Smithsonian Set to Name Exhibit after Oil Billionaire David Koch Tomorrow

  • Posted on: 16 March 2010
  • By: admin

According to a press kit available on the Smithsonian Institution website, The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the National Museum of Natural History is set to open tomorrow, March 17th in Washington DC. The Smithsonian describes the hall on their site:

The 15,000-square-foot Hall of Human Origins exhibition is based on decades of cutting-edge research by Smithsonian scientists and research teams around the world. It opens March 17, which also marks the 100-year anniversary of the museum’s official opening on the National Mall.

Auspiciously absent from the Smithsonian press kit is a fact sheet about the hall's namesake, David H. Koch who serves as Executive Vice President of Koch Industries. Thankfully, organizations such as Sourcewatch and the Center for American Progress have compiled helpful information that raises serious questions about the wisdom of the Smithsonian Institution risking its venerable reputation by naming anything after David Koch.

Aside from their philanthropic gifts like the $15 million donation that led to the naming of the Hall of Human Origins, David Koch and his brother Charles are among the leading funders of think tanks and organizations at the center of the climate denial industry like Americans for Prosperity.

Their role in the propaganda machine is well-summarized by a recent Think Progress report entitled, The Billionaires Behind the Hate:

Billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch are the wealthiest, and perhaps most effective, opponents of President Obama's progressive agenda. They have been looming in the background of every major domestic policy dispute this year. Ranked as the 9th richest men in America, the Koch brothers sit at the helm of Koch Industries, a massive privately owned conglomerate of manufacturing, oil, gas, and timber interests. They are best known for their wealth, as well as for their generous contributions to the arts, cancer research, and the Smithsonian Institute. But David and Charles are also responsible for a vicious attack campaign aimed directly at obstructing and killing progressive reform.Over the years, millions of dollars in Koch money has flowed to various right-wing think tanks, front groups, and publications.

Perhaps even more troubling than the Koch Brothers' activities founding and funding groups like Americans for Prosperity and the Cato Institute is their role among the worst polluters in American history. If any American corporation has ever earned the title "environmental criminal," it must be Koch Industries, as SourceWatch explains:

Koch Industries is also a major polluter. During the 1990s, its faulty pipelines were responsible for more than 300 oil spills in five states, prompting a landmark penalty of $35 million from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In Minnesota, it was fined an additional $8 million for discharging oil into streams. During the months leading up to the 2000 presidential elections, the company faced even more liability, in the form of a 97-count federal indictment charging it with concealing illegal releases of 91 metric tons of benzene, a known carcinogen, from its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas.

If convicted, the company faced fines of up to $352 million, plus possible jail time for company executives. After George W. Bush became president, however, the U.S. Justice Department dropped 88 of the charges. Two days before the trial, John Ashcroft settled for a plea bargain, in which Koch pled guilty to falsifying documents. All major charges were dropped, and Koch and Ashcroft settled the lawsuit for a fraction of that amount.

We're concerned that the Smithsonian would risk their reputation by putting the name of a major funder of the climate denial industry on an Exhibit, and this raises serious questions about whether they embrace his role as a rampant polluter and major impediment to clean energy and climate policy.