“The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”
The Koch Brothers, Charles Koch (left) and David Koch (right), own and operate Koch Industries, the largest private company in the United States. Their combined net worth is over $40 billion. Below is a record documenting their environmental violations, funding of climate change deniers, political influence, and financial backing of the Tea Party.
ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS & POLLUTION
- In 2000, the Clinton administration leveled a 97-count indictment against Koch Industries for covering up the discharge of 91 tons of benzene, a carcinogen, from its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. The company was liable for $350 million in fines; 4 Koch employees faced up to 35 years in prison. “The Koch Petroleum Group eventually pleaded guilty to one criminal charge of covering up environmental violations, including the falsification of documents, and paid a twenty-million-dollar fine” (Jane Mayer, “Covert Operations”, The New Yorker, August 30, 2010).
- The federal government sued Koch in 1995 over a reported 300 oil spills at pipelines owned by the company, which dumped an estimated 3 million gallons of oil into lakes and streams in 6 states. In 2000, Koch settled the case and agreed to pay $30 million in civil penalties.
- “In 1999, a jury found Koch Industries guilty of negligence and malice in the deaths of two Texas teen-agers in an explosion that resulted from a leaky underground butane pipeline” (Mayer). See the National Transportation Safety Board’s report on the accident.
- A jury found Koch Industries guilty in 1999 of stealing millions of gallons of oil from public and Indian lands through fraudulent mismeasuring. This concluded a 20-year long legal battle between Charles and David Koch and their estranged brother, Bill Koch, who revealed the scheme and spearheaded the lawsuit. See the 60 Minutes story about the case.
- The University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute released a study this year that named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States.
CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL
- “Since 1997, the Koch foundations have contributed over $48 million in grants to climate opposition groups. More than half that total, almost $25 million, was given since 2005″ (Greenpeace, “Koch Industries Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine”, March 2010).
- Opposition groups included the Mercatus Center (received over $9 million), which suggested in 2001 that global warming would be “beneficial, occurring at night, in the winter, and at the poles,” and Americans for Prosperity (received over $5 million), which organized a national “Hot Air Tour” to build opposition to clean energy legislation (Greenpeace).
- In January, Koch Industries sent out an internal newsletter article casting doubt on the climate change consensus.
TEA PARTY FUNDING
- Earlier this year, Americans for Prosperity, an organization David Koch started in 2004, held a summit, “which served, in part, as a training session for Tea Party activists in Texas” (Mayer).
- In a speech at the summit, Peggy Venable, the organizer of the event “explained that the role of Americans for Prosperity was to help ‘educate’ Tea Party activists on policy details, and to give them ‘next-step training’ after their rallies, so that their political energy could be channeled ‘more effectively.’ And she noted that Americans for Prosperity had provided Tea Party activists with lists of elected officials to target” (Mayer). Venable “has worked for Koch-funded political groups since 1994” (Mayer).
- “Americans for Prosperity has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement’s inception. In the weeks before the first Tax Day protests, in April, 2009, Americans for Prosperity hosted a Web site offering supporters ‘Tea Party Talking Points.’ The Arizona branch urged people to send tea bags to Obama; the Missouri branch urged members to sign up for ‘Taxpayer Tea Party Registration’ and provided directions to nine protests. The group continues to stoke the rebellion. The North Carolina branch recently launched a ‘Tea Party Finder’ Web site, advertised as ‘a hub for all the Tea Parties in North Carolina’” (Mayer).
- Two of the three Koch family foundations, the Claude R. Lamb Foundation (Charles Koch is a Director) and the David H. Koch Foundation (David Koch is the President/Director), have given Americans for Prosperity over $5 million since 2005.
- FreedomWorks, another Tea-Party-supporting organization, has received over $12 million in grants from the three Koch family foundations. See their “Tea Party HQ” website. FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey recently authored a book dubbed a “Tea Party Manifesto”.
- “Public tax records show that between 1998 and 2008 the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation spent more than forty-eight million dollars” on politics. “The Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is controlled by Charles Koch and his wife, along with two company employees and an accountant, spent more than twenty-eight million. The David H. Koch Charitable Foundation spent more than a hundred and twenty million” (Mayer).
- “Koch Industries spent a total of $37.9 on oil and gas lobbying from January 2006 to December 2009” (Greenpeace). During the same period, that figure was exceeded only by ExxonMobil and Chevron.
- “From the beginning of the 2006 election cycle, Koch’s PAC spent more on contributions to federal candidates and committees than any other oil-and-gas sector based PAC. For that period, Koch Industries and its executives spent $3.55 million…” (Greenpeace).
- In 1997, the Senate “began looking into what a minority report called ‘an audacious plan to pour millions of dollars in contributions into Republican campaigns nationwide without disclosing the amount or source,’ in order to evade campaign-finance laws” (Mayer).
- In 2004, non-partisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) accused Citizens for a Sound Economy, an organization founded by David Koch in 1984 and financed by his foundation, of illegally working to get Ralph Nader on Oregon presidential ballot (Bob Williams and Kevin Bogardus, “Koch’s Low Profile Belies Political Power”, July 15, 2004).
- “Americans for Prosperity… has announced that it will spend an additional forty-five million dollars before the midterm elections, in November. Although the group is legally prohibited from directly endorsing candidates, it nonetheless plans to target some fifty House races and half a dozen Senate races, staging rallies, organizing door-to-door canvassing, and running ads aimed at ‘educating voters about where candidates stand’” (Mayer).
Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama: Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, August, 30, 2010.
Koch’s Low Profile Belies Political Power: Bob Williams and Kevin Bogardus, Center for Public Integrity, July 15, 2004.
Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine: Greenpeace, March, 2010.
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation at Media Matters Conservative Transparency.
David H. Koch Charitable Foundation at Media Matters Conservative Transparency.
Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation at Media Matters Conservative Transparency.
Americans for Prosperity at Media Matters Conservative Transparency.
Americans for Prosperity “Taxpayer Tea Party Update”.
FreedomWorks at Media Matters Conservative Transparency.
FreedomWorks “Tea Party HQ”.
Koch Industries at OpenSecrets.org.