Well before the conglomerate Koch Industries plunged $1 million into Prop 23 — a ballot initiative in California to essentially repeal the state’s revolutionary clean energy climate change law AB 32 — the Wonk Room revealed that front groups controlled by Koch had been working to promote Prop 23. Americans for Prosperity, the front group founded and financed by Koch Industries’ executive David Koch, had organized Tea Party rallies in favor of Prop 23 and produced online ads distorting California clean energy. The Pacific Research Foundation, also funded by Koch-run foundations, produced junk studies promoting Prop 23.
Today, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Van Jones spoke to ThinkProgress about Prop 23 and the oil interests polluting the energy debate. Asked about the influence of Koch in supporting Prop 23, Jones slammed the company for “trying to shove” its politics on California. To respond to the Tea Parties and other radical right groups, many of which have been organized by Koch and big business fronts, Jones encouraged the public to “stay involved and to get involved,” because otherwise the people “screaming and yelling at these Tea Party events” will win control of government. He added, “I don’t think you want the Tea Party running your community, running your family, running your government”:
JONES: Koch Industries has promoted awful environmental policies. They’ve been literally poisoning rivers, poisoning streams, and making money off of that. They’ve promoted now this awful economic idea that if you grow new industries in California you somehow hurt the economy. That’s nuts. And now they’re promoting bad politics by backing I think extreme movements in the United States. Here you have a bad actor, three strikes and you’re out. They’re bad on the environment in terms of their practices, they’re bad in terms of their economic philosophy they’re trying to shove down the throats of California, and they’re bad in their politics in terms of their supporting extreme political ideas in America. I think if you start connecting those dots, California voters are very sophisticated, and I don’t think any of them think the people who run Koch Industries wake up in the morning thinking how can Californians have better jobs? [...]
JONES: If you think things are bad now, what will happen when the people are screaming and yelling at these Tea Party events are actually in charge of your government, and in charge of your life, and in charge of your kids’ future? That is, maybe you have some hope fatigue, but you got a lot of reason to be fearful enough I think to stay involved and to get involved. I don’t think you want the Tea Party running your community, running your family, running your government.
As Jones states, Koch is not only corrosive to our politics because of its funding of angry and paranoid Tea Parties, but the company also manipulates the political system to pad its profits. For instance, Business Week reported on how Koch Industries used then-Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) to try to suppress an investigation into Koch Industries’ massive theft of oil from Indian reservations. In another case, Koch Industries faced a $55 million civil suit for causing more than 300 oil spills over a five-year period. Again, Dole, a major recipient of Koch money and support, sponsored a bill that would allow Koch to easily defend itself from the oil spill charges. After Koch helped to elect George Bush in 2000, the Bush Justice Department abruptly settled a criminal case with $350 million in penalties Koch faced for discharging toxic chemicals from a refinery in Corpus Cristi, Texas.
Why is the “Kochtopus” flexing its muscle of campaign donations, Tea Parties, and front groups to enact the clean energy-killing Prop 23? 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.