Report: Koch Industries outspends Exxon Mobil on climate and clean energy disinformation

Koch fundingIn a must-read report, Greenpeace details how Koch Industries has “become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition,” spending over $48.5 million since 1997 to fund the anti-science disinformation machine.  Brad Johnson has the story.

Climate Progress and the Wonk Room have long detailed the role of the billionaire brothers of Koch Industries, Charles and David Koch, in destroying American prosperity. Their pollution-based fortunes have fueled a network of right-wing ideologues, from McCain mouthpiece Nancy Pfotenhauer to loony conspiracy theorist Christopher Monckton. In public, the Kochs like to burnish their reputations by buying museum and opera halls.

In private, however, they’ve outspent Exxon Mobil to fund organizations of the climate denial machine, as Greenpeace details in a new report:

Although Koch intentionally stays out of the public eye, it is now playing a quiet but dominant role in a high-profile national policy debate on global warming. Koch Industries has become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition. This private, out-of-sight corporation is now a partner to Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute and other donors that support organizations and front-groups opposing progressive clean energy and climate policy. In fact, Koch has out-spent Exxon Mobil in funding these groups in recent years. From 2005 to 2008, Exxon Mobil spent $8.9 million while the Koch Industries-controlled foundations contributed $24.9 million in funding to organizations of the climate denial machine.

This report, “Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine” documents roughly 40 climate denial and opposition organizations receiving Koch foundation grants in recent years, including:

– More than $5 million to Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP) for its nationwide “Hot Air Tour” and “Regulation Reality Tour” campaigns to spread misinformation about climate science and oppose clean energy and climate legislation.

– More than $1 million to the Heritage Foundation, a mainstay of misinformation on climate and environmental policy issues.

– Over $1 million to the Cato Institute, which disputes the scientific evidence behind global warming, questions the rationale for taking climate action, and has been heavily involved in spinning the recent ClimateGate smear campaign.

– $800,000 to the Manhattan Institute, which has hosted Bjorn Lomborg twice in the last two years. Lomborg is a prominent media spokesperson who challenges and attacks policy measures to address climate change.

– $365,000 to Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) which advocates against taking action on climate change because warming is “inevitable” and expensive to address.

– $360,000 to Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy (PRIPP) which supported and funded “An Inconvenient Truth”¦or Convenient Fiction,” a film attacking the science of global warming and intended as a rebuttal to former Vice-President Al Gore’s documentary. PRIPP also threatened to sue the US Government for listing the polar bear as an endangered species.

– $325,000 to the Tax Foundation, which issued a misleading study on the costs of proposed climate legislation.

The blockbuster report covers the role of Koch’s dirty network in promoting the ClimateGate smear campaign, pushing junk science about polar bears, fueling supposedly independent Spanish and Danish studies that attacked green jobs, and selling a pack of lies about the costs of climate legislation.

That was a Wonk Room repost. A response by Koch Industries Communications Director Melissa Cohlmia is here. Climate Science Watch has two good posts on the subject:

Stay tuned to CP for more reporting on the Koch brothers and how they have begun corrupting our scientific institutions.

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26 Responses to Report: Koch Industries outspends Exxon Mobil on climate and clean energy disinformation

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    Expressing Your Values via Buying Choices

    Most people don’t know whether they buy Koch products, because most of them are sold under various brand names and many of them are not consumer brands.

    But, these products and brands are owned by Koch according to their website (you can check for yourself too) and according to my understanding:

    Brawny paper towels
    Angel Soft bath tissues
    Quilted Northern bath tissues
    Soft ‘n Gentle bath tissues
    Dixie cups, paper plates and bowls, and napkins
    Mardi Gras paper towels and napkins
    Sparkle paper towels
    Vanity Fair and Zee napkins

    These products/brands are owned and marketed by Georgia-Pacific, and Koch owns Georgia-Pacific. Check these brands out on the Koch website or, in more detail, on the Georgia-Pacific website.

    So, if you want to do something (by not buying their products) about the Koch problem, you should definitely stop buying the products listed above, in my view. Companies pay the most attention when money is involved. One doesn’t need to be an economist to realize that.

    Joe, in future posts about companies, I think it would be very helpful to list their consumer brands, just so we all know who we are talking about. That said, I’m glad that you are raising the subject.

    Be Well,


  2. Hey my blood pressure is too high already.

    Gosh. I recall seeing the name David H Koch on various PBS TV programs. Clever to underwrite broadcast programming too. Of course PBS would never bias a presentation based on the wishes of a major benefactor. Would it?

    Oh and Wikipedia says that Koch funded the new media technology campaign to create opposition to health care reforms. What battle are they fighting? Koch, et al, seem to be a swarm of flying banshees controlling media message delivery.

    Thanks Joe for fighting this battle. Now if the Koch brothers could only change the laws of physics things might work out. This is scientifically nefarious.

  3. John Mashey says:

    This is a very useful report, and goes into more detail on Koch than I had in Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony, which also looked at some of the money flows. See p.46, which shows the money flows from ExxonMobil foundation and (family foundations as a group) to various think tanks, comparing what EM and family foundations gave, and what the think tank 990 form reported (for Annapolis Center, CEI, CFACT, GMI, and Heartland, year by year, as a sample).

    1) The foundations (often Koch or Scaife) have often outspent EM.
    2) More than half the think tank income is still unknown … and there are of course many ways for it to arrive.

    I have long suggested to people that a sole focus on EM … probably had Kochs and Scaife quite happy to be ignored.

  4. mike roddy says:

    Thanks for that list, Jeff. The products you list above come largely from clearcut forests in northern Canada. Old growth produces the fluffy softness that American butts seem to need so desperately. The effects of destroying the planet’s greatest terrestrial carbon sink are similar to spewing CO2 into the atmposphere. These trees grow back very slowly, due to the northern latitude location, so there is not even much of a pretense of sustainability. The clearcut sites will emit vast amounts of soil carbon, and engender hotter microclimates, further accelerating global warming. This is all well understood by climate scientists.

    Georgia Pacific, probably our most rapacious timber company, is a good fit for Koch, in addition to the coal and oil refinery businesses. They do not pass up any opportunities to destroy the planet.

    What we are really talking about here is the dark side, folks. President Roosevelt once flew over the vast clearcuts of the Washington Olympic Peninsula and remarked “The people who did this should burn in hell”. I agree, and that’s the kind of courage and bluntness that the times demand these days.

  5. paulm says:

    Wonder how the insurance companies are reacting to this action by China. The next 1C is going to be a rock ride. The events are starting to kick in in North America now.

    China spends big to counter severe weather caused by climate change

    Country invests heavily in warning systems and infrastructure to tackle effects of extreme temperatures, typhoons, fog and storms


    China has a long history of devastating floods and droughts, but officials said the problems were intensifying.

    “It is necessary to respond to the new situation under climate change to avoid and mitigate the losses caused by meteorological disasters,” said Gao Fengtao, deputy director of the state council’s legislative affairs office, as he unveiled the new policy.

    In recent years, he said, disasters were characterised by “sudden occurrence, wider variety, greater intensity and higher frequency in the context of global warming”.

    Officials warned this posed a threat to human life and a huge challenge to China’s sustainable development.

  6. Robert Coleman says:

    Jeff, thanks for the information on these bast…, er, gentlemen. I will be forwarding that list to everyone I know. I would go one step further and urge everyone to take the time to write any retailer you see carrying Koch-owned products and expressing your displeasure. These people are motivated by one thing and one thing alone: $$$. If their retailers start complaining about negative consumer backlash it will multiply the effect of a boycott.

  7. dhogaza says:

    I’ll second Mike Roddy’s comments regarding Georgia Pacific. They picked up the “pacific” in their name after WWII – having clearcut their pine forest holdings in the SE to the point where they were running out of trees, they bought forest land here.

    After having moved their HQ here and clearcutting their holdings in the PNW for forty years, they moved back to Atlanta, letting go their rank-and-file employees. By their pine plantations were producing timber, again.

    GP was a nasty player in the federal timber wars the last half of the 20th century.

    If Louisiana Pacific gives Georgia Pacific a run for its money in the “worst timber company” race, however. Hmmm, so did Plum.

  8. substanti8 says:

    Things go bitter with Koch:

    “The company operates crude gathering systems and pipelines across North America.  One subsidiary processes 800,000 barrels of crude oil daily in its three refineries.”

    “Koch also owns ranches with a total of 15,000 head of cattle in Kansas, Montana and Texas.”

  9. Joe,

    Great! Turn up the heat. Exxposing what KOCH & EXXOM & co-conspirators have been up to may prove to be key in gaining public acceptance of the climate science & what we must do.

    As you’ve probably seen, Tom Zeller/Green Inc. at the New York Times carries a couple pieces that include the Koch response.

    Go get ’em! ~IANVS

  10. richard pauli says:

    With all this information, we can make choices with what we do today, and in the future we will make choices about who was responsible. Are we laying the groundwork for retribution? Or are we revealing who has to change today? Global warming is inevitable and rigidly constrained by science, but humans get to define history.

  11. Betty Wedin says:

    Koch purchased the fibres groups from Dupont. When I ride my Trek, I wear spandex which comes from both Koch and China. Nylon, Dacron, etc the fibres business is strong for them. PETA opposes wearing fur and leather. If you oppose Koch, stay with 100% wool bikini or cotton carpeting in your home.

  12. Bill W says:

    From the Koch response in the NYT:
    “We believe the political response to climate issues should be based on sound science. Both a free society and the scientific method require an open and honest airing of all sides, not demonizing and silencing those with whom you disagree. We’ve strived to encourage an intellectually honest debate on the scientific basis for claims of harm from greenhouse gases.”

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! ROFLMAO.

    There’s that “sound science” denier keyword. And nobody would be trying to silence their side if they didn’t constantly lie and distort.

  13. Sable says:

    Re: Richard Pauli and PBS funding (post #2)….

    There is a three part NOVA episode called “Becoming Human” which outlines human origins, paying special attention to the role of extreme climate swings as a driver of our evolution. The conclusion summed up at the end of Part 1 is:

    since we are (I paraphrase) “creatures of climate change”, and “the most intelligent species that ever existed”; “and “climate has always changed….we’ll manage to survive the climate change we’re undergoing right now”.

    This conclusion completely overlooks that these climate swings helped cause the extinction of earlier “less adaptable” hominid species. A point which is made in the very same episode!

    The series also overlooked other, pertinent information regarding human evolution, and if I recall correctly, never mentions what global average temperatures were thought to have accompanied these climate changes. They present other subtle misrepresentations of speciation, adaption, etc., with a dash of hyperbole thrown in. An interesting outline of one of the major selection pressures on speciation, but with enough left out so the show’s writer/s could push a biased message.

    The show’s underwriters? — “Funding for NOVA is provided by Exxon-Mobil, Pacific Life, David H. Koch, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. ” Of course correlation doesn’t equal causation, but…. I have to wonder.

  14. Bill@12,

    That single Koch paragraph has more “tells” than a tea party in Searchlight, NV.

    “open and honest airing of both sides”

    “not demonizing or silencing with those with whom you disagree”

    “claims of harm from greenhouse gases”


  15. Leif says:

    Sable, #13: … “and “climate has always changed…we’ll manage to survive the climate change we’re undergoing right now”.”

    So, that looks like they are admitting that we are changing the climate. There is in fact a good chance that a segment of humanity will survive the self induced disruption and accompanying purge. What they fail to say is that segment will consist mostly of the rich and powerful and be very light with folks like you, me, and the majority of humanity. Perhaps that is their plan all along.

  16. mike roddy says:

    Leif, I wrote a screenplay about that, actually. The wealthy live in fortresses, surrounded by private militias. Remaining survivors are forced to live underground in remnant cool and fertile zones along the high latitude coasts.

    If any of you has ever spent time around the super rich, well, it ain’t pretty. Their daughters are partying airheads like Paris Hilton, the wives order farm animals from upscale escort services, and the big tough men get drunk in the country clubs with their buddies, and trade violent fantasies about environmentalists and liberals.

    Education, scientific curiosity, and reading are not in play. The rich are lazy, and thinking requires effort. If people knew how the rich actually lived behind those beautiful manicured fortresses, there would really be a revolution.

  17. John Mashey says:

    re: #13 Koch (Scaife/EM) funding of subtle PR
    Here’s a useful exercise:

    1) Take a look at the Environmental Literacy Council (ELC), especially the top-level piece on “―Air, Climate, and Weather” and its links to various other topics? Notice anything funny?

    2) Then, see what Sourcewatch has to say.

  18. Leif says:

    I posted this on another thread by mistake. Second try.

    Koch Industries made a large donation to Smithsonian and has their name on the new Human Origins Program. I have written a few letters expressing my dissatisfaction with taking money from the likes of Koch and their attempt at Green Washing. I encourage all to drop a line to the Smithsonian and express your views.

    Mike Roddy, #16: I guess there is some consolation that the rich do not appear to have very refined survival skills and will not fair well in the long term without their servants. They make a grave mistake if they assume that humanity will continue to cow-tow to them if they continue to champion the status quo in light of mounting evidence of climatic disruption. They might do well to look at history and notice how past suppressed populations treated the affluent. One rallying cry was “off with their heads.” I would not want to be in their shoes when the tin hats finally realize they have been duped and their rabid froth is redirected toward the true deceivers.

  19. Sable says:

    Re: Leif, #15
    “So, that looks like they are admitting that we are changing the climate.”

    I have no idea what any of NOVA’s underwriters would admit to in that regard. But the program in question is peddling the “climate has always changed, and we’ve always adapted” meme – in the context of summarizing some newer discoveries in the field of human evolution.

    My main point of course, is that David Koch and Exxon-Mobil provide financial support for this “public service” as it were. It’s disingenuous of NOVA to present conclusions like this (so aligned with their donor’s interests!), without also discussing the wider context of evolution, speciation, and especially the cause of the current upswing in global temperatures – and what the probable outcomes might be. But it’s not surprising.

    As for whether or not the wealthy people who oppose AGW mitigation think they and theirs will be among the survivors, I really couldn’t say. If that’s true, it’s the height of hubris and foolishness, not to mention morally depraved. Rapacity leads many people (who forget they too, will die) to believe the meaning of life is about winners and losers, and morality is for the “fools” they prey upon.

    John Mashey: the links you posted are not working for me, could you please re-post the urls? Thanks.

    Mike Roddy: My close exposure to the uber rich was limited and a long time ago – but I was shocked by what I saw. Although I wouldn’t paint everyone with the same brush, your characterization does not surprise me, nor would news of things far worse. I have no illusions about for whom, and what, our “democracy” works.

  20. substanti8 says:

    Thanks for the information, Jeff.

    Here’s a convenient visual aid to Koch products that has many of their major logos.

    In addition to Georgia-Pacific, there are also numerous products and brands by Invista to boycott.  The list is huge, but a few that I recognize are these:

    Stainmaster (carpet)

  21. Dan B says:

    What is an economy that will sustain the communities that sustain us all?

    Complaining Liberals, of which I’m one, what is the answer?

  22. substanti8 says:

    Page 21 of the Greenpeace report notes that the organization receiving the most funding, by far, was the Mercatus Center – a “conservative think-tank at George Mason University.”

    Here’s an idea.  Write letters and make telephone calls to the top administrators of the university and suggest that GMU is committing academic fraud by participating in the climate disinformation campaign.

    Here is the home page for the Administration at George Mason University.

  23. Leland Palmer says:

    Good report, very interesting, IMO.

    This pattern of the Koch foundations, the Scaife foundations, and the Bradley foundation doing the heavy lifting to support climate denial propaganda, while ExxonMobil lurks in the background is a troubling one.

    I’m not sure it is the end of the story, though.

    As one of the largest corporations in the world, ExxonMobil has immense ability to compensate other corporations for what they do. A few sweetheart deals on oil leases or coal leases could easily compensate the Koch financial interests for taking the heat on global warming denial funding. Because they are privately owned, the Koch financial interests have more ability to resist public pressure than a publicly traded corporation like ExxonMobil.

    As part of the Rockefeller financial empire, which traditionally has included Chase Manhattan bank, now merged with the Morgan financial interests to form JPMorgan/Chase (a trillion dollar bank), this constellation of financial interests could easily compensate the Koch brothers for any amount of spending on global warming denial.

    Just some speculation. But looking at the cooperation in conservative funding of think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, how different conservative foundations and corporations pick up the tab on different years – but never leave the AEI lacking for funds – you get the feeling that cooperation on a massive scale is taking place between supposedly separate U.S. financial interests.

    Oh, about George Mason Universtity, (post #22 from substanti8, above) I think this is the same university, that performed the polling of weathermen which supposedly shows that a large percentage of them do not believe in global warming recently. Several mainstream news sources have jumped on this poll- while not of course mentioning the financial connections between Koch and George Mason University.

  24. John Mashey says:

    re: #19 sable
    Sorry, the right links are:
    Environmental Literacy Council, then follow check the climate page, and follow the links to the topics at the right of the page. Then see Sourcewatch.

    Alternatively, to save time, see p.59- in “CCC” PDF @ DeSmogBlog, where I’ve gone through their web pages and pulled out examples.

    If you check Table A.6.1 (a-c), I’ve summarized the EM+Foundation funding patterns of many think tanks & fronts. ELC is shown on p.94.
    CAVEAT: I haven’t yet done the comparison with their 990 forms to see how much of their income is actually known, i.e., the sort of analysis done for Annapolis Center, CEI, CFACT, George Marshall Institute, and Heartland in Table A.2.2, p.46.

    re: 22 substanti8
    Look at Table A.6.1 as described above. Money goes to George Mason (GMU), the Institute for Humane Studies (InstHumn), Mercatus Center, STATS, and Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), all of which are attached to GMU in some way or other.

    BUT: let us remember, that it is *not* illegal for people to fund institutions that follow their political beliefs. I’m actually not yet very familiar with what Mercatus actually does. So far, I haven’t seen their tracks in climate anti-science (there may be some, I just haven’t seen them). Remember, Koch&Scaife&co fund many other activities besides climate anti-science.

    Perhaps GMU will receive increased public attention in the near future.

    Unfortunately, it does not generally appear to be illegal to mislead the American public about science. However, can be illegal to mislead Congress (18USC1001, felony), and it can be illegal to conspire to commit a felony (18USC371, conspiracy), and it can be illegal to know about a felony and not report it (18USC4). (See p.184 of CCC). It is not for me to judge if that has actually happened, but people can read the CCC document and see if they think there is enough evidence of such to warrant an investigation. I don’t know if it is illegal to fund such activities, but if so, then Koch and Scaife & co may get asked some hard questions.

  25. substanti8 says:

    Thanks for the further ideas, John.

    After some searching for climate publications on the Mercatus web site I am wondering what they did with the $9.2 million they received from Koch foundations.  While Greenpeace identifies the group as a “climate opposition group,” it looks possible that much of the Koch funding was not used to directly spread lies about climate science.

    I suggest further investigation about the exact role of George Mason University in possible activities that violate either its academic charter, its statement on academic integrity, or federal laws.

  26. Sable says:

    Thanks for the fixed links John.