Minyanville: Billionaires Behaving Badly: The Koch Brothers

The pair guards their right to pollute with anonymous donations to climate change deniers, anti-regulation lobby groups and "grass roots" Tea Party meetings.

October 21, 2010- For decades, the Brothers Koch led exemplary lives as billionaire captains of industry, garnering little attention outside of the oil business except for their many generous philanthropic activities. A state of the art cancer research institute here, a museum wing there, funding for a high-minded PBS documentary series, a 100 million dollar pledge to a venerable theatrical institution– they were the very model of benign capitalism as it is preached.

Perhaps, if you were interested in fringe US politics and had a positively elephantine memory, you may have been aware that David
Koch, 70, the brother with the largest public profile, once ran as a candidate for vice-president on the Libertarian ticket back in 1980,
or that Charles Koch, 74, the quiet, Wichita-living brother who actually ran things, founded the prominent Libertarian think tank the Cato Institute. If you were involved with global warming activism you may have known that Koch Industries, the 100 billion-dollars-a-year-in-revenue oil refinery business that the two brothers inherited from their father Fred Koch (a founding member of the paranoid anti-Communist organization the John Birch Society), was responsible for funding much of the most vigorous climate change denial efforts at home and abroad.

Or if you were Charles Lewis, the MacArthur Fellowship-winning investigative journalist who founded the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity in 1989 and is currently executive editor of the Investigative Journalism Workshop at the American University, you first ran into the Koch Brothers in 1995, while in the course of preparing your best-selling 1996 book, The Buying of The President. “We had noticed that Koch Industries was one of then-Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole's top ‘career patrons’ in terms of campaign cash over the years,” Lewis tells Minyanville. “The company had attempted to thwart a federal prosecution for its 300 oil spills, by having Dole introduce 'regulatory reform' legislation that rendered null and void any such civil action by the government."

The legislation was unsuccessful, and Koch Industries ended up having to shell out for its spills, but Lewis was alerted to their “creative and elaborate efforts” to avoid footing the bill. “They used non-profit groups extolling ‘free enterprise,’ market ideology about deregulation and less government to put Washington lawmakers
on the defensive, and aggressively sought to get their way legislatively, all at the same time."


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