REPORT — Outrage in Oregon: How The Koch Brothers’ Quest For Profit Wrought Havoc On A Mill Town

October 23, 2014

The Koch brothers have shown time and time again that everything they do is motivated by self-interest. Be it the politicians they support, the policies they lobby for, or the business practices they engage in, their ultimate goal is to continue to build their massive fortune, no matter the consequences.

For a microcosm, look no further than Oregon, where the billionaire brothers’ business empire, Koch Industries, has had a profoundly negative impact on the state. While Georgia Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, has a slew of plants throughout the state, the most quintessential example of their utter disregard for the well-being of the state centers on Georgia Pacific’s Wauna Mill in Clatskanie.

In 2004, Georgia Pacific was granted a massive tax exemption on Wauna Mill under the condition that they fulfill a promise to create a certain number of jobs at the mill site. The plant was the largest taxpayer in Clatsop County. But in 2007, they were disqualified from the tax exemption for failing to maintain the minimum number of employees as established for the exemption, and forced to repay $4.1 million in exempted taxes — money that would go back to local counties.

In response, Georgia Pacific filed an appeal over the tax exemption that also alleged the site’s entire property tax bill had been miscalculated because the property had been overvalued. While Georgia Pacific did not get everything the Kochs wanted in the end, the multi-million dollar settlement strained local budgets, sucking money away from public services and even forcing the closure of Cannon Beach Elementary School.

On top of this fiasco, Wauna Mill laid off some workers, outsourced others, used taxpayer money to fund massive infrastructure projects, and jacked up health care costs for employees. So that’s Koch Industries in a nutshell.

Beyond Wauna Mill, Oregon has suffered significant statewide environmental damages thanks to Georgia Pacific, and hundreds of workers have seen their jobs disappear. Georgia Pacific was even among bidders to purchase public forest lands in Eliot State Forest.

Now, the Koch brothers have spent millions trying to buy Monica Wehby a Senate seat. Wehby has offered few details on her political platforms, but has toed the Koch line on nearly every stance she has taken. Throughout her campaign, she has attacked environmental regulations, rejected a federal minimum wage hike, and called for full repeal of the Affordable Care Act — all positions that directly aid the Kochs’ self-serving agenda.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation