Wall Street Journal

Koch Industries bid for Tribune Co. newspapers could expand existing climate denial in Koch media

  • Posted on: 24 April 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

Brothers Charles and David Koch have spent decades and millions of dollars to influence the news we read in newspapers, see online and watch on TV. The Kochs regularly convene high security meetings with high society attendees, many of whom work in the media, influence it, or own it.   

Now reporters across the country are eyeing the Koch's first attempt to directly own media themselves. Last weekend's New York Times confirmed Koch Industries' bid for the Tribune Company as a way for the Kochs and their allies to "make sure our voice is heard." Tribune's newspapers reach tens of millions of U.S. citizens, an ideal captive audience for Charles Koch's self-serving philosophy to promote "economic freedom," and to end "crony capitalism," an ironic choice of words for the one of country's most infamous corporate political manipulators. Tribune Co. owns eight newspapers and 23 TV stations across the country including the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune and Hoy, the country's 2nd largest daily Spanish newspaper, a clear asset for conservative politicians still reeling from their underwhelming rapport with the U.S. Hispanic population in the 2012 election. Reaching Hispanic and Latino voters will be a major topic at the Kochs' secretive "billionaires caucus" next week, which was delayed three months so the Kochs could audit the results of their 2012 electioneering activities, bolstered by hundreds of millions of dollars raised at previous Koch meetings.{C}

It's worth noting that the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council distributed Arizona's controversial racial profiling law, SB 1070, to states around the country so private prison companies can rake a profit off the incarceration of immigrants.

Existing Kochtopus Media Publishes Climate Science Denial

Preceding their bid for the Tribune Company, the Koch brothers' network ties them to media outlets promoting the climate change denial campaign infamously bankrolled by the Kochs. Read the slaughter of science yourself at the Wall Street Journal opinion page, the Weekly Standard, the National Review, the Washington Examiner, and Breitbart.com. A Greenpeace investigation detailed key media outlet owners and pundits with ties to the Kochs through their secretive strategy meetings, as did Lee Fang's ThinkProgress article on the Kochs' pet "journalists." Here are some of the Koch's key allies that own or work in the media:

  • Stanley S. Hubbard, the billionaire chairman and CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting, which owns TV and radio stations in major cities across the country, including Washington DC's WTOP and WFED.
  • Karl Eller, who founded the world’s largest outdoor advertising company, Clear Channel Outdoor, and launched numerous TV, radio and newspaper outlets that were absorbed by Gannett Company. Gannett owns USATODAY and dozens of other U.S. newspapers and television stations, and Clear Channel Outdoor stemmed from a Gannett advertising subsidiary purchased by Eller. Karl Eller served on the board of Turner Broadcasting, which owns CNN. He was chosen by the American Advertising Federation for its Advertising Hall of Fame in 2004.
  • Ramesh Pannuru, the senior editor of the National Review, an outlet funded by the Charles Koch Foundation. National Review's "Planet Gore" blog is dedicated to dismissing global warming.
  • Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, contributor to the National Review and frequent TV news pundit. Stephen Moore used to work at the Cato Institute, which was founded by Charles Koch in the 1970's and continues to be directed by David Koch and other Koch Industries associates. Moore advises the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and regularly collaborates with the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity. In 2009, Moore told attendees of the 2009 RightOnline conference, "What would we do without the Wall Street Journal and FOX News, Right? And Americans for Prosperity?" Moore is a former director of Donors Capital Fund, according to 2010 IRS tax filings.
  • Steven Hayward, who is affiliated with numerous groups financed by the Kochs as well serving as treasurer and board member to Donors Capital Fund. DCF and sister group Donors Trust hide money from the Kochs and other corporate interests to groups like the Heartland Institute, the Franklin Center, CFACT, Americans for Prosperity, and many other groups connected to Hayward--read more on Steven Hayward and the Donors Trust network. Steven Hayward frequently dismisses global warming in the Weekly Standard, the National Review, and Powerline Blog, run by attorney John Hinderaker, whose firm has represented Koch Industries.
  • Glenn Beck, the former FOX News hysteric who thanked Charles Koch on air for providing misinformation on climate change he presented during his show.
  • Dixon Doll, the co-founder and General Partner of DCM, a venture capital firm involved in telecommunications. Dixon Doll sits on the board of directors of DIRECTV.

The New York Times included the brothers' connection to oil and gas billionaire Philip Anschutz, who owns the Weekly Standard, the Washington Examiner, and other outlets through Clarity Media Group (check out the Weekly Standard's  puff piece on the Kochs). Phil Anschutz, a fellow financier of climate science denial groups, is one of many elites who attends the Kochs' twice-annual strategy meetings, where millions of dollars are raised to influence politics through groups like the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Franklin Center, and the other members of the State Policy Network. The State Policy Network and its affiliates often gin up their own astroturf media, with the Franklin Center's "Watchdog" websites dishing out content to bolster the campaigns of Koch's flagship SPN operations like Americans for Prosperity and ALEC. The Franklin Center is 95% funded by Donors Trust, the "Dark Money ATM" that hides money from the Kochs and other secretive political manipulators.

Pressure from advocates and Tribune employees to reject Koch bid

Media Matters reported numerous accounts from Tribune Co. paper employees concerned they would be a "conservative mouthpiece" for Koch Industries. As reporters from Tribune's various newspapers voice their discontent, Forecast the Facts and Courage Campaign have obtained over 100,000 petitions to the Tribune Company against the Koch bid, citing Tribune reporting on climate change that could be threatened by Koch ideology. The public pressure has been acknowledged by @TribuneCo on Twitter, though the company remains noncommittal.

This post was crossposted from Greenpeace's The Witness: Koch Bros Tribune Co? Climate change denial in Koch-friendly media

Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.

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Exxon- and Koch-funded scientist Willie Soon confronted at University of Wisconsin over discredited climate research

  • Posted on: 8 April 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

Written by Hannah Noll.

I was just getting out of class last Tuesday when Dan Cannon, Greenpeace Student Network Coordinator, called to inform me that Dr. Willie Soon was coming to University of Wisconsin-Madison the following night to “challenge the Global Warming status quo.” I attend school an hour away, but I just couldn’t allow myself to pass this opportunity up. I had prior knowledge that there are climate deniers that are funded from Big Coal and Big Oil, but what I learned about Willie Soon's funding, motives, works published, and past (and present) controversies shocked me.

“Harvard Astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon,” as listed on the fossil-fuel funded Collegians For A Constructive Tomorrow’s event notification, consistently misrepresents himself to seem credible. Dr. Soon is not employed by Harvard University as suggested by CFACT Campus, but he uses the affiliation with the university to his advantage. He works for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Though located on Harvard’s campus, the group is not officially associated with the University, and Harvard University has distanced itself from Soon. He is an astrophysicist by training, but has no formal education on climate science.
 
His self-misrepresentation alone wouldn’t be jaw-dropping, but when paired with information about Willie Soon’s funding, it is clear that something fishy is going on here. The last grant he received from a funder with no ties to dirty energy interests was in 2002 (a grant that carried through to 2006). Since then, he has been entirely funded by fossil fuel interests. Dr. Soon has received over $1 million in coal, oil and gas funding for his work, including funding from Southern Company, the American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil, Texaco (now Chevron), and the Koch Brothers. Greenpeace Freedom Of Information Act inquiries to Smithsonian Institute reveal that in 2011 and 2012, Dr. Soon received nearly $115,000 from Donors Trust. He has been caught directly coordinating with lobbyists from ExxonMobil to undermine the United Nation’s latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report before it was even released. IPCC is the global research authority on climate change. 
 

Recounting the day’s events:

When the time came to leave Milwaukee for CFACT's event in Madison, Lynda Mouledoux and I probably had over 100 different species of butterflies in our stomachs. I’m just a college student, but this was my chance to demand accountability from someone meddling with important science in order to hold the world back from addressing climate change. After his presentation, he held a question and answer session. I came prepared to ask critical questions. During the questioning, something must’ve gotten under his skin and caused an aggressive and defensive posture that launched phrases like “childish,” “extremely rude,” “wrong,” and “if you had a bit of intelligence”  Not once did I use a personal attack on him; I was simply asking him about factual details of his career and those funding it.
 
My ask was "You have received over one million dollars in funds from coal and oil interests. The last grant you received from a funder with no ties to the energy industry was in 2002. That's over a decade ago. So Dr. Soon, why should we trust someone without credentials in climate science whose work is only funded by coal and oil interests?”  Watch the video below to see his reaction to this question.
 
 
Dr. Soon made an interesting claim, emphasis added:
"I don't like to claim that I am an expert on anything, but I have enough knowledge about climate science and climate system to be able to write scientific papers and go to meetings and talk about monsoon systems and talk about any other things that you want to discuss about climate science issues. I'm as qualified as anybody that you know on this planet on this topic"
But Soon certainly appears to claim that he’s an expert on things outside of his expertise. His lack of climate science credentials aside, perhaps the $290,000 he has received from coal-burning utility Southern Company explains why he abruptly appeared in a 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed dismissing mercury pollution from coal plants. The op-ed, titled "The Myth of Killer Mercury," ends with the following description:
Mr. Soon, a natural scientist at Harvard, is an expert on mercury and public health issues.
...except Soon doesn’t work for Harvard and carries no formal expertise on “mercury and public health issues.” Co-authoring that article was Paul Driessen, another known fossil fuel shill from the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT)--the parent organization to the campus group hosting Soon’s discussion on climate science.
 
We’re living in a time where corporations and junk science are crippling the effectiveness of our own government to serve us. According to Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, “ExxonMobil made more money each of the last three years than any company in the history of money.” Corporations put profits over people and destroy the earth to please shareholders. I refuse to accept this, so I will continue to perform Non-violent Direct Action in order to do my best to change the status quo.
This blog was written by Hannah Noll. Hannah is a sophomore at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a Campus Coordinator with the Greenpeace Student Network, and a Greenpeace Semester alumna.
 
Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.
 
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ALEC Energy Director Misleads the Wall Street Journal

  • Posted on: 2 April 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

Todd Wynn: director of ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force, formerly of Cascade Policy Institute. Cascade and ALEC are two of the many front groups coordinated under the umbrella of the State Policy Network.

Written by Gabe Elsner of the Checks and Balances Project. Crossposted with permission from Huffington Post: ALEC Energy Director Misleads the Wall Street Journal

In Friday's Wall Street Journal story, "States Cooling to Renewable Energy," American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Director Todd Wynn claimed, "I have not received one dime to work directly on renewable-energy mandates." Wynn may not have received a check where the memo read: "For your efforts to attack clean energy policies" but his ALEC paycheck certainly comes (in part) from fossil fuel interests.

ALEC received approximately 98 percent of its budget from corporations, trade associations and corporate foundations, according to IRS 990 tax forms from the organization in 2009.

The members (as of June 2011) of Mr. Wynn's task force include at least 23 fossil fuel companies and utilities, like ExxonMobil, Continental Resources, Peabody Energy and Duke Energy, that have a direct financial interest in slowing the growth of clean energy. Task force members fund almost all of ALEC's operations.

ALEC corporate members each pay between $7,000 and $25,000 or more to be members. The corporate task force members also pay fees to have a vote on what pieces of "sample legislation" should be sent to state legislators. And, last fall, the energy task force members voted to push the "Electricity Freedom Act," which repeals state clean energy standards, through state legislatures across the country.

So it's no surprise these bills are showing up and being pushed by fossil fuel interests and front groups in states across the country. Wynn probably received at least a few dimes to coordinate this effort to attack clean energy policies. If ALEC wants to provide some transparency on its budget, Checks and Balances Project would be happy to take a second look.

Follow Gabe Elsner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GabeElsner
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Pro-Koch Op-ed Betrays Claim of "journalistic integrity"

  • Posted on: 9 February 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Stephen Moore--Wall Street Journal editorial board member and senior economics writer

Koch Industries, which has dumped tens of millions of dollars into organizations that deny climate science, also wields its influence through a network of media operatives that are now shielding the private conglomorate from criticism.

In a dismissal of the questionable connection between Koch Industries and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto recently defended the dubious political wrangling of the Koch brothers while chastizing its critics, namely Common Cause. Common Cause organized the recent protest in Rancho Mirage, California outside of the ritzy resort Charles Koch selected as a haven for undemocratic scheming.

What is ironic about Taranto's pro-Koch piece is his offense to the Wall Street Journal's editorial page being considered biased (it clearly is, as you would expect from a Rupert Murdoch business), while the WSJ editorial board actually has a direct connection to Koch Industries itself.

Stephen Moore, who sits with Taranto on the Wall Street Journal editorial board and is an economic pundit on TV networks, attended the secretive gathering hosted by Charles Koch in Aspen, Colorado last June. In fact, it was Moore who revealed in a 2006 interview with Charles Koch that these meetings exist.

As outlined in a forthcoming Greenpeace report, Moore has ties to the Cato Institute, co-founded by Charles Koch, and the Heritage Foundation, which have each received millions of dollars from Koch foundations since 1997. Moore has provided an explicit voice in the fabricated non-debate over climate science, where scientists are pinned against industry talking points and cherrypicked data (see clip provided by ThinkProgress).



The Wall Street Journal's opinion section has also served as host to prominent climate obstructionists, such as Bjorn Lomborg and scientists-for-hire Richard Lindzen and Patrick Michaels. Lindzen and Michaels are deeply integrated into Koch- and Exxon-funded think tanks such as Cato, the George C. Marshall Institute, Tech Central Station and the Heartland Institute. Michaels is currently being scrutinized after he apparently under-reported his financial backing by coal and oil companies during a presentation before Congress.

Taranto also cites Jonathan Adler from the National Review Online to attack Common Cause. Adler has links to the Koch- and Exxon-funded Federalist Society (which paid for the Justices Thomas and Scalia attendance at a secret Koch meeting), Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Property and Environment Research Center.

Oh, and Adler's connection as a blogger for the National Review Online adds another connection to Koch Industries--NRO senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru attended the Koch meeting in Aspen last June, just as Stephen Moore did. Moore also contributes to the National Review.

...that must have been what Taranto meant by adhering to the "highest standards of journalistic integrity."

For more on Koch Industries' connections to media outlets, check out Kate Sheppard's recent piece in Mother Jones, and keep your eyes peeled for more details from Greenpeace.

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