Why oil billionaire David Koch is secretly funding Astroturf to repeal CA clean energy laws

This Wonk Room cross-post is part of a Progressive Media blogging series on the fossil fuel-funded Prop 23 effort to repeal California’s clean energy climate law. Read Rebecca Lefton’s posts on Prop 23’s economic impact, national repercussions, and funding from Texas oil companies.

No to Proposition 23!Much has been reported about how Texan oil companies Valero and Tesoro have been fighting to repeal the landmark clean energy climate change law, AB 32. The Wonk Room recently obtained a PowerPoint from Tesoro showing that the company made a pitch to oil companies, including BP, to join their effort known as Proposition 23.

But there is another powerful out-of-state fossil fuel interest trying to eviscerate California’s pioneering climate change law: Koch Industries. The Wonk Room has learned that Koch Industries is funding the lead “grassroots” group organizing support for Proposition 23, and is also funding the Pacific Research Institute, the main think-tank producing junk studies smearing AB 32.

As ThinkProgress and the Wonk Room have detailed, Koch Industries is the largest funder of climate change denying and anti-environmental regulation fronts worldwide and its Americans for Prosperity Foundation is responsible for helping to create the so-called Tea Party movement. While the Koch brothers at the helm of Koch Industries are committed right-wing ideologues, their financing of front groups helps boost the profits of their conglomerate. Koch Industries contributes heavily to carbon pollution through their asphalt, timber, and oil refinery subsidiaries, and the University of Massachusetts lists Koch as the the 10th worst air polluter in America.

In its corporate newsletter, Koch Industries explicitly states that the low carbon fuel standard California is set to adopt to comply with AB 32 carbon emissions regulations would harm its bottom line because Koch imports mostly high-carbon crude oil from Canada. Another Koch newsletter warns that its Pine Bend Refinery in Minnesota specializing in high-carbon Canadian crude would become much less profitable for Koch if low fuel standards mirroring AB 32 are adopted around the country.

In an attempt to kill AB 32 and squash the likelihood that similar laws spread nationwide, Americans for Prosperity California “” a front group founded and funded by Koch Industries executive David Koch “” has been organizing Tea Party rallies with Prop 23 proponent Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Linda), bringing Tea Party support to AB 32 repeal hearings, and producing videos calling on Californians to pass Prop 23. The Wonk Room, with help from CAPAF intern Tara Kutz, has produced a video detailing Koch’s secret role in repealing Californian clean energy:

WR: Moreover, here is a rare clip of Americans for Prosperity operative Meredith Turney bragging to Koch Industries executive David Koch that her front group will help take over the Golden State. Koch Industries fears that laws like California’s revolutionary AB32 will hurt their bottom line, that’s why, like the tobacco industry, they are funding front groups. Here, in a Koch Industries corporate document, they say clean energy laws like AB32 will quote “be very bad news for our industry.”

Watch it:


20 Responses to Why oil billionaire David Koch is secretly funding Astroturf to repeal CA clean energy laws

  1. Berbalang says:

    Siera Smith @ 1:

    Okay, they bought 2 ethanol plants and are doing what with them exactly?

  2. John Hollenberg says:

    What’s green about an ethanol plant (unless perhaps it is cellulosic ethanol)? The EROEI is pretty close to 1, meaning no net gain in energy from this boondoggle.

  3. mike roddy says:

    The Kochs’ refinery raw material of choice is the Tar Sands in Alberta, and they recently bought Georgia Pacific, the timber company with one of the worst environmental records in the world. We all know about the massive desecration that is the Tar Sands. When GP came to the Pacific Coast, they showed us how to do it- cut and run, baby, turn the great northwest coastal forest into a sea of stumps, and head back to Atlanta.

    It’s not just that the Kochs happen to be in the oil and timber businesses. They deliberately seek out the most destructive companies available, as a matter of principle. Then, they hire shills to tell lies about any public interest legislation or practices that may result in reducing their profits.

    It’s horrifying to contemplate what goes on in the heads of billionaires who will do absolutely anything in order to accumulate even more money. There’s a good old fashioned word for it, though: Evil.

  4. Michael Tucker says:

    Anything that does not involve burning coal or oil is considered by some to be ‘green’. I have seen some claim that burning natural gas for transportation is ‘green’ and many think that burning forests for electricity, biomass, is ‘green’. The use of ‘green’ in these circumstances is just like the food industry claiming something is ‘all natural’; it is a buzz word.

    The ethanol industry is a government subsidized make work program, it offsets a very small fraction of our total transportation fuel volume, and does nothing to reduce greenhouse gasses. It consumes almost 30% of our corn crop, takes a tremendous amount of water to grow and process, and it contributes to the nitrogen and phosphorous pollution of our oceans. But, as Boone Pickens says, it puts Americans to work.

  5. David Smith says:

    When an out of state entity messes with state business doesn’t that violate state sovereignty. Why aren’t those conservative champions of states rights up in arms about this. It seems to me it is the equivolent of a foreign interest or government messing in federal affairs. It’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

    I guess we can assume that big oil brings foreign interests in to mess with our federal governance as well. What ever gets their job done.

  6. Michael Tucker says:

    David #5,

    You can’t be saying that people who travel to W Virginia to protest mountain top removal are violating states rights are you? You can be implying that the students who went to the Deep South in the ’60’s to help register black voters were violating states rights are you?

    I am very sure that the folks in California who do want AB 32 to go into effect and who want Prop 23 to fail will accept any and all help from any group.

  7. David Smith says:

    I have come to realize how large a cultural shift is required for America to truely embrace the transition to clean energy. It affects many areas of life and how we relate to the world at large. The transition will occur or we may perish. It may not occur until the generation of people that support the backward looking denialism die off.

    For myself, By the time I am done, I hope that I will have added a little bit of positive to the world; leave it a little better than I found it.

    A single soul that dies because of global warming is a victim of the denialism game (Also a victim of those who know better and do nothing). Now that the potential impacts of AGW are known, those who block progress are in fact contributing to these deaths. You who are paid to disrupt the natural process of correction. Is it worth it? Do you really think you are doing good in the world. Do you feel good bringing home this money to support your families, your children.

    Offer real evidence to counter or refine the science. Otherwise, hopefully the world can afford to wait until you die off, allowing the disruption to subside.

    This was in response to the original commenter #1 who was deleted.

  8. BBHY says:

    “I guess we can assume that big oil brings foreign interests in to mess with our federal governance as well. What ever gets their job done.”

    Fox News promotes AGW denial, supports the conservatives who want to give more and more tax breaks to oil companies while relaxing any and all regulatory oversight. They just gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association. The foreign oil connection? Fox’s second largest shareholder is the nephew of the King of Saudi Arabia.

  9. David Smith says:

    Michael T #6; I knew someone would point out the flaw in my reasoning. I guess that is why the status quo exists. However, we might be better off if neither side went. The state governments as seperate entities from the federal government is one of those built in checks-and-balances or our system of governance. When the forces that normally act at the federal level also focus at the state level this weakens the system. I think.

  10. homunq says:

    The problem isn’t out-of-state interests. It’s money in politics: Citizen’s United-type law-buying propaganda.

    But yes, the money being from out-of-state makes it worse. Out-of-state grassroots and out-of-state deep pockets are not the same, and there is nothing hypocritical about supporting one but not the other.

  11. Michael Tucker says:

    Commenting on #9 & #10,

    What if the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation wanted to donate to the anti-prop 23 campaign? What if Al Gore gave money, gave speeches, and organized protests? Is the NRDC a lobbing group? Is the NRDC a private, government, or corporate organization? Is it ok for them to contribute money to defeat Prop 23? What about all the other nationally organized environmental groups? What if money was donated from a national alternative energy industry lobby like the American Wind Energy Association?

    I do understand your point and sure it is very difficult for any of these groups to compete against the most profitable industry in the world, oil, but they do compete and their members expect them to do so. It may be best to only allow private donations, either pro or con, on state ballot measures but it has to be fair. Some day the wind, solar and geothermal industry may have a lobbying budget that could rival the oil and coal industry. After all, I can remember a time when Apple and Microsoft did not even exist and look how influential they are today. Status quo is really an illusion but when change is drastically required it never happens fast enough.

  12. catman306 says:

    “If Big Money wants something, it CAN’T be good for you.”

    But money, advertising and spin can make you think and say otherwise.

  13. Jean says:

    Sarah Palin is coming to Tulsa to speak at a gathering sponsored by the Oklahoma Council of Public affairs..I know there must be some info out there that the Koch family is behind this..Sourcewatch has no good info..Can anyone help>>The Koch family control Oklahoma..We a blonde Sarah Palin with the name Fallin..Republican Tea Party supporter running for governor and it is frightening in this state..SOS

  14. David Smith says:

    Too many things today, especially in politics are viewed as competative team sport. Hell, the entire conservative game plan is modeled after an NBA championship, where the only thing at stake is winning the big one, nothing else, no other issues matter. Actual governing takes a back seat.

    From the beginning of this country more was expected from us, as individuals. Everyone has interests, but we are supposed to rise above and serve the common interest as well. We have a responsability to educate ourselves and participate in our governing system. To find the best in ourselves and to try to make good decisions. In reality, If one side brings in the big guns than the other must as well. But, that doesn’t make it right.

    The problem I have is between one person one vote and the current system which is more like one dollar one vote. If the CEO of Koch Industries wants to hit the road and convince people that his way is best, I’m fine with that. If he wants to take a drop of his corporate profits, say $150,000,000 and create a machine that basically screws up the political dialog, I (and every other breathing, thinking American should) find this to be an assault on our way of life.

    This is pure capitalism. It’s great for business. I love free enterprize, the free kind. I have a small business, myself. But our governing system is a democracy. Businesses operate on some form of authoritarianism and should have no place in governing.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Michael@11: Corporations should not have any more freedom of political speech than 501(c)(3) charities, except in direct communication with those with whom they have business relationships – their employees, clients, suppliers, and stockholders. (Media corporations could interpret “clients” broadly, even though media consumers are actually more the product than the client for advertising-driven media organizations.) 501(c)(4) advocacy organizations should have freedom, but public donor records over a couple thousand dollars of donations.

    So: NRDC is a 501(c)(4), so that’s fine. Gates foundation is 501(c)(3), it is already forbidden from direct political advocacy like this. Al Gore is a private individual, he can give his money to a 501(c)(4) (though it should be subject to disclosure if it’s a lot), or he can buy his own ads directly (again, it should be subject to disclosure). The American Wind Energy Association is an advocacy organization, it should either play by the 501(c)(3) rules and not mention specific candidates/measures, or it should not take money from corporations.

    Although this is a perfectly common-sense proposal, the Chamber of Commerce and the death-eaters on the Supreme Court will never let it happen. So I’d accept a compromise, where corporate political donations were just subject to full disclosure and shareholder approval.

    Most importantly: law or no law, we have a perfect right to be mad when out-of-state corporations meddle in our politics.

  16. homunq says:

    Sorry, commenter #15 is me.

  17. Edward says:

    7 David Smith: You are correct, but we now know the time scale. A date has been computed. 2037. It is 27 years from now give or take 5 years. The data is the land area percentage that is desert vs time. Agriculture, and civilization, collapse in 2037. See:
    comment # 253
    Barton Paul Levenson gets the credit along with Dr. Aiguo Dai who provided the data.

    Super heat waves, super droughts and “500 year” floods have already killed people here and around the world. It WILL get worse. When civilization collapses, 1 in 10,000 survives. What is wrong with labeling it genocide if the result is the collapse of civilization?

  18. Whatshisname says:

    Koch Lung

  19. homunq says:

    @17: “1 in 10,000 survives”?

    If you read “Collapse” by Jared Diamond, that figure is indefensible historically. The most extreme civilizational collapse (as opposed to genocide, as in Tasmania) is that of the Norse in Greenland. At its peak, that culture never had even 10,000 people; and although the culture itself was obliterated, it’s highly probable that at least dozens of individuals joined the parallel indigenous sled-dogging culture.

    A more relevant analogy would be Easter Island, where post-deforestation population dropped by perhaps 1/2 or at most by 2/3. (Primarily for lack of good fishing canoes, though topsoil loss and lesser rainfall were also factors.)

    Your point remains; half of the world population today is perhaps more than all the humans who ever existed before something under 100 years ago. So there’s no need to exaggerate.

  20. Doug M. says:

    Small point:

    “…half of the world population today is perhaps more than all the humans who ever existed before something under 100 years ago.”

    That’s an urban legend:

    Estimates for the number of people who have died since the pyramids were built (i.e., about 5,000 years ago) are around 6 billion, which is fairly close to the current world population. But if we consider modern humans to have emerged around 40,000 to 45,000 years ago, estimates about the number of dead in human history vary widely — anywhere from 12 billion to up to 110 billion.