Greenpeace outs billionaire brothers as ‘kingpins’ of climate denial

By Muriel Kane
Wednesday, March 31, 2010 13:33 EDT
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The billionaire owners of privately held technology company Koch Industries funneled nearly $50 million in donations to climate change denial groups between 1997 and 2008, according to a new report from Greenpeace International.

“This private, out-of-sight corporation is now a partner to ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and other donors that support organizations and front-groups opposing progressive clean energy and climate policy,” Greenpeace explains. “In fact, Koch has out-spent ExxonMobil in funding these groups in recent years. From 2005 to 2008, ExxonMobil spent $8.9 million while the Koch Industries-controlled foundations contributed $24.9 million in funding to organizations of the ‘climate denial machine’. ”

“Charles and David [Koch] have a vested interest in preventing climate action,” the environmental group notes. “They’ve made billions from Koch Industries, an oil and manufacturing giant that is the second largest privately-held company in America with tentacles extending around the globe. It’s time more people were aware of the brothers Koch and just what they’re up to.”

In recent months, the Koch brothers have come under fire from a number of sources for their funding of a hard-right agenda. Last December, AlterNet reported that “billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch are the wealthiest, and perhaps most effective, opponents of President Obama’s progressive agenda. … At the dawn of the Obama presidency, Koch groups quickly maneuvered to try to stop his first piece of signature legislation: the stimulus. … As their fronts were battling the stimulus, David’s Americans for Prosperity (AFP) spent the opening months of the Obama presidency placing calls and helping to organize the very first ‘tea party’ protests.”

Rolling Stone also singled out the Koch brothers in a January article titled “The Climate Killers,” which noted how, “in addition to fomenting last summer’s town-hall brawls over health care reform, AFP sponsored a ‘Hot Air Tour’ on climate change, deploying a manned balloon at 75 events for the purpose of ‘Exposing the Ballooning Costs of Global Warming Hysteria.’ At the events, the group’s president, Tim Phillips, grossly exaggerated the costs of climate legislation, calling it a trillion-dollar tax on American families.”

The newly-issued Greenpeace report, however, goes into unprecedented detail on the network of Koch-backed organizations and politicians that make up what it describes as a “web of dirty money and influence.”

“The company’s tight knit network of lobbyists, former executives and organizations has created a forceful stream of misinformation that Koch-funded entities produce and disseminate,” the report states. “This campaign propaganda is then replicated, repackaged and echoed many times throughout the Koch-funded web of political front groups and think tanks.”

The report cites “ClimateGate” as one example of this Koch machine at work, noting, “At least twenty Koch-funded organizations have repeatedly rebroadcast, referenced and appeared as media spokespeople in the story, dubbed ‘ClimateGate,’ of supposed malfeasance by climate scientists gleaned from a cache of stolen emails from the University of East Anglia in November 2009. These organizations claim the emails prove a ‘conspiracy’ of scientists and casts doubt on the scientific consensus regarding climate change.”

Among the top recipients of Koch funding are Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute, which was co-founded by Charles Koch in 1977. Lesser amounts have gone to such groups as Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the Capital Research Center, which has been the primary source of ACORN-related conspiracy theories.

Prominent members of Congress to whom Koch has donated generously include Republicans Eric Cantor (R-VA) and John Boehner (R-OH) and Democrat Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).

Koch Industries has already issued an official response to the Greenpeace report. “Koch companies and Koch foundations have worked to advance economic freedom and market-based policy solutions to challenges faced by society,” it states. “The Greenpeace report mischaracterizes these efforts and distorts the environmental record of our companies. … We have tried to help bring out the facts of the potential effectiveness and costs of policies proposed to deal with climate, as it’s crucial to understand whether proposed initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases will achieve desired environmental goals and what effects they would likely have on the global economy.”

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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