Polluters Charles and David Koch don't deny it: they fund front groups to deny climate science
On Friday, I had the pleasure of receiving a surprising e-mail from the head of communications for Koch Industries, a massive oil and chemical corporation and the second-largest privately held company in America.
The e-mail was from the chief spokesperson for Koch Industries, a woman named Melissa. To my shock, Melissa didn’t deny that the corporation does in fact pay an industry front group millions of dollars to perpetuate the dirty energy economy and obfuscate the truth about climate science.
What’s an industry front group, you may ask? Well, big corporations like Koch Industries know that the public doesn’t trust them. So they funnel millions of dollars to front groups with vague names evocative of white picket fences like “Americans for Prosperity” to do their dirty work.
What a refreshing blast of honesty from a corporation that specializes in shadows and misinformation! Surprised? Me too! Let me explain how this e-mail came to be:
As Greenpeace’s field organizer in Boston, I wrote an opinion piece for the Cape Cod Today newspaper last week illuminating the fact that oil, coal and gas billionaire William I. Koch is the main funder of the front group that has been fighting Cape Wind for the better part of the last decade.
William Koch no longer has a hand in Koch Industries, which his brothers David and Charles run, but he didn’t stray too far from the family business. Instead, Bill is the founder and president of the Oxbow Group, another energy company that mines and sells coal, gas, petroleum and petroleum coke products. Way to keep the family legacy of ravaging the planet alive, Bill! Bill is also on the board of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the front group that has fought Cape Wind, America’s first offshore wind farm project off the coast of Cape Cod. He has spent at least $ 1.5 million of his personal fortune to finance the Alliance’s efforts to obfuscate the truth about Cape Wind.
As I wrote in the Cape Cod Today piece, paying front groups to mislead Americans about global warming is a family tradition for the Kochs:
[Bill’s] estranged brothers, Charles and David Koch, who now control Koch Industries, provide millions of dollars for industry front groups such as FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity designed to perpetuate the dirty energy economy and obfuscate the science of global warming.
A few hours later, I got an e-mail from Melissa, who identified herself as the director of communication for Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC. Melissa had seen my op-ed and wanted to clarify a point. She quoted the paragraph I wrote about Charles and David Koch (see above), and wrote:
Koch Industries, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch and David Koch have no tes [sic] to and have never given money to FreedomWorks. Can you correct this in the online version of your Op-Ed? Thanks.
Well, I’m so glad that’s cleared up! So, for those of you keeping score at home, the Kochs, by their own spokesperson’s admission, do not fund the front group FreedomWorks, but do pay the front group Americans for Prosperity to spread misinformation about established climate science.
For the record, it’s semantics whether the Kochs funded FreedomWorks or not. In 1984, Charles and David Koch conceived of and funded Citizens for a Sound Economy, one of the original front groups to deny global warming. Citizens for a Sound Economy split in 2003 into Americans for Prosperity (the Kochs’ front group du jour) and another group that ultimately became FreedomWorks, another right-wing climate-science denying group. So technically, Melissa may be right that the Kochs don’t fund FreedomWorks, but they did fund its predecessor.
The larger point is that while Melissa took great pains to dissociate her bosses from Freedomworks, she took no issue with my description of the Kochs’ “providing millions of dollars designed to perpetuate the dirty energy economy and obfuscate the science of global warming.”
Well, I’m glad that’s settled! The first step is always admitting you have a problem, so it’s good that Koch Industries has officially acknowledged that they fund front groups to deny climate science. In their newfound spirit of honesty, the Kochs should next admit the gravity of the climate threat, give up their fossil fuel holdings, and put their billions of dirty oil dollars to good use by investing in renewable energy! Melissa, shoot me another e-mail as soon as you guys check that one off.