March 1, 2011- In an opinion piece published today responding to his critics, Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch promised to continue to finance anti-government, right-wing front groups. Charles writes that the “purpose of business is to efficiently convert resources into products and services that make people’s lives better.” But when it comes to Koch’s carcinogenic pollution and carbon emissions, the purpose of Koch’s political giving is to avoid any financial responsibility — no matter who gets hurt. Koch Industries has cornered the market in monetizing some of the most dirty industrial businesses. Koch imports oil from the Middle East, refines high-carbon Canadian crude, maintains coal-burning plants, owns one of the largest oil pipeline networks in America, runs environmentally hazardous lumber mills, produces toxic chemicals, and manufacturers fertilizer. The University of Masschusetts Amherst has scored Koch as among the top ten worst air polluters for its carcinogenic chemicals.
Much of the entire Koch political machine is geared towards ensuring that Koch Industries never has to compensate the people and ecosystems damaged by Koch Industries pollution. Koch front groups — from Tea Party groups to think tanks — have diligently promoted Koch Industries’ bottom line by denying global warming, fighting regulations on Koch’s cancer-causing chemicals, and snuffing out investigations into Koch’s environmental crimes:
– In 1990, as both Republicans and Democrats proposed a cap and trade system to address acid rain, Koch financed a front group called “Concerned Citizens for the Environment” to battle proposed regulations. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the group “has no citizen membership of its own,” but produced studies arguing that acid rain was a myth and that deregulation would benefit the environment. Koch refineries and factories, top emitters of acid rain-causing toxins, were impacted by the successful cap and trade system. A front group founded by David Koch, Citizens for a Sound Economy (which later changed its name to Americans for Prosperity), also battled regulations designed to combat acid rain, labeling the problem a “myth.”
– Koch Industries vastly expanded its political giving in reaction to revelations that the company had systematically stolen oil from Native American reservations and federal lands. Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), a personal friend of the Koch brothers and top recipient of Koch money, sponsored legislation to suppress an investigation into the oil thefts. Over 50 Koch Industries employees later testified that indeed the “Koch Method” of manipulating data to surreptitiously take Native American oil resulted in an estimated 300 million gallons of oil the company received for free. Koch later settled for $25 million in penalties.
– Between 1995 and 1997 there were over 300 reported oil spills at pipelines owned and operated by Koch, which caused an estimated three million gallons of oil into lakes and streams in six states. David Koch helped Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) raise over $150,000 for his campaign, and was rewarded with Dole-sponsored legislation that would have helped Koch Industries avoid serious penalties for the oil spills. On January 13, 2000, the government settled that case for $35 million in fines.
– In 1997, the EPA proposed strengthening rules governing air pollution, regulating particles from coal plants and industrial plants which cause tens of thousands of premature deaths a year. Again, because Koch’s factories were impacted by the regulations, Koch-funded front groups sprung into action. Koch’s Citizens for a Sound Economy front group ran ads claiming (Koch Industries created) particle pollution isn’t harmful. One ad featured a ”pediatrician” who says increased rates of asthma are not caused by the toxic particles, but rather by “dust mites, stuff like that.” Another ad from CSE claimed the EPA regulations would ban fireworks and backyard grills. ”Imagine that,” the ad stated, ”a new government regulation that takes away our freedom to, huh, celebrate our freedom.”
– Koch funneled large amounts of donations into electing George Bush in 2000 (even sending Koch-linked lobbyists to help disrupt the Florida recount). At the time, Koch Industries faced a 97-count federal indictment charging it with concealing illegal releases of 91 metric tons of benzene, known to cause leukemia, from its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. When Bush took office, his Justice Department dropped 88 of the charges and settled the case for a small amount of money.