Business Impact

The Koch Brothers and their political groups have been instrumental in the crusade to undermine the science of climate change and obstruct clean energy legislation.

Why have they taken on this dirty campaign? Koch Industries, the oil conglomerate and driving force behind the brothers’ $100 billion fortune, is one of the United States’ worst polluters.

According to the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Koch Industries ranked in the top 30 polluters nationwide on each of these three metrics: air, waterand greenhouse gases.

In order to preserve their eye-popping, oil-soaked profits, the Kochs are willing to spend millions to mislead the public about climate change and fill Congress with legislators who oppose protections for our environment. For them, it’s just another self-serving investment.

For our children and grandchildren, not so much. Continue reading to learn how Koch Industries’ business practices have impacted your state.

Business Impact

To the Surprise of No One, Kochs Spend Big to Buy Access to Republican Governors

The New York Times reported yesterday that the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government and ethics watchdog group, uncovered a treasure trove of documents exposing the major corporate donors to the Republican Governors Association. Names on the list include Walmart, Exxon Mobil, and – yep, you guessed it – Koch Companies Public Sector, a.k.a. Koch Industries’ lobbying arm.

While that isn’t surprising, it does shed some light on just what the Kochs and their big-money pals are trying to buy: golf outings, policy breakfasts, secret donor meetings, an “intimate gathering” with Republican governors and Republican VIPs (whatever that means), and the Republican governors’ ears. In short: Access. Influence. Sway.

These donors would be model residents in Kochville, the Koch brothers’ self-serving utopia where horrible things like the minimum wage, social security, and environmental protections don’t exist. And, for the low, low price of $100,000 – or two easy payments of $50,000 – the Kochs and their prospective Kochvillians get “the ability to bring their particular expertise to the political process,” which is code for tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts to education, among many, many other anti-worker and anti-middle class policies.

The truth is, this is a bargain compared to what the Kochs are spending on their extreme Senate candidates this year alone. The Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity plans to spend $125 million, and when you count the Kochs’ dark money donor network, that number rises to half a billion dollars.

It’s no question that too much money in politics leads to self-serving policies and self-serving politicians – just ask former Virginia Governor (and former chairman of the Republican Governors Association) Bob McDonnell, who was recently convicted of felony corruption for his misdeeds in office. And now nearly half of all current Republican governors are facing charges of corruption or other scandals. So as these governors sell their loyalties to their backers, they should remember that the Kochs and their pals won’t be there to bail them out when things go south because they’re just as self-serving as their agenda.

Koch Subsidiary In AK Pays $80k To Settle Mishandled Hazardous Waste Accusations

A Koch Industries subsidiary, Flint Hills, has already made some unsavory headlines in Alaska. That’s because they decided in February to close their refinery in North Pole, AK — killing over 80 jobs — rather than meet environmental standards and pay for groundwater cleanup.

It’s hardly a surprising sequence of events. The Flint Hills episode is consistent with the Kochs’ mantra of money over all else, and their disregard for environmental safety has been well documented, including by former Koch Industries managers.

Now, Flint Hills has agreed to pay the $80,000 in a settlement over accusations of mishandling hazardous waste. Here’s what happened in this specific incident, as described by Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

After filtering groundwater, Flint Hills disposed of the used filters in an open trash bin at the site. The filters soon “self ignited” inside the bins, according to an EPA complaint, requiring a response from the North Pole Fire Department to extinguish two fires.

Meanwhile the Kochs are spending heavily trying to overtake a Senate seat here, using ads that purport to want what’s best for Alaskans while denying the truth about their own record in the state.

They’ve made it abundantly clear already: they care a hell of a lot more about their bottom dollar than they care about Alaska.

REPORT: Legacy of Loss: Koch Industries’ Layoffs and Environmental Harm in Battleground States

It’s no secret that the billionaire Koch brothers’ top priority is continuing to grow their massive fortune, no matter what it takes. Their oil conglomerate, Koch Industries, is the second largest privately held corporation in America, and states across the country are feeling the impacts of their activities. Koch Industries and its subsidiaries own facilities in 35 states across the country, including battleground states like Iowa, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and North Carolina — states where the Republican candidates are closely tied to the Koch brothers. These states have been subject to job loss, significant environmental damage, or both, at the hands of the Kochs’ business empire.

This report provides a breakdown of the impact Koch Industries has had on key states. The Kochs’ extreme, self-serving agenda is bad for working families. And that reality is starkly embodied not only by their political persuasions, but by their business endeavors.

Read the full report here

Legacy of Loss: Koch Industries’ Layoffs and Environmental Harm in Battleground States

Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott has a good thing going on with the Kochs. As we previously wrote, much to the delight of the Kochs, Abbott actually acted to limit standards for public chemical disclosure even in the wake of the deadly explosion in West, Texas.

And Wayne Slater of Dallas Morning News reported that the move came after massive contributions from the fertilizer industry who stands to benefit from the relaxed chemical rules. Donations that included $75,000 from the Kochs, including $25,000 from Charles Koch’s son, Chase, who heads the fertilizer division of Koch Industries.

The Kochs have proven time and time again that they really don’t care about how people’s safety is affected by the work of their oil conglomerate, so long as they are maximizing profits. In fact, according to Daniel Shulman’s book, Sons of Wichita, a former Koch Industries pipeline manager “testified in a deposition that the company had taken a shockingly cavalier approach to pipeline safety.”

Abbott took heat for limiting chemical disclosure, but he stood strong with special interests and against the safety of his constituents. And for that, it appears the Kochs will continue to reward him. They just dropped another $25,000 into his campaign.

The Kochs have had affection for Greg Abbott for a while. This headline is from last September: When Greg Abbott needs an airplane who does he call? The Koch brothers. It appears their relationship is only growing sweeter.

Not once, but twice over the past month, employees at the Buckeye Mill in Perry, Florida, have been subjected to releases of toxic chlorine dioxide into the air. According to WCTV, on both May 22 and May 28, the harmful chemical was released from the plant, which is owned by Koch Industries subsidiary Georgia Pacific.

Exposure to chlorine dioxide, primarily used to bleach wood pulp, is limited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which describes the chemical as a “severe respiratory and eye irritant.” Reportedly, workers were evacuated from the Buckeye plant after the release of what witnesses described as a big green cloud, and while there were no injuries reported, these incidents highlight the risk inherent in the operation of these and other plants that use the toxic chemical.

Groups like U.S. PIRG have highlighted that safer alternatives exist to using chlorine dioxide to bleach paper, yet, according to PIRG, multiple Koch Industries owned Georgia Pacific plants continue to use and stockpile the chemical, endangering hundreds of thousands of people who live near the facilities. According to a report from Greenpeace, Koch Industries has consistently gone to bat against efforts to secure chemical facilities from terrorist attacks, in addition to advocating against other basic environmental protections.

Why rent a plane to write your name in the sky, when you can leave toxic green clouds in your wake?

This week, as the White House rolled out new carbon emissions standards to address climate change, the Albany Times Union ran this article: New York has a leg up on federal greenhouse gas proposal.

The Times Union explained that New York was well-positioned to comply with the new standards because it had already instituted a program aimed at limiting emissions. The program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, was “spearheaded by former GOP Gov. George Pataki” according to the article.

Then, this tidbit:

Last year, a court rejected an effort to force the state to abandon RGGI by a group tied to conservative Kansas petrochemical billionaires who fund campaigns to deny climate change. The lawsuit had been filed by the Buffalo leader of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political action group supported by oilmen David and Charles Koch that is linked to the tea party movement.

Notable if not surprising–a classic Koch/AFP move, really. An initiative is implemented to help address climate change, and AFP tries to kill it. It’s the same motivation for every Koch endeavor: to protect the massive profits of big oil companies like Koch industries at any cost.

It’s good to know that there is bipartisan consensus that the Kochs have been on a decades-long self-serving crusade to augment their oil fortune. National Review just wants you to know that it’s been successful.

National Review’s Jay Weiser penned a response piece to the New York Times’ profile of David Koch and the Libertarian Party’s 1980 platform. The funny thing is, Weiser’s only real pushback was to the Times’ characterization of the campaign as “quixotic.” He sets the table nicely:

“The Kochs — then as now wealthy energy entrepreneurs — were drawn into political activism by the Nixon-Ford-Carter era energy crisis. … In that decade, Koch Industries, the family business, ran into legal trouble for violating federal energy price controls.

When the Kochs plunged into politics, brother David, taking advantage of a campaign-finance loophole, exercised his First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money on his vice-presidential campaign.”

Weiser then asserts that even though the Libertarian Party’s campaign was a failure in terms of garnering votes or media coverage, it was a success in driving Reagan to immediately end oil pricing regulations upon his inauguration.

“Far from being quixotic, the Kochs’ key policy prescription triumphed. Deregulation ultimately helped the Kochs greatly increase their fortune…”

National Review is absolutely correct. Koch’s 1980 VP bid was a major success at doing the one thing the Kochs have ever wanted to do: “greatly increase their fortune.”

A new book on the Koch brothers released today, Sons of Wichita, details the Kochs’ history and the rise of their empire. The book further reveals what is becoming a clear portrait of these powerful tycoons: two billionaire brothers who have always put their personal fortune and oil empire first.

The stories recounted about the Kochs’ business practices are both astounding and yet utterly predictable. According to the book, in 1995, Koch Industries was sued by the federal government under the allegation that it had spilled millions of gallons of oil into US water, with the Department of Justice (DoJ) having identified 300 separate spills between 1990 and 1995. Worse, the DoJ prosecutor reportedly said that Koch Industries had “repeatedly lied about the amount to avoid penalties” and that the company “would call in two barrels when they had something that was a shocking amount of oil.”

It was an allegation that was reinforced by former Koch workers themselves. According to the book, the Kochs “had taken a shockingly cavalier approach to pipeline safety” as reflected by the testimony of former employees. One employee explained the technique they utilized called “wheel washing” to mask oil spills and cover up the extent of them. The same employee reportedly said that “crews often did so on their own initiative, since they wanted to protect their jobs.” According to Schulman, when several Koch officials were asked by prosecutors if they “had ever knowingly downplayed the size of spills,” they pleaded the Fifth Amendment.

But it wasn’t just the environment or the law that the Kochs were willing to disregard in their pursuit of greater riches. Former Pipeline Manager Kenoth Whitstine reportedly recalled warning a supervisor about a hazardous, even potentially fatal situation. According to Schulman’s recounting of Whitstine’s testimony:

The supervisor’s callous response chilled him. He said “that I needed to understand that money spent on certain projects could make a lot more money than on other projects and that they could come back and pay off a lawsuit from an incident and still be money ahead.” The message was that it was more profitable “to take a gamble of something happening later and handle that situation when it arose,” even when human lives might be at stake.

The evidence just keeps mounting: There is nothing the Kochs won’t do for another dollar.

View accompanying research after the jump.

Charles Koch falsely claimed in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed,”EPA officials have commended (Koch Industries) for our ‘commitment to a cleaner environment’ and called us ‘a model for other companies.’” As PolitiFact explained, Koch’s op-ed lifted out-of-context quotes from several specific dealings with subsidiaries of Koch Industries and presented them as if the company as a whole has an exemplary environmental record. PolitiFact then enumerated a number of instances when Koch Industries was forced to pay massive fines for pollution that was damaging to public health.

The Kochs and their business practices have a poor track record when it comes to environmental degradation. On top of their ongoing efforts to elect extreme conservative politicians who support their self-serving agenda of blocking standards on carbon emissions, their own massive oil conglomerate, Koch Industries, is one of our nation’s worst polluters. That’s the real environmental record of Koch Industries.

Laying off hundreds of workers from Georgia-Pacific and Invista to help their bottom line is only the start of the impact Koch Industries and its business practices have had on North Carolina workers and families.

A company called KoSa, which Koch Industries acquired in 2001, laid off 180 workers from its Shelby, N.C. polyester plant the same year Koch Industries acquired it, cutting more than 25% of its workforce at the plant. The company followed up with another 150 layoffs from the plant in 2003. Not too far away in Salisbury, another Koch Industries subsidiary, Invista, has steadily reduced the number of employees at its polyester fiber plant. In 2003, when Koch Industries announced it would purchase the then-DuPont subsidiary Invista, the company reportedly threatened 49 workers with downsizing unless they accepted early retirement. Between 2005 and 2007, the number of workers employed at the plant reduced by 450. Shortly thereafter, the Kochs sold the plant to a private equity firm which has since laid off hundreds more employees.

With hundreds of North Carolina layoffs to their name, shouldn’t the Koch Brothers leave well enough alone in the state?

View full research brief after the jump.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation