Koch-funded book argues against mine safety laws in West Virginia

Lee Fang wrote this Think Progress cross-post.

Paul Nyden, writing in the Charleston Gazette this Sunday, revealed that Koch Industries “” the massive conglomerate of oil, chemical, manufacturing, timber, hedge fund, coal, and shipping interests run by the right-wing ideologues David and Charles Koch “” has seeded West Virginia with several conservative front groups. Koch foundations provide the cash for anti-government efforts in the Mountain State, including a right-wing “think tank” called the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia and for free-market faculty members at West Virginia University.

Nyden notes that Russell Sobel, a local economist whose research and writing has been underwritten by Koch fronts, argues against the minimum wage and against mine safety laws:

Sobel also works closely with the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia, the Morgantown think tank which published his book, “Unleashing Capitalism: Why Prosperity Stops at the West Virginia Border and How to Fix It,” in 2007. The Sobel book is a collection of 12 essays, arguing that government regulations hurt West Virginia’s economy. One essay questions the value of “mandated” mine safety laws, stating government regulations may increase accident rates.

The Koch-funded think tank recently started a phony news service in West Virginia, called the “West Virginia Watchdog.” Americans for Prosperity, the fake grassroots group founded and financed by David Koch, has been running television ads in West Virginia attacking progressive reforms. David and Charles Koch, each worth $21.5 billion, have postured as great philanthropists, slapping their names on New York opera houses and the private prep school David attended, Deerfield Academy. But much of Koch’s wealth has been quietly spent lobbying against consumer protections, environmental regulations, and other efforts to erode the ability for Americans to provide accountability to powerful corporations. As the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported, Koch lobbied aggressively to prevent the EPA from “classifying formaldehyde, which the company produces in great quantities, as a ‘known carcinogen‘ in humans.”

— Lee Fang

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9 Responses to Koch-funded book argues against mine safety laws in West Virginia

  1. Sasparilla says:

    These guys are despicable….

  2. adelady says:

    “Mine safety laws..” This is downright evil.

  3. How many US Senators care about these revelations? How many Representatives? How many people working in the White House? Hello? Hello?

    (The logic seems to be ‘yeah, the Koch Brothers are setting up front groups and astroturfing movements and moving their money in convoluted ways and hiding everything they do while demanding 100% openness from others, therefore we should reach out a hand of friendship to them and give them more opportunities to make money so that they can use the money to attack us even further… otherwise they won’t like us anymore!’

    Perhaps the US can send Andrew Breitbart and the Koch Brothers to the Cancun summit, given that they, not Obama, are the people actually controlling the negotiation process.)

    Also, it’s a bit irritating that the author of the investigative piece can’t include links to his primary material.


  4. mike roddy says:

    I can’t think of a single thing the Koch Brothers would not do for money. As for the miners, they begrudge both regulations and salaries, and hope that the current downturn could lead to chain gang or slave labor.

    A couple of weeks ago, I proposed a boycott of Georgia Pacific, a key Koch Industries company. The Kochs paid $21 billion for GP a few years ago, largely because of established brands such as Brawny, Lycra, and Stainmaster.

    The Kochs’ fossil fuel businesses specialize in the dirtiest fuels available, such as tar sands oil and mountaintop removal coal. GP has also carved out a niche by combining the worst forest liquidation practices with toxic chemical use. A GP house contains wood from forest liquidation and vast amounts of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen and major contributor to building sickness. Homes built from GP products are toxic, fragile, and cheap, and the owners fill them in with horrible products such as Brawny and Stainmaster.

    We need to go after Koch by boycotting Georgia Pacific consumer products, since the supply chains for their coal, oil, and gas products are too dispersed. Included in the parking lot information tables would be fact sheets about their toxic and rapacious products, and the sordid history of Koch Enterprises, including climate denial and greenwashing campaigns. I’ve run this by a few Big Green groups and drawn a blank. It appears that Big Green is intimidated by the power of Koch. Instead, the word needs to get out, maybe with this motto: Things Go Badder With Koch.

    There will be a big counterreaction, including intimidation and possible arrests. That’s OK too, because when rats get light shone on them they start to make mistakes.

    Some friends of mine and I will do this on our own if necessary. If you’d like to join us for a few pilot big box store boycotts, please send an email to

    This would actually have an impact, because the main value of GP products is brand recognition, which is why the Kochs ponied up the $21 billion. GP has even bought brands with a decent reputation (such as Northern toilet paper) and exploited it while returning them to forest liquidation origins.

    CP readers, please let me know if you would like to join me on this and make it happen. If the Green groups are too timid to go along, maybe that’s better, since it would be a true grassroots, ground up operation.

  5. Sime says:

    “…One essay questions the value of “mandated” mine safety laws, stating government regulations may increase accident rates.”

    Wow the “Brothers Scum” perhaps you two could devolve completely and start shoving cute little children up chimneys circa the eighteenth century, hell you are selling us eighteenth century energy technology so why stop there?

    Stultus est sicut stultus facit, quo usque tandem abutere patentia nostra?

  6. I hope everyone gets on board and spreads the word to boycott Kochs’ Georgia-Pacific products. People should demonstrate at WalMart where these things are sold. That might get some attention.

  7. Bob Doublin says:

    Hey,since the big line of bull about the minimum wage law is that it destroys jobs, all they had to do is recycle that for the mine safety garbage. They really are green,they recycle!

  8. Theodore says:

    Opposition to minimum wage laws stems from the reality experienced by wealthy people that being rich is much more fun if you live in the midst of the very poor. Poor people will eat slime for the change in your pocket! It’s hardly any fun being rich if you don’t have some poor people about to use and abuse. It’s a matter of making every dollar count.

  9. Ziyu says:

    The Koch brothers want to take us back to the 19th century.
    They’re just as corrupt as Standard Oil from the 19th century
    They give bribes in the form of campaign contributions
    They are selling us all the old 19th century energy sources.
    They tried to use their campaign funds as a leveraging tool to stop an investigation of them illegally drilling for oil in Native American grounds.
    They are against minimum wage so that they can force already 1970ish wages down to 1890s wages.
    They are a form of monopoly that probably couldn’t become this big before Reganism.
    They want safety regulations to go back to the time where there weren’t any and any injured workers could just be laid off and all the facilities wouldn’t have any cleanliness.
    Read the Jungle and compare the meat packing company to Koch. What’s the difference? Oh they have a heck of a lot more money and are manipulative enought to prevent people from standing against Koch.