Archive for Saturday, February 5, 2011

Koch brothers now at heart of GOP power

February 5, 2011


— The billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch no longer sit outside Washington’s political establishment, isolated by their uncompromising conservatism. Instead, they are now at the center of Republican power, a change most evident in the new makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Wichita-based Koch Industries and its employees formed the largest single oil and gas donor to members of the panel, ahead of giants like Exxon Mobil, contributing $279,500 to 22 of the committee’s 31 Republicans, and $32,000 to five Democrats.

Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group’s separate advertising and grass-roots activity during the 2010 campaign.

Claiming an electoral mandate, Republicans on the committee have launched an agenda of the sort long backed by the Koch brothers. A top early goal: restricting the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Kochs’ core energy businesses.

The new committee members include a congressman who has hired a former Koch Industries lawyer as his chief of staff. Another, Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia, won a long-shot bid to unseat a 14-term moderate Democrat with help from Americans for Prosperity, which marshaled conservative activists in his district. By some estimates, the advocacy group spent more than a quarter-million dollars on negative ads in the campaign. “I’m just thankful that you all helped in so many ways,” Griffith told an Americans for Prosperity rally not long after his election.

Perhaps the Kochs’ most surprising and important ally on the committee is its new chairman, Rep. Fred Upton. The Republican from Michigan, who was once criticized by conservatives for his middle-of-the-road approach to environmental issues, is now leading the effort to rein in the EPA.

Upton received $20,000 in donations from Koch employees in 2010, making them among his top 10 donors in that cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In recent months the congressman has made a point of publicly aligning himself with the Koch-backed advocacy group, calling for an end to the “EPA chokehold.” Last week the chairman released a draft of a bill that would strip the EPA of its ability to curb carbon emissions. The legislation is in line with the Kochs’ long-advocated stance that the federal government should have a minimal role in regulating business. The Kochs’ oil refineries and chemical plants stand to pay millions to reduce air pollution under currently proposed EPA regulations.

Koch Industries is the country’s second-largest privately run company, a conglomerate of refining, pipeline, chemical and paper businesses. Their products include Lycra and Coolmax fibers, Brawny paper towels and Stainmaster carpets. Last year, Forbes magazine listed the brothers as the nation’s fifth-richest people, each worth $21.5 billion.

A spokesman for the famously media-shy family declined to comment. Koch allies say the brothers act out of ideological conviction.

A Washington energy consultant familiar with the Kochs, Javier Ortiz, said the committee agenda reflects the “needs of the American people” and a broad shift in political sentiment.

When the 85 freshman GOP lawmakers marched into the Capitol on Jan. 5 as part of the new Republican House majority, David Koch was there too.

The 70-year-old had an appointment with a staff member of the new speaker, Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. At the same time, the head of Americans for Prosperity, Tim Phillips, had an appointment with Upton. They used the opportunity to introduce themselves to some of the new legislators and invited them to a welcome party at the Capitol Hill Club, a favorite wine-and-cheese venue for Republican power players in Washington.

The reception was a symbolic arrival for the Kochs, who have not always been close to the Republican hub. The brothers were known as hard-liners unafraid to take on conservative icons — even President Ronald Reagan and the American Petroleum Institute — whom they occasionally perceived to be too accommodating to liberal interests. David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate in 1980, when Reagan was the GOP presidential candidate.

The Kochs provided initial funding for the libertarian Cato Institute and are key donors to the Federalist Society, among other conservative organizations.

In recent years, they began drawing conservative media, business and political leaders to semiannual meetings in the West to discuss protection of the free-market ethos and to raise funds for their causes. The most recent was in Rancho Mirage a week ago.

Frustrated with the state of conservatism in Washington during the George W. Bush era, the Kochs began to shift the discussions at recent meetings from fundraising for think tanks to more specific electoral strategy.

At the center of the new ground-level strategy is a beefed-up role for Americans for Prosperity. Along with other well-funded conservative groups, the group was very active in the congressional midterm election — in many cases taking on roles often performed by national and state parties.

Americans for Prosperity is the political arm of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which David Koch co-founded in the 1980s under the name Citizens for a Sound Economy. He is chairman of the board of the foundation, which says it aims to educate citizens on “a return of the federal government to its constitutional limits.”

Americans for Prosperity says it spent $40 million in the 2010 election cycle, organized rallies and phone banks, and canvassed door to door in nearly 100 races across the country. The organization found scores of energetic activists in the “tea party” movement to carry its message.

Throughout this effort, Americans for Prosperity kept a strong emphasis on promoting its views on climate change and energy regulation. In 2008, AFP began circulating a pledge asking politicians to denounce a Democratic-led effort to compel oil refineries and utilities to clean up emissions of greenhouse gases through a so-called cap-and-trade system. AFP said it amounted to a hidden tax increase.

The cap-and-trade legislation passed the House, but died in the Senate. AFP began working to defeat House Democrats who voted for the bill, showing the power of its new activist base.

AFP does not disclose spending in individual races. But it said it facilitated tens of thousands of phone calls and organized dozens of events in recent congressional campaigns. Among the beneficiaries, besides Griffith, were newly elected Reps. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. All three now sit on the energy and commerce committee.

Gardner and Kinzinger declined to comment on their relationship to Americans for Prosperity and the Koch brothers, although a spokeswoman for Gardner emphasized that the group’s work was “totally independent” of his campaign, in line with federal election rules.

Other committee members have deeper ties to the Kochs.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., who represents Koch Industries’ home district, launched an aerospace company with investment help from a Koch subsidiary. He sold the company last year. His chief of staff is Mark Chenoweth, a former Koch Industries lawyer.

Phil Kerpen, vice president for policy at AFP, said the organization was pleased with the committee’s new members.

“From a policy standpoint, I think those are pretty good choices,” he said, mentioning Griffith in particular.

Griffith has questioned the EPA and the science behind its proposed regulation of global warming. “We have to be sure the EPA is reined in,” he said recently.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA had the power to regulate greenhouse gases as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Pompeo, Griffith and others want to strip the EPA of that authority.

Until recently, Fred Upton would have been an unlikely champion of that view.

In 2009, Upton told a Michigan newspaper, “Climate change is a serious problem that necessitates serious solutions.” Rush Limbaugh ridiculed Upton for his sponsorship of an energy-saving bill. Tea party groups opposed his bid for the committee chairmanship.

But as chairman, Upton said that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson would have to attend so many hearings before his committee that she would need her own parking space on Capitol Hill. In daily e-mail blasts, he hammered at the EPA’s “job-killing” regulations.

His bluntest rhetoric against the EPA came in a late December Wall Street Journal editorial he wrote with Phillips of Americans for Prosperity.

The EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, they wrote, “represents an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs — unless Congress steps in.”

In an e-mail statement, Upton denied that his position on climate change had shifted and explained his work with conservative activists. “Meeting with and listening to individuals and organizations that will be affected by the laws and regulations this committee oversees is one of our fundamental responsibilities,” he said.

The change on the committee is “like night and day,” said Jeremy Symons, senior vice president of the National Wildlife Federation, a nonpartisan organization that lobbied the committee to stem greenhouse gas emissions.

“In the past the committee majority viewed the Clean Air Act as an effective way to protect the public,” Symons said. “Now the committee treats the Clean Air Act and the EPA as if they are the enemy. Voters didn’t ask for this pro-polluter agenda, but the Koch brothers spent their money well and their presence can be felt.”

Republicans wave off such comments, saying the focus on the Koch brothers is just the left’s latest conspiracy theory.

“(Former Chairman) Henry Waxman stacked the committee with liberal environmentalists,” said Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., who now chairs the economy and environment subcommittee. “Now we are moving things back to the center.”


jmadison 7 years, 4 months ago

I seem to have missed the same type of article regarding George Soros and the Dems.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

Oh, come on. It's not exactly like George Soros hasn't been fairly thoroughly covered, mostly by the wingnut fringe like Beck and Rush trying to portray him as a bogeyman.

Soros is very contradictory-- even hypocritical. His business practices have had rather serious and deleterious effects on millions of people, as is the case with most financial speculation that's focused solely on the potential return to the speculator, and that describes 90% of the world's financial actors and sectors, especially on Wall Street.

But there is nothing that the Koch brothers do that isn't completely self-serving. As nearly as I can tell, they have no redeeming qualities-- not even their contributions to the high-brow arts that appear to be the closest thing they get to charitable contributions.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

And thank goodness we have selfless people like LO who stick up for the poor downtrodden folks like the Kochs.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

So when you have no good argument, go right for the (baseless) personal smear.

You're such a grownup.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

Well, having a discussion with you and your John-Wayne hero fantasies is always a bit of a challenge.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

I found your theme song--

My Way lyrics Songwriters: Revaux, Jacques; Anka, Paul (Eng Lyr); Thibaut, Gilles; Francois, Claude;

And now the end is near And so I face the final curtain My friend I'll say it clear I'll state my case of which I'm certain

I've lived a life that's full I traveled each and every highway And more, much more than this I did it my way

Regrets I've had a few But then again too few to mention I did what I had to do And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course Each careful step along the byway And more, much more than this I did it my way

Yes there were times I'm sure you knew When I bit off more than I could chew But through it all when there was doubt I ate it up and spit it out, I faced it all And I stood tall and did it my way

I've loved, I've laughed and cried I've had my fill, my share of losing And now as tears subside I find it all so amusing

To think I did all that And may I say not in a shy way Oh no, oh no, not me I did it my way

For what is a man what has he got If not himself then he has not To say the things he truly feels And not the words of one who kneels The record shows I took the blows And did it my way

Yes it was my way

[ From: ]

tomatogrower 7 years, 4 months ago

So how many of Soro's employees now have pug government jobs that can affect our laws? Koch's lobbying has gone too far. Do you really favor allowing companies to pollute all they want? Do you want to go back to the 70's when the major cities were twice as choked with fumes than they are now? Do you want our city to be more like Bejing? They don't have any pollution control there. Try going to Mexico City. No emission controls there either. Koch would love to put all his chemicals in the rivers, it's costing him too much money to safely dispose of them. I mean if he didn't have to worry about pollution laws, he would be the richest person, instead of just 5th. What a loser, they are only the 5th richest. It must really gripe them.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

Unfortunately, the Kochs' behavior indicates that there is very little hyperbole in tomatogrower's post.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

You mean these awards?

In 2009, the US Justice Department and EPA announced in 2009 that Koch Industries' Invista subsidiary would pay a $1.7 million penalty and spend $500 million to fix environmental violations at facilities in seven states, in an agreement with the US EPA and Department of Justice.

In May 2001, Koch Industries paid $25 million to settle with the US Government over a long-standing suit brought by Bill Koch - one of the brothers bought out in 1983 - for the company's long-standing practice of illegally removing oil from federal and Indian lands.

In late 2000, the company was charged with covering up the illegal releases of 91 tons of the known carcinogen benzene from its refinery in Corpus Christi. Initially facing a 97-count indictment and potential fines of $350 million, Koch cut a deal with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to drop all major charges in exchange for a guilty plea for falsifying documents, and a $20 million settlement.

In 2000, the EPA fined Koch Industries $30 million for its role in 300 oil spills that resulted in more than three million gallons of crude oil leaking into ponds, lakes, streams and coastal waters. In 1999 a Koch subsidiary pleaded guilty to charges that it had negligently allowed aviation fuel to leak into waters near the Mississippi River from its refinery in Rosemount, Minnesota, and that it had illegally dumped a million gallons of high-ammonia wastewater onto the ground and into the Mississippi.

Koch's negligence toward environmental safety has led to tragic losses of life. In 1996, a rusty Koch pipeline leaked flammable butane near a Texas residential neighborhood. Warned by the smell of gas, two teenagers drove their truck toward the nearest payphone to call for help, but they never made it. Sparks from their truck ignited the gas cloud and the two burned alive. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that "the probable cause of this accident was the failure of Koch to adequately protect its pipeline from corrosion" and the ineffectiveness of Koch's program to educate local residents about how to respond during a pipeline leak.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

You're right. They were all must simple misunderstandings, and prove absolutely nothing. (roll of eyes.)

Daniel Dicks 7 years, 4 months ago

Maybe the Koch brothers could each write the State of Kansas a $250 mil check to cover the budget deficit. And still have over $ 21 bil. left for themselves to get by on. I've done my part by consuming beans in place of more expensive protein. Pfffft!

Daniel Dicks 7 years, 4 months ago

Oh god, I've become an agent of climate change because of the republicans!

notanota 7 years, 4 months ago

The "what about the joooooobs" argument would carry more weight if they weren't downsizing (8000 or more employees in the last several years, even while their personal self worth reached new highs), demanding public bailouts, and polluting the environment for free.

tomatogrower 7 years, 4 months ago

How many of those jobs would have been saved with the money they gave to campaigns? That is the true trickle down theory. Use that extra cash to buy the government, then you won't have to be bothered by the pesky EPA.

notanota 7 years, 4 months ago

If they're now worth MORE money than they were before they started downsizing, I doubt any of your favorite bugaboos factored into it. Seems the economic downturn looks good on them.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

Election funding is ONE the of the big issues and spending wayyyyyyyy too much money is ANOTHER issue and allowing the Chamber of Commerce to launder political donation money is yet ANOTHER issue!

Why are the corporate special interests not held accountable? They are not less guilty. Follow the Money!

The health care industry alone has six lobbyists for every member of Congress and more than 500 of them are former Congressional staff members, according to the Public Accountability Initiative’s LittleSis database. That’s more than 3,000 high dollar mouth pieces spending a lot of special interest campaign money.

WE VOTERS need to say NO MORE special interest funding of elections!!! Let’s keep the costs down so many others can afford to run! Replace 95% of all elected officials every 4 years for the house and every 6 years for the Senate.

Not voting sends the wrong message and changes nothing.

Lets’s demand a new system and vote in Fair Vote America : Demand a change on the next ballot.

Incumbents say NO to the voters and YES to corrupt special interest money. Time to try public financing of campaigns. Citizens cannot afford special interest money campaigns for it is the citizens that get left out. Let citizens vote on this issue.

Who would be against Public Funding? The special interest money providers plus their bought and paid for politicians!When will the media get on the the band wagon for public financing of all elected political offices? Let’s keep the costs down so many others can afford to run!

Also I say WE voters need to stop allowing congress to investigate and prosecute itself!!! When they violate laws it goes to the feds!!!

Very interesting:

Flap Doodle 7 years, 4 months ago

"i have decided to leave the forum. goodbye. i am signing out. SVEN January 29, 2011"

pace 7 years, 4 months ago

The issue ad blitz was just a coincidence. Koch brotherhood doesn't exist. And soon we will see ads on our televisions telling us that. The ads were just an unfunded grass roots swell. Didn't you see the mothers and their kids in the ads speaking for us?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

Sierra Club Launches Effort to Expose the Koch Brothers Billionare Family Blocks Protection of Air, Water

PALM SPRINGS - January 28 - In anticipation of a “secret” meeting to be hosted in Palm Springs this weekend by two infamously anti-environmental billionaire brothers, the Sierra Club will launch a social media campaign with its 1.4 million members and supporters to expose the Koch brothers’ planned assault on public health.

Charles and David Koch are billionaire oil tycoons who were featured in a recent New Yorker piece and are funding an enormous effort to roll back clean water and air protections. The brothers are expected to meet with wealthy friends and corporate CEOs in the Southern California desert this weekend to plan their agenda for the coming year – at the top of that list will be new efforts to gut environmental safeguards and clean air and water protections.

The Sierra Club is reaching out to its 1.4 million members and supporters using social media tools including Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about how the Koch brothers' agenda could increase cases of asthma, hinder children’s brain development with toxic mercury and threaten lives nationwide.

“Koch Industries is one of the biggest polluters in America, so it’s not surprising that they’ve spent millions blocking measures to protect our air and water,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. “The Kochs have also served as one of the biggest obstacles to our transition to a clean energy economy. You can thank the Koch brothers for standing in the way of new jobs in the wind, solar and efficiency industries. They have a lot of money, and they’re not afraid to spend it to influence politicians, fight public health safeguards and spread misinformation about pollution and climate disruption.”

The Koch brothers own a firm with revenues estimated at $100 billion and they are out to expand their profits at the cost of Americans’ health. A University of Massachusetts study identified Koch Industries as one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. From 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outspent even ExxonMobil in funding efforts against clean energy legislation.

“We can’t allow corporate polluters and oil tycoons to buy our government,” Brune said. “Americans need to know what the Koch brothers are up to, and we need to let our lawmakers know that we won’t allow these two billionaires to undermine environmental and public health safeguards for profit.”

The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

Richard Payton 7 years, 4 months ago

I agree the wall street cashmire money scum are leaving Wall Street and London soon. Next target most likely Singapore where less regulations make for easy money for the greedy yacht money shakers.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 4 months ago

The GOP cannot win elections on their economic arguments. The recent GOP victories had more to do with populist anger than with any sort of economic policy the GOP were espousing, because there was none.

Therefore, they run on social issues as a proxy. Also, they have "gone underground" to influence campaigns by secretive and opaque means.

The Kochs exemplify both of these trends in the GOP over the last 25 years.

I am afraid Tom Frank's description of god, gays, and guns is still a winning combo for the GOP, and I would throw in greed (after all no one wants to pay taxes).

In Kansas, as long as a GOP candidate is deemed a "social conservative", their economic policies do not matter.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 4 months ago

The GOP know that americans hate paying taxes but also hate having their goodies cut. So, they indulge them in both.

They cut taxes and all the while increase spending. There has not one single serious spending cut program detailed by the GOP, one that will get at the defense, social security, and medicare spending that accounts for over half of our budget.

Guess what? Tax cuts + spending increases = national debt.

sr80 7 years, 4 months ago

i made a $2 dollar contribution on my taxes to the presidental fund.i wonder how much influence i will get with such largess

sr80 7 years, 4 months ago

you think i get to sleep in the lincoln bedroom with georgie boy as my roomie.pray tell!!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

But in the mean time, it's more convenient to suspend your ideological purity.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

Ah, if only everyone would just leave you alone, Utopia would spring forth.

But unfortunately, the evil statists came first, and now you can't do anything but suck up all the benefits they have to offer, while complaining loudly if you're ever asked to chip in.

Too bad the chicken came first. Or is it the egg?

tomatogrower 7 years, 4 months ago

"Asked to chip in? You mean forced to at the end of a gun."

Oh please, no one has ever pointed a gun at you. We all know you sprang full grown from your mother's head, and have never had to rely on anyone else, but yourself. You never attended any public school or went to any public hospital. You are forced (at gun point?) to use public roads. You would never call the fire department, because you are superman and you can put the fire out yourself. You are quite the follower of Nietzsche, Mr. Superman. Not to mention your strange devotion to the uptight guy whose name you have borrowed.

tomatogrower 7 years, 4 months ago

Oh sorry, about that last line. I thought I was talking to Cato the Elder.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

Really? Did some evil revenuers show up at your door with some guns? We'd all like to hear that tale.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

Or did they just show up with some checks to cover your law school tuition?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

"Oh, they've done it to other people plenty of times. I'm not getting killed, thank you."

Please expound.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

"Oh, they've done it to other people plenty of times. I'm not getting killed, thank you."

Please expound.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

First time I've ever got the double post thingy. I wonder what causes it.

deec 7 years, 4 months ago

" education and the fire department. If these things are so great, why does the government have to get its customers at the point of a gun?" Gosh, when my house burned down years ago , I must have missed the firefighters at the door threatening to shoot me if my house didn't catch fire RIGHT NOW! And my teachers did a heckuva good job hiding their firearms as well.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

"If government is so great, why do they have to force people to pay for it?"

Because they are greedy, self-centered, exploitive jerks, perhaps?

deec 7 years, 4 months ago

I assume you are calling yourself names, since it's your quote.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

"I've said before that I support the Native Americans seceding from the United States and forming their own country."

Where should they do that? Would it be OK if they do that wherever you own property and kick you off of it?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

"Wherever they can.'

Your house, for example? (assuming you theoretically own it, that is.)

"Why would that be? Because of the color of my skin? Try to ask questions that don't make you look like a racist."

Nice attempt to dodge the question. It was a dodge, nonetheless.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

Government can be and has been abusive. But in almost every instance, it's been to satisfy very private interests in direct contradiction to broader public interests.

Quite literally hundreds of thousands of people have been injured, maimed or murdered with carpentry tools and farm implements.

Are you going to suggest that we abolish these tools as well?

notanota 7 years, 4 months ago

We should also abolish free marketeers, since they, too, have been responsible for tons of deaths. But I'm sure LO will figure out another way the government was actually responsible for it.

sr80 7 years, 4 months ago

i'm getting awfully sleepy.whatever became of my pajama party with georgie?you guys got off of my concern,what about meee!!!!!sniffle!! sniffle!!!

sr80 7 years, 4 months ago

i think if ophi is the example of to much pure threading.threading destroys the mind!!!

sr80 7 years, 4 months ago

ophi!!!!save meeee the ATs are after me!!!!! help me!!!

sr80 7 years, 4 months ago

you talk too much,why don't you tone it down, there is only so much room for real threads.

Daniel Dicks 7 years, 4 months ago

<"You do know that the US was partially bought, partially stolen, but was largely uninhabited due to smallpox wiping out 90% of the local population before the Pilgrims landed, right? ">

Okay, I got to ask. How did the native americans get small pox before the "white man" or "pilgrims" landed?

Daniel Dicks 7 years, 4 months ago

yeah, I wasn't sure what he meant there, but that must be it. Unless it was due to aliens or something.- Thx.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 4 months ago

The dead hands of Saul Alinsky are still guiding the progressive movement.

jafs 7 years, 4 months ago

Greed and corruption are problems of a philosophical, or theological nature.

As such, no political systems can solve them.

They exist in the private and public sectors, and in individuals of all sorts.

If people weren't prey to greed and corruption, any system (or no system) would work much better.

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