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Koch blacklash against New Yorker reporter continues history of media interference

  • Posted on: 23 May 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

Amid concerns that Koch Industries could buy several major U.S. newspapers from Tribune Company, industrial billionaire David Koch was forced to step down as trustee of WNET, New York City's largest public TV station, after the New Yorker revealed how WNET gave Koch inappropriate influence over its programming. Mr. Koch was floating a seven-figure donation over WNET's leadership as the station aired a movie that portrayed him as a particularly greedy Manhattan resident.

Sure enough, WNET didn't wind up receiving David Koch's hefty donation.

Last Thursday, David Koch submitted his resignation at a WNET Board of Trustees meeting, and Brad Johnson at Forecast the Facts* reports that Koch's name was scrubbed from WNET's website several days prior to the resignation. Koch Industries' public relations website, KochFacts, released a preemptive response to the New Yorker article (which it has now urgently elaborated on), attempting to stifle New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer and the details of her newest piece. David Koch's resignation as a WNET Trustee, coupled with telling quotes from WNET president Neal Shapiro and other sources, makes it clear that Koch had too much influence at the decreasingly-public TV station in New York.

The article is a fascinating culmination of two portions of the ongoing legacy of the Koch brothers: their desire to influence media, which is playing out with their company's bid for the Tribune Company's eight national daily newspapers, and their attempts to intimidate journalists and silence reporting they consider unfavorable.

Jane Mayer's epic 2010 profile of the secretive billionaire brothers has left Charles and David Koch firmly positioned in the center stage of politics, and they have cursed her since. In repeated and increasingly desperate attempts to discredit Mayer and ease the impact of her reporting on Koch Industries' terrible reputation, the company posted her face on the Koch "Facts" website and wrote letters urging the American Society of Magazine Editors to stop considering Mayer's 2010 article for an award.

The Koch brothers' attacks on Ms. Mayer provide more examples of how they use their connections to manipulate media (including in Mayer's new article, which caught Koch spokesperson Melissa Cohlmia in a complete lie).

Following her 2010 expose, Koch Industries was caught trying to fabricate a scandal to take Mayer down. Using the Daily Caller, founded by Koch's billionaire political ally Foster Friess and run by Tucker Carlson, a senior fellow at the Koch-founded, Koch-funded and Koch-governed Cato Institute, the Kochs tried to get a story placed into the New York Post accusing Mayer of plagiarism. The Post dismissed the idea--and that's saying something, given the lack of integrity at Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, not to mention FOX News, the collapsed News of the World and other outlets the media mogul owns. (NOTE: Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has also expressed interest in Tribune Company's L.A. Times.)

Update Oct. 2014: Daily Caller Foundation is now funded by Charles Koch Foundation, receiving $11,064 in 2012.

Click to sign Greenpeace's 32,000-strong petition to Tribune Company: Don't Sell Your Newspapers to Koch Industries!

Greenpeace remains concerned about how the Kochs have already used their media ties to promote denial of climate change science. Beyond the pressing issue of global warming, the implications of media manipulation from Koch Industries spans across issues from education to public employee unions to immigration to healthcare reform.

This is why Greenpeace is working with a growing coalition of unions, media transparency advocates, environmentalists, good government watchdogs and other organizations to oppose Tribune Company's potential sale of its newspapers to Koch Industries, as well as Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, and any other politically-charged business interest whose history indicates they would manipulate reporting at Tribune's papers for political and financial gain.

*Disclosure: Forecast the Facts is one of the groups Greenpeace is working with to oppose Koch Industries' bid for Tribune Company.

Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.

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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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PR Watch on the Election's Fossil Fuel Advertising: Hurricane Sandy Endorses Obama

  • Posted on: 5 November 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Hurricane Sandy as seen from Space. From The Guardian.

This guest article was written by Mary Bottari and Sara Jerving of the Center for Media and Democracy, crossposted from PR Watch.

The fossil fuel industry has paid a hefty price for the privilege of framing the political discourse about America's energy future. Hundreds of millions have flowed into campaign coffers from energy companies attempting to purchase complete freedom to drill, frack, and burn. Huge "dark money" groups, the Koch's, Karl Rove, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, join dozens of oil and gas industry associations in pouring money into television ad campaigns demanding "energy independence," while trashing wind and solar.

Things were going great. Even though hurricanes had slammed into two Republican National Conventions in a row, no one seemed to notice, and Romney's only mention of climate changes was as a punchline. No reporter asked a single climate change question of Romney or Obama during the debates. Even though the U.S. now had 175,000 wind and solar jobs, pro-green energy forces were disappointed in Obama and were less active. For big oil and gas the White House and the Senate were within reach. Critically, they had to move fast before the majority of voters started to not only notice the changing climate patterns, but really started to worry about them.

Then something happened that completely scrambled the board.

Hurricane Sandy blew New Jersey out of the water and inundated New York. The massive storm threw the Romney campaign completely off-message. Not only did they have nothing to say about the serious issue of climate change and the potential for more frequent and more devastating monster storms, the Romney-Ryan message of "smaller government" and "fewer first responders" sank in the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.

In an unprecedented, last-minute move, Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg threw his support behind Obama yesterday. His statement "A Vote for a President to Lead on Climate Change" lays out the seriousness of the situation. "In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods -- something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable," Bloomberg states.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

Polluting High Rollers Dominated the Airwaves

Until Sandy rolled in, the airwaves were completely dominated by the fossil fuel industry.

According to The New York Times, by mid-September there had already been a $153 million spent on TV ads that promoted the fossil fuel industry. The analysis showed that energy topics were mentioned more frequently than any other issue besides jobs and the economy. This figure is four times what clean energy advocates were spending.

The numbers stand in sharp contrast to the last presidential election in which the green energy industry and other forces spent $152 million compared to $109 million spent on fossil fuel interests.

Broadly, the ads promote fossil fuels in the context of jobs, domestic security, and energy prices. Combined, they try to convince Americans that "energy independence" should be the nation's top priority. Yet they neglect to point out that solar and wind also create high-wage jobs and energy independence too. According to Open Secrets, oil and gas campaign contributions are at historic highs and are more lopsided than ever before with 90 percent of the funds going to Republican candidates. Top contributors include William Koch's Oxbow Corp, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Koch Industries, who have already contributed $59 million to federal candidates. Leading coal mining corporations, such as Alliance Resource Partners, Cumberland Development, and Murray Energy, have kicked in $11.6 million to federal candidates.

But the money does not stop there. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision has opened the door to unprecedented spending by "dark money" nonprofits, SuperPACs and new constellations of trade associations that are on track to spend over $1 billion to "educate" voters about the issues, including the urgent need to extract and burn every last bit of fossil fuel.

  • Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, a "dark money" group and his American Crossroads SuperPAC, pledged to spend $300 million in this election, a large percentage on fossil fuel spin. There are dozens of ads in the presidential race and in Congressional races. One Crossroads ad blames Obama for higher gas prices. Another slams Obama for putting the Keystone Pipeline on hold. While Crossroads GPS does not disclose its donors, American Crossroads PAC does and it is loaded with fossil fuel contributors, including Alliance Resources Partners CEO Joe Craft who has given the group $1.25 million, Petco Petroleum which has given the group $1 million, and over $2 million from TRT holdings, which controls Tana Exploration, a Texas-based oil and gas company.
  • David Koch's Americans for Prosperity "dark money" group, pledged to spend over $100 million this year in support of Republican candidates. The group's ads also attack Obama and clean energy when talking about Solyndra and the stimulus bill which allegedly sent some clean energy jobs overseas. More recently they have pushed pro-coal "Stand with Coal" ads in Ohio and Virginia.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an industry association and dark money group, has pledged to spend more than $50 million on the election and has fielded energy ads in key races such as Ohio with a messages like "Shale Works for Us," in promotion of expanding drilling for shale oil and gas.
  • The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a coal industry front group, has pledged to spend some $40 million on coal related ads. One ad, targeting Ohio's Sherrod Brown, criticizes the Senator for endorsing "higher energy taxes" linking him to "Washington's costly energy policies."
  • The American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade association, has pledged some $40 million this campaign season on efforts to push the expansion of oil and gas drilling. Two of their primary campaigns, "Vote 4 Energy" and "Energy Citizens" attempt to exert the aura of a grassroots base pushing for fossil fuel development. Their ads feature "energy voters" parroting fossil fuel talking points.
  • The American Energy Alliance, a "dark money" group run by former Koch Industries lobbyist Tom Pyle, is spending millions alleging that Obama's policies would lead to $9 a gallon of gas and a recent ad airing in Ohio and Virginia harps on Obama for comments he made about coal industry in 2008.

Rarely are voters seeing any counter-narrative. Alternative energy forces have spent only $2 million, and some environmental groups are weighing in with modest resources. New ads by the League of Conservation Voters saying U.S. Senate Candidate Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) will stop the offshoring of U.S. jobs and "will end big oil subsidies" -- with cheerful Wisconsin windmills and pumpkins in the background -- started only in the final days of the campaign. Is it any wonder that candidates have been able to ignore the serious issues?

"To ignore a global crisis that has been fully understood for over 15 years and is quickly slipping out of control shows just how far coal and oil money have drowned out constituents all the way from the Statehouse to the White House," said Greenpeace's Connor Gibson.

What Does the Fossil Fuel Industry Want?

Although environmentalists are not happy with what they perceive as Obama's timidity, the fossil fuel industry is apoplectic about the steps he did take as president. They have leveled blistering criticism about Obama's efforts to slow down the Keystone Pipeline; they don't like his new auto emissions standards; they are unhappy with new EPA mercury emissions rules for boilers; and they don't like the fact that permits for drilling and fracking on federal lands have slowed.

The industry is looking for a victory in the battle over TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline project, which would carry heavy tar-sands crude oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries, exporting some portion of the oil overseas. Construction of the pipeline was confronted by an active movement of citizens concerned about the impact that the pipeline would have on communities and on the threat burning the tar sands posed to the planet. Burning all the available tar sands would be "game over" for the climate, according to NASA scientist Jim Hansen, one of the nation's most respected climate change experts. Romney has vowed to give the project clearance on his first day in office, while Obama has approved a portion of the segment, and has allowed for further environmental impact study of the northern portion.

The industry also wants carte blanche to use federal lands for the highly controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" for shale oil and gas. Fracking has the documented potential to contaminate drinking water sources and foul both air and land -- in addition to spoiling millions of gallons of fresh water as part of the drilling process.

The industry is calling for a streamline on the permitting process for fossil fuel development on all lands. While industry's ads have argued that increased drilling will decrease gas prices, global gas prices largely follow international trends.

The industry is also keen to hold onto to the billions of fossil fuel subsidies it receives each year from the federal government. According to the International Energy Agency, fossil fuel subsidies from the government are 12 times greater than renewable energy.

No matter who wins the presidency, there will be major battles on each of these issues. The question is, after years of fossil fuel propaganda, how engaged will the American public be in the effort to save the planet from the fossil fuel industry?

The Price of Fossil Fuel Propaganda

According to author and activist Bill McKibben, "This will be the warmest year in American history. It came with the warmest month in American history, July. It featured a statistically almost-impossible summer-in-March heat wave. It brought us a drought so deep that food prices have gone up 40 percent around the world. It brought us this completely unprecedented mega-storm, the biggest storm, as one weatherman put it yesterday, to hit New York since its founding in 1624," McKibben told Time.

The problem according to McKibben is that "there's been a 20-year bipartisan effort in Washington to accomplish nothing, and it reached its comedic height this summer when our presidential candidates, despite barnstorming through the warmest summer in American history, seemed not to notice. The reason is the incredible power of the fossil fuel industry. Until we can diminish that power, I imagine nothing very large will be done to deal with climate."

Hurricane Sandy has launched a full frontal attack on fossil fuel industry propaganda.

It is up to us to follow in her path.


Will Dooling contributed to this article.