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

Federal judge with ties to Kochs rules in Scott Walker’s favor

Enforcement of campaign finance laws in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin is the ultimate nursery tale gone bad, with the fox guarding the henhouse at every turn. Case in point: a federal judge with ties to the Koch brothers ruled yesterday that outside groups, like the many organizations receiving Koch funding, can legally coordinate on “issue advocacy” with political campaigns, like that of Koch favorite Governor Scott Walker.

Given that Walker faces an ongoing John Doe investigation into potential illegal coordination of efforts with outside groups during the 2012 recall election, it was hardly a surprise when his Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, declined to represent the state’s Government Accountability Board in a lawsuit challenging the coordination rule. The lawsuit was argued before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa, who issued an injunction yesterday overturning the Wisconsin state law banning coordination between political campaigns and “independent” political groups, provided that the groups are only engaging in “issue advocacy.”

This is not Randa’s first ruling related to the law banning coordination, as Randa previously ruled in the John Doe inquiry that coordination was acceptable, so long as the outside groups are not advocating for voting for or against a specific candidate. He then ordered a halt to the John Doe probe, a ruling that was later overturned by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

When you examine Randa’s ties to the Koch brothers, the rulings look less like consistent opposition to the coordination rule, and more like a concerted effort to legalize coordination between Walker’s campaign and Koch-affiliated groups. Randa has attended an expenses-paid Koch brothers junket, and one of his assistants is married to a Walker campaign attorney. Koch-funded groups have spent millions on Walker’s behalf and in support of his extreme political agenda.

Campaign finance experts note that there’s reason to believe this ruling will also be overturned, but in the meantime, a judge with ties to both the Kochs and their favored candidate has once again wielded his gavel to their benefit.

Koch tied Judge Ruled To Legalize Coordination between Koch groups and campaigns

Randa Issued Ruling Striking Down Prohibition On Coordination Between Outside Groups And Campaigns

Judge Rudolph Randa Overturned Wisconsin Law Banning Coordination Between Campaigns And Issue Advocacy Groups.  According to the Wisconsin State Journal, “U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa on Tuesday ordered Wisconsin officials not to enforce state law banning coordination between campaigns and “independent” political groups so long as the groups engage only in so-called issue advocacy. Randa’s order came in a lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsible Government Advocates against the state Government Accountability Board and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm. Randa had previously ruled in a John Doe investigation that groups can coordinate with candidates so long as they don’t expressly advocate for or against a specific candidate, and he ordered a halt to the probe.” [Wisconsin State Journal, 10/14/14]

Judge Had Ties To Koch Brothers And Walker Campaign

Judge Randa Attended Expenses Paid Junkets Funded By Koch Brothers

Judge Who Paused John Doe Probe Into Walker Campaign Finance Regularly Attended Expenses –Paid Judicial Conferences Funded By The Koch Brothers. According to The Center For Public Integrity, “The federal judge who ordered an end to an investigation into possible illegal campaign coordination between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and conservative groups during two recent recall elections regularly attended expenses-paid judicial conferences sponsored by conservative organizations including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation — groups that have funded efforts against campaign finance reform.” [Center For Public Integrity, 5/27/14]

Husband Of Assistant To Judge Randa Was A Walker Campaign Attorney

Wife Of Walker Campaign Attorney Worked As Assistant For Judge Randa. According to The Wisconsin State Journal “An assistant to the federal judge who ordered a halt to the state’s secret investigation into possible illegal campaign coordination between Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative groups is married to a lawyer for Walker’s campaign — which could be grounds for a judge to step down from a case. Steven Biskupic, a former U.S. attorney who is representing a party in the secretive John Doe probe, wouldn’t say Thursday whether his wife Cary Biskupic’s employment with Judge Rudolph Randa posed a conflict of interest.” [Wisconsin State Journal, 5/9/14]

Koch Controlled Outside Groups Supported And Spent Money On Walker’s Behalf In Wisconsin

David Koch: “We’re Helping Him, As We Should. We’ve Gotten Pretty Good At This Over The Years. We’ve Spent A Lot Of Money In Wisconsin. We’re Going To Spend More.” According to the Capital Times, “According to the Post, Koch said of Walker: ‘We’re helping him, as we should. We’ve gotten pretty good at this over the years. We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.’ The Post added: ‘By ‘we’ he says he means Americans for Prosperity, which is spending about $700,000 on an ‘It’s working’ television ad buy in the state.’” [Capital Times, 2/22/12]

Groups Affiliated With The Koch Brothers Spent Money On Ads Supporting Walker

Americans for Prosperity Announced $900,000 to Support Scott Walker’s Reelection Campaign.  [TPM, 5/27/14]

February-March 2011: Club For Growth And Americans For Prosperity Spent Over $220,000 On Ads For Walker In Wisconsin. According to Green Bay Press-Gazette, “The Club for Growth Wisconsin, a conservative organization with ties to New York real-estate developer Howie Rich, has doled out the most money so far, purchasing 826 ads at a cost of $193,605 – $30,000 more than next highest spender, the union group AFL-CIO. Americans for Prosperity, a group with strong financial backing from the billionaire Koch brothers, has been highly active as well, pumping $34,365 into local markets for 156 ads to run from Feb. 23 to March 2 in favor of Walker. Two groups against Walker’s agenda – the Greater Wisconsin Committee and America’s Families First – have spent a combined $120,000 on ads. Even before Walker laid out the specifics of his budget repair bill, the Club for Growth Wisconsin was running advertisements in support of the Republican governor.” [Green Bay Press-Gazette, 3/9/11]

Americans For Prosperity Established A Stand With Scott Walker Website Amidst The Protests Against His Budget. According to The Capital Times, “The billionaire brothers whose political action committee gave Gov. Scott Walker $43,000 and helped fund a multimillion-dollar attack ad campaign against his opponent during the 2010 gubernatorial election have quietly opened a lobbying office in Madison just off the Capitol Square. Charles and David Koch, who co-own Koch Industries Inc. and whose combined worth is estimated at $43 billion, have been recently tied with Walker’s push to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers. The two have long backed conservative causes and groups including Americans for Prosperity, which organized the tea party rally Saturday in support of Walker’s plan to strip public workers of collective bargaining rights and recently launched the Stand with Scott Walker website.” [The Capital Times, 3/2/11]

Americans For Prosperity Purchased $700,000 In Air Time Across Wisconsin Touting The Accomplishments Of Walker. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, “Wisconsin’s political spending blitz is getting a fresh infusion of cash from a national conservative group that’s spending $700,000 on a series of commercials touting the accomplishments of Gov. Scott Walker. The nonprofit foundation of Americans for Prosperity, the group founded by billionaire conservative activists David and Charles Koch, on Thursday confirmed to Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent it purchased air time across Wisconsin for a 60-second spot and another ad to be unveiled next week.” [Wisconsin State Journal, 2/10/12]

Americans For Prosperity Launched A $500,000 Ad In Support Of Walker’s Initiatives. According to The Associated Press State & Local Wire, “Two conservative groups have launched a new television ad supportive of Gov. Scott Walker’s initiatives, including curbing public employees’ collective bargaining rights. The 60-second ad is by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the MacIver Institute. Matt Seaholm, state director of Americans for Prosperity, said Friday the buy is for more than $500,000 and the ad is running in Milwaukee, Green Bay, La Crosse and Wausau.” [The Associated Press State & Local Wire, 11/18/11]

Koch Connection“National Federation Of Independent Business (NFIB) Has Endorsed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker For Reelection. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, “The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has endorsed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for reelection. No surprise here. The NFIB purports to represent small business, but receives much of its funding from big business interests including the Kochs, the far-right Bradley Foundation, and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS — which are the same groups that have long supported Walker.” [PRWatch.org, 10/1/14]

What Grinches Would Cause an End to Flights to the North Pole?

Frontier Airlines is ending its season flights to Fairbanks, and it’s all the Koch brothers’ fault. Actually though.
 
According to KTUU, “A spokeswoman for Fairbanks International Airport says the airline cited the closure of the Flint Hills Resources refinery in North Pole and higher fuel costs as a major factor in the decision. Flint Hills ended production in May.”
 
Flint Hills, a Koch Industries subsidiary, came under fire after closing their North Pole refinery in February, killing 80 jobs and facing accusations of violating environmental standards. And Alaska continues to pay the price for the Koch brothers’ self-interested decision to close the refinery — from the toxic groundwater they left behind, to increased costs on road construction. Frontier flights to Fairbanks are the latest victim.
 
The Koch brothers continue to bankroll ads attacking Dan Sullivan’s opponent in their attempt to buy him a Senate seat. What he needs is an airplane seat so back home to Ohio after he loses the election — hope he wasn’t planning on flying Frontier!

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.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation