risen and it’s really hot.” Unbelievably, you are then asked “How do you think your body will evolve?” Your choice is “Will you have a tall, narrow body like a giraffe? Or more sweat glands?”

Note to Smithsonian: The “really hot temperatures” are literally decades away. And of all the proposed science-based approaches for dealing with the multiple, irreversible catastrophes that such global warming entails, waiting for Homo Sapiens to evolve ain’t one of ‘em. As long as this anti-scientific video is part of the Koch exhibit, visitors will have every right to assume the museum is intentionally misleading the public on the gravity of the climate situation.

Museums are meant to educate the public with facts. They should not be a place where scientific truth gets sold off to the highest bidder. Take a stand against the Kochs and sign the petition to kick the Kochs off the boards.

The Koch front on the Export Import Bank

The LIBRE Initiative bills itself as a non-profit group that pushes a message of economic freedom and limited government among the Latino community. But the Koch bankrolled group is just a front for the Koch’s self-interested agenda. The LIBRE Initiative has been pushing to block a minimum wage hike, oppose the expansion of medicaid, and fight against clean energy legislation, and now do away with the Export-Import Bank.

The mission of the Bank is to create and sustain U.S. jobs by financing sales of U.S. exports to international buyers. In FY 2014 the export-import bank funded $10.7 billion in small business exports, making small business exports the top category for Ex-Im Bank last year. The reauthorization of the Bank is set to expire in June — if Congress doesn’t act.

Of course, the Kochs are opposed to the program because it gives small businesses an edge over their multi-national corporation, Koch Industries.

According to a press release from the LIBRE Initiative, “The government should not be picking winners and losers by awarding funds to some companies and not others – even through loan guarantees … If Congress rejects appeals from companies and Interest groups that benefit from these taxpayer subsidies, the agency will sunset as it is currently scheduled to do.”

These empty talking points shouldn’t come as a surprise. An analysis by Conservative Transparency shows that the group received $3.8 million in funding from Freedom Partners and TC4 Trust, two groups affiliated with the Koch brothers.

They call themselves nonpartisan, but their whole agenda is indistinguishable from that of the Koch brothers. Their money speaks a lot louder than their actions.

Koch higher education grant comes with strings attached

The Charles Koch Foundation has signed on with Papa John’s founder John Schnatter to fund the John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise at the University of Louisville, donating nearly $2 million to the program. So… what’s the catch?

The contract with U of L allows the donors to walk away at virtually any time, says Insider Louisville:

The contracts also allow Schnatter and the Charles Koch Foundation to pull their funding at any time if the center is not living up to its mission, which the contracts say is “to engage in research and teaching that explores the role of enterprise and entrepreneurship in advancing the well-being of society.”
 
According to the agreements, which were signed by U of L president James Ramsey on March 10, if the donors want to pull funding, they must “make a good faith effort to meet within sixty (60) days to discuss” the reasons with the university. If the donors don’t change their minds, they only have to provide a 30-day notice that they’re pulling funding.
Perhaps the most concerning part of the contract is that funds can be pulled if their “mission” is not upheld and since finding millions of dollars in funding in a month’s time would be nearly impossible, the U of L could ultimately be forced to change their academics as the Kochs see fit or be faced with paying the bill.

This is hardly the first time the Kochs have used their money to influence the curriculum in schools. By their own count they had allocated money to more than 250 schools, including Florida State University. Although FSU President John Thrasher has repeatedly insisted that the funding has not effected academic freedom, the faculty tell a different story.

From a Letter to Tallahassee Democrat:

Note the following candid statement from Bruce Benson, acting chairman of the FSU Economic Department: “These organizations have an explicit agenda. They want to expose students to what they believe are vital concepts about the benefits of the market and the dangers of government failure, and they want to support and mentor students who share their views. Therefore, they are trying to convince us to hire faculty who will provide that exposure and mentoring. If we are not willing to hire such faculty, they are not willing to fund us.”
 
U of L Vice President Keith Inman and other officials told Insider Louisville that “they aren’t concerned about undue influence coming from the donors.” But with the billionaire brothers’ track record of buying influence, the university should be concerned. In all likelihood, the money comes with an agenda and it isn’t to ensure academic freedom.

Koch Contamination of the NCAA

The Kochs are spreading their gospel through through a multi-year national sponsorship of college sports, making an enormous media buy that will give the company advertising exposure at 15 universities in the Big 10, Big 12, and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Koch, making its first major foray into collegiate advertising and marketing, is using the sponsorships to recruit March Madness fans throughout the Midwest. The in-game mentions, radio advertising, Koch-branded towels, and signage will run during men’s and women’s basketball games and directs viewers to KochCareers.com.

Being a college athlete is a lot like the Koch’s vision for the middle class, says a recent Bloomberg View article:

Like student athletes, many of Koch’s employees also understand what it’s like to work for an organization that is against unions and and the protections they afford. The NCAA has fought efforts by Northwestern football players to unionize, touting the threat to “amateurism” and arguing that a college scholarship is compensation enough for athletes who generate nearly $1 billion in revenue. Meanwhile, political groups funded by David and Charles Koch are largely driving the push to spread union-busting right-to-work legislation, citing what they call “forced” unionization. The privately held company says IT generates $115 billion in annual revenue.

There’s another similarity: As the NCAA fights increased forms of player compensation, it’s being sued for violating minimum wage laws. The Kochs are famously opposed to the minimum wage — last June, Koch Industries executive vice president Richard Fink warned that increasing the minimum wage could turn the U.S. into Nazi Germany. Charles Koch has stated that the minimum wage is part of a “culture of dependency.”

In addition to these stances, the Kochs have advocated for abolishing the Department of Education, pushed to end federal support of student loans, and eliminate public funding for state colleges. So we know that they always have college students’ best interests at heart.

Greedy, opaque, and unscrupulous — Koch Industries and the NCAA have many shared values.   These positions won’t come across your screen when you’re watching Sportscenter. But these two certainly sound like a match made in heaven.

Koch-backed veterans group advocates for VA privatization

During the 2014 midterm election cycle, the Koch-funded group Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) backed a bevy of extreme conservative candidates and helped send top Koch cronies (and veterans) Joni Ernst and Tom Cotton to the U.S. Senate. Scarcely a couple months into the 2016 cycle, CVA has released a report recommending that much of the U.S. Veterans Administration be privatized, an extreme policy position that would jeopardize the care received by millions of our nation’s veterans.

Last month, CVA’s Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce released its final report suggesting “policy reforms” for the VA, namely that the VA’s health care system be converted into an independent, nonprofit corporation and advocating for the creation of a private insurance option for veterans. Additionally, new enrollees into the proposed system would face tougher enrollment standards. According to USA Today, a whopping one-fifth of future veterans would not be eligible for care under CVA’s proposed system. It’s no wonder then that the American Legion has come out against the plan, as did Paralyzed Veterans of America, and that “most veterans service organizations skipped” the rollout of the CVA’s final report, according to Stars & Stripes Magazine.

Most veterans organizations don’t support CVA’s privatization plan, and it has the potential to negatively impact some 20 percent of future veterans. So what explains CVA’s release of what Stars & Stripes calls a “radical” plan for the VA? Consider that CVA received a whopping $5.5 million from the Koch brothers’ “secret bank” — Freedom Partners — in 2013. The Kochs have advocated for education reform by way of abolishing the federal Department of Education and campaign finance reform vis-à-vis doing away with the FEC. So it’s disappointing, but not surprising, that a Koch group’s vision of VA reform is to privatize most of the agency charged with caring for our nation’s veterans.

Koch favorite and presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio has already endorsed the extreme CVA plan. Will the rest of the Koch cronies follow suit and contradict the position of most veterans service organizations?

Koch-backed governor forbids the Department of Environmental Protection from doing its job

Florida Governor Rick Scott has come up with a fool-proof plan for dealing with climate change: ignore the problem and hope it goes away.

According to officials at the agency, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, ostensibly in charge of studying and preparing for the impacts of climate change, is reportedly forbidden from using the terms“climate change” and ”global warming.”

The ban went into effect after Scott took office in 2011. Although Scott denies that he was the one to issue the gag order, historically he has refused to acknowledge the reality of man-made climate change even after a group of Florida scientists sat him down and explained it to him.

Former DEP employees claim they were told never to use either of those terms “in any official communications, emails or reports,” because “we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact.”

This rationale sounds awfully familiar. In order to protect their petrochemical empire, the Koch brothers have funneled millions of dollars to climate denial front groups and launched massive lobbying efforts against climate change legislation.

Koch Industries made large contributions to Scott’s re-election campaign, and the Kochs’ primary political arm, Americans For Prosperity, has put more than 40 paid staffers on the ground in the Sunshine State.

It’s clear that Scott’s climate change denial is detrimental to the people and the landscape of Florida. But at least he’s keeping his investors happy.

The Kochs are Funding An Extreme Libertarian Project in New Hampshire

The Koch brothers have been involved with Libertarian causes for decades, ever since David Koch discovered a campaign finance loophole that would allow him to donate unlimited sums of money to a political candidate, so long as he was on the ticket. So he bought himself a $2 million spot on the Libertarian party’s 1980 ticket as the VP candidate, running on a platform of extreme deregulation, which would benefit Koch Industries and further line the brothers’ pockets. Fast forward to 2015, and the brothers are sponsoring a bizarre Libertarian movement in New Hampshire aimed at taking over and demolishing the state government. 

The Free State Project‘s goal is to move 20,000 libertarians to the state and effectively overrun the state government and possibly even secede from the United States. Despite its extreme rhetoric, the Free State Project has deep connections to the Koch brothers. The New Hampshire chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ political arm, was a sponsor for the organization’s “Moved by Liberty” forum held March 5-8, 2015 in Manchester. The event also featured speakers from the Cato Institute, the Josiah Bartlet Center and Charles Koch Institute (all Koch-funded organizations). 

Their support of the Free State Project is just another example of the extremes the Koch brothers will go to in order to rake in more money through deregulation. From the project’s beginning it has encouraged its members to secede. It also works to elect candidates that want to make deep cuts to important infrastructure such as highways and public education, just like Koch-favored candidates in states like North Carolina and Kansas.
While the Free State Project may be selling what it sees as a Libertarian utopia, its sponsors, the Koch brothers, are much more interested in the profits they will gain in the economic free-for-all it would create.

 

Maryland’s DOT nominee is pushing Koch products

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan owes the Kochs big time for supporting his campaign. Now he is paying them back by installing their pawns in his administration. Pete Rahn is the latest Koch crony that has been dispatched to work in a newly minted GOP administration. Governor Hogan nominated Rahn to lead the state’s Department of Transportation.

Rahn suffered a bruising confirmation hearing that had to be postponed because legislators had too many questions about his many connections to the billionaire Koch brothers. At the hearing, Maryland legislators raised questions about a highway project in New Mexico, where Rahn was previously DOT chief. The widening of NM-44, a 118-mile, $420 million project that Rahn oversaw in New Mexico, was the most expensive highway project in the state’s history and included a huge and unusual contract to Koch Industries: a 20-year, $62 million contract for roadway maintenance.

However, in 2004, it became clear that Koch Industries wasn’t living up to its end of the deal: the road began to show “unexpected and troubling signs of distress,” and the project ended up receiving serious scrutiny by the state.

During the hearing, Maryland Senate President Mike Miller shined a spotlight on Rahn’s crooked Koch dealings, stating, “What he did was the governor told him to build a road, but [Rahn] said there’s no money to build it. So he went to the Koch brothers and said, ‘You design a road. And you can be the sole bidder. And then you’ll be responsible for the repairs.”

An investigation by the Albuquerque Business Journal, confirmed that Koch Industries was the only bidder on the project and approached Rahn directly with the proposal before bids had even been requested.

We’ve seen this movie before. Rahn used his post as DOT chief in New Mexico to award a lucrative contract to Koch Industries, and there’s no reason to expect he would do any different as Governor Hogan’s hand-picked nominee. Maryland taxpayers deserve a DOT chief who isn’t a Koch crony.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation